The Best Computer Monitor is an HDTV
Here’s the scoop on my personal experience using an HDTV as my computer monitor. This article is for those who use their computer for serious work and not just for playing games.
Why pay a high price for a computer monitor when you can use an HDTV for a lot less and with more quality and features?
Today's HD televisions have the same, or better, screen technology as computer monitors. In addition, for less cost they include a host of extra features, including better sound quality.
I recently bought a new computer. My old LCD monitor would have worked fine, but it was not the wide-screen type that all new computers have today. So I felt it was time to upgrade that too.
For me, a 24-inch display was all I needed. That would be adding quite a bit of “real-estate” space anyway, since I was upgrading from a 19-inch display.
I had tried several brands and became very disappointed with the quality of all computer monitors on the market. I kept buying and returning several models.
There were two things that bothered me with regular computer monitors:
- Narrow viewing angle
- Poor audio quality
The angle of display on some brands was not as good as my old monitor. Computer displays are designed for front viewing only. The argument sales reps tell me is that this is a feature to provide security from peeping eyes.
That's something I don’t need to worry about since I work at home. I don’t want to be forced to sit directly in front of the screen just to see it well.
An even worse problem was the poor quality of the sound. The speakers are so small that they produce terrible results.
The response from store sales people was always the same excuse: They say that since new displays are so thin, there’s no room to put good speakers in them. They all tell me I should buy external speakers if I want decent audio.
I was eager to avoid cluttering my desk with extra components, so I really wanted the speakers built in.
I am actually very surprised that manufacturers can’t get it right. Apple did it! The iPad is thin, with little room for good-sized speakers, and my iPad has really great audio quality.
I thought to myself: Televisions built today are also thin and they have great audio with built-in speakers. Therefore, I decided to try an actual HDTV to be used as my monitor.
My HDTV Alternative For My Computer Monitor
Having done my research, I discovered that a 1080p HDTV provides the same video quality as the best digital monitor. It’s equivalent to having a monitor with 1920 x 1080 pixels.
TVs are much cheaper than computer monitors, which is ridiculous because monitors don’t have TV tuners or Internet access. So why are they more expensive. Must be because people don’t know they can use a simple TV and are willing to pay a premium for their computer display. I found a low-cost solution that actually provides better quality.
I examined the LCD TVs that were on display at several stores. I noticed that the viewing angle was wonderful. All the way up to 178 degrees with no loss of clarity or color when viewed at an angle.
VIZIO makes a 24-inch HD model that is 1080p, and as a bonus, it’s a Smart TV. That means it picks up Internet streaming channels in addition to broadcast and cable. The Internet capability includes built-in Apps to watch Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora and more.
However, the main objective is to use it as a computer monitor, so I’ll just talk about that.
What to Look For in a Television Monitor
I bought a 24-inch VIZIO Smart TV and it has excellent audio. I was right about that.
I assume most TV’s will have great audio. I never knew one that didn’t. However, whatever brand you select, it’s important to get an HDTV with 1080p so that you have the clarity of 1920 x 1080 pixels to produce the tiniest text and clear graphics.
You also need to be sure it has an HDMI Interface to connect to your computer. Many larger HDTV’s have more than one.
HDMI carries the signals for both stereo audio and video, so you’ll have less wires running around.
I have an Apple iMac Mini, so I used a cable to connect the Mini Display Port to the HDMI interface on the TV. You can also connect Apple's Thunderbolt™ to HDMI. If you have a computer with a DVI Port, you can use a DVI to HDMI Adapter Cable.
Remember, you need a TV with two features if you are going to use it as a computer monitor:
- 1080p resolution
- HDMI interface
The Model I’m Using
I bought the VIZIO E241i-A1 24-inch 1080p LED Smart HDTV. I bought it for less than $200.
This is the newer version of the VIZIO HDTV that I'm using, and it’s also under $200. Try getting a computer monitor for that price.
I was happy with last year's model, so I would bet that this newer model is even better.
There’s a physical difference between last year’s model and the latest:
- The E241i-A1 (2013 Model) has a tilted view, which I like because it sits low on my desk.
- The newer E241i-B1 (2014 Model) is completely vertical, but that’s okay too since it has a base that makes it a little higher on the desk.
Both of these models have only one HDMI interface. That’s all you need for your computer. Larger HDTVs have more than one.
If your computer only has an RGB or composite interface, this model of the Vizio supports those too, as you can see in the image of the rear panel below. I recommend HDMI since that provides the best signal.
General Specs of VIZIO Smart HDTVs
1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)
HDMI, RGB (PC), Composite
DTV Cable TV, USB
Built-In Wi-Fi, Ethernet
24", 32", 40" … up to 80"
Bigger Screen Sizes
This is the 32-inch version of the same HDTV that I'm using. For me, 24 inches (shown above) was perfect for my computer use. But you decide what's best for you.
My choice was for a 24-inch screen. If you want a larger one, you’ll still find a better deal with a HDTV instead of a computer monitor. Just remember to look for one that is 1080p and that has at least one HDMI interface or that supports your computer's monitor interface.
Of Interest to Gamers
Those who play games on PC’s and require monitors that have response times of 5ms or better will be glad to know that most modern HDTV’s are now in that range.
Gamers who have not researched this are under the impression that LCD TV’s have a slow response time, as high as 20+ ms. But I’m finding them in the 5ms range, such as the 24 inch Vizio I mentioned above that I’m using.
Vizio even has a 47-Inch Widescreen LCD 3D TV (Model XVT3D474SV) with a 4 ms response time.
I already had received thanks from a few gaming enthusiasts for guiding them to use a good quality HDTV. They saved money and since the sound with games is extremely important too, this solved their problem of having to use external speakers. The feedback I've received is that they like having less clutter. The built-in high quality speakers in an HDTV eliminated the need for having another item on their desk.
The Best of Both Worlds
Most HDTVs today are also Smart TVs. Now that I have a Smart TV sitting on my desk, I find myself taking advantage of it. When I’m not working on the computer, I browse a variety of Internet channels that I don’t have on my regular TV.
The future of television is here. Now you can take full advantage of it to enjoy the best experience for a Computer Monitor.
How about you?
Are you considering getting an HDTV for your computer monitor?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Glenn Stok