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[GUIDE] Using a TV as a monitor, and why it is a good option

Enderman
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With a lot of outdated/incorrect information on the internet on this topic, I decided to put together a guide/tutorial to show how it can be done properly :)

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Part 0: Common myths/misconceptions

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  • "tvs have high input lag/response time"

This used to be true, however modern tvs in the past 5 years have improved a lot, to the point where you can get cheap tvs with input lag as low as a regular monitor (10-20ms) (obviously not a high refreshrate gaming monitor, but a standard 60hz monitor yes). It depends specifically on what tv model you get, so it is very important to read reviews.

 

  • "you need to move your eyes and head to see things"

Only when you are looking at UI elements or browsing the web or doing work. In gaming you can look straight forward most of the time and the extra space of the screen fills your peripheral vision, which is how you get more immersion. Also, yes you do need to move your eyes and turn your head a when using UI near the edges of the screen (for example looking at the menu bar on chrome, or the windows start menu). This does not result in fatigue, it is actually healthier for you to move your eyes and head often otherwise your neck can stiffen over long periods of time and eyes dry out.

 

  • "21:9 looks bad on a 16:9 tv"

When you are immersed in a game or movie in a dark room, it makes no noticeable difference to have some black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The advantages of a larger screen outweigh the black bars that you get 0.1% of the time. More reasons are explained in Section 1 below.

 

 

Part 1: Why use a TV instead of a regular monitor(s)?

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There are multiple advantages to using a large television over regular monitors or multi-monitor setups.

 

Compared to a regular monitor, these advantages include:

  • More physical screen real estate at the same pixel density (aka you can have more things like programs on the screen at the same time without having to squish everything into a small space)
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Although it is possible to get 4k on a smaller 24" or 27" monitor, the pixel density is so high that scaling needs to be turned up to ~200% to be able to use the OS and programs easily. This essentially reduces all the real estate that 4k gives you back down to 1080p-sized real estate. Text and images may be sharper, but it does not gain you any space.

  • More immersion in gaming and content consumption (eg. youtube, netflix, movies)
  • Larger physical size makes small details bigger and easier to see without having to zoom in. Great for CAD, photo editing, gaming, etc...

 

Compared to multi-monitor:

  • No bezels in the middle of the screen, great for watching full screen video and movies. Also much more immersive for gaming because of no "window frame" effect
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  • No multi-monitor configuration/calibration/bezel compensation necessary
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  • Easier to drive compared to a wall of 6 monitors (which is more common than a wall of 4 because it only has one bezel in the center as opposed to two)
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  • No complicated stand necessary to hold multiple monitors aligned
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Compared to ultrawide monitors:

  • No reduced video size when consuming 16:9 content (which is what 99.9% of all content is)
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  • Just as large or larger image when consuming 21:9 content (a 40" TV will have a larger 21:9 image than a 36" ultrawide, and 16:9 content is almost twice as large)
  • No "letterbox" on all 4 sides on ultrawide videos that have been badly rendered in 16:9 by people who don't understand widescreen
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  • Cheaper, because a 4k TV only costs ~$500 for a good one, whereas monitors are usually $100-200 for budget options, plus the cost of a stand, so over $700 for a wall of 6 much lower quality panels

 

 

 

Part 2: What are the down sides?

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You are limited to 60Hz, which is fine for pretty much anything except competitive fps gaming. If you're a hardcore fps gamer then go with a high framerate monitor instead.

TVs sometimes come with a native 120Hz panel (check reviews), which allows you to run 1080p @ 120Hz instead of 4k @ 60Hz if you really want, check reviews to see if the tv can do 120Hz.

 

Brand name TVs have very good colour, better than most consumer monitors, but not the super wide colour space that professional monitors have. If you are a professional video editor or photo editor, you may need a special monitor instead.

 

Snapping windows in the regular Windows 10 OS is limited to the sides or corners, so you end up with 4 windows but none of them directly in front of you unless you manually move/resize it.

Third party programs are available to improve the window-snapping functionality in Windows 10.

