Hardware

Can I use a PC monitor as a TV?

PC monitor as a TV
Most PC screens can double as a TV (Image by Awais Mughal from Pixabay)

If you’ve got a PC monitor in your bedroom or office, you might be wondering if it can double as a TV. After all, a screen’s a screen, right? Well, yes and no. There are definitely ways you can use a PC monitor as a TV, and there are screens that perform both roles, but there are some pitfalls to consider here too. Let’s get stuck in.

Using a PC monitor as a TV

If you want to use a PC monitor as a TV there are a few things you need to consider.

First, let’s deal with inputs. You’re going to need some kind of device, such as a set-top box, that provides the television signal. Most monitors built in the past decade will have HDMI inputs, which are the most common connections used with television equipment, such as Sky or Freeview boxes. HDMI is also used for devices such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick, which you might use to turn your monitor into a streaming system without having to fire up a connected PC (note: the Fire TV Stick will also need a spare USB port to power it).

If your monitor doesn’t have a spare HDMI socket, you can always buy a cheap cable to turn HDMI to DVI or an adapter to turn HDMI to VGA, for instance.

So, provided your screen has a spare input socket, you should be all good to go, right?

Well, not so fast. One of the big limiting factors about using a PC monitor as a television is audio. Many PC monitors don’t come with built-in speakers. So, although you might be able to connect a television set-top box via HDMI, you’ll get no sound coming out of the screen.

There are ways around this problem. The set-top box might have dedicated audio outputs, for example, that will allow you to connect a set of speakers or a soundbar. It’s possible the monitor might also have an audio out, such as 3.5mm headphone socket, that you can connect a pair of speakers to. Have a good look around your screen/set-top box to see what ports you’ve got to play with.

Two other things to be wary of if you’re planning to use a PC monitor as a TV: aspect ratio and refresh rate.

PC monitors, especially older models, may have a more square aspect ratio than the widescreen ratio normally found on today’s dedicated televisions. That might mean that the television picture is squashed or you get big black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when using it as a television.

Monitors might also have a limited refresh rate, which means fast-moving action such as football matches starts to smear across the screen.

Screens that do both jobs

If you’ve not already got a PC monitor but want one that can act as both TV and monitor, there are plenty of options out there.

Almost any TV will accept a signal from a computer, although on a modern laptop, you might need to buy a USB-C to HDMI cable to get the television to accept the computer’s signal. If you’re going for, say, a 24in screen, make sure the screen resolution is at least 1080p (or Full HD), or else your computer text is going to look pixellated.

The Samsung Smart Monitor range is specifically designed to work as both a TV and monitor, and can even do things such as edit Microsoft Office documents without having to connect a computer. The prices are quite punchy, mind.

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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