Last Updated: 29th July 2021
When it comes to console gaming, the debate between TV and monitor has been bubbling away for years. On the surface, the choice seemed simple – casual console gamers would opt for a TV whilst competitive-minded players would choose the gaming monitor. However, thanks to the arrival of next-gen consoles from both PlayStation and Xbox that offer 120 frames per second gameplay in stunning 4K resolution, that debate just became much more important.
You see, to actually reap the rewards of these new performance capabilities, you need a supportive monitor or TV to match. A 60Hz 4K TV simply won’t cut it anymore. Luckily, manufacturers are working hard to bring a tonne of high-performance TVs and monitors to market that will support the new HDMI 2.1 standard – sparking the debate once again.
In this article, we’re going to answer all of the big questions that surround both monitors and TVs when it comes to gaming. Before that though, we are going to go over some of the more common terms you will come across when buying a gaming-related display. If you aren’t familiar with the fancy jargon, read the section below to familiarise yourself with the need-to-know terms.
VIDEO: Monitor vs TV for Gaming in 2021! Which should you choose?
Just in case you are new to all this and have never actually considered whether a TV or monitor is best for gaming, we have summarized some need-to-know terms below.
- Resolution – The amount of pixels a screen can display. 1080p = Full HD (most common), 1440p = Quad HD (high-end monitors), 2160p = 4K/Ultra HD (highest-end, used by both TVs and monitors).
- Refresh Rate – The number of times per second a screen refreshes the image. 60Hz is pretty much universal in TVs but considered entry-level for monitors. On monitors, a higher refresh rate provides a much smoother experience, voiding it from annoying screen artifacts such as screen tear. TVs, on the other hand, were historically known for not having native (or true) high refresh rates. However, that is no longer the case – with many newer options providing exceptional speed and response.
- Response Time – The amount of time it takes for a single pixel to go from one color to another. The lower, the better.
- Input Lag – Tied to the above, is a direct measurement of how long it takes for your actions to be registered onscreen. The lower, the better.
- HDR – High Dynamic Range. New 4K displays use the HDR10 standard for richer color reproduction and more diverse levels of darkness and brightness.
The above are just two examples of what to look for when comparing a TV to a monitor for gaming, there are a wide variety of TVs available on Samsung’s own website that would be perfect to be used as a gaming TV which you can check out right here.
On the surface, there are many similarities between TVs and gaming monitors, but the difference lies in the specifications.
On average, gaming monitors will offer much higher refresh rates and pixel density when compared to modern TVs. Furthermore, they usually offer better (less) input lag and much more stand versatility. Historically, monitors weren’t that great when it came to color reproduction or maximum screen resolution – however, thanks to developments made in panel technology over the last 3-5 years, that isn’t the case anymore. 4K monitors that offer extremely accurate color reproduction aren’t quite as rare as they once were – great for content creators and color accurate productivity users.
TVs are usually larger and more focused on things like better color reproduction and viewing experience rather than sheer pixel density or responsiveness. They also tend to be much better for viewing at wide angles, thanks to display technologies that are geared toward the classic living room setting.
Thanks to the arrival of OLED technology, some gaming-tailored TVs now offer extremely good input lag and pixel response time, reducing the amount of motion blur and ghosting that may normally occur. Furthermore, with refresh rates now reaching the dizzy highs of 120hz, some TVs are actually matching gaming monitors for responsivenes.
In terms of resolution, modern TVs usually offer 1080p or 4K – with the recent addition of 8K. Monitors, on the other hand, are a little more versatile – offering 1080p, 1440p, and 4K.
Generally-speaking, TVs tend to focus more heavily on raw viewing experience and picture quality. Alternatively, gaming monitors try to balance specifications as and where they can – sometimes compromising on one area for budgetary reasons. With the recent influx of IPS monitors, however, compromising color accuracy for responsiveness is becoming much less common.
If you take HDR into account, it’s practically no competition. Whilst HDR (high dynamic range) has become much more popular within the gaming monitor sphere, TVs still offer this feature much more readily. Additionally, if you’re playing on PC, most of your content doesn’t have HDR support yet, while PS4 Pro, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X do.
Thanks to increasing HDR support and IPS panels bringing better color reproduction and viewing angles, it’s no surprise seeing so many gamers make the switch from TV to monitor.
In the move from CRT displays to large flatscreen HDTVs, many gamers may have noticed that their games are almost unplayable without enabling a “Game Mode” on their TVs. This is because large HDTVs have started to use their own dedicated graphics processing hardware to handle the higher-resolution signals, which makes images look cleaner and the movement look smoother.
CRTs did not have this problem, and to this day are still favored by some gamers (looking at you, Melee players) who want to minimize input lag.
Monitors have never needed to adopt a Game Mode for tolerable input latency, and across the board, monitors perform much better in this category. With the existence of 144hz monitor and 240hz monitor taken into account, monitors become even better at reducing input lag than any comparable TV.
Looking at the numbers, most monitors fall between 1ms to 5ms (although some cheaper, larger, or IPS displays are slower), but TVs tend to start at 5ms and just climb higher; even up to 20ms. It’s generally less advertised, and built-in Game Modes help deal with this to varying degrees, but the numbers reinforce that TVs are slower.
