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The Best Computer Monitor Is an HDTV

Author:

Glenn Stok is a technical writer with a Master of Science degree. He evaluates products for consumers and clearly explains their features.

I discovered that today's HD televisions have the same, or better, screen technology as computer monitors. I did a lot of research testing various monitors and HDTVs to come to that conclusion.

For less cost, HDTVs include a host of extra features not found in standard monitors. They even have better sound quality.

I had tried several brands of computer monitors and became very disappointed with their quality. I bought and returned several models.

Two things bothered me with regular computer monitors:

  1. Narrow viewing angle
  2. Poor audio quality

Computer monitors are designed with a narrow viewing angle since they are meant to be used for front viewing only. That is 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 to see it well.

An even worse problem was the poor quality of the sound. The speakers are so small that they produce terrible audio.

The response from store salespeople was always the same excuse: They say that since new displays are so thin, there’s no room to put good speakers in them.

I am amazed 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 excellent audio quality.

All the sales reps in stores told me I should buy external speakers if I want decent audio. I tried to avoid cluttering my desk with extra components, so I wanted the speakers built-in.

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 use as my monitor.

My HDTV Alternative For My Computer Monitor

24-inch Vizio HDTV being used as my computer monitor with 1920 x 1080 pixels.

24-inch Vizio HDTV being used as my computer monitor with 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Having done my research, I discovered that a 1080p HDTV provides the same video quality as most digital monitors. 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 provides better quality.

I examined the LCD TVs that were on display at several stores. I noticed that the viewing angle was terrific, 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. Internet capability includes built-in Apps to watch Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora, and more.

More recently, I bought a TCL brand HDTV for a friend's computer. That includes Roku also, with many more streaming channels.

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. A TCL brand 32-inch Smart TV I bought for my friend also had superior audio and video.

Whatever brand you select, make sure 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 fewer 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:

  1. 1080p resolution
  2. HDMI interface

The Model I’m Using

I bought a Vizio 24-inch 1080p LED Smart HDTV in 2015, which was the basis for writing this review.

That’s no longer available, but after doing more research, I discovered that TCL has the same quality. So I bought a 32-inch TCL (Model 32S327) for a friend, and the reduced price made it perfect as a gift.

When I helped her with the installation, I was pleased with the quality of TCL. Same as my Vizio, but even better since TCL includes Roku for thousands of additional streaming channels.

HDMI Vs. RGB or Composite Interface

If your computer only has an RGB or composite interface, you can find an HDTV that has that support. The Vizio model I use supports that, as you can see in the image of the rear panel below. I recommend HDMI since that provides the best signal. RGB interfacing may not provide clear images for small text.

Rear Component Connection Panel of my Vizio E241i-A1

Rear Component Connection Panel of my Vizio E241i-A1

General Specs of HDTVs

Display Type

LCD

Resolution

1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)

Response time

5 ms

Video Interface

HDMI, RGB (PC), Composite

Other Inputs

DTV Cable TV, USB

Internet

Built-In Wi-Fi, Ethernet

Display Sizes

24", 32", 40" … up to 80"

Remote Control

Yes

Energy Star

Yes

A Note for 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 HDTV's built today have the same technical specs as a PC Monitor. Just remember to buy a TV with 1080 pixels. And for decent gaming speed you’ll need one with 120 Hz refresh rate.

A Note About Using a Large Screen TV

Some people ask if they can see clear characters and details on a screen as large as 40 inches, for example.

The pixel density (pixels per inch) will decrease with larger TVs, so a 40-inch HDTV will not serve well as a computer monitor.

Large-screen TVs are for distance viewing, such as across the living room. They are not meant for detailed clarity that is necessary for computer work.

My discovery that HDTVs make good monitors is based on typical monitor sizes. A 24-inch HDTV at 1080p has extreme clarity because it has a large number of pixels per inch (PPI), so tiny characters are clear. The one I use (mentioned earlier) has crisp text even as small as 6 pt type. I never had a problem and still using it today for all my development work.

As you increase the screen size for distant viewing, the PPI is no longer sufficient for detailed computer work.

