4K monitor and 4K TV

This is a 32-inch 4K monitor from BenQ. It costs $800. And this is a 40-inch 4K TV from Vizio and it costs $400.

As 4K TVs continue to become cheaper and cheaper it seems like the obvious thing to do is to just buy a new TV to replace your computer monitor. And technically that would work but there are hidden details in the TV specifications that can make for an inferior monitor experience.

Let’ me tell you why probably shouldn’t use a 4K TV as your main computer monitor.

So why are computer monitors and TVs so different?  Isn’t a display just a display? Well to understand why computer monitors and TVs and different let’s first think about the difference in use case between them.

TV use case
PC monitor use case

First a TV. In the typical scenario for a TV, you’re watching netflixs, OTA TV, Blu-rays and maybe playing on a gaming console all while sitting comfortably on your sofa. On a computer monitor you could still be watching Netflix or playing on a console, but you’re also browsing the web, typing a word document and playing computer games with your mouse and keyboard up close and personal.

Compared

When you break it down into these use cases you can start highlighting the priorities and understand why Computer Monitors and TVs are often designed so differently. Since TVs are typically used for media consumption, the priorities shift towards features that improve immersion. Make the screen bigger, increase the resolution, more vivid colors, or even HDR. And don’t forget multiple HDMI connections and a built in TV tuner for connecting all your media sources. While these are all things we’d also want in a computer monitor, it’s also important to us to have clear readable text on screen and low input lag for responsive mouse and keyboard operation.

So back to our example of our $400 Vizio 4K TV, one of the main problems is that over HDMI it only supports 4K @ chroma 4:2:0 If you don’t know what that means you can click on this other video that goes into more detail but in short it means due to color compression finer details like text can be lost in transmission.

This isn’t a big deal when you’re watching movies or tv because you’ll never notice details this small, but when you’re on the computer browsing webpages and word documents, artifacts from static single pixels can be downright annoying. Although you can find TVs that support 4K 4:4:4 so no color compression such as this LG UH6100. But then comes the next problem to consider. Input lag.

Vizio 4K TV
chroma 420
comparison

Using 4K at 4:4:4 you get an input lag of about 73ms and this can be pretty noticeable during typical computer operation. Again TVs can get away with this because watching videos is a passive experience and while you can argue console gamers will care about input lag, TVs will often have game modes that will drop the resolution or switch back to color compressed signal to minimize the input lag which basically brings us back to our previous problem.

So does that mean you should never use a TV as a PC monitor? Of course not.

Sony X700D Samsung KU6000

Some TVs will work perfectly fine as PC monitor. For example the Sony X700D or the Samsung KU6300 both supports 4K 4:4:4 and have a reasonable input lag around 30ms (32ms/36ms). Or if all you’re doing is watching YouTube videos or playing slow-paced games, none of this probably matters to you.  But for me Chroma and input lag are just a couple of the many things I need to consider if I add a TV to my computer setup. But I hope this helps you understand why TVs and a Monitors are designed differently.

Hope you guys enjoyed this one.

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