The time has come to bust out your wallet and get a new screen to play games on. At some point, you’ve probably thought about getting a single multifunctional display. Many gamers have a TV serving as both a TV and a monitor for their PCs or consoles. A big question inevitably comes up: Can a TV replace a monitor for PC users?
Displaying video games is the most demanding task that TVs and monitors perform. If a TV can satisfy the needs of a gamer, then it can handle anything. However, there are multiple factors to look at when determining the usefulness of a TV for gaming.
In this discussion, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of using a TV for gaming to help you decide if it’s right for you.
TV vs. Monitor: Screen Size & Resolution
Screen size and resolution are the most important factors to weigh here. We measure screen size diagonally, and most monitors range from 21 to 27 inches. On the other hand, modern TVs usually go from 32 inches up to 100 inches or bigger.
Simply put, the resolution is the number of pixels across the height and width of the screen. The best gaming monitors can be found in the following resolutions:
- Full HD (1920×1080) — 1080p gaming monitors
- QHD (2560×1440) — 1440p gaming monitors
- Ultrawide (3440×1440) — best ultrawide gaming monitors
- UHD (3840×2160) — 4K gaming monitors
On the other hand, TVs mostly come in 1080p and 4K.
At first look, it seems that TVs have an advantage because they come in bigger sizes, while the resolutions are mostly the same. The bigger, the better, right?
We mentioned before in our screen size guide that resolution is represented by a number of pixels across the height and width of the screen, but differently sized screens will have more or fewer pixels per inch. We call this pixel density, and it’s the only true measurement of picture quality.
Pixel density is the main reason why manufacturers limit the size of gaming monitors. In order to preserve the quality of the picture, 1080p monitors are generally kept below 27 inches. Larger monitors almost always come in higher resolutions because more pixels are needed to make the images look good.
Monitors were built to complement gaming PCs, so they generally perform better than TVs. And because they’re meant to be viewed from up close (ideally from a gaming desk), a lower pixel density would be more noticeable.
On the other hand, TVs are designed for a different purpose. Customers usually view TVs from much farther away, so pixel density is less important—TVs can “get away” with lower picture quality. The recommended viewing distance for a 21-inch 1080p monitor is three feet, but a 45-inch screen of the same resolution should be viewed from about six to ten feet away.
Image quality directly influences your gaming experience. For PC gaming, you spend time close to the screen and require a better picture quality. From this perspective, the monitor clearly wins, and the TV cannot replace it because of lower pixel density.
However, you should also know that 4K gaming puts an enormous load on GPUs and should be avoided unless you have one of the best graphics cards for gaming.
In most cases, a TV will better suit console gamers because they usually view the screen from afar when watching TV or gaming on consoles. So as you can see, bigger isn’t always better. Instead, the choice should be made based on your gaming style and the way you intend to use the screen.
Winner: Tied 🏳️
TV vs. Monitor: Response time
Response time is the time that a pixel on the screen takes to change from black to white, or from one shade of gray to another. It is measured in milliseconds (ms). When you’re watching videos or working on the computer, response time really doesn’t matter. You will not see a difference. However, it matters in gaming, and especially in competitive gaming.
Response time depends on the type of panel. The fastest response times are typically provided by TN panels, which can reach 1ms. IPS panels generally top out around 4ms. Most gamers consider 5ms to be the bare minimum for gaming, although I really recommend getting a 1ms monitor as there are tons of affordable models out there. We expand on this topic in our IPS vs. TN vs. VA panel comparison.
Monitors clearly win in this category because the average gaming monitor has a maximum 5ms response time. TVs have much greater response times, usually over 10ms. Gaming on a TV may show noticeable ghosting. However, if you do choose to buy a TV, you should probably buy an IPS panel because of their lower response times.
Winner: Monitors 🥇
The refresh rate is the number of pictures you screen displays in one second. Moving objects at a higher refresh rate are clearer than they are at a lower refresh rate. Currently, the most popular refresh rates are 60 Hz, 120 Hz, and 144 Hz.
However, some gaming monitors can provide refresh rates up to 240 Hz. TVs mostly have 60 Hz refresh rates, but some can give 120 Hz at 1080p resolution. If you’re shopping for a 120 Hz display, make sure that it’s actually 120 Hz and not using motion interpolation technology. Motion interpolation is pseudo-120 Hz that’s actually 60 Hz, and it usually doesn’t look great. We recommend avoiding it.
Once again, monitors are way better for gaming—just make sure your GPU can handle the increased workload of drawing more frames per second if you’re planning to upgrade.
Winner: Monitors 🥇
Gaming monitors often provide additional features such as AMD FreeSync or NVIDIA GSync for an enhanced gaming experience. These features are created mostly for PC gaming, but they also work with console games in some cases.
TVs and monitors both can include HDR features. HDR stands for “high dynamic range,” which provides more vibrant colors and much better image quality.
For this category, although they both have HDR capabilities, monitors are superior. Thanks to AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA GSync, your gaming visuals will be much smoother. If you’re using an AMD graphics card for gaming, we recommend going for a monitor that is AMD FreeSync compatible.
Winner: Monitors 🥇
Comparing the specifications of both TVs and monitors, we can decisively say that monitors are much better for gaming. Out of four reviewed categories, they were superior in three of them. The remaining category ended in a tie.
This result shouldn’t surprise us if we consider the different purposes that TVs and monitors serve. However, if you tend to sit far away from your screen or if you play only on console, then a good quality TV could do the job.
My personal recommendation is to get an awesome ultrawide gaming monitor and pair it with a high-quality GPU—you won’t be disappointed.