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Monitors vs Televisions: A Complete Comparison Guide

As an expert in computer hardware and digital displays, I often get asked whether it‘s better to use a monitor or a television for gaming, creative work, and entertainment. With prices dropping on high-quality TVs with great features, it‘s an understandable question!

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll walk you through the key similarities and differences between monitors and televisions so you can decide which is the best fit for your needs and budget. Let‘s dive in!

Definitions and Purposes

Before looking at specs, let‘s clearly define what monitors and TVs actually are.

Monitors are display devices made primarily for use with computers. Traditionally they were mainly used to display data and text, but modern monitors can display high-quality video and graphics too.

The key advantages of monitors are:

  • Made for up-close viewing
  • Higher resolutions/pixel density
  • Faster response times crucial for gaming
  • More flexible aspect ratios and screen shapes
  • Often have ergonomic stands and eye care features

Televisions are electronic devices made primarily for watching broadcast television and streaming video services. They can also connect to devices like Blu-Ray players and gaming consoles.

The key advantages of TVs are:

  • Larger screen sizes available
  • Built-in speakers and TV tuners
  • Generally lower prices for same resolution
  • Wall mounting capabilities
  • Stream shows/movies without a separate device

Now let‘s look at some key specification differences in more detail.

Size and Resolution

When it comes to display size, televisions have a clear edge. TV screens range anywhere from petite 24" models to giant 85" plus screens designed to fill an entire wall. Most household TVs fall in the 32" to 65" range.

Computer monitors have traditionally been quite small, under 30", designed for desktop use. However, larger monitors have become popular, especially with the rise of home media rooms and gaming setups. It‘s now common to see monitors up to 50" inches.

An important clarification – monitor size is measured diagonally, and the listed size includes the plastic casing. So a 27” monitor’s viewable screen area is actually a bit smaller than a 27” TV.

In terms of resolution, monitors long held the advantage. A monitor packs more pixels into a smaller space for sharper images up close. For example, a 24" 1080p monitor looks noticeably sharper than a 40” 1080p television viewed at the same distance.

However, with 4K and even 8K TVs now commonplace, the gap has narrowed. Large high-res TVs deliver incredibly detailed images that compete with all but the most specialized monitors. Extreme gaming monitors still hold some advantage with up to 1440p or 4K resolutions and rapid 240Hz+ refresh rates in smaller 24-27” sizes optimized for desktop use.

So when it comes to visual real estate, TVs give you a lot more bang for your buck. But monitors provide tighter pixels and can better handle fast motion.

Refresh Rates

Refresh rate, measured in Hz or frames per second, determines how smoothly motion and video appears on a display. A 60Hz display refreshes 60 times per second, while a 144Hz display refreshes 144 times per second. The more frequent the refresh, the smoother and sharper visuals during motion look.

For general viewing and streaming video, 60Hz is perfectly fine. Online video content is typically 24, 30 or 60 FPS. However, high action video gaming demands the fastest refresh rates possible for responsive gameplay without ghosting or blurring.

Most televisions peak at 60 or 120Hz refresh rates. However high-end gaming monitors can reach 240, 280 and even 360Hz for crystal clear motion clarity when gaming. That makes a monitor the undisputed better choice for twitch gaming and esports titles like CS:GO, Valorant or Fortnite.

If you mainly play slower paced, cinematic games rather than competitive shooters, a TV‘s refresh rate may suffice. But serious gamers should choose monitors for optimal speed.

Input Lag

Input lag refers to the time between an input on your controller or mouse to the reaction on screen. Lower input lag means a more immediate on-screen response to your clicks and joystick movements. Fast input response is critical, especially for online multiplayer combat games.

Good LCD/LED gaming monitors now have extremely low input lag – as little as 4 or 5 milliseconds. That virtually instant feedback translates to better performance in game. High-end TVs marketed towards gaming have improved here too, but generally still have higher input lag in the 10-20ms range at best.

