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Monitor vs 4K TV (2020): Weighing Your PC Screen Options

At first glance, monitors and TVs look the same. They’re both black mirrors when turned off, and they both can be used for watching movies and playing games. The differences used to be more obvious: you can’t use your old tube TVs with the PC, and your old CRT monitors can’t support a TV antenna.

Having said that, televisions and monitors available on the market today still have important, but not as noticeable, differences. Read on to find out the difference between popular 4K TVs like the Sony X950H and monitors like the Acer Predator XB 273K.

Monitor vs 4K TV Comparison Chart

 Monitor4K TV
 Acer Predator XB273K Gpbmiipprzx 27' UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS NVIDIA G-SYNC Compatible Monitor with...Sony X950H 49 Inch TV: 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV with HDR and Alexa Compatibility - 2020 Model
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Popular ModelsAcer KG241Q, Acer Predator XB273K (above)Razer Raptor 27Samsung TU-8000, Sony X950H (above), LG OLED-CX
Size RangeMostly within 23.5″-34″Mostly within 43″-85″
Response Time1-10 millisecondsup to 70 milliseconds
ResolutionFull HD, Quad HD, 4K UHD4K UHD
Ultrawide OptionsYesNo
Refresh Rates60-240Hz60-120Hz
Input Lag~10 milliseconds20-60 milliseconds, may be higher

Design

Monitors and 4K television sets sport a different range of available resolutions and use different color encoding schemes.

TVs like the Samsung TU-8000 (left) are usually bigger, but monitors like the LG 34GL750-B can come in ultra wide settings.

Let’s start out with a quick refresher on what 4K is. 4K screens (3840×2160) have a resolution that is twice as big as Full HD screens (1920×1080) and thrice as big as HD screens (1080), and the most common 4K setting on the market is 4K UHD. A higher resolution means more pixels on the screen. 4K options have become widely available since 2014, and they’re becoming more commonplace in homes with each year that passes. Both monitors and TVs come in 4K. This is why online tech reviewers take great care to remind you that screen resolution isn’t everything, however important it is.

One difference between TV and monitor options is the available size and price. The mental image most people have is that monitors are smaller than TVs, and that’s mostly correct. You can buy as big as 85-inch televisions, while monitors hover in the 20 to 40 inch range. TVs are also usually more affordable: a 40-inch 4K TV costs about as much as a 27-inch 4K monitor. HDR TVs are also more common than HDR monitors, which are only starting out in the market. The price difference comes down to a distinction in intended use, which we’ll see down below when comparing response time, input lag, refresh rates, and adaptive sync capabilities.

Response Time and Input Lag

Gaming enthusiasts tend to favor monitors for faster response time.

Monitors like LG’S UltraGear selection (right) can have response times as fast as 1 millisecond, while most TVs average 15ms or higher.

Response time refers to how quickly a pixel can change color. The faster it is, the less vulnerable the images displayed are to ghosting and trailing in fast-paced scenarios. Monitors usually have a better response time, with high-end models like LG’s 27GL83A-B boasting a record of 1 millisecond or less. A television’s slower response time leads to blurriness, which can hurt your chances of winning in competitive gaming. Monitors also have a wider array of mainstream panel display tech to choose from compared to televisions, though TVs do have exclusive access to tech like OLED.

Input lag is a related but different specification. It refers to the delay time between you clicking on your mouse or typing on your keyboard and the action registering on your screen. This speed is affected by the number of processes the new image goes through before being displayed. Since TVs are built for watching, images are usually more processed. TVs use scaling or upconverting and deinterlacing to name a few methods to improve what you see displayed. However, more processes means a bigger input lag, which could be a deal-breaker if you want to see your commands register as fast as possible.

Color Quality

Monitors usually display true colors better, while TVs are more dramatic-looking.

Dedicated monitors like the Acer VG240Y (right) are built to reproduce more accurate color compared to TVs like the Sony X800H (left).

