Difference Between Monitors and TVs

Illustration of the features of computer monitors illustration

Lifewire / Maddy Price 

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. Keep reading to learn more about how computer monitors and TVs are alike and how they're different.

How They Compare

Below is a look at every practical difference between monitors and TVs.

This information applies to televisions from a variety of manufacturers including, but not limited to, those made by LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and Vizio.


When it comes to size, TVs are generally much larger than computer monitors. 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.


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

The HDMI port on a TV or monitor is connected to a device that sends video 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 the screen.

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.

Monitors that have USB ports can utilize it for similar reasons, like to load a flash drive. This is particularly useful if all the USB ports on the computer are used up.

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.


To get extremely basic, both TVs and monitors have buttons and a screen. Buttons normally consist of a power button and a menu button, and maybe a brightness toggle. Lots of average sized television screens are the same size as lower end HDTVs.

HDTVs have additional buttons that allow for switching between separate input ports. For example, most TVs let you plug in something over HDMI and something else with AV cables, in which case you can easily switch between the two so that you can use your HDMI Chromecast one moment but then turn over to your AV-connected DVD player without much hesitation.

Screen Resolution

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

Common display resolutions include 1366x768 and 1920x1080 pixels. However, in some situations like for air traffic control displays, that resolution might be as high as 4096x2160.


Televisions and some monitors have speakers built-in to them. This means you don't have to hook up computer speakers or surround sound just to get some noise from the device.

However, computer monitors with built-in speakers have been known to sound extremely basic compared to computer systems that have dedicated speakers.

When it comes to TVs, the built-in speakers are usually completely fine for most people unless they prefer surround sound or the room is too large to comfortably listen from afar.

Can You Interchange a TV and Monitor?

To answer this question, 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 list is endless...

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, there are other factors 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 but if you want to use this same screen for a large movie watching the audience, 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.