Is it a television or a monitor?

This is a monitor lizard. There’s no such thing as a television lizard. There, article’s done.

Seriously, though, you’ll hear the term “TV” and the term “monitor” used almost interchangeably. What’s the difference? Is there a difference, or is it just that snobby tech types like to say “monitor?”

It used to be, that if it had a tuner, it was a TV. If it didn’t, it was a monitor. Also, if it didn’t have speakers, it wasn’t a TV. There’s a legal definition in there somewhere, because in order to be sold as a “television” it has to be able to receive and decode ATSC TV broadcasts. If it isn’t, you have to sell it as a “monitor.”

There is a bit more to it than that. You can watch TV on your computer, you can put your computer data up on the TV. It gets pretty confusing.

So yeah, for your average folks, the difference between TV and a monitor comes down to use. It’s not so much the tuner that’s important, it’s whether you share it with others, and whether it’s optimized for motion viewing or data viewing.

Televisions generally have IPS screens that let them be seen from a much wider angle. Monitors usually have pixel integrity, which just means that every dot on the screen is a dot that the computer wants there. PC data on TVs often looks blurry because each pixel put out by the computer isn’t exactly lined up to a pixel on the screen.

Of course size plays into it somewhat but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a 37″ computer screen or 11″ TV. It’s more about the experience than anything else, so don’t worry so much about the exact definitions.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.