One specification that video editors, animators, photographers, and content creators in general have to pay attention to is image quality. Specifically, how accurate does the TV or monitor in question show color? For people in certain lines of work, the better choice is the one that can support more diverse color spaces. Monitors are made for this express purpose. Most mid- to high-end monitors can support working in sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 to name a few color spaces.

In comparison, TV manufacturers don’t place as much importance on accuracy. Instead, a bigger emphasis is placed on striking, cinematic colors. This makes sense, since a TV’s primary purpose is for watching shows or movies, and having an accurate recreation of a video’s colors doesn’t always mean having the best. It does, however, make TVs an inferior choice for people whose jobs require working with a lot of images. The built-in TV settings can mess with your intended color grading. In TV’s defense though, colors can look more vivid on these than on monitors, especially if your specific model has full-array backlighting (an uncommon feature on monitors, for now).

Adaptive Sync and Refresh Rate

Dedicated monitors usually have better true refresh rates.

Monitors like LG’s UltraGear line (right) come with support for adaptive sync, something that TVs like the LG 50UK6300BUB (left) rarely come with.

Aside from faster response times and more accurate colors, monitors also usually have better refresh rates than TVs. Most monitors of good quality on the market now are available in 120Hz and 144Hz options, with more expensive monitors having a refresh rate of 240Hz. Refresh rate is how often an image refreshes in a second, so higher refresh rates lead to smoother images and less screen tearing. TVs are usually stuck at 60Hz, and some models with higher refresh rates actually interpolate (or make up) frames instead of actually having faster rates.

A lot of dedicated monitors are also equipped with adaptive refresh rate tech, like Nvidia G-Sync or AMD FreeSync. Adaptive sync reduces screen tearing even more by making your monitor’s refresh rate adapt to your GPU’s frame rate instead of the other way around. Additional features like this is one reason why monitors are made specifically for different situations, like content creation or competitive gaming. Less screen tearing makes the images on-screen look less rough and abrupt and more fluid, making adaptive sync a must-have for those looking to minimize it as much as possible.

Verdict

It’s still a better choice to stick to dedicated monitors for now if you’ll be using it for your PC.

Monitors like the Acer Predator XB 273K are still better for those whose computers will see heavy use in specific fields. They have better color fidelity, higher refresh rates, faster response time, and less lag. There are also a myriad of choices for you within the world of monitors depending on what specifications you need: for one, different kinds of panels are used which place emphasis on different qualities. They also come with additional technologies like adaptive refresh rate synchronization, which can severely reduce screen tearing for a smoother overall PC experience.

That’s not to say that televisions should be ignored. TVs like the Sony X950H still have bigger choices for size, work better with watching (instead of creating) videos like movies or TV shows, and have better contrast settings and backlight technology. If you’re going to pick between buying a TV and a monitor, there’s nothing wrong with trying a good quality television out. Just make sure that your new TV’s dimensions are right for you and your intended space, and that the comparatively lower quality response time and input lag, among others, won’t be a huge problem for your daily use.

FAQs

πŸ“Œ Should I use 4k TV as monitor?

You can but you should also consider a 4k monitor instead of a TV. Monitors are better suited for long time use as they are smaller.

πŸ“Œ Is it better to use a computer monitor or a 4k TV?

It depends on the features that you need. A monitor is better for work that requires accurate color reproduction. It’s also better for gaming if it has a high refresh rate and low response time. A 4k TV is great if you are going to use your PC as a media hub or an HTPC. It’s also good for gaming if you prefer to game on a bigger screen with pretty images.

πŸ“Œ Is a 4k monitor better than a 4k TV?

In some ways, a 4k monitor is better than a 4k TV. It can have a higher refresh rate, more accurate colors and because they are usually smaller in size, the PPI is also better. However, they are also more expensive.

πŸ“ŒIs it worth buying a 4k monitor?

If you value the extra screen real estate and sharper images, then yes, a 4k monitor is worth buying.

Last update on 2020-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Mauie Flores
Mauie Flores

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying, blogger and content creator passionate about writing, music, and good food.