Can I use an LED TV as a computer monitor?

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Sarah Follow us

Position: Columnist

Sarah has been working as an editor at MiniTool since she graduated from university. Sarah aims at helping users with their computer problems such as disk errors and data loss. She feels a sense of accomplishment to see that users get their issues fixed relying on her articles. Besides, she likes to make friends and listen to music after work.

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I'm Mark Baxman, the guy behind retrotechlab.com. I've worked in electronics for the past 25 years and have owned nearly every home computer and games cosole at some point, and I'm now even more obsessed with them. Ever since my first Sincair ZX81, I've been into computers and now retro computers consoles and other technology, immersing myself in this awesome hobby. This is the site where I share everything I've learned.

How To Convert A Computer Monitor Into A TV Screen

In an ideal world, converting your computer monitor into a TV screen can be relatively simple. You would have an HDMI port on the computer monitor that lets you connect it to most modern devices. However, there are some older monitors that will not have an HDMI input. VGA inputs used to be a standard before HDMI came along.

If you have a computer monitor without an HDMI port, you can use an HDMI to VGA converter like the one below by Jide Tech (found here on Amazon). All you need to do is plug the HDMI output from your streaming device, DVD player, or cable box into this adapter and plug your computer monitor onto the adapter’s VGA connection. 

Note: Your media source must have an HDMI output. Otherwise, you cannot use this device to convert the signals for your computer monitor’s VGA input. This adapter can help you get both the display signal and the audio.

This adapter will also help you with sound. There is an audio output also, which will allow you to strip the audio signal from the HDMI connection. You can plug a soundbar straight into this device.

Even if your monitor has built-in audio, you’re not likely to be pleased with its sound quality. I would recommend using an additional device to get better sound from your newly converted computer monitor.

You do not necessarily need to spend a lot of money for an expensive surround sound system. A small soundbar like the Bowfell from Majority (found here on Amazon) will make a huge difference. It can allow you to enjoy a better quality sound that you probably won’t get from your computer monitor.

How to use a TV as a monitor wirelessly

The best part of using a smart TV as a computer monitor in 2019 is the lack of cables. If you’ve always wished connector cables would vanish and leave your floors free of tripping hazards, your wish is granted. Chromecast, Roku, and other casting or streaming devices solve the TV-as-computer-monitor problem in Tony Stark levels of style.The first step is to pick a streaming device. You can choose from several, including Google Chromecast and Roku. They are flash drive style sticks or dongles that plug into a TV’s HDMI port.Pro tip: All the major streaming units come in 3K and 4K models. It’s vital to get the 4K version. The 3K units work fine for video, but not when using a TV as a computer monitor. A 3K streaming unit will cause a bottleneck and scuttle the image quality.Once you’ve settled on a casting device, plug it into your TV’s HDMI port. There’s a short configuration process, but anyone who can install an app can get it done in minutes.

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.

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.

Conclusion

Using a PC monitor as a TV can be useful in some scenarios. It takes a little bit of work and buying a few extra accessories, but learning how to use a computer monitor as a TV screen is not too challenging.

I hope this guide will help you make the conversion in re-purposing (or multi-purposing) your monitor.

Happy watching!

A warning about eye strain

Using a TV as a computer may cause eye strain, but it all depends. For best eye health, the Mayo Clinic says TVs and monitors should be at or just below eye-level [6]. A TV high on a wall could cause eye strain after several hours of daily use. Also, using a curved 4K TV as a computer monitor could hurt your eyes [7]. Aside from that, the greater the distance from your eyes, the healthier when using TVs as computer monitors.

Cable Modem:

I have high-speed internet through my cable company (Comcast). If you have FIOS or another form of internet, then unfortunately I’m not sure these instructions will work exactly the same way, but procedural it’s probably similar. Here’s how I have my cable modem connection setup.

Step 5: Setup on the TV End

On your vcr, probably the back, possibly the front, maybe both, find the jack labled ‘AUX IN’ ‘VIDEO IN’ ‘LINE IN’ or something similar, unless you are using S-Video, in which case it will say something to the effect of ‘S-VIDEO IN’ or just ‘S-VIDEO’. Plug your signal cable (extension you made) into this. On the front of the vcr, press the button than toggles the input between tv/video. You want it on video. You could also use your remote to go into the vcr menu, and set it to the appropriate setting. The TV might need to be on CH.3 for this. If you are going straight to the TV, set it to LINE IN, GAME, or something similar. Just keep messing around with the settings till you see whatever you see on your computer monitor. those 2 identical plugs next to each other are the ‘IN’ plugs.. they are actually splitters.. the 1 on the left is for video, so i can have my nintendo(thats right, nintendo) and this thing hooked up at the same time.. i need to either turn off or unplug one to use the other. the other splitter is because i wanted to use both the stereo plugs from the nintendo, but my vcr only had mono. mono inputs I mean.. not mono like… mono.

Features to Consider Before Switching Your Monitor with a TV

There are several components that could affect your gaming or movie-watching experience before switching from your monitor to a TV. These include:  

Resolution and Pixel Density

Pixel density refers to the number of pixels per inch (PPI) and resolution refers to the dimensions of your screen in pixels. Both of these details are important if you are considering using a larger TV screen as a computer monitor.

Compared to a 40-inch television, a 27-inch monitor can have the same amount of resolution but has about 140ppi pixel density compared to only 40ppi on the TV. 

If that is the case, the display with lower pixel density will give images that are less clear than what you are used to with screens with higher pixel density.   

As a result, TVs usually have low pixel density since viewers typically watch them from a distance. However, a computer monitor usually has an increased pixel density since users usually sit closer to the screen. 

