HEAD TO HEAD

A big-screen PC is a blast.

APC Australia - - Contents -

PC mon­i­tor vs HDTV vs projector

In days of yore, hook­ing up a PC to a TV via a low-res ana­log in­ter­face was fun, but it was also blurry, borky, and sub-op­ti­mal. To­day, ev­ery­thing is crisp, clean, and dig­i­tal. TVs of­fer high-res 4K pan­els that match or ex­ceed most PC mon­i­tors for pixel count, and in the case of TVs with HDR sup­port, colour depth and con­trast, too. Even pro­jec­tors now sup­port proper PC-size pixel grids. So, what makes for the best big-screen PC ex­pe­ri­ence?

PRICE

In this age of dirt-cheap HDTVs, you might think there can be only one win­ner. After all, how do you ar­gue with some­thing like a cheapo 40-inch 4K TV on sale for some­thing ridicu­lous like $600? In terms of ab­so­lute wal­lop for your wal­let, you don’t. How­ever, the af­ford­abil­ity of the lat­est HDTVs has hap­pily had a knock-on ef­fect for the PC mon­i­tor mar­ket as a whole.

For in­stance, there are sev­eral mon­i­tors that are essen­tially 4K TVs repack­aged and fit­ted out with elec­tron­ics more suit­able for PCs. Such screens are far cheaper than they other­wise would be, thanks to the huge vol­umes in which those big HDTV pan­els are cranked out. More gen­er­ally, HDTV pro­duc­tion on an epic scale pushes down the price of LCD panel tech, and has shifted ex­pec­ta­tions when it comes to the res­o­lu­tions of cheaper screens. In short, 4K has be­come the norm thanks to HDTVs, not PC mon­i­tors.

As for pro­jec­tors, they don’t re­ally get a look in when it comes to value. Big, bold, and cine­matic they may well be, but when even the cheap­est true 4K projector costs thou­sands of dol­lars, a beamer isn’t even in the run­ning when it comes to bang for buck.

WIN­NER: HDTV PIXEL PITCH

This is where PC mon­i­tors used to have their big ad­van­tage over hook­ing up an old-school CRT TV via S-video or com­po­nent. PC mon­i­tors typ­i­cally had a huge res­o­lu­tion ad­van­tage, while also be­ing phys­i­cally smaller. Cue mas­sive pixel ad­van­tage. That’s no longer quite as true. 4K HDTVs now of­fer 3,840 x 2,160 pixel grids, and that’s pretty much as good as it gets for com­puter mon­i­tors. Granted, some 5K and even 8K mon­i­tors do ex­ist, but they’re typ­i­cally very pricey af­fairs.

How­ever, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to pro­duc­tiv­ity work, a good PC screen is about more than sim­ply pixel count. Pixel pitch counts, too, and it counts against both pro­jec­tors and HDTVs. The big­ger the screen, the big­ger the pixel, lead­ing to less clar­ity and sharp­ness, rougher font ren­der­ing, and so on. More­over, if you’re not in­creas­ing the over­all pixel count, you’re not get­ting any ad­di­tional on-screen el­bow room to work with. Of course, you could sit fur­ther away from your HDTV or projector screen, and thus solve the pixel pitch prob­lem, but if the ap­par­ent size is then the same as a smaller mon­i­tor si­t­u­ated closer, what is ac­tu­ally the point in hav­ing the larger screen?

WIN­NER: PC mon­i­tor CON­NEC­TIV­ITY

An­other area where TVs and pro­jec­tors used to fall short; the con­nec­tiv­ity gap has shrunk of late thanks to digi­ti­sa­tion. The HDMI 2.0 in­ter­face used by HDTVs and pro­jec­tors, for ex­am­ple, is broadly com­pa­ra­ble with Dis­playPort 1.2 when it comes to band­width. Both sup­port full 4K res­o­lu­tions at 60Hz re­fresh.

But that’s not the full story. The PC-cen­tric Dis­playPort in­ter­face is far more flex­i­ble and of­fers not just mul­ti­me­dia trans­mis­sion, but also com­pat­i­bil­ity with USB Type-C’s alt modes, plus fea­tures such as daisy­chain­ing. That means you can use a sin­gle cable to con­nect a PC to a mon­i­tor, and have ev­ery­thing from im­age and sounds to USB con­nec­tiv­ity and even charg­ing catered for. The HDMI ports in HDTVs and pro­jec­tors aren’t nearly as pow­er­ful and ver­sa­tile.