 

TVs are big, and the minimum size I would recommend is 49". You need a wide desk with enough space to fit the stand. A lot of people use 40 or 43 inch 'monitors'/TVs such as the Wasabi Mango and really like it, but most of those people say they still have to use windows scaling in order to make the UI usable. I find 100% windows scaling perfect on my 58" screen, and it would likely be fine on 55"/49" too.

 

Windows scaling. Everyone knows it sucks. If you can avoid using it, do so, because otherwise half the programs you use will be blurry. Also having windows scaling zoomed in essentially reduces your screen real estate, which is one of the main reasons to use a large TV as your monitor. A 4k screen at 200% windows scaling is essentially the same as a 1080p screen, just with sharper resolution. You won't have 4x more screen area to use.

 

Even with 4k, pixel density on a 50" screen isn't as high as a 24" 1440p monitor. This, however, is a compromise that needs to be made because 8k screens are not yet available, and even if they were it would not be feasible for the average gamer to play at those resolutions. Windows scaling would also be necessary at anything higher than 4k. People have been using 1080p for years and it is still perfectly usable, especially if you sit a bit farther away than you would with a regular monitor.

 

 

Part 3: Important computer specs you need before continuing

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The computer will ideally have a graphics card with an HDMI 2.0 port or newer in order to output a 4k 60Hz signal. If the computer does not have this port, there are several options (none of them ideal) that will still allow the TV to work:

  • Use a displayport to HDMI 2.0 adapter. This will add a bit of input lag and may not limit some colour or dynamic range. Read reviews on amazon to find one of these displayport-to-HDMI adapters that can do 4k 60Hz. For example: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M6WK3KU/
  • Use 8 bit colour, limited dynamic range, and 4:2:0. This will allow 4k 60Hz through to the TV on an HDMI 1.4 port (GTX700 series and older) but will give worse colours and dark gray instead of pure black.
  • Use 4k 30Hz. Please don't though, it's really bad. Trust me I've tried it, use one of the above two options instead.

 

 

Part 4: Important specs to look at when choosing a tv

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  1. The television should be minimum 4k resolution, or else everything will be very pixelated, making text hard to read and UI hard to use unless you have the computer set to 100% scaling (which effectively removes the advantage of more screen real estate). If you just want a cheap used tv to play games or watch movies then 1080p may work fine for you, with fast moving pictures and sitting a bit farther away the experience will be fine.
  2. The television should have an HDMI 2.0 port to be able to run 4k @ 60Hz without colour limitations. Almost all modern tvs from the past 5 years will have one, but if you're buying a used one from more than a few years ago it is good to double check in the spec sheets or reviews.
  3. The television should have low input lag. Anything below 30ms is good, but a lot of newer TVs are coming out with input lag below 20 or 15ms so those would be ideal. For casual gaming, web browsing, or consuming content then 50ms+ will be ok. I would not recommend using a TV with greater than 100ms input lag.
  4. READ REVIEWS! This is the most important thing to do when choosing a TV to use with your PC. https://www.rtings.com/ is the best review site, with very detailed objective testing for hundreds of TVs. Personally I recommend Samsung TVs because of how low their input lag is, and are very easy to get working with a PC by simply setting the input to 'PC'.

 

 

Part 5: Configuring the tv and computer

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If you've followed all the steps above, you should have a computer and TV which are compatible with each other.

There are a few steps that need to be taken in order to make them work properly first:

  • Enable PC/console/game mode in the TV settings. Every TV does this differently. Samsung TVs need to have their HDMI1 input switched (or sometimes manually renamed) to 'PC'. https://www.rtings.com/tv/reviews/samsung/nu7100/settings For other tvs simply google "X tv game mode" or "X tv PC mode"
  • Set computer to 4k output in the OS display settings. Note: you may need to turn the TV off and on again or change the picture size settings in the TV menu if the edges of your desktop are not matching the edges of the TV screen.
  • Enable 10 bit colour, full dynamic range, and 4:4:4 chroma subsampling. This needs to be done through the GPU control panel, whether it is nvidia, AMD, or intel integrated graphics. 
  • Change your browser scaling (if you want). I find 150% scaling in chrome best, because some websites are not designed for 4k and end up with just a narrow column being used, sometimes in the center of the screen, sometimes on the side. 150% is a good compromise between backwards compatibility with those websites while also giving increased realestate to the better-designed websites.