Input Lag

The input lag occurs when the mouse moves beyond the screen. This can occur when opening a folder, starting a program, double-clicking, and so on.

In general, you want a TV with an input lag of less than 20 milliseconds.

Having input lag is a big issue if you’re going to use the TV to stream sports or stream movies, but not if you’re going to play games.  

Color Compression

Since the TV compresses the images and texts, you should expect a reduction in image quality when using it as a monitor.

The blurriness and reduced picture quality will be more noticeable if the TV is placed in front of your desk (instead of high up the wall).

In most modern TVs, picture settings can be changed to 4:4:4 using chroma subsampling. If you’re still in the market for a TV, find one with subsampling. 

Response Time

Pixels on your screen change colors every time response time is reached. 

A computer monitor’s response time will be faster than a television’s, but if you buy an HDTV with a game mode setting, you won’t have this problem anymore. When you choose this setting, your TV’s response time will improve dramatically, but for a much higher price than the monitor.

Refresh Rate

The refresh rate is the rate at which an image “refreshes” per second on a display. 

Often times, the refresh rate on a monitor can range from 60Hz to 120Hz, while on a TV it may only be 60Hz to 120Hz. 

You should know that the faster your screen s refresh rate, the more responsive it is to demanding tasks such as editing or gaming. In general, 120Hz is enough for most applications. 

HDTV features to keep in mind

These considerations are very useful if you are planning to replace your small computer monitor. Using an HDTV alone would cause eye strain or migraines.

You should only be concerned with these factors if you’re going to wall mount the TV. 

Step 3: RCA Extensions

While waiting for the device to come in the mail, make the extension. You could just cut the output on the device, but that would almost certainly void any and all warranties. This is why you get an extension cable that you can cut up without any problem. so, you cut it in the middle, and strip the ends. there will be two wires in it, one of them most likely bare. this is when you bust out your generic 2 conductor wire. solder one conductor from the wire to one from the cable, and the other to the other.(if u don’t have a soldering iron, get one.. they own EVERYTHING) remember colors.. polarity matters. Make your cable whatever length you need, and run it in whatever unorthodox way you want.. for me, it’s strung over some lights and resting on the ceiling tiles (in the ceiling, of course), then it comes through a small hole in a tile, and hangs down the wall, then goes into the TV cabinet THROUGH THE FRONT 😛 to the back of the vcr. if you are using the s-video, I would suggest getting a cable with a male on one end and a female on the other, then cut that one up similarly..like I said, phone cable should work. it’s pretty easy to do, but if you arent sure, use a multimeter to check for continuity. if you don’t have a multimeter, use an LED and some batteries, but remember polarity matters with LEDs. if you don’t have an LED and some batteries, I don’t know what to tell you. the first pic is of the cable going into the ceiling, and the second is of it coming out.

Questions Answers

Question: I went from a VGA to an HDMI adapter, and it did not work. Why is this?

Answer: After you switch from the VGA to the HDMI adapter, did you change to HDMI in the auxiliary setting? When I want to switch to the TV mode, I press my HDMI button on the remote for my Vizio TV remote and this switches it to TV mode (at that point, a message appears on my screen that I have to press MENU on my Verizon FIOS remote and then I can change the channel and watch TV). Then when I want to switch back to use my TV as a monitor, I press RGB on my Vizio TV remote; for the latter, if my computer is off or in sleep mode, it says there is no RGB signal, and the TV turns off. If you have a large smart TV, and a newer computer, you may not have an RGB option (for the computer connectivity) so the option may be different; for example, if I want to plug my laptop into my large smart TV, I would use an HDMI cable to do so and then change my source from Cable to HDMI.

Question: After connecting the CPU to TV, what is next?

Answer: After connecting the CPU to your TV, the next step would be to change the source so that it recognizes your input. For example, on my remote, I have an HDMI button (I'm using an HDMI cable) and it allows me to toggle between my TV and the input from my computer.

© 2010 Amelia Griggs

Is A TV Right For Your Needs?

Now that we have a slightly better understanding of how a display works and what specifications affect the performance and quality of its picture, it’s time to decide whether or not a TV is right for your needs.

Below are some scenarios, followed by whether or not we feel a TV is the best option to choose:

Gaming

From a gaming point of view, it’s extremely hard to recommend a TV for those wanting to play at the highest level. First of all, let’s get competitive gaming out of the way. If you like playing fast-paced competitive games, I stress: do not opt for a TV as your main display. TVs are much slower than gaming monitors, similarly priced, and will be putting you at a serious disadvantage in the long run. So, for competitive gaming, stick to a monitor.

If you aren’t playing fast-paced games and are happy to cap your FPS to 60, a TV could be a very suitable option. Just make sure to find a TV that offers a low response time and supportive resolution to ensure the best possible experience.

Best TV for gaming

Workstation

If you’re the creative type who likes to have multiple tabs open, should you choose a TV over a monitor? Well, it depends on the accuracy you require, both in colors and picture quality. If you like to produce the best possible video content, you really need to find a TV that has a high resolution and very good color accuracy. If not, you’ll struggle to provide accurate colors for people using decent monitors.

That being said, if you simply want a bigger display that allows you to have multiple tabs open without things becoming too small, a larger TV could be a great shout overall.

Entertainment (Movies & TV Series)

Finally, we have entertainment. This is the TV’s forte, its specialty, the reason it was brought to fruition. For people who just love watching movies & TV shows but don’t have a big enough monitor, then a TV really is a good option to go for. It’ll provide you with a large screen, decent colors, and probably has better sound too.

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