HDMI’s sup­port for more ad­vanced fea­tures is also patchy, and adop­tion of up­dates to the stan­dard tends to slow as the in­dus­try favours com­pat­i­bil­ity over ca­pa­bil­ity—sup­port for adap­tive re­fresh via HDMI re­mains rare, for ex­am­ple. 4K at 120Hz also re­mains the pre­serve of mon­i­tors with the lat­est Dis­playPort 1.4 in­ter­face, for now. The up­com­ing HDMI 2.1 stan­dard ups the band­width ante, but isn’t of­fered by any PC graph­ics card yet.

WIN­NER: PC mon­i­tor

Round 4 IM­AGE QUAL­ITY

Not long ago, im­age qual­ity would have been a sure win for PC mon­i­tors. Lately, the comparison has be­come more com­pli­cated, thanks to the emer­gence of new HDR, or High Dy­namic Range, stan­dards in the HDTV mar­ket.

HDR means greater dif­fer­ences be­tween the bright­est and dark­est ar­eas of the screen, and thus bet­ter con­trast. But HDR stan­dards also in­cor­po­rate ex­tended colour spa­ces, and thus a wider range of colours. Mean­while, the PC mon­i­tor mar­ket has been slow to adopt HDR. The con­se­quence is that many HDTVs now have the edge on main­stream mon­i­tors when it comes to colour depth and con­trast. The lat­est HDTVs also of­ten of­fer rea­son­ably low in­put lag when re­ceiv­ing a PC sig­nal.

The qual­i­fier is that those on-pa­per ca­pa­bil­i­ties don’t al­ways trans­late into bet­ter im­age qual­ity in all ar­eas. HDTVs tend to use ag­gres­sive im­age pro­cess­ing, which can sac­ri­fice ac­cu­racy in favour of su­per­fi­cial piz­zazz. As for pro­jec­tors, it’s a tough comparison to make. Pro­jec­tors, too, have em­braced HDR tech­nol­ogy, but the need for a dark view­ing en­vi­ron­ment and the in­her­ent dif­fer­ence be­tween trans­mis­sive and re­flec­tive tech­nolo­gies put pro­jec­tors in a cat­e­gory of their own.

WIN­NER: PC mon­i­tor Round 5 FEA­TURES

The fea­tures of­fered by mon­i­tors, TVs, and pro­jec­tors re­flect their re­mits. So much de­pends on what you want to do. Gamers will find that fea­tures such as adap­tive sync sup­port and low-in­put­la­tency modes are ex­clu­sive to PC mon­i­tors de­signed for gam­ing. Like­wise, pro­duc­tiv­ity fea­tures, such as USB hubs and ac­cu­rate fac­tory colour cal­i­bra­tion, are the pre­serve of PC mon­i­tors too.

PC mon­i­tors also tend to be bet­ter en­gi­neered for mount­ing and be­ing si­t­u­ated er­gonom­i­cally on a desk­top, be that courtesy of an ad­justable stand, VESA mount com­pat­i­bil­ity, or the range of LCD panel as­pect ra­tios on of­fer. TVs hit back with mul­ti­me­dia fea­tures such as built-in tuners, smart TV plat­forms, and im­pres­sive app sup­port. In­deed, an HDTV is the only one that can func­tion on its own and do things like play back video files from a USB stick. In ef­fect, HDTVs have com­put­ers built into them.

Pro­jec­tors tend to have a much nar­rower re­mit, and with that comes fewer fea­tures. Some sup­port wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity in or­der to im­prove mount­ing op­tions and re­duce the need for run­ning ca­bles, but that aside, spe­cific fea­tures to sup­port PC gam­ing or pro­duc­tiv­ity are non-ex­is­tent.

WIN­NER: PC mon­i­tor

it may be your only op­tion.” “If you’re on a tight bud­get and you want a big, beau­ti­ful 4K screen, for in­stance, an HDTV is not only a great so­lu­tion,

If you want a su­per­wide screen, it has to be a PC mon­i­tor.

Un­beat­able big-screen bang for your hard-earned buck comes with an HDTV.

Beam­ers make for ful­some if in­flex­i­ble big-screen fun.

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