First up, let’s talk about -Sync tech. Specifically, G-Sync and FreeSync. These two technologies, from Nvidia and AMD respectively, are focused on removing screen tearing by dynamically matching refresh rate to frame rate – increasing perceived smoothness by doing so. These two technologies do essentially the same thing, and both are widely-supported in the higher end of gaming monitors.
With TVs, preventing screen tearing is less straightforward. Some very high-end TVs support G-Sync and FreeSync, but only a few. You’ll be spending a lot more to get these features on a TV than you would on a monitor.
As we mentioned in the “terms” section, both display types can have high refresh rates but tend to handle them differently.
If you buy a 120Hz monitor, it will display that refresh rate natively and be capable of displaying extra frames rendered by your PC when you’re gaming.
If you buy a 120Hz TV, you might end up with a soap opera effect, and you’re unlikely to see 120Hz benefits in gaming. This is because most TVs using a high refresh rate are using a technology called “interpolation,” which is focused on reducing ghosting and making motion look smoother. In some cases, this results in what’s called the “soap opera effect,” where a TV show or movie looks too smooth to be natural, though this isn’t a concern with gaming.
That being said, there are high-end TVs that actually do support these higher refresh rates and are tailored for gaming purposes. Just expect to spend more on it.
While gaming TVs exist, getting one with the desired features often comes with a price penalty. This is because TVs are ultimately larger, more complex, and more expensive to produce as a result.
Both display technologies have high-end solutions that bust the wallet, but even low-to-midrange monitors provide less latency and input lag than TVs at comparable prices. If we’re talking sheer value for pure gaming, then monitors are the clear winner.
Now, let’s talk about comfort. We’re going to assess this on two fronts: viewing distance and viewing angles.
A TV’s larger size makes gaming from your couch or your bed much more viable, and this benefit only increases the larger your display becomes. With monitors and their smaller size, you need to stay much closer to your display. Unless you have hundreds of dollars to spend on a high-end gaming chair, the fact is you simply aren’t going to be as comfortable sitting at a desk as you would be slouched on a couch or laying in bed.
Of course, being sat at a desk is no problem for PC gamers, and the added benefits of responsiveness out weight this issue entirely.
TVs benefit from excellent viewing angles, giving you a wide range of places to sit in your living room without the colors transforming. While IPS monitors do have much better viewing angles than TN monitors, they are more expensive and aren’t really worth it for hardcore gamers. TVs have the benefit of wide viewing angles and large sizes. While it may seem that TVs beat monitors in terms of viewing angles, remember you are likely to be sat in front of your monitor when you game, rendering a great viewing angle useless in most usage scenarios.
What’s the score on the doors? In this section, we’re going to do some quick summarizing, along with our final verdict and a few recommendations.
Image Quality And HDR
TVs achieve superior viewing experiences at lower price points, and also have better support for HDR than monitors do. For this reason, we chose TVs for this category, but you can get better image quality if you’re willing to spend more on your monitor.
Monitors win this category, hands-down. Even with high-end gaming TVs sporting fast response times and high refresh rates, they are less affordable. Even IPS panel gaming monitors now feature incredibly low input lag, so it’s a clean sweep for the monitor.
High Refresh Rates And Sync Technologies
If you want to play with a high refresh rate and actually make use of framerates above 60, a gaming monitor is an obvious choice. Most TVs with high refresh rates only use those refresh rates for interpolation, not raw visual performance, and even the few that do have worse input latency than monitors.
Variable refresh rate technologies are supported by both TVs and monitors but are much more affordable on the latter. FreeSync and G-Sync displays still have a hefty price premium over displays that don’t support those features so make sure you use the technology if you are going to buy it.
For those just looking for a solid gaming experience at a low price, it’s going to be much easier to achieve that with a gaming monitor than it is on a TV, especially if you’re a competitive player.
When we are looking at monitors vs TVs for gaming, it’s clear that monitors win. However, if you prioritize viewing over playing, you could argue a TV is the way to go. That said, with the latest gaming monitors featuring IPS panels, HDR, and wide viewing angles, gaming monitors are the clear winner.
Last but not least is comfort, which TVs win pretty conclusively thanks to larger viewing distances and wider viewing angles. There’s a reason that TVs are the go-to for couch gaming and local multiplayer, they simply create a better experience overall.
Yes, slouching on the couch while gaming is the ultimate in comfort but with high-end gaming monitors featuring IPS panels you get excellent viewing angles, and with the option to buy ultrawide 4K gaming monitors, there is something to be said for both.
Monitors seem to be the better choice for pure gaming performance, latency, and they win more of our categories, so we have a clear winner.
That being said, there are still going to be scenarios where you might want to use a TV instead. If you’re playing casual single-player games, for instance, a TV and a couch offer much more than a desk and monitor setup.
If you aren’t serious about playing competitively and don’t have the technology to drive high refresh rate displays, the ability to sit back, relax, and play a game on your widescreen TV is going to be superior to hunching over your desk and wildly tapping keys and buttons.
Ultimately, gaming is about choice, especially PC gaming. The winner here really depends on what you want out of your gaming experience.
If you’re a competitive gamer who wants to top the leaderboards, get into esports, and push yourself as far as you can go, get a gaming monitor.
But for the social gamers out there, a TV might just offer a better gaming experience for you.