TVs vs Monitors

They're mostly interchangeable but not identical

You might watch TV shows on your computer monitor or play computer games on your HDTV, but that doesn't make them the same device. TVs have features not included in monitors, and monitors are generally smaller than TVs.

However, they do have a lot in common, too. We've examined the differences and similarities between these two bits of hardware. Keep reading to learn more about how computer monitors and TVs stack up.

TVs vs Monitors

Overall Findings

TV
  • Available in larger sizes

  • Includes a variety of ports, including USB, VGA, HDMI and may also support a feature like Apple's AirPlay

  • Let you switch between multiple inputs

  • High-resolution screens

  • OTA broadcast tuners & channel selectors

Monitor
  • Available in smaller sizes

  • Has ports comparable to a TV (in fewer numbers) but no coaxial connection

  • Supports different accessories and display modes but not necessarily multiple inputs

  • Can display high-resolution images

Both a TV or a monitor can provide high-definition displays for movies, games, or productivity. They have a lot of overlap in terms of price, size, and functionality. Which one you decide to use depends on your preferences and needs. They can even work together to give you an extra screen for your computer or a bigger display for presentations and media.

Size: HDTVs Provide More Screen

TV
  • Available in sizes between 19 and 85 inches (and larger)

  • Most are 16:9 aspect ratio

Monitor
  • Available between around 15 to 50 inches

  • Support a variety of aspect ratios

A lot of overlap exists between the sizes of TVs and monitors, but TVs are generally much larger. HDTVs are often over 50 inches while computer monitors usually remain below 30 inches. One reason for this is because most people's desks don't support one or more massive computer screens like a wall or table does a TV.

One place monitors provide more variety, however, is aspect ratios (the ratio between the screen's width and its height). Most HDTVs have a standard widescreen ratio of 16:9. But because monitors might have to support different work configurations, they offer more variety. You can find extra-wide monitors or more narrow ones if space is a consideration.

Ports: You May Get More With a TV

TV
  • Likely to include VGA, HDMI, DVI, USB, and coaxial

  • Expandable if you need more

Monitor
  • Supports same ports as a TV, but possibly fewer out of the box

  • Expandable with bridges and adapters

When it comes to ports, both a modern television and monitor support VGA, HDMI, DVI, and USB.

An HDMI port on a TV or monitor connects a device that sends video to the screen. This might be a Roku Streaming Stick if using a TV, or a computer or laptop if the HDMI cable is connected to a monitor.

VGA and DVI are two other types of video standards that most monitors and TVs support. If these ports are used with a television, it's normally to connect a laptop to the screen so that it can be configured to extend or duplicate the screen onto the TV so the entire room can see it.

A USB port on a TV is often used to power a device that's connected to one of the video ports, such as a Chromecast. Some TVs even support showing pictures and videos from a flash drive plugged into the port.

All TVs have a port that supports a coaxial cable so that a cable service can be plugged directly into the TV. They also have a port for an antenna. Monitors don't have such connections.

With both TVs and monitors, however, adapters and bridges are available that can turn, for example, one HDMI port into five or more if you need additional ones. But generally, a TV will come out of the box with more ports than a monitor since you're likely to plug more external devices into it.

Price: You Get What You Pay For

TV
  • Available for less than $100 or more than $50,000

Monitor
  • Usually sell for hundreds or low thousands of dollars

Because of their differences in available sizes and functionality, you'll see a similar gap in price between the cheapest and priciest of both categories.

The cheapest (and probably smallest) TV or monitor will run you less than a hundred dollars. But the most expensive monitor comes in around $5,000, while the highest-end TVs go up to over 10 times that. This difference is due to the size gap along with resolution, screen type, inputs, and more.

You can probably find similarly sized TVs and monitors at similar prices, but the fanciest monitor will consistently be far cheaper than the newest TV.

Screen Resolution and Type: Everything Is Available

TV
  • OLED, LED, LCD

  • Resolutions up to 8K

Monitor
  • LCD, LED, IPS

  • Supports UHD up to 8K

Both TV screens and computer monitors support varying screen resolutions and aspect ratios.

Common display resolutions for monitors include 1366 x 768 and 1920 x 1080 pixels. But some match the most pixel-dense of TVs, with both categories supporting 8K displays with resolutions of 7680 x 4320. In both cases, these higher counts will cost you extra.

TVs and monitors are also available in different screen types, including LCD, LED, and OLED. The latest thing in TVs (but not monitors) is QLED. The general rule is that as you add letters to the screen type, the quality (and price) go up. OLED and QLED screens light each pixel on the screen independently, as opposed to LCDs and LEDs that use a backlight to illuminate the whole thing at once.

OLED and QLED tech hasn't quite made its way to monitors yet, so TVs have a slight advantage here.

Final Verdict

To decide which you should invest in, you should know what you want the screen to do and how you want to use it. Do you want to play video games? Watch your Dish cable service in your living room? Use Photoshop on a big screen? Just browse the internet? Skype with family?

The important things to look at are the size of the screen and the available ports. If you have a laptop that only supports VGA and HDMI out, you have to make sure you get a screen that supports one of those cables.

However, other factors are at play, too. Say you have a laptop that supports VGA and HDMI out, and you want to use another screen in a dual-monitor setup. You can connect the monitor to the laptop and use both screens. If you want to use this same screen for a large movie audience, however, you might consider getting something larger.

On top of that, if you plan on plugging in a Blu-ray player, a PlayStation and a Chromecast in addition to your laptop, you better make sure that there are at least three HDMI ports for those devices and a VGA port for your laptop, which is built-in only on HDTVs, not monitors.