What Is the Difference Between a Monitor and a TV?

By Mike Sweeney

HDTVs can also double as computer monitors.
i Suradin Suradingura/iStock/Getty Images

HDTVs are primarily designed for entertainment purposes, with users viewing content via Blu-ray, DVD, broadcast, cable and Internet streaming. Computer monitors are generally intended to be connected to desktop towers or laptop computers, and to display data, text, pictures and videos. There are some similarities and differences between the two, including the image technology, screen sizes, viewing distances and connectivity options.

LCD Technology

The most common similarity between an HDTV and a monitor is the liquid-crystal display image technology used in both. Today, most TVs and monitors use an improved version of LCD called LED. Light-emitting diodes back light the screen as a replacement for the fluorescent tubes used in LCD. As a result of the change, LED screens are lighter and thinner, generate less heat, and use less power than comparable LCD screens. LED monitors and HDTVs also produce brighter images and more vivid colors.

Monitor Screen Size and Viewing Distance

Most computer monitors are in the 21- to 27-inch range, with the average viewing distance around one to three feet from the monitor. Close proximity to the monitor means that image sharpness and clarity are critical since small font and text sizes are the norm. Creating the necessary resolution is more easily accomplished on a smaller screen where image distortion and sharpness is less of a problem. As monitor screen sizes get larger, image resolution also must increase so that the same level of picture clarity is maintained at the same one to three feet viewing distance. Otherwise, the picture clarity and sharpness are reduced as the screen size increases, forcing the viewer to move further away from the computer screen to regain comparable clarity.

HDTV Screen Size and Viewing Distance

Since HDTVs are designed with entertainment in mind, screen sizes are much larger than for computer monitors. Most TV screen sizes range from 32- to 72-inches, with a few models even larger. A key factor to enjoying HDTVs is in the large-screen viewing experience and the immersive nature of a high-definition picture. Typically, a viewer sits anywhere from 6- to 12-feet away from the screen, depending on the room layout and the screen size. Most HDTVs also use a type of liquid crystal panel (called In Plane Switching, or IPS) designed for wider viewing angles so viewers do not need to be sitting directly in front of the screen to enjoy the experience.


HDTVs have entertainment-related port connections to accommodate the connection of gaming devices, audio equipment, DVD and Blu-ray players, and Internet streaming. These generally include HDMI ports, along with USB and SD media slots for pictures and other uses. A computer monitor’s ports are more computer-related instead of entertainment-related, with typical connections to desktop towers and laptop computers. If you have the right ports on a computer monitor, you could also connect the same devices as on an HDTV.

Other Considerations

HDTVs come with a built-in digital tuner, remote control and a more complex on-screen menu with more viewing options. Speakers are built into an HDTV, and most have audio ports for external devices, whereas computer monitors may not have any speakers or audio ports, relying instead on the device they are connected to for audio.