How to Use a TV as a Computer Monitor

What you need to know about using your TV as a monitor

What to Know

  • Be sure you have the correct cable. Which one you use will depend upon your TV and your computer; most use HDMI.
  • Adjust resolution by going to Advanced display info > Display adapter properties for Display X > List all > Select your TV's resolution > OK.

This article covers how to use your TV as a monitor with a Windows computer. It also outlines the pros and cons of doing so.

How to Turn Your TV Into a Monitor

Assuming you have the right cable and know that your TV and PC support one another's resolution(s), then all you need to do is connect them to one another and power them both on. Make sure that the TV is set to the correct display connector, depending on which one you used to connect it to your PC, and you should see your login screen appear in a few seconds.

If you feel like the resolution isn't quite what you expected it to be, or if it looks blurry, then you may need to manually set the correct one. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Search for Advanced display info in the Windows search bar, and select the corresponding result.

  2. If you have multiple displays connected, use the drop-down menu to select your TV.

  3. Select Display adapter properties for Display X (our example says Display 1).

    Where to change the resolution of an external monitor in Windows.
  4. Select List all modes.

  5. Use the list to find your TV's native resolution, select it, and then select OK.

What To Do Before Turning Your TV Into a Monitor

First, make sure you have the right cable. Most modern TVs use HDMI connections, but look at your TV's particular inputs to confirm the one it uses.

Then, compare that to the video output options of your PC. Most modern graphics cards support HDMI and DisplayPort, but older ones may only offer DVI-D or even VGA.

If there's a mismatch between your PC and TV, you're not entirely out of luck. You can always use a converter or adapter to turn one connector into the other. That can affect picture quality, and you won't be able to turn a VGA cable into HDMI if you're connecting to a 4K TV (as VGA doesn't support a resolution that high), but as long as your PC and TV aren't too distinct in age from one another, you should be able to find a solution that works.

As well as getting the resolution right for the cable, your PC's GPU will need to support your TV's resolution. To find out what GPU you have, type Device Manager in the Windows search box and select the Device Manager option. Then look for Display adapters and select the arrow next to it.

The Display adaptors section of Device Manager in Windows.

Your GPU should be listed there, but if it's ambiguous, right-click (or tap and hold) the result, and select Properties. Then check the Details tab for more information.

Perform a Google search for your particular GPU to find out which resolutions it supports and compare it with your TV's native resolution to make sure they're compatible.

Why You Might Not Want to Use a TV as a Monitor

There are reasons that most people use monitors as monitors, and TVs and TVs, and why they're sold as such: because they're designed with different content and viewing distances in mind.

You Can See the Pixels

TVs are typically larger than their monitor counterparts at the same resolution because you're expected to sit six-feet or more away from the screen. Unless you're talking about smaller 4K displays or some of the new-generation 8K TVs, then sitting at the typical monitor distance of two to three feet, means that you're much more likely to be impacted by the screen door effect—something VR users are all too familiar with.

If you're sitting at a normal TV distance, this isn't a problem.

Response Time, Refresh Rate, and Input Lag

If you're planning to use your TV-connected PC for gaming, then there's another factor to consider beyond resolution: its speed. Most TVs are not designed for high-speed gaming, so may only support a refresh rate of 60Hz or even 30Hz (if limited by older connector standards). That can make for a substandard gaming experience – especially if you're used to playing at higher refresh and frame rates on a gaming monitor.

TVs that aren't designed for gaming tend to also have quite slow response times – the time it takes for a pixel to change color. Anything over 5ms can lead to ghosting of images, making for a worse visual experience.

High refresh rates and response times can, in conjunction, also lead to high input lag: that's the time it takes for your input to register on the screen. That can be problematic in high-paced games, and truly inhibiting in competitive ones. If you're planning to play head to head multiplayer games, a low input lag can make a real difference and may mean avoiding using older TVs as monitors altogether.

Newer TVs quite often include a "game mode," however, which can alleviate these issues, or have high refresh rates and low response times as part of their specifications to better support gamers. Check your manual to find out what your TV is capable of and how it might impact gaming.

Color Compression

Depending on the TV and the connector you use to link it to your PC, there's also the chance that it will use some form of color compression to save bandwidth and processing. Where in ideal circumstances your TV will use 4:4:4 color subsampling, compression that leads to a 4:2:2, or even 4:2:0, can make an image look considerably worse.

Check if your TV can offer 4:4:4 at your desired resolution before deciding if it's the right TV for your PC.

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