Utilizing a TV as a computer monitor can sometimes seem like a convenient or cost-effective solution, especially with the advent of smart TVs and 4K resolutions. However, there are several drawbacks to this setup that can significantly affect your computing experience.
You may have even seen videos from YouTube personalities explaining why people should use 65 inch TV’s as a computer monitor two feet from your face.
Using a TV as a computer monitor is a compelling idea, and one that we tried out with a much more reasonably sized 42” OLED TV. TV’s are getting less expensive and offer a compelling value proposition. However, we wanted to share our thoughts on why we wouldn’t recommend a TV over a regular computer monitor, especially for business users.
Let’s jump in!
Optimal Viewing Distance
The optimal viewing distance for TVs is typically farther compared to monitors. It’s recommended that monitors be placed at least 20 inches from your eyes or an arms length. These rules of thumb were designed with smaller traditional monitors in mind.
Larger screen sizes and modern backlighting methods come with additional challenges such as longer exposure to excessively bright. Being close to an ultra-bright TV can result in discomfort and strain, whereas monitors are designed to be comfortably viewed at close distances,
Ergonomics are an often-overlooked part of increasing productivity. People that work long hours in front of a computer screen often find themselves feeling physical pain along with mental drain. Physical discomfort can come from poor seating position relative to a monitor, or having to constantly tilt your head left, right up and down to see different parts of a screen.
The amount of head tilting and leaning back to see more of a screen becomes an even bigger problem as the TV screen size gets larger. Most decent computer monitors come with adjustable stands allowing you to adjust the height and viewing angles while ultra-wide models can have curved screens to mitigate the amount of head movement necessary.
Size and Desk Space Available
We recommend measuring your desk prior to purchasing a new computer monitor to ensure that it fits. Many of our favorite models are 34” ultra wide high definition monitors. They’re increasingly popular at large corporations and quickly becoming the new standard in productivity.
Even with these models, we urge people to measure their desk space first, especially if working from home. Home computer desks are often more narrow than what’s available in an office cubicle and ultra-wide monitors can take up a lot of space.
A 65 inch TV or smaller model will either require a TV stand base that’s extra wide and extra deep to support the screen which could take up an entire desk or not fit at all. Alternatively you could purchase a TV wall mount that enables some adjustment settings but you will still want to measure the distance between a wall and your sitting position.
Pixel Density and Text Clarity
Monitors generally boast higher pixel density, which translates to crisper and sharper images. When you’re dealing with intricate graphics, detailed spreadsheets, and lots of text the lack of pixel density will become painfully obvious in a real way. Text will often be fuzzy and difficult to read causing increased eye strain.
Even with a 4k resolution the lack of density causes fuzzy images. It’s not a big deal with traditional TV viewing as you are distant enough from the TV for it to not matter and thankfully most TV shows and movies don’t involve reading a lot of detailed text.
The aspect ratio of TVs differs from most computer monitors. One of the reasons we recommend ultra-wide monitors is the ability to place two full sized windows next to each other and let Windows snap one to the left and another to the right side of the screen.
The following example is an ultra-wide monitor with 3440×1440 resolution. It seems small but has a huge difference compared to trying to view two documents side by side with a 4k 4096 × 2160 resolution.
On a 4k TV the aspect ratio is skewed to be taller than expected leaving you with either empty space around the document or having to look awkwardly up when working with an Excel spreadsheet or other software pinned to one side of the screen.
Televisions often have a lower refresh rate compared to a computer monitor, it’s also a very subtle difference and you may not notice it when first using a TV as a monitor. However, after a prolonged period you might get annoyed that your mouse seems to not be as smooth as you’re used to and has almost a ghosting effect when moving it.
The lower refresh rate is another reason that you will likely face more eye strain than working with a computer monitor. It could even become annoying trying to make small adjustments with your mouse when working with common productivity and business intelligence applications like setting up a reporting dashboard layout.
The Lower Cost of a TV is a Myth
When we purchased a 4k TV to test out as a computer monitor, we went with one of the recommended OLED models from LG. After researching some of the pitfalls of different backlighting types and less expensive brands we went with a higher end model to give us the best chance of success.
After purchasing a higher end TV to mitigate some of the common drawbacks of using a TV as a monitor the cost quickly exceeds the price of a 34 inch ultrawide monitor from a reputable brand.
In the modern business world, multitasking is the name of the game. Monitors often offer better multitasking features, such as easy to use split-screen functionality. When using a 4k TV as a monitor many people find the need to split the screen into custom sections or quadrants using tools like Microsoft Power Toys.
The most common setup for a 4k tv is to split it into 4 quadrants, which is equivalent to four standard FHD monitors. FHD is the most common resolution you will find on most 22 inch and 24 inch monitors.
However, there’s only so much information that a single person can absorb at a time. At some point having too many screens and too much information available at once can begin to reduce your productivity and ability to focus on a single task.
Ways to Use TV Screens in an Office Workplace
We don’t recommend using TV screens as a replacement for computer monitors, but there are a number of use case where a TV makes a lot of sense to have available in your office or shared workspaces. They can add a lot of value when placed in smaller collaborative spaces or meeting rooms compared to having a traditional projector setup.
- Higher resolution and easier to read in daylight than most projectors
- Easier to collaborate across teams in the same physical space
- TV’s screens can present dashboards and real time KPI’s like Power BI Reports
Having a large format screen available to use can be a productivity booster in an office or shared space, so we wouldn’t fully rule them out for productivity but would rule them out for a monitor replacement.
With the numerous drawbacks to using a TV as a computer monitor we recommend passing on them. There are too many ergonomic drawbacks that can cause long term physical discomfort, poor vision, and ultiamtely reduce your productivity.
As more and more people work from home, a large format TV is unlikely to fit on most desks creating some odd setups of mounting a TV on a wall and having to use cord extenders or wireless keyboards and mice to keep a safe distance from your eyes to the screen adding complexity and added cost.
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