 

 

After doing all of this, you should be all set!

Remember to treat the tv as a combination of 4 monitors, so don't sit at the regular TV-viewing distance away or else the effective size becomes smaller and less immersive.

I personally sit 2-3ft away of my 58" screen, giving approximately a 90-degree FOV commonly found in most games.

The 58" screen gives the effective space of 4x 29" 1080p monitors.

 

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Additional note:

1) Gaming on the TV for the first time may result in headaches or nausea due to the massive amount of your vision filled with by a moving image (just like with VR). This goes away after a few days and it becomes as comfortable as gaming on a standard monitor (but a lot more fun!)

 

2) A curved tv is a good option if you do a lot of gaming or media consumption, it will lessen the colour shifting towards the far edges of the display. I would not recommend a curved display for CAD or image editing work for these reasons:

 

Hopefully this guide helped you find a tv that works for you!

The one I use personally is a Samsung UN58NU7100, with very good colours and low input lag.

If you have any questions people post them below :) 

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What about the response time? It is going to be much higher than a monitor.

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6 minutes ago, mopman94 said:

What about the response time? It is going to be much higher than a monitor.

These days a lot of TVs, even cheap ones, are very good. I have a vizio and at the top it clocks in as low as exactly one frame- 16.6ms on a certian port with the right settings.
No, they're not as good as monitors, but it's been quite a while since I've seen slow tvs. It's hard to find exact numbers often, but do research, sites dedicated to measuring these kinda things are starting to pop up. 

(as @Enderman pointed out response is not the same as input latency, and I assume that's what you meant) 

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Screens- Acer preditor XB241H (1080p, 144Hz Gsync), LG 1080p ultrawide, (all mounted) directly wired to TV in other room

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4 minutes ago, mopman94 said:

What about the response time? It is going to be much higher than a monitor.

No it is not.

Response time is not the same thing as input lag.

I wrote in the topic about input lag, which is what matters for gaming.

It is the delay from receiving input and displaying it on the screen.

 

Modern TVs have input lag just as low as a regular monitor.

Unfortunately most people don't know this, which is one of the reasons why I made this post.

NEW PC build: Blank Heaven   minimalist white and black PC     Old S340 build log "White Heaven"        The "LIGHTCANON" flashlight build log        Project AntiRoll (prototype)        Custom speaker project

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I've always hated the multi-monitor bezel display. Having your image stretched across multiple screens...blehh.

Also, thanks for providing the link about the distortion within curved monitors. I was actually considering buying a curved Acer Predator, I am no longer considering it. 

 

Great topic. 

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5 minutes ago, DVA said:

I've always hated the multi-monitor bezel display. Having your image stretched across multiple screens...blehh.

Also, thanks for providing the link about the distortion within curved monitors. I was actually considering buying a curved Acer Predator, I am no longer considering it. 

 

Great topic. 

Thanks!

I was also considering a curved tv for several years, and if I gamed as much as I did back then I would have probably bought the curved NU7300.

But now I do a lot of photo editing, video editing, and CAD, so I need everything perfectly straight and flat :P

NEW PC build: Blank Heaven   minimalist white and black PC     Old S340 build log "White Heaven"        The "LIGHTCANON" flashlight build log        Project AntiRoll (prototype)        Custom speaker project

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Just now, Enderman said:

Thanks!

I was also considering a curved tv for several years, and if I gamed as much as I did back then I would have probably bought the curved NU7300.

But now I do a lot of photo editing, video editing, and CAD, so I need everything perfectly straight and flat :P

Great points. I am trying to get into AutoCad here at work, but it is very difficult coming from Adobe's straight forwardness. It's a great program that I'm looking forward to using but it's giving me a rough start. Sorry, didn't mean to side-track, but I respect you more now for being able to work in CAD :D

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1 minute ago, DVA said:

Great points. I am trying to get into AutoCad here at work, but it is very difficult coming from Adobe's straight forwardness. It's a great program that I'm looking forward to using but it's giving me a rough start. Sorry, didn't mean to side-track, but I respect you more now for being able to work in CAD :D

I use solidworks, but yeah these programs have a pretty steep learning curve.