A 4K TV, of course, will provide a crisp text with larger screens. That’s confirmed with a 40-inch screen by one of my readers. However, the extra expense is not necessary for the average desk-working distance. 4K is a high-end technology meant for large screen TVs used for far-distance viewing, not working on a desktop computer.

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 a better experience for a Computer Monitor.

Sampling of Smart TV channels

Sampling of Smart TV channels

How about you?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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© 2014 Glenn Stok

Comments

Timothy Arends from Chicago Region on February 04, 2020:

I'm glad to hear this. I'm thinking of setting up a VR system with a gaming PC in the living room, and a monitor is needed with any PC for setup and troubleshooting purposes, but I do not want the clutter of having both a monitor AND a TV in the living room. It's a big help if I can use the same screen for both purposes!

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 31, 2017:

Suhaas Ramesh - Don't worry about PPI as long as you get at least a 1080p HDTV no larger than 24 inches as discussed in this article. If you want something larger, then I recommend getting one that's 4K so you have good resolution of small text. Most TVs sold today that are 24 inches or larger usually are smart TVs, so no need to have to choose that or not. Anyway, why would you not get a smart TV since they are no more expensive than regular TVs. Your options may be different in India, so I hope my answers are helpful.

Suhaas Ramesh from Bengaluru, Karnataka, India on July 31, 2017:

Hello Mr. Stok,

You have written a extremely well-researched article. It is very informative and helpful! Reading others comments and your responses to their queries was insightful too.

Here are few reasons why I want to opt for a large display (monitor or full HDTV) for my computer:

1. If you notice most people (including me) who use laptops tend to tilt head down with back bent and slouched most of the time. This is very uncomfortable and doesn't help in maintaining a good posture while sitting and working on a laptop especially for long hours. In order to avoid serious health issues, I plan a invest in a large display for my computer. I believe that using a large display will help me maintain a good posture since I'll have to lift my head, erect my spine and maintain my torso parallel to the display without leaning forward too much.

2. I believe that having a large display could help me focus, be efficient and enable me to produce quality work.

3. My current laptop is HD (720p), not full HD (1080p). So, I want to go for a higher screen resolution so that my content appears sharper and crisp.

4. I'm unhappy with the max sound that can be achieved with the built-in speakers on my laptop. By owning a HDTV, as you have mentioned, I don't have to invest in additional speakers since HDTVs comes with with high quality built-in speakers that provide max sound compared to monitors that either don't have speakers or come with poor quality speakers. Saves a lot of space on my study desk/computer table.

5. HDTVs can be used both as TV and monitor. As you have highlighted, screen resolution and PPI is pretty much the same for 24-inch displays. Therefore, I don't have to buy a TV tuner.

However, I have a few questions for you.

1. Most TV catalogs don't mention anything about PPI in HDTVs. They only mention screen resolution. A commoner or someone who is less enthusiastic about technology and tech specs would easily overlook such crucial info. I'm so glad I came across your article. How do I determine PPI in an HDTV?

2. Since I would be accessing the internet through my computer, I thought of going for standard full HDTV rather than a smart full HDTV. Also, I've noticed that it is quite uncomfortable to use apps on an HDTV. Typing is so tedious and time consuming when you are accessing content on an app like YouTube and it makes me feel very clumsy. Do you think it is necessary to choose a smart full HDTV over a standard full HDTV?

3. I learnt that 4K UHDTVs comes with 8.3 million pixels and with high PPI. Therefore, large TVs can be viewed from a short distance. I'm not sure if 4K HDTVs come in smaller display sizes like 24-inch or 32-inch. Do 4K UHDTVs come in smaller screen sizes preferably 24-inch?

4. The biggest issue I'm facing is that I'm unable to find 24-inch standard full HDTVs in premium TV brands such as Samsung, Song, LG, Panasonic, etc. in any of the electronic showrooms my city (Bengaluru) including online retail websites like Amazon India and Flipkart. Standard HDTVs come with only 720p. The full HDTVs starts with sizes that are 32-inches and above and are smart TVs. Amazon India lists other TV brands that offer smart full HDTVs but they aren't popular brands. I'm unsure about the warranty or the quality of service they provide. Is there a TV brand that you would recommend other than the one you own which is available in most of the countries?

