TV vs Monitor For Gaming
So what’s better for gaming, a TV or a monitor? Console gamers primarily play on TVs, and PC gamers primarily play on monitors, but are either methods truly better for gaming? What is the difference between a monitor and a TV? Let's find out!
We’re going to answer all of those questions and more in this article. But first, if you aren’t familiar with the fancy jargon, read the section below to familiarise yourself with the need to know terms.
- 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, but you may also see 120Hz or more. On monitors, a higher refresh rate provides a much smoother experience, but with many TVs, this higher refresh rate is only “interpolated,” so it doesn’t offer the same benefits.
- 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.
TV vs Monitor For Gaming: What’s The Difference?
On the surface, there are many similarities between TVs and gaming monitors, but the difference lies in the specifications.
In addition to being smaller, monitors also tend to have much higher pixel density and refresh rates, even as far back as the days of CRT displays. They also have much more narrow viewing angles and (generally) aren’t as focused on color reproduction. While there are monitors that change this status quo, historically monitors are made for “work” rather than “play.”
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.
TV vs Monitor For Gaming: Image Quality and HDR
In terms of resolution, modern TVs are usually 1080p or 4K, while monitors have those options and 1440p, which can be viewed as an in-between.
Generally-speaking, TVs are focused towards a better viewing experience than gaming monitors. With the recent influx of IPS monitors, however, this battle is becoming less of a one-sided affair.
However, if you take HDR into account, it’s practically no competition. Most monitors don’t support HDR at all, and the few that do aren’t yet in affordable price ranges. 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 better HDR support and a (general) focus on better viewing, TVs win this round.
TV vs Monitor For Gaming: Input Lag
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 monitors taken into account, monitors become even better at reducing input lag than any comparable TV. We’ll expand on that point below.
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.
TV vs Monitor For Gaming: High Refresh Rates and -Sync Technologies
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, and 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.
TV vs Monitor For Gaming: Pricing
While gaming TVs exist, getting one with the desired features often comes at a great 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.
TV vs Monitor For Gaming: Comfort
Now, let’s talk about comfort. We’re going to assess this on two fronts: viewing distance and viewing angles.
TVs are the clear winner. Their 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-on-average 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.
TVs win again. While IPS monitors do have much better viewing angles than TN monitors (most monitors, in general, plus high refresh rate monitors in particular), TVs have the benefit of wide viewing angles and large sizes. TVs take another win here, especially if you’re playing local multiplayer titles like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Rocket League.
TV vs Monitor For Gaming: Verdict
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, similarly, high-end monitors widen the gap even more in terms of response times and overall input latency.
High Refresh Rates and -Sync Technologies
If you want to play at a high refresh rate and actually make use of framerates above 60, a 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.
-Sync 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.
If all you need is 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’ll get a superior viewing experience for less money on the TV side.
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.
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.
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 are going to be much better than desk and monitor setup.
Moreover, if you’re using an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro, a TV with HDR might be a more viable option, although there are certainly great monitors for console gaming.
If you also 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.