Using HDTV As a Gaming Monitor: Good Idea? [Geeks Weigh In]

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using hdtv as gaming monitorComputer monitors were once a very specific class of device. The CRT models of a decade age were large and bulky, had a limited screen size and usually one video input. Early LCD monitors were slimmer, but otherwise no better for general, non-computing use.

The rise of HDTVs and HDMI however, has blurred the line between computer monitors and general-purpose displays. This makes the use of a television an attractive alternative to a normal monitor for gamers – what gamer wouldn’t want to play their favorite PC games on a display twice the size?

But is using HDTV as a gaming monitor a good idea, or are there hidden flaws in the theory?

Making The Connection

using hdtv as gaming monitorBack in the bad old days of displays it was difficult to use a television as a computer display. Part of the problem was the connection – most old tube televisions have nothing more than a co-ax (cable) input.

Today’s HDTVs, by contrast, offer a buffet of connection options. Even the most inexpensive televisions will typically offer multiple HDMI inputs, component, and co-ax. More expensive models might also include DVI, S-Video and more.

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It is HDMI, however, that is becoming the most important connection. Modern video cards are compatible with HDMI. They’re also able to send an audio signal via HDMI. This means a true one-cable connection is possible between a computer and HDTV. From a connection standpoint the use of a television for gaming seems to make sense.

Resolution Problems

gaming graphics cards with hdtv tunerThe second problem that prevented televisions from use as computer displays was resolution – tube televisions simply weren’t capable of the fine detail required to display small text at a usable resolution. That is no longer a problem on today’s high resolution monitors, right?

Actually, it is still a problem. The HDTV industry has been cramming the benefits of high-resolution televisions down the public’s throat with such force that many gamers find themselves caught in the hype, eager to try gaming on a 1080p television. This sounds exciting, but there are devils in the details.

The typical 1080p computer monitor has a display size of 24 inches. The typical 1080p HDTV is 40 inches or larger, but let’s go small and assume a 40 inch display. Both displays have the same resolution, but the HDTV is obviously much, much larger.

This means that the pixels on the HDTV are also much larger than the pixels on the computer monitor. This makes text hard to read on a 40 inch television.  The problem becomes worse on larger televisions and is also worse on older televisions that are limited to 720p.

Suddenly, gaming on a HDTV doesn’t look like such a good idea.

Conclusion: What Kind Of A Gamer Are You?

using hdtv as gaming monitorA modern HDTV is easy to connect to a gaming computer, but the resolution compared to the display size is poor. Where does that leave us?

This depends on what kind of gaming you do. Reading text on a HDTV usually isn’t fun, but not all games use much text. If your favorite game is Left 4 Dead 2 you may not care about how text is displayed because you don’t usually need to read text while in the game. In this game the large size of a television can give the game vibrancy and life that isn’t possible on the typical monitor.

If you play World of Warcraft, on the other hand, gaming on a HDTV is going to be difficult because the game’s interface relies on the use of small text. You can mess with in-game interface settings to make text larger, but this can only help so much. Besides, no one wants half of their display taken up by chat windows in size 22 font.

The determining factor when deciding to do any gaming on a HDTV is you. Do you play first person shooters and action games, which typically have a minimal interface? Or do you play RPGs and strategy games, which usually rely on small text and fine graphical details? The former group will enjoy using HDTV as a gaming monitor, but the later group is better off sticking with a traditional monitor.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Comments (15)
  • Dotma

    All games I play I put at 720p resolution for the best readability and performance. I have a MSI GT240 1GB and q8300 oc’d to 3.0ghz and it runs all the games I have on it at the highest settings at full frames, or at least good enough that I don’t notice it. The latest games I have that include this are: Fallout 3, Oblivion, Left For Dead, Left For Dead 2, Mass Effect 2, Far Cry 2, and Dragon Age:Origins.

  • ElliottK

    why not buy a hdtv monitor and do both with great resolution and still be able to get about 30″ displays

  • Jon Jon

    I just bought a 46″ 7000 series samung hd/3d lcd TV, all I can say is wow!! . I hooked up my gtx480 through a dvi hdmi converter plug to the tv and Racedriver grid is awesome. The tv is 200hz so I get 60 fps solid silky smooth.
    I usually game on a 27 iyama wide 1920×1200 but down res’d to 1920 1080 for the tv and its awesome, I just mey get me a 40″ to use as a monitor :)

  • Jon Jon

    I just bought a 46″ 7000 series samung hd/3d lcd TV, all I can say is wow!! . I hooked up my gtx480 through a dvi hdmi converter plug to the tv and Racedriver grid is awesome. The tv is 200hz so I get 60 fps solid silky smooth.
    I usually game on a 27 iyama wide 1920×1200 but down res’d to 1920 1080 for the tv and its awesome, I just mey get me a 40″ to use as a monitor :)

  • 900tones

    Im using my 27″ Samsung HDTV and everything looks great. text is perfectly rendered at 1600×1050. Played Fable 2, LotR Online, and Civ5 and all look amazing on the screen.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.