Why Are Monitors More Expensive Than TVs? (Explained)

When comparing models of a similar size, monitors are generally more expensive than TVs because they are designed to have superior response times, reduced input lag, higher refresh rates, make use of adaptive sync technologies and have a wide range of connection ports, which are all desired specifications for computer based work or gaming.

TVs can be used as a computer display when connected to a PC or console, however they are designed to excel at color reproduction and don’t normally need to concern themselves with the nuances of responsiveness or resolution.

That said, LG’s G1 OLED and other TV’s that are designed with gaming in mind can generate a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz through a HDMI 2.1 connection and feature a relatively low input lag (c.10ms @ 60Hz) whilst being equipped with G-sync or Freesync to prevent screen tearing. 

Together these specifications amount to moderate capabilities as a computer display – yet because you’re getting the best of both worlds (TV + monitor utility) the units command a rather hefty price tag of several thousand dollars!

With this in mind, when comparing the cost of monitors with TVs that have similar specifications our findings suggest it’s the televisions which command a higher price point.

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Monitors have higher refresh rates than TVs

Entry level televisions typically have a native refresh rate of between 50 – 60Hz, which can extend upwards to 120Hz for TVs that are designed to have some cross over use as gaming displays

This means the number of times the display is updated on even the best TV is still below the 144Hz, 240Hz and even 360Hz refresh rates available on true gaming monitors. 

As one of the components that influence smooth gameplay (alongside the game itself, graphics settings and how powerful your PC is), the improved refresh rate is one of the reasons a monitor might have a higher price point than a TV. 

The Tech Chap provides some vivid side-by-side shots in the video below to show how high and low refresh rates impact gameplay. 

Monitors tend to have a lower input lag than a TV

Input lag is the delay between a keystroke or button press and the action appearing on the display. 

Input lag is something which TV’s generally don’t need to worry too much about as their viewers rarely need to interact with the device at any great speed. 

Newer TVs which are looking to take a slice of the gaming market have developed ‘game modes’ in which the input lag is reduced. In the case of LG C1 OLED ‘game mode’ reduces the input lag from 88.8ms @60Hz in 4K down to 10ms. 

In fact, out of 342 TVs tested by RTings, the lowest input lag on any TV regardless of price point was on Samsung’s ‘The Terrace’ (4.9ms @1080p and 120Hz), which retails at a cool $5K!

This is a respectable number for sure but are comparable only to input lags seen in even low priced gaming monitors i.e. the sub-$200 ASUS VG248QG (5.1ms) or the $300 Samsung CRG5 (3.3ms) for instance. 

This backs up the thought that monitors are not more expensive than TV’s when their capabilities are equal.

Wireless peripherals, slow internet connections, upscaling (gaming in a resolution other than the native resolution of the screen) all have a negative effect on input lag.

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Monitors have faster response times than TVs

The response time is the time taken for a pixel to change from one color to another. 

Having a low response time (the fastest monitors reach a rapid response time of 1- 3ms) is highly desirable in an environment where the quicker graphics can be generated and displayed, the quicker you have the information needed to make your next decision.

Nowhere is this more appreciated than the sphere of competitive gaming. 

Televisions are capable of producing a very similar response time to monitors (the Sony A9S OLED has a response time of 1.8ms for example) but only in top end units which are designed to have a ‘game mode’. A low cost TV will typically have a response time of anywhere between 10 – 20ms. 

So similar to input lag, TVs can match monitors, but will require you to open your wallet a little wider to do so.

Monitors normally have use of adaptive sync technologies

Adaptive sync technologies such as AMD FreeSync or NVIDIA G-Sync smooth out the disparity between your graphics card capabilities and the capabilities of your display, to show the lowest possible latency. 

If the refresh rates don’t match exactly (i.e. one component is fast and the other is slow) such as high impact areas within games prompting refresh rates to jump around, the graphics shown on screen can tear, lag or stutter.  

This is relevant for the gaming niche but also to tasks that demand high levels of graphic processing such as filmmaking, streaming or even scrolling websites.  

TV’s older than 2018 don’t come equipped with adaptive sync and in new models you’ll need to look for a spec that includes HDMI 2.1 – found mainly on high end models.

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Monitors offer better connectivity than TVs

When establishing a multi-monitor setup or connecting peripheral devices directly to a display, the selection of ports available is crucial. 

A television will commonly have HDMI ports to connect a set top box plus one or two USB 3.0 for Google Chromecasts or pen drives to be hooked up. For SmartTVs an ethernet connection is usually also provided.

On a monitor the selection of ports are far more wide ranging than a TV. 

In addition to those mentioned above, monitors can host multiple USB-C (occasionally to provide downstream power as well as data transfer), Thunderbolt connections and DisplayPorts.

Summing up

It’s difficult and even a little unfair to compare the cost of TVs and monitors because they are two products designed for two different purposes. 

Yes, they both display graphics but the manner in which they do so greatly differs.

The attributes which make for a good monitor (picture quality, motion & input), are absent or less refined on most televisions. And this is reflected in the TV having a lower cost to manufacture.

If all you need is a display to carry out general administrative tasks (Microsoft Office, e-mail etc) then you needn’t pay for features that aren’t going to be used and a TV as a display would work out just fine. 

If however gaming, streaming, video or images matter to you then you’ll unfortunately have to pay out that little bit more.

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