Last time, I talked about 5 reasons you SHOULD use a TV as your computer monitor. This time, I’ll talk about 5 reasons you SHOULD NOT use a TV as a monitor, including one related to resizing windows that can be a really annoying dealbreaker.
Let’s get started!
1. OLED Burn-in and Screen-saving techniques
The first reason I gave last time to use a TV is because it’s easier to find affordable and high-quality OLED TVs than monitors. OLED provides amazing picture quality with great colors and deep blacks, and I personally don’t want to go back to a non-OLED screen after using one.
However, OLED also has a downside: the risk of burn-in. Burn-in is when a static image is displayed for too long, and ends up being permanently retained on the display, even when it should be showing something else. This isn’t a huge issue when using an OLED TV as a TV, since movies and tv shows often change what they are showing frequently. However, this is can be an issue when using an OLED display as a computer monitor, since menus, applications, docks, and various UI elements are often static and displayed for long periods of time.
TV makers have introduced techniques and features to combat burn-in. The downside to this is that such features can mess with how you use the display. On the LG C1, for example, there’s an auto-dimming feature that will lower the brightness when the image is detected to not be changing much. This can often trigger when you are working on the desktop or documents in windows that don’t cause many color changes, and can be really annoying. The brightness sometimes dims so much that you can hardly read anything, and you’ll have to switch your content to change the color enough to trigger the TV to stop dimming.
And while certain OLED maintenance settings can be switched off, some can not or require you go into a special menu with a service remote. Switching them off may also increase the risk of burn-in, so it’s probably not a great idea to turn them all off.
This means the first downside to using an OLED TV as a monitor is that you’ll need to change your behavior a bit to manage the risk of burn-in. For example, I like to set my wallpaper background to be completely black, so the pixels can be turned off and also conserve energy. I also set any menus or task bars to auto-hide so they aren’t always displaying a static image on the screen. Depending on whether you’re fine with settings like these, you may feel like you’re walking on eggshells trying to use an OLED TV as your computer monitor.
2. Manually Power On and Off
Downside number 2 when using a TV as a computer monitor is that TVs generally won’t respect your computer’s display off settings. In order to save power and also combat burn-in, it’s a good idea to set your display to turn off after a period of inactivity. Most computers have this feature already on by default, but a TV won’t necessarily turn off based on this setting.
My LG C1, for example, will stop getting the input signal from the computer at the right time, but then it will show it’s own “screen saver” that rotates through some pictures. It isn’t until there is no signal for an extended period of time before it will shut off. I’ve also not been able to configure this setting on the TV, and I think most TVs are probably the same.
Instead of relying on auto power off, I’ve gotten into the habit of manually turning off the TV with the remote whenever I know I’ll leave the desk for more than a few minutes. Of course, this also means the TV won’t wake up automatically either. So when I come back to the desk, I will manually turn the TV on and either move the mouse or press a harmless key on the keyboard to wake things up.
Some creative folks have made alternative ways to work around this, such as this LGTV Companion app, which uses the network connection of the TV to send signals to shut off and turn on in response to actions on your computer. So if you don’t want to be manually turning on and off your TV all the time, you’ll have to look for something like that for your TV.
3. Too Big
The third downside is that TV sizes are really big. Perhaps too big, especially if you have a smaller, not so deep desk. The LG C1 48″ TV I’m using, for example, needs to be several feet away from my head in order for it to not be overwhelming. Luckily, my desk is 30 inches deep, but even then it needs to be placed all the way back. A possible workaround to this problem is to mount the TV to a wall, or perhaps a floor TV stand. That way, you could position it further back than the desk would allow.
However, this doesn’t work if, like me, you use a sit/stand desk that can go up and down, as you’ll need the TV to go up and down with it. So you would need to either place or mount the TV directly on the desk. And because it’s so big, I need to position the TV as low as possible in order for it not to force my neck to look upwards when using it, especially when reclining in my chair. Therefore, I don’t really gain much trying to mount this big and heavy rectangle versus just using the included stand, which sits really low to the desk already.
The smallest OLED TV suitable for computer monitor use is 42 inches, which was introduced with the LG C2 series. A 42″ 4K UHD screen has a DPI of 104.9, which is getting close to a 27″ 2560×1440 monitor, which has a DPI of 108.79. At 91.41 DPI, the 48″ LG C1 (which is actually 48.2″ in size) that I’m using is slightly worse than a 32″ 1440p monitor, and it’s still OK for sharpness with scaled resolutions at my normal sitting distance of about 2.5 feet away.
But you won’t be getting super HiDPI here unless you step up to 8K resolution TVs, which are 1) really expensive still, 2) come in even bigger sizes, making it even more troublesome to use in close quarters, and 3) require quite a hefty amount of graphics processing power and high-bandwidth ports to use such a high resolution.
4. Only HDMI Input
Speaking of ports, the fourth downside is that TVs usually only have HDMI input, and not other connectors you would find on monitors, such as DisplayPort. To get higher resolutions and refresh rates like 4K 120Hz with HDR, you need to have a computer with HDMI 2.1. Otherwise, you won’t be making full use of your TV.
This was a problem on the Mac side specifically until the M2 Pro Mac mini and MacBook Pros were released, as the M1 machines, including the Mac Studio, only have an HDMI 2.0 port, and what’s more, even USB-C to HDMI 2.1 adapters wouldn’t work on the Thunderbolt ports.
For PCs, you’ll need to ensure you have a relatively recent graphics card, such as nVidia 3000-series or AMD RX 6000 series or later. Intel’s new GPUs, the Arc A770 and A750, don’t natively support HDMI 2.1 but certain boards can choose to convert the DisplayPort output to HDMI 2.1. As an aside, I really hope Intel can do well in the GPU race so we can have more affordable and viable choices.
So you’ll need to be careful when choosing a computer or graphics card to ensure it can support HDMI 2.1. If you don’t already have one, that means you’ll need to upgrade to take full advantage of a 4K, 120Hz refresh rate TV with HDR.
This HDMI-only limitation on TVs also leads us into the final downside.
5. Window Sizes and Positions Reset
The most annoying thing about using a TV as a monitor (at least in Windows), is that any windows you have open when you turn off or walk away from the TV will likely be shrunk and bunched up in the top left corner when you come back to your computer. I’m using Windows 11, but I’ve observed this behavior in earlier versions of Windows as well.
That’s because Windows believes the monitor connection is completely cut off, so the display area is reduced to nothing (or whatever the default