5. In your article, you have pretty much covered everything one needs to know about using an HDTV as computer display. Still, is there anything I should know before purchasing my HDTV?

I'll gratefully appreciate your reply.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on April 01, 2017:

Great Janet! As long as you stick to the technical recommendations, as I see you clearly understood, your son should be very happy with it. Please report back here with a comment on the outcome.

Janet Boles on March 31, 2017:

Thanks for this information. I googled this exact thing and got your article. We were wanting to get our teen a TV like this and put it on his desk so it could be a TV/ computer. Just about the right size and all. My main concerns were would it really work like we thought and which ones would be the best to choose... We wanted a smart TV also.. Well I think you have answered all my questions and then some lol!!! Will take all your technical advice on size, 1080p HDMI etc... Thanks so much.. people taking the time to post their successes is what helps others so much.. My son will also thank you!!!

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 19, 2017:

Brian Adams - I'm actually surprised you had no problems with text on a 720p TV, especially since you were using such a large screen. Even a 24" screen requires 1080p when using it as a computer monitor. Since you plan to stay with 42 inches with your new monitor, I recommend going with the highest pixels available with the present technology, and that is 4K.

Brian Adams on February 19, 2017:

For the past 5 years I have used a 42" 720p TV as a computer monitor at about 10 feet from where I sit. For the most part I use it for photo editing and some Word/Excel documents. I am now looking at upgrading to either 4K or 1080p. From what I have read it seems as though the 1080p has fewer potential problems with set up. I know you are commenting on 24" monitors, but do you have any comment on using 4K or 1080p?

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on January 25, 2017:

Jerry Griswold - If your TV has two HDMI ports then connect your cable box to one and the laptop to the other. The TV itself has an option in it's settings menu to select the input you want to use.

Jerry Griswold on January 25, 2017:

How do I move between cable tv and my laptop. Do I need a TV with two hdmi ports and some sort of switch? The cable folks left me their remote and an hdmi cable. My laptop is ready for hdmi. Just trying to figure out how to move between.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 27, 2016:

Dominick - Thanks for sharing your experience with a 40" TV. Of course, since it's 4K, you have no problem. However, you're paying for the advantage. That's fine if that's the size you want for your computer monitor, but most people don't need 40" for desktop monitors. That's why this article is focused on smaller size monitors.

Dominick on December 27, 2016:

I am using a tv as monitor as well...I am using the Samsung 4k smart tv at 40"...I have to tell you I thought it was going to be too big but r is absolutely perfect reason being the 4k works perfect at the distance I am sitting from...and it did NOT require a lot of adjustments whatsoever...the detail, the pixels...EVERYTHING...just works...so just wanted to share that as well...and keep up the great post!!!!

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on September 22, 2014:

Writer Fox - Thanks for sharing this with your followers. Glad you found it useful. I've been using the Vizio HDTV for almost a year now as my computer monitor and still am amazed at the quality of the video and the sound.

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on September 22, 2014:

You've convinced me to look into the VIZIO Smart TV. I appreciate your thorough review of this and the other options. What you said about the price comparison is amazing, too. Voted up, highly useful! and shared.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on June 13, 2014:

heidithorne - That's why I use a 24-inch screen. One wouldn't want a 70-inch screen for a computer monitor for sure. Your graphics design work would be great on an HDTV. And by the way, it IS a real screen. The technology used in a High Definition TV is the same as used in a computer monitor (as long as you go with 1080p). And a TV provides improved audio without the need for expensive external speakers.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on June 13, 2014:

My husband does the same thing with a humongous TV! For me, it's just too large to view and so bright it makes my eyes hurt. But I think a smaller version of it would be usable for sure.

I think the only concern I would have is with some graphic design stuff I do. It would look so amazing on the screen, that I may forget to see how it looks on a real screen. :)

But it is tempting!

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