Monitors are better for competitive gaming because they are much more responsive than TVs.
However, for those who don’t mind a higher response time, a TV is just as viable a choice as a monitor, especially for users who want a bigger screen.
Not all displays are made equal, and in the world of gaming, your choices are not limited to just different types of computer monitors.
Any gaming platform, be it a PC or a console, can use either a monitor or a TV as a display. You can even use a projector if you’d like.
But if we’re comparing TVs and monitors, which one is ultimately better for gaming?
That is not an easy question to answer, so we will be looking at the differences, as well as discussing the advantages and disadvantages of both monitors and TV sets.
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TV vs Monitor – How Do They Differ?
The most obvious difference between a monitor and a TV is the size of the screen.
These days, monitors usually range from 21 to 32 inches overall, but the vast majority of them are in the 24-27-inch range. Of course, there are both smaller and larger monitors out there, some as large as TVs, but those are far from common.
As for TVs, they generally range from 32 inches to 65 inches these days, but as before, there are both smaller and larger models out there.
Obviously, a larger screen makes it easy to enjoy games or other content while sitting farther away from the screen, and it can make split-screen multiplayer a more enjoyable experience.
Meanwhile, if you’re using a display at a desk, most agree that monitors larger than 27 inches are generally not very comfortable to use up close, although this also depends on the aspect ratio.
Moreover, a large screen is not necessarily a quality screen, and that’s where the resolution comes in.
Something that ties directly into screen sizes is the display resolution. As you most likely already know, the resolution indicates how many pixels there are on the screen, and the more pixels there are, the sharper the image will appear.
Today, monitors generally come with the following resolutions:
- 1080p, or Full HD
- 1440p, or Quad HD, also sometimes referred to as 2K
- 2160p, or Ultra HD, also most commonly known as 4K
As before, those are only the most common, and there are other slight variations when it comes to the vertical or horizontal pixel count of a display, and this usually varies with the aspect ratio.
For example, 2560×1440 is the resolution of a standard 16:9 QHD monitor, 2560×1600 is the resolution that you’d see in a 16:10 model, all the while an ultrawide 21:9 monitor would come with a resolution of 3440×1440 pixels.
Meanwhile, for TVs in 2020, the resolutions that you’ll commonly encounter are:
- 720p, or HD Ready, a resolution that you’ll only really see in some budget TVs as it has long been obsolete when it comes to gaming.
- 1080p, or Full HD that we’ve already mentioned above, that has now been replaced by 4K.
- 2160p, again a resolution mentioned above, 4K is currently the most popular resolution among TVs.
- 4320p, or 8K, which is currently the highest resolution that you’ll find on a TV.
So, which resolution is the best?
Overall, when it comes to monitors, 1080p is still the most popular resolution overall, but we’d say that 1440p is ideal for most gaming setups these days, as it provides enhanced visuals, and most GPUs can handle it in 2020.
Not only that, but 4K is often a bit of an overkill for smaller displays, as the extra pixel density is less noticeable. Granted, it still looks better than 1440p, but it’s also very demanding on the hardware so it’s not that viable for gaming unless you also have a high-end GPU.
When it comes to TVs that can readily have diagonal of over 40, 50, or even 60 inches, the benefits of a higher resolution are much more apparent, which is why TVs completely skipped 1440p and jumped from Full HD straight to 4K.
Obviously, 8K will look even better than 4K, but seeing as modern GPUs are struggling even with 4K, we’d say that 8K is definitely too much for gaming in 2020, and it will be some time before this changes.
All in all, if you’re buying a new TV or monitor, we can summarize it as follows.
If you’re getting a monitor, we’d say that 1440p is the safer bet for gaming in 2020, but 1080p is still the better choice if you’re on a budget. While there are some relatively cheap 4K monitors, the quality ones are fairly expensive, and as mentioned above, they don’t offer great value for your money at the moment unless you have a pricey high-end GPU. You can read more about what to look for in a gaming monitor here.
However, for TVs, we’d say that 4K is the definite choice. They are very popular right now, and they are very future-proof. As mentioned above, 8K won’t be a viable resolution for gaming anytime soon, and 1080p is already becoming obsolete as far as TVs are concerned, so 4K is a safe bet.