Once you get the hang of it then it's a ton of power you've got, the ability to create anything :) like a sandbox game.

NEW PC build: Blank Heaven   minimalist white and black PC     Old S340 build log "White Heaven"        The "LIGHTCANON" flashlight build log        Project AntiRoll (prototype)        Custom speaker project

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7 minutes ago, Enderman said:

I use solidworks, but yeah these programs have a pretty steep learning curve.

Once you get the hang of it then it's a ton of power you've got, the ability to create anything :) like a sandbox game.

Luckily my boss has given me the go ahead to get over-time to just sit and watch AutoCad tutorials and begin practicing. Anyway, enough of my sidetracking. I hope more people will see that gaming on a TV isn't so bad if you're not tying to be competitive. 

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@Enderman

 

Nice job, this needs to be stickied or something.

At the very least i can link to this post instead of repeating myself over and over again when people ask about TV's as monitors :P

 

I sugest you include a sub heading to explain the difference between Input Lag and Response time/Pixel response.

The number of people who do not know the difference is astounding, and even more so is the number of people who actualy use manufactuer spec resposne times as a measure of performance, when it should be ignored due to a lack of industry wide standard of testing.

 

A note on how i use my TV.

I use a 42" Plasma 1080p screen, i find it more comfortable to sit so that my eyes are 4 feet from the screen. Though this is also i can sit back and put my legs up, if i didnt want to do this i would be ok sitting 3 feet away.

I personaly think 42" is the sweet spot for 4k displays as it has a PPI of about 105 which is more or less the same as a 27" 1440p display.

I also like the fact that on a large 4k* display like a 42", u can run a custom resolution of 21:9 (3840x1600) and still have an effective screen size of 40". or even go super ultra wide and have a 38".

 

 

*You can do this on a 1080p display aswell but u kinda have to use DSR (which requires some extra work as DSR and custom resolutions cant be done at the same time via NvidaCP) otherwise games start rendering at to low a resolution.

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20 minutes ago, SolarNova said:

@Enderman

 

Nice job, this needs to be stickied or something.

At the very least i can link to this post instead of repeating myself over and over again when people ask about TV's as monitors :P

 

I sugest you include a sub heading to explain the difference between Input Lag and Response time/Pixel response.

The number of people who do not know the difference is astounding, and even more so is the number of people who actualy use manufactuer spec resposne times as a measure of performance, when it should be ignored due to a lack of industry wide standard of testing.

 

A note on how i use my TV.

I use a 42" Plasma 1080p screen, i find it more comfortable to sit so that my eyes are 4 feet from the screen. Though this is also i can sit back and put my legs up, if i didnt want to do this i would be ok sitting 3 feet away.

I personaly think 42" is the sweet spot for 4k displays as it has a PPI of about 105 which is more or less the same as a 27" 1440p display.

I also like the fact that on a large 4k* display like a 42", u can run a custom resolution of 21:9 (3840x1600) and still have an effective screen size of 40". or even go super ultra wide and have a 38".

 

 

*You can do this on a 1080p display aswell but u kinda have to use DSR (which requires some extra work as DSR and custom resolutions cant be done at the same time via NvidaCP) otherwise games start rendering at to low a resolution.

Good idea, thanks :)

NEW PC build: Blank Heaven   minimalist white and black PC     Old S340 build log "White Heaven"        The "LIGHTCANON" flashlight build log        Project AntiRoll (prototype)        Custom speaker project

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Ryzen 3950X | AMD Vega Frontier Edition | ASUS X570 Pro WS | Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB | NZXT H500 | Seasonic Prime Fanless TX-700 | Custom loop | Coolermaster SK630 White | Logitech MX Master 2S | Samsung 980 Pro 1TB + 970 Pro 512GB | Samsung 58" 4k TV | Scarlett 2i4 | 2x AT2020

 

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