With increasing synergy between technologies, the definition of a phone, a watch, and a monitor has changed. Consequently, many gadgets have become interchangeable. With people increasingly using televisions as monitors, one may wonder why a 4K TV is cheaper than a 4K monitor.
4K TVs are cheaper than monitors because monitors need to fit more pixels per inch to qualify as 4K, while TVs are large enough to have 4K pixels without being too expensive to make. Furthermore, monitors require minimal input lag, which makes them inherently more costly to produce.
The rest of this article helps you decide whether you can use television as your computer screen and if a 4K tv is better than a 4K monitor based on your preferences. This covers the differences between monitors and television, including lag time, pixels per inch, and demand. You will also learn what each of these differences means for you.
What Makes Monitors More Expensive?
When comparing smart televisions and monitors, you will learn that for screens of the same pixel capacity, monitors cost way more than TVs. This is mainly because of three factors.
Pixels per Inch
A 4K screen is 3840 pixels wide and 2160 pixels tall. The name is derived from roughly 4000 pixels in the screen’s width. As this is double the general HD, which is 1920×1080 pixels in area, a 4K screen is called ultra HD.
However, the actual image quality is defined not by the total number of pixels only but also by pixels per inch. For instance, with a screen that is 3,840 inches wide, you would have one pixel per inch at 4K. Despite being 4K, this image would still be blurred and require one to stand meters away before getting a clear picture.
As a rule of thumb, you have to be away from wider screens to get a clear picture, while the screens you are consistently close to must have higher pixels per inch to give the same image quality. Screens need to have advanced panels to squeeze more pixels per inch, making certain smartphones so expensive.
Since monitor usage is at a close range, the manufacturers need to invest in expensive advanced panels to deliver 4K pixels while TVs can be made wide enough to contain 4K pixels that one can witness at a relative distance.
Input Lag Time
Computer monitors, as well as TV screens, have an input lag time. This refers to the milliseconds of delay between the input and the picture showing on the screen.
Computer screens are often refreshed by new inputs, including different programs, browsers, and games. Especially with games, there are hundreds of inputs given within minutes, including player angle changes, player movement, and other actions. Therefore PC monitors have a shorter input lag time compared to TV.
Monitor lag times average at 15 milliseconds to 22 milliseconds. TV screens, on the other hand, have a lag time of up to 40 milliseconds. This difference burdens monitor manufacturers with investing more in production, but since it takes 250 milliseconds to blink, the difference is not even noticeable when watching TV shows or movies.
Why Doesn’t the Lag Show in Movies?
Upon learning about TVs having higher input delay than computer monitors, you may wonder why there is no noticeable delay when watching a movie or a tv show on your TV. That is because every second experiences the same delay. Therefore the show is not interrupted. It just starts 40 milliseconds later than when you press play.
The iPhone project produced less than ten iPhones (prototypes) for Apple, costing over $175,000,000. Today, making an iPhone costs up to $1,500. The difference comes from economies of scale. When you are making something in large enough quantities, you can invest in streamlining the production. From iPhones to McDonald’s, the high demand principle lowering the per-unit cost of production is quite evident.
That brings us to 4K monitors, which are in much smaller demand than 4K TV screens. While 4K TVs are preferred by people who like to watch movies and TV shows in HD, 4K monitors are almost exclusively sought after by gamers. Because of a smaller market, monitor manufacturers have to pay a higher per-unit cost to build their monitors.
4K TV vs. 4K Monitor: Which Is Better?
Since many people use flat-screen TVs as their computer monitors, you may be wondering whether a 4K TV is better for you and your wallet than a monitor.
4K TV is better for your budget and gives you the same pixel quantity to enjoy your movies and TV shows as 4K monitors. However, 4K monitors have a sharper image that can be observed at closer proximity to the screen.
- Who should buy a 4K monitor? If you are a gamer who plays competitively, you may want to decrease the input lag as much as possible. In such an instance, it wouldn’t be smart to use your TV as your computer screen.
- Who should buy a 4K TV? Anyone who wants to enjoy 4K ultra HD quality content from YouTube or other sources would be better off buying a 4K TV than a 4K monitor. That is because you do not need higher pixels per inch when watching from a distance, and monitors can cost more than double the price of a 4K television.
Best 4K TVs to Buy
If you want to purchase a TV with 4K pixels, make sure not to get a screen too wide because that will compromise the image sharpness. With 300 pixels per inch being the maximum image quality, opt for 40 to 50 inches wide television for a perfect viewing experience. Below are two of the top recommendations for this category.
Roku TV goes well with streaming. With the native capability to handle Hulu, Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube, among other platforms/services, this product will be as easy to use as it gets. There is also the option to use HDMI and USB inputs to play from your computer or a DVD player.
It is worth mentioning that this TV model is available in different sizes, but you will get the maximum pixels per inch at 43 inches wide. With 27,600+ reviews on Amazon, it is rated at 4.5 stars out of 5. Its highest rating is for its ease of installation. It is given 4.5 stars for ease of use, thanks to the inbuilt apps.
If you are looking for a WiFi TV that is easy to use, go for this one, and you’ll get the highest pixels per inch for the price.
This is one of the few TVs that has a pixel density that comes to 4K monitors. It also has a processing capacity appreciated by fans of sports and films alike. The television is backed by a powerful Sony X1 chip that is meant to produce a true to life picture.
With over 330 reviews, the product has a 4.5 stars rating out of 5. Customers have given it a 4.6-star rating for brightness and 4.7 stars for picture quality.
While TV screens and monitors have become interchangeable recently, the fact remains that monitors are more expensive to make. This is because they have to react to commands repeatedly and must have a slower lag time. They also need to squeeze more pixels per inch because users are sitting closer to a relatively smaller screen.
TV manufacturers can spend less money to give the same image result to an audience sitting at a distance. If you are watching a movie, sports event, or a TV show, you don’t need the screen to take commands from you repeatedly, so you are better off buying a 4K TV instead of overpaying for a 4K monitor.
Costs can always go down with economies of scale with the potential to switch places entirely depending on demand.
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Roy is the leading content creator here at Home Theater Heroes. He is as passionate about planning a home theater setup as building it. He blogs about IT, cybersecurity, business, and more at Davis Tech Media.