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Monday, May 20, 2024

Gaming Monitor Vs. TV: Which Is Best for Your Gaming Setup?

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Are you torn between getting a gaming monitor or a TV for gaming? You’re not alone. Many gamers have found themselves torn between the responsiveness of a monitor and the outstanding image quality of an HDTV. This guide will help you cut through the options and pick what’s best for your gaming setup.

We compare gaming monitors and TVs with the following in mind:

  1. Features and Day-to-Day Function
  2. Image quality
  3. Game Performance
  4. Movies & Streaming TV
  5. Latency
  6. Value
  7. Verdict

Gaming Monitor vs. TV: Features and Day-to-Day Function

At their most basic level, a gaming monitor and TV do the same thing: they display an image from an input device. Still, there are differences between the features of each.

Gaming Monitor common features

  • HDMI and DisplayPort inputs – rarely DVI and VGA, too.
  • Low input lag
  • Small display size with high pixel density
  • Adjustable stand, easy to move
  • No TV tuner

Gaming monitors support a wide range of inputs. This includes both HDMI and DisplayPort and sometimes DVI and VGA, though those are rare on new gaming monitors. Monitors lack a TV tuner, so they can’t display traditional over-the-air or cable TV signals.

Gaming monitors often have an advantage in pixel density and, because they use little to no image processing, most have almost zero input lag. These traits make for a crisp, responsive experience.

Of course, gaming monitors tend to be much smaller than TVs. They’re easier to fit on a desk. Most have an adjustable stand that makes it easy to achieve the best viewing angle and to use multiple displays at once.

TV common features:

  • HDMI input
  • Large display size
  • Remote control
  • HDR, built-in speakers
  • Includes a TV tuner

Modern televisions have HDMI inputs and rarely anything else – except for a TV tuner, which is used for over-the-air TV signals. The TV tuner is what makes a television, well, a television.

Televisions also lean towards a larger display size. While some overlap with monitors, they size up to massive screens with a diagonal space of over 100 inches. This, of course, is much too large for a desk. Televisions have simple stands that offer little or no adjustment.

Most televisions pack in features. A remote control is virtually guaranteed. HDR support is common, as are built-in speakers. Smart TVs have a built-in operating system, so you don’t even have to plug in a device to watch Netflix.

Gaming Monitor vs. TV: Image Quality

Gaming monitors and TVs differ in image quality. Both look great, but in their own way.

Televisions have an advantage in many aspects of image quality including brightness, contrast, and color gamut. They often use fundamentally better technology, such as OLED panels or Mini-LED backlights, to deliver the best visual experience. There is some overlap, however: the best gaming monitors have OLED panels or Mini-LED backlighting.

The gap becomes wider in HDR content, which demands a range of contrast and brightness well in excess of what most monitors can handle. Budget televisions struggle, too, but mid-range televisions have an advantage.

However, 4K gaming monitors strike back in sharpness. Most have a higher pixel density than comparable TVs. Some 4K TVs use an unusual subpixel layout or to use a technique called chroma subsampling, which can cause problems with sharpness when displaying fine text or interface elements. This difference isn’t noticeable when sitting far away but becomes more obvious when sitting close.

Gaming Monitor vs. TV: Game Performance

Most gamers want a display that will provide excellent performance, and performance can usually be separated into three areas: input lag, refresh rate, and pixel response times.

Input lag is the delay between user input and that input appearing on-screen. Most monitors add just a few seconds of input lag. Some TVs have low input lag, but others don’t, so it’s important to read TV reviews and avoid those with high input lag.

Refresh rate, expressed in hertz, is the number of times a display will refresh its image each second. A higher refresh rate means smoother motion. The baseline is 60Hz, but even budget gaming monitors can achieve 144Hz. High-end gaming monitors can hit 240Hz or even 360Hz. Monitors that achieve up to 500Hz are on the way.

Some newer 4K TVs can achieve 120Hz, but many are still stuck at 60Hz. It’s important to note that television brands often advertise a high “motion rate,” or similar. This is a marketing buzzword and it’s not the same as refresh rate.

TVs are less likely to support adaptive sync. This feature lets a display sync its refresh rate with an input device for silky-smooth motion that offers proper pacing between each frame.

Last but not least, is pixel response time. This is the time it takes for a pixel to change in color. This isn’t instantaneous, and the delay in pixel response is the cause of ghosting on many displays. Gaming monitors and TVs often perform similarly, but the more widespread use of OLED in the TV market does provide an edge. OLED has a nearly instantaneous pixel response time.

Gaming Monitor vs. TV: Movies & Streaming TV

TVs have a variety of image quality features and modes dedicated to improving, or just customizing, the viewing experience. Viewers can smooth out motion, dip into different HDR modes, pick between color gamuts, and much more. These options can often be changed and saved on a per-input basis, as well. Monitors offer some image quality adjustments, but they’re typically harder to access and less in-depth.

Most modern TVs have smart features, including apps that can access content without an external device plugged in. They’re often easier to use than apps on an external device, though the quality of the experience does differ between TV brands. A handful of new TVs even bundle game streaming right into the display. You can play games without a console or PC connected.