Plus, the upcoming new consoles that will be launching towards the end of 2020, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, will both target 4K as their primary resolution. So, if you intend to get either of those, buying a 1080p TV now would really be a waste.
Response time, or to be more precise, pixel response time determines how quickly a pixel can change color from black to white or from one shade of gray to another.
What makes it essential for gaming is that low response times allow for smooth camera movement, whereas high response times can lead to noticeable motion blur and, potentially, distracting ghosting.
This is an area where monitors generally have an edge, as monitor response times usually range from 1ms to 4ms, depending on the type of panel. TN panels are the fastest, but they usually don’t look that good, all the while IPS and VA panels look better but can’t really match the kind of speed offered by TN monitors. You can read more about that here.
Meanwhile, most TVs use IPS or VA panels, and the response times usually aren’t as great as they are with monitors, mostly ranging from 5ms to 8ms, although some can go as high as 16ms. As such, the negative effects of high response times, i.e., the aforementioned motion blur and ghosting, can be more noticeable, especially on lower-resolution TVs.
However, generally speaking, most don’t really notice the negative effects of high response times unless the response time is 10ms or higher. Granted, if you’re used to gaming on a 1ms monitor, you will undoubtedly notice a difference between 1ms and 8ms, but that’s all subjective.
Another important question when it comes to picking out the right display for gaming is the display’s refresh rate.
The refresh rate, measured in Hertz, indicates how many times the display can refresh the image each second. That said, a display’s refresh rate also denotes how many frames-per-second it can display.
Now, a higher framerate has several advantages. Mainly, the game is more responsive, fluid, and all-around more immersive and enjoyable. However, it can also contribute to reducing motion blur and can provide a slight but potentially important edge in multiplayer games.
That said, how do monitors and TVs compare on this front?
For a while now, monitors came with the following response times:
- 60 Hz, which was the standard refresh rate for most displays for a long time
- 144 Hz, which is much faster and more responsive
- 240 Hz, which offers pretty much-unprecedented responsiveness, ideal for competitive gaming
Much like with resolutions, there are some variations, such as 75 Hz, 100 Hz, and 120 Hz, among others.
TVs, on the other hand, didn’t put that much stock in refresh rates, but now you can find TVs that are marketed as having refresh rates as high as 120 Hz and 240 Hz, though the situation is a bit more complicated.
Namely, TVs can use various frame interpolation technologies to reduce motion blur and give off an illusion that the TV is displaying more frames than it actually is. For example, there are Sony’s MotionFlow, Samsung’s Motion Rate, and LG’s TruMotion, among others.
These technologies use the TV’s onboard processor to essentially add extra frames in between the actual frames. And while this can reduce motion blur and make movies and shows appear smoother, it is useless in games due to how much input lag it causes.
So, if a TV is marketed as having a 120 Hz effective refresh rate, that means its native refresh rate is a standard 60 Hz. TVs with a native 120 Hz refresh rate exist, but as you might have guessed, they can be pricey if you’re going for a quality TV set.
In any case, if you’re looking for a fast, responsive display, a monitor is the way to go. They are faster and more responsive, plus it’s cheaper to get a good monitor with a high native refresh rate than a good TV with a high native refresh rate.
The Final Verdict
So, at the end of the day, which should you pick for gaming: a monitor or a TV?
Well, truth be told, it’s mostly up to personal preference and what device you’re going to be playing games on.
As we’ve mentioned in the article, monitors are generally more responsive and getting a monitor with a high native refresh rate won’t set you back too much. They are ideal for desktop PC setups.
Meanwhile, TVs are larger and the benefits of 4K are more readily apparent with a bigger screen, making them better for couch gaming in the living room, though some might find the higher response times to be distracting.
But of course, there’s nothing preventing you from hooking a console up to a monitor nor is there anything stopping you from connecting your PC to a TV.
However, finding the right balance between resolution, performance, and value can be a tricky thing, so we suggest taking a look at our monitor buying guide if you’re looking for a new monitor.