I‘ll reiterate though – if you mainly play single player adventures, RPGs or casual games, a TV‘s input lag likely won‘t bother you. But competitive gamers need every last millisecond of response only the best gaming monitors provide.

Color Accuracy

Color accuracy refers to how faithfully the display reproduces an image‘s true intended colors. From dark scenes to sunlit landscapes, you want to see colors, contrast and brightness tuned properly.

Monitors designed for photo, video and graphics work have specialized panels focused heavily on color precision. Wide color gamuts, hardware calibration tools and tuning software ensures every hue and tone looks exactly right.

Consumer televisions don‘t have color accuracy as a top priority though. Vibrant oversaturated colors that "pop" catch buyer‘s eyes on sales floors. Most buyers are satisfied with colors that subjectively look pleasing rather than lab grade precise.

However, home theater enthusiasts, semi-pro photographers and video editors should consider TVs with dedicated bright/dark room picture modes. Features like multi-point calibration can dial in excellent color and contrast accuracy suitable for detail oriented work if properly configured. OLED TVs also provide superb color reproduction out of the box.

If color critical work is a priority though, you can‘t go wrong with a specialized monitor. Their smaller premium panels offer unparalleled tuning potential that the best massive TVs still fall slightly short of matching.

Audio Quality

Unlike monitors which rely solely on external speakers or headphones, essentially all televisions have onboard audio systems built-in. Ranging from thin and tinny to impressively robust surround sound, TV audio saves you from having purchase and connect dedicated equipment. Great if you don’t want to clutter your space and wires.

Of course, serious music listeners, gamers and home theater enthusiasts almost always connect external audio systems – anything from soundbars to multi-speaker surround setups. This overwhelms and augments TV‘s own speakers. But for casual viewing, it‘s convenient having satisfactory stereo sound included out of the box even if audiophiles will find it lacking.

Very few monitors bother attempting speakers beyond basic desktop multimedia purposes. Instead they stick to their core strength – world class visuals – and let you provide preferred high quality audio solutions. This avoids driving up costs for components most monitor buyers won‘t utilize when they likely already own superior headphones, sound systems and speaker gear.

Operating Systems and Apps

Televisions run smart TV software that differs significantly from desktop OSes like Windows and macOS. You generally won‘t run normal computer programs on a television. Instead smart TV platforms like webOS, Tizen and Google TV focus on streaming apps, services and lightweight games rather than intensive applications.

Conversely, monitors work best when paired with proper computers. Of course you can connect a TV to a computer as an external display for a makeshift jumbo monitor. But you‘ll miss out on matched resolutions, optimized text readability, miss extended settings absent on TVs and lose recursive monitor output.

Some use TVs as a budget workaround to pricey large format monitors. But for best results, I suggest sticking with computer displays matched to your actual system specs rather than mismatching expectations. Each are great when used for their intended purposes!

Pricing Considerations

In the battle of monitors vs televisions, TVs dominate on raw price and size alone. A 50" 4K HDR television can readily be found for under $400 USD. Comparable gaming monitors cost two, three or even four times more for high end models in the same size class!

However, at smaller sizes like 24-27 inches, monitors offer significantly better pixel density, color quality and response times at prices competitive with basic 1080p televisions. It all depends just how large of a display you demand. Big screen buyers tend to prefer TVs, while smaller high-performance setups favor monitors.

Speaking very generally, figure a television gets you bigger dimensions for the money, while a monitor delivers better optimized performance pound for pound based on your use priorities. Find the right balance for your viewing needs.

Recommendations and Conclusions

So in summary:

For gaming – monitors are easily my top overall recommendation thanks to lightning fast refresh rates, ultra low input lag and variable aspect ratios catered specifically to PC and console games.

For creative work – a color accurate monitor gives outstanding reproduction for photography, video, design and other color critical use cases.

For entertainment – nothing beats the sheer size, convenience and streaming built into modern 4K/8K smart televisions.

There you have it – a complete side by side guide to monitors and TVs. Hopefully this gave you some clarity when choosing what type of display to purchase. Feel free to reach out with any other questions!