And don’t forget the remote control. A TV’s remote provides quick and easy access to a wide range of features. You can change volume, flip on game mode, or adjust image quality from across the room. There are a few gaming monitors with a remote (BenQ often includes one), but their function is more limited.

A gaming monitor can look great in movies and streaming content, but they can’t match the versatility, customization, and ease of use available on a TV.

Gaming monitor vs. TV: Ergonomics and multiple displays

Most monitors, including gaming monitors, are meant to be used at a desk and are designed to allow easy use alongside other monitors. This is why many monitors have an ergonomic stand that provides significant height, swivel, and tilt adjustment. Some also pivot 90 degrees for use in a vertical, portrait orientation.

All this makes a gaming monitor better if you want to use multiple displays. It’s technically possible to use a TV in the same way, of course, but most TVs have a basic stand that doesn’t adjust at all. You can mount the TV to a wall, but a third-party stand or arm sturdy enough to support a TV will be expensive.

This also makes a TV harder to adjust for an ideal viewing angle. You may need to crane or angle your neck to fully view the TV, especially if you are gaming at a desk. This could cause reduced image quality on TVs with a narrow viewing angle.

Gaming Monitor vs. TV: Latency

Latency, also known as input lag, is the delay between tapping a button on an input device (like a gamepad) and the result occurring on-screen. Displays are often among the most significant contributors to latency, so it’s important to buy a low latency display for gaming.

Gaming monitors tend to have much lower latency than televisions. Monitors typically display an image with little to no image processing which, in turn, minimizes latency. A typical gaming monitor will add just a few milliseconds of latency.

Televisions can add significant latency—over 100 milliseconds in a worst-case scenario. Thankfully, television latency has improved in recent years and many of the best TVs now offer excellent latency. The LG C2 OLED, our top 4K TV for gaming, has a latency comparable to many gaming monitors.

A monitor will generally offer low latency, but it's clear that televisions are beginning to catch up. However, it’s still a good idea to read latency reviews of a particular TV before you make a purchase, as some perform poorly. Also, remember to switch to Game Mode when gaming on a TV, as this offers far lower latency than modes designed for movies and shows.

Gaming Monitor vs. TV: Value

Value

Gaming monitors offer more to gamers on a budget. The LG UltraGear 27GN650 ($197) and Dell S2721HGF ($200) are among the least expensive gaming monitors worth buying. Each has a 1080p display with a refresh rate up to 144Hz. Televisions like the 43-inch Insignia F30 ($190) are available at similar prices but lack gaming features including a high refresh rate and adaptive sync.

The least expensive televisions with gaming-centric features include the Hisense 55U8G ($699) and the TCL 5-Series 55S546 ($429). These are much larger than most gaming monitors, however, and generally don’t compete for the same space. They’re a great fit for a living room or home theater, while gaming monitors fit better on a desk.

LG UltraGear 27GN650LG UltraGear 27GN650 Dell S2721HGFDell S2721HGF Insignia F30Insignia F30 Hisense 55U8GHisense 55U8G

Gamers looking for a small 42-inch or 43-inch gaming television, either for a small space in hopes of saving money, will be disappointed. The only quality gaming television below 48 inches is LG’s new 42-inch C2 OLED, but it’s currently priced at $1,250.

Gamers in this situation may be better off with a large monitor such as the 43-inch Gigabyte Aorus FV43U ($680). Large gaming monitors have a 4K panel, a high refresh rate, and support adaptive sync. Image quality isn’t bad, either. Just remember that a monitor lacks a TV tuner, so it won’t be able to connect to an antenna or directly to a cable wall outlet.

LG 42-inch C2 OLEDLG 42-inch C2 OLED Gigabyte Aorus FV43UGigabyte Aorus FV43U Samsung Odyssey G9 NeoSamsung Odyssey G9 Neo LG 77-inch C2 OLEDLG 77-inch C2 OLED

High-end gaming monitors and televisions soar way above $1,000, but these models target very different gamers. A monitor such as the super-ultrawide Samsung Odyssey G9 Neo ($1,600) is a great choice for playing PC games at a desk. Gamers who want to play console titles in a home theater, on the other hand, will prefer a massive OLED television like the 77-inch LG C2 OLED ($3,300).

Gaming Monitor vs. TV: Verdict

I’d love to provide a clear, universal recommendation, but that’s not possible here. Neither a gaming monitor or TV is the best in all situations. The choice will come down to your needs and preferences.

A gaming monitor is the best choice for game performance. Their combination of low input lag and high refresh rate makes for unparalleled responsiveness. A gaming monitor is best for games on a desk or in a space where you’ll be just a few feet from the display. Monitors also have an edge if you want to use multiple displays.

TVs are the undisputed leader in image quality. They work best if you’re more than a few feet away and will be using the TV as the only display in the space. You’ll certainly prefer a TV if you want to watch movies and shows as often as you play games. Finally, TVs have an edge in HDR performance, so they’re great for flashy triple-A console games.


Matthew S. Smith is a hardware and tech freelance writer with more than 15 years of industry experience.

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