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Using an HDTV as a Monitor - Buying a HDTV

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 5/24/2011

One of the most important decisions to make when considering at HDTV as a PC monitor is deciding which HDTV to buy. It is the most expensive decision of the process, and will determine the quality of your experience. But besides picture quality, there are certain features that you should look for.

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    A Vast Selection

    If you've decided to use an HDTV as a monitor for your computer, and you've determined you have everything you need to use the HDTV properly, then your next step is going to be picking out an HDTV.

    This can be a daunting task. There are dozens of HDTV manufacturers, and choosing between them can be confusing. More confusing is the plethora of model numbers and versions. The cost is also a factor. It can be difficult to finally lay down the money for the new HDTV if you don't feel 100% sure that you're getting what you want.

    However, by purchasing a HDTV for use as a monitor, you're actually making the selection process easier. There are certain traits that are a must-have. So, what should you look for?

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    What Type Of HDTV To Buy?

    Plasma. LCD. Rear-Projection. True HD. There are tons of technical and marketing terms used by HDTV manufacturers to try in lure in consumers. As someone who wishes to use an HDTV as a monitor, however, your needs are very specific, which grants you the luxury of ignoring most of these options and focusing on exactly what you must have.

    You'll want to focus your search on LCD flat-panel televisions. LCD televisions lack the black levels and vibrant colors that can be found on Plasma televisions, and they're much more expensive then any sort of rear-projection HDTV. However, LCDs tend to have the highest resolutions, which means that they do the best job of showing fine details like text. LCDs also avoid the burn-in issues that are found with Plasma HDTVs and the viewing-angle restrictions that can cause problems on rear-projection televisions.

    Among LCDs, you'll want to focus on HDTVs that have a high resolution for their screen size. Putting a high number of pixels into a small space results in a very fine image, while putting a similar number of pixels in a large space would result in a coarser, less precise picture. If you're buying an HDTV that is under 37", then you'll probably want to focus on models that offer a resolution of 1366 x 768. If you're buying an HDTV which is 37" or larger, then you'll want to focus on 1080p. In almost all cases, HDTVs that are larger than 50" do not make very good monitors, as individual pixels will likely be very large, making small text unreadable. HDTVs larger than 50" also run into simple size issues, because while buying a super-sized set may seem appealing, it is not a good idea if you actually sit close to the HDTV, like you might if you were using your HDTV as a monitor.

    Finally, you'll want to look for an HDTV that offers features that make it appropriate for use with a computer. The first and most obvious feature that you'll need to look for is the sort of video and audio inputs you're planning to use. If you're going to use HDMI, then you should be set, as virtually all HDTVs offer HDMI connections. However, if you're planning on using DVI, or even an older input like VGA, you will need to check to make sure that the HDTVs you're considering have these connections. You should also form an understanding over the other features that can be had, as each HDTV is different. The most basic HDTVs don't give the user many options for adjusting the display, for example, and this can be disappointing if you don't realize the limitations of the HDTV before you purchase it.

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    Research, Reviews, And Decoding Model Numbers

    There are many places to find HDTV reviews. Popular tech-oriented websites like Cnet offer many reviews of HDTV sets, as do various magazines, both online and offline, which focus on home theater. You can even find reviews for HDTVs in your local newspaper or in PC gaming magazines.

    As when making any new purchase, browsing reviews of the HDTVs you're interested in is very helpful. Reading HDTV reviews can be confusing, however, due to the way that HDTV manufacturers label their televisions. HDTVs that are listed under the same brand name or which are described using the same marketing terms may not always have the same features. For example, a Sony HDTV which is sold at Wal-Mart may at first glance very similar to a Sony HDTV sold at Best Buy or on Amazon.com. However, Sony, like many brands, sells different models to different retailers. The Sony you find in Wal-Mart is probably a budget-oriented version, while the one you find at Best Buy is probably of higher quality.

    There is no way to be sure of what you're getting unless you look at the model numbers of the HDTVs you are looking at. Going back to the Sony example used above, the Sony sold at Wal-Mart has a model number of KDL-40S4100 and sells for $999.00. Meanwhile, Amazon offers the KDL-40Z4100 for around $1300. Visually, the two HDTVs look nearly identical. But the more expensive one has more inputs, a faster refresh rate, and some proprietary Sony technologies like DNLA.

    At first, it can be difficult to notice these difference. But once you do start looking at model numbers in addition to brand names, the model numbers because very useful. This is because companies will make various sizes of a certain model of television. So, if you read a review about the Sony KDL-40Z4100 which says it is a wonderful HDTV, then you can also apply parts of that review to the Sony KDL-46Z4100, the 46" version. Features will be similar - only the size is different.

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    Making The Purchase

    Once you've decided which LCD HDTV you'd like, then all you need to do is buy. Ultimately, personal preferences will probably decide what you buy and where you buy it. Although most would recommend brands like Sony and Samsung as the best 1080P LCD HDTVs, and by extension the best LCD HDTVs to be used as computer monitors, there are a huge variety of features, picture qualities, and prices available.

    Just keep the basics in mind. LCD, high resolution for the screen size, and inputs which can be used with your PC. If you keep those bases covered, then any HDTV you purchase should function well as a PC monitor.

How to Use an HDTV as a Monitor

Using An HDTV as a monitor is not difficult, and is a good idea if you use for computer as a media center more often than not. But there are certain pitfalls that you must avoid, some of which can badly hurt your pocket-book should you mistakenly fall in them.
  1. Using an HDTV as a Monitor - You Can, but Should You?
  2. Using an HDTV as a Monitor - What You Need?
  3. Using an HDTV as a Monitor - Buying a HDTV
  4. Using an HDTV as a Monitor - Hooking it up