Using a TV as a computer monitor: Everything you need to know

Would that sexy, large screen look as good on your desk as it does in the living room? Let’s delve into the specifics of using a high-definition television as a computer display.
pcw-windows10-tv-100829154-orig

You’re not the first person to wonder what it would be like to have a massive desktop monitor. Imagine managing all your multitasking and immersive gaming on a 50 or 60-inch display instead of a standard 24-inch monitor! But you may have noticed that as monitors get bigger, they also tend to get exceptionally expensive.

Can you use a TV as a monitor?

However, you might already have a large screen at home — a television. After all, isn’t a high-definition TV just a giant computer monitor for the living room?

Not entirely. While in most cases you can use a TV as a computer monitor, it doesn’t mean it’s the best option. In fact, it may not be as attractive, convenient, or available (not to mention, as cheap) as you might imagine. There’s a reason why very cheap 32-inch high-definition TVs aren’t being used as budget-friendly large screens.

However, you can definitely use a high-definition TV as a PC monitor, and if you suddenly need a second screen, your TV can also work in a pinch. Here’s all the information you need to know about how to set up your TV as a computer monitor, and why you might not want to do so.

How to use a TV as a monitor

You can use a TV as a monitor, but it might require some tricks. You might need a special cable, depending on the output of your PC and the input of your HDTV, and you’ll need to check some settings, but connecting most modern PCs to most modern HDTVs shouldn’t be too much trouble.

Modern high-definition TVs have HDMI outputs. Some older high-definition TVs have DVI inputs, and some even have VGA inputs specifically for “PC use.” If your graphics card has an HDMI output, then you’re good to go: just use an HDMI cable to connect your computer to the HDMI port.

sapphire-radeon-rx-6600-XT-ports

All modern graphics cards (such as the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT) come with at least one HDMI port (the second from the left, located among multiple DisplayPorts).


If you’re using an older graphics card or motherboard with only DVI output, you can use an inexpensive DVI to HDMI cable and plug it into the HDMI input on your HDTV. Amazon sells a 6-foot AmazonBasics version for $9. Although some older HDTVs and some older computers have only VGA inputs/outputs, they’re not ideal choices. VGA is an analog signal and will give you a blurrier, lower-resolution image compared to HDMI or DVI lines.

If you want to use the HDTV as a second or third monitor, you might need to use different ports, such as the DisplayPort output on your graphics card. In that case, you’ll need a different cable (DisplayPort to HDMI). The main advantage of using DisplayPort output instead of DVI or VGA is that HDMI and DisplayPort can carry both video and audio signals simultaneously. If your graphics card supports HDMI audio through DVI (which is unlikely if there are no HDMI ports at all), then a DVI to HDMI cable can transmit both video and audio, whereas VGA can only transmit video. If you’re using DVI or VGA, you’ll likely need to separately connect the PC’s audio to the HDTV or use external speakers or headphones.

Bottom line? If possible, try to stick with HDMI or DisplayPort to HDMI connections. It’s the simplest solution.

Prepare Your Computer

You’ll also need to ensure that your graphics card (or the integrated graphics of your PC) can output at the resolution of your HDTV. To do this, you’ll first need to consult the manufacturer’s manual to find the resolution of your HDTV. Some HDTVs have non-standard resolutions and may not necessarily support your HDTV. However, most stick to standard 720p, 1080p, or 4K resolutions. Next, find the maximum resolution supported by your graphics card/integrated graphics.

display-adapter-properties-100829051-large

Open the Windows “Start” menu, then navigate to “Settings” > “System” > “Display” > “Advanced display settings” > “Display adapter properties for Display 1”. In the pop-up window, click on “List All Modes”. Find the resolution that matches your HDTV’s resolution and select it.

Will it look good? Maybe. It depends on how you plan to use the HDTV.

Key HDTV Features to Keep in Mind

If you’re converting the HDTV into a multimedia engine supported by your PC, and you plan to primarily use it as a television and streaming center (i.e., a screen you’ll be watching from several feet away), then it may look fine. But if you’re trying to put a 60-inch HDTV on a desk, you’re likely to experience headaches and eye strain.

If you’re considering using an HDTV as a computer monitor, there are several different factors to keep in mind.

Pixel Density

Pixel density, or the number of pixels contained within one square inch of a screen (measured in pixels per inch or PPI), is one of the most important factors to consider. A 15.6-inch laptop screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 has a pixel density of 141.21 PPI, whereas a 32-inch HDTV screen with the same resolution has a significantly lower pixel density of 68.84 PPI. The lower the pixel density, the less crisp and detailed the image will appear.

However, the importance of pixel density decreases as the viewing distance increases. The farther you sit from the screen, the lower the pixel density needed to achieve a comfortable viewing experience. Viewing a 15.6-inch/141.21 PPI screen from two feet away poses no issues, but you’ll find it much more challenging to view a 32-inch/68.84 PPI screen from the same distance. This is why the “Retina” screens on iPhones have a pixel density of 326 PPI, while “Retina” screens on Macbook Pros have a pixel density of only 226 PPI.

65r617_hero-100762305-large

6 Series TCL TVs.


Regular users typically sit about two to three feet away from a desktop monitor. To comfortably view the screen at this distance, your target should be 80ppi or higher. This means that for a 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution, your screen diagonal size should not exceed 27.5 inches, while for 4K devices, you need a maximum size of 55 inches, like the $700 TCL 6 Series 4K UHD Quantum Dot TV shown above.

Important note: “4K” is not a market standard. 4K HDTV can refer to either 4x720p (3840×2160 resolution) or 4x1080p (4096×2160 resolution). Most models use 3840×2160, but you should check the exact specifications of the model to determine the pixel density.


Input Lag

Input lag refers to the delay between your movements on the input device (in this case, mouse and keyboard) and what appears on the screen. While most computer monitors prioritize minimal latency, HDTVs typically do not—they prioritize (delay) video processing. These additional milliseconds may not seem significant, but they can make a huge difference if you’re trying to do something like competitive online gaming.

DisplayLag maintains a good database of input lag times, sortable by display type. If you’re using the HDTV as an HDTV, anything under 30 milliseconds is considered good. For computer monitors, you want to keep it under 20 milliseconds, and the lower, the better.


Response Time

Response time is often confused with input lag; it describes the time it takes for the pixels on the display to switch colors between scenes. The response times for HDTVs and computer monitors can be vastly different. HDTVs tend to prioritize richer colors, higher contrast, and wider viewing angles, all of which contribute to longer response times. Computer monitors often sacrifice some image processing and viewing angles to achieve faster response times. If you’re using a display with slower response times, you may see “ghosting” in fast-paced video and gaming sequences.

lg-oled55e8pua-rear-inputs-100780590-large

Port types and quantity are also worth noting. This is just one of the port areas on an LG TV. For convenience, many TVs also offer ports located near the side.


Some HDTVs have a “Game Mode” setting that reduces some image processing to improve input lag and response time. If you plan to play PC games on the TV, be sure to explore the options of the HDTV to see if it has this feature.

Refresh Rate

Another factor that may affect performance is the refresh rate of the display. The refresh rate is the number of times per second that the display refreshes or redraws the image. Most modern displays have a refresh rate of 60Hz, meaning they refresh the image 60 times per second. However, you may have seen high-end gaming monitors and HDTVs with higher refresh rates (120Hz, 144Hz, or even 240Hz). However, this can be misleading, as a computer monitor with a refresh rate of 120Hz may differ from an HDTV with a refresh rate of 120Hz.

The reason is that content viewed on TV is typically generated at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps. What people see on a computer monitor can be very different – many games can output frame rates higher than 60 fps if you have a powerful enough graphics card.

HDTVs with high refresh rates may use post-processing techniques to achieve that refresh rate, such as upscaling content by creating extra frames or preventing image blur by adding black frames between each frame. The good news is that this may not make much of a difference if you’re not gaming at very high frame rates. But if you have a gaming PC built for optimal gaming experience, connecting it to an HDTV instead of a computer monitor may mean you’re not fully utilizing your rig.

Is it worth it?

Try connecting your computer to your existing TV to see if it suits you; there’s no harm in trying!

However, if you’re shopping around, our advice might differ. If you’re looking for value for money, an HDTV may not necessarily be cheaper than a monitor. In fact, if you’re buying a new display, I’d recommend sticking with a tried-and-tested computer monitor. On one hand, smaller, cheaper HDTVs tend to be 720p resolution rather than 1080p, whereas monitors at the same price point are almost always 1080p. So, if you’re looking for a TV under 27 inches, an HDTV might be more expensive and lower in resolution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *