4K TVs Make Great PC Monitors
Combating coronavirus requires the adoption of drastic measures, the most obvious being the shelter-in-place, stay-at-home orders that have emptied offices around U.S. and the world. For millions of office workers, this means figuring out how to work from home. If you are setting up a home office, using a 4K TV as a monitor can be a great solution.
If you already have an optimal PC setup at home (perhaps you are a PC gamer, or a graphic designer) you can skip this article. But if you are using a laptop on the kitchen table while figuring out where to put your workstation, consider the advantages a 4K TV offers.
The trick to using a TV as a monitor is to find and activate its PC mode, or if that is not an option, findits Game mode. You want to do whatever it takes to enter the TV’s low latency mode, otherwise the input lag will make using the mouse annoying.
A key requirement is that your PC or laptop has HDMI out, which is common for desktop PCs and many laptops, or else has a USB C port you can use with an adapter cable (under $20 on Amazon).
An optimal size for what a “home office TV” is somewhere in the range of 48″ to 65″ 4K. I’ve used a 65″ TV in this capacity and found it’s a bit too big, and also costlier. Smaller 4K screens can be great, especially if you have a relatively shallow desk.
A 49″ TV is equivalent to four 24.5″ 1080p monitors arranged in a 2X2 grid. With a 55″ 4K TV screen, you get the equivalent to four 27.5″ 1080p monitors. Either way, it is the sort of monitor arrangement you might see bankers and stock traders use. But as long as you have a PC with 4K HDMI output, you can use a 55″ 4K TV and enjoy the same amount of “virtual desktop” space—except the screen is seamless and you can achieve it with a single HDMI cable connection.
One of the key reasons to consider the “home office TV” approach is the cost per pixel. A new, high performance 4K 55″ TV costs well under $1000 these days, with some viable options existing under the $500 price point. To get the same amount of desktop area using multiple monitors, you’ll need four 27″ monitors, a stand to hold them all, and the you need to figure out how to connect them to your PC all at once, likely necessitating a pricey/fancy video card. The point is a 4K TV is much more elegant, simple and useful than a multi-monitor setup and offers a lot of value.
The other cool thing about a 4K TV—even an entry-level model—is that it is not just a monitor. It is also a smart TV. Typically that means you get better calibration and adjustment controls than you find on monitors, a physical remote control you can use to make adjustments (PC monitors usually have fidgety little buttons), not to mention built-in features like streaming and… speakers for sound! That’s a ton of value versus PC monitors.
Key point: When you are not using a 4K TV as a PC monitor, it’s still useful because it’s a TV.
Another thing to note is in recent years, and especially in 2019 and 2020, TV makers focused on reducing input lag/latency, bringing it down to virtually unnoticeable levels. When you fire up a PC with a decent video card and game on a 4K TV, the visual experience is more immersive than using a small monitor while preserving the fast response that’s crucial to competitive gameplay.
Just don’t expect your work laptop to be a great at gaming… if you want a dual-purpose rig then you’ll need to invest in a decent gaming PC. Otherwise, you can always use a console to game in your spare time since 4K TVs have multiple HDMI inputs.
Best 4K TVs to Use as a PC Monitor
Samsung goes out of its way to make its QLED TVs PC friendly. The support ranges from 4K/60 4:4:4 input to Freesync VRR and includes the fact these quantum dot LCDs will not suffer burn-in. This premium QLED also has wide viewing angles and a superbly effective anti-reflective screen coating. And crucially, the Q80T is available in 49″, 55″ and 65″ sizes—as well as home theater-worthy 75″ and 85″ sizes—so there’s a screen size to best fit your needs.
- DIRECT FULL ARRAY 12X* (85″, 75″, 65″ & 55″)
- ULTRA VIEWING ANGLE WITH ANTI – GLARE
- QUANTUM HDR 12X (85″, 75″, 65″ & 55″)
- QUANTUM PROCESSOR 4K:
- OBJECTIVE TRACKING SOUND
- ALEXA BUILT-IN
OLED is known for exceptional image quality including unmatched local contrast and the widest viewing angles around. For PC use, you don’t need any of the extra “frills” of the pricier LG models, the B9 has the same OLED panel and when used as a PC display, the same picture quality. LG offers G Sync compatibility, so you’ll enjoy variable refresh rate PC gaming when you use a compatible NVIDIA video card.
- LG a7 GEN 2 INTELLIGENT PROCESSOR
- LG THINQ, ALEXA AND GOOGLE ASSISTANT
- DOLBY VISION AND DOLBY ATMOS
- NVIDIA G SYNC COMPATIBILITY
- WISA SPEAKER COMPATIBILITY
- AIRPLAY 2
Recommended Affordable Options
If the above QLED and OLED options are outside your budget, here are more great TVs for PC monitors use:
One of the best “bang for the buck” TVs out there and a great choice if you are looking for a 55″ TV to use as a monitor and want to spend $500 or less.
Similar to the TCL above, this Hisense H8F offers a highly favorable price-performance ratio, In this case offering a viable 55″ option for $400.
The Vizio M Series Quantum offers a wide variety of screen sizes and a strong feature set while keeping the price affordable.
You Will Need a 4K PC
If your PC has not been upgraded in a while, it may not have features you need to use it with the 4K TV. Namely, an HDMI 2.0 port. However, most newer PCs are easily able to handle this resolution and furthermore include built-in optimization for streaming, so 4K YouTube video plays smoothly. That includes inexpensive laptops and mini PCs like the Intel NUC.
Upgrading an older desktop PC to 4K is usually just a matter of installing a new video card, but with a laptop the functionality needs to be built-in or else you’ll need to upgrade the whole device in order to enjoy the benefits of a 4K PC display.
Today, you can put together quite an amazing 4K computing system that is almost certainly superior to what most people have at their office, for well under $1000. Moreover, if things return to normal and you start going to the office again, if you take the 4K TV approach, you still have a useful TV to put somewhere (bedroom, kitchen, wherever a 55″ TV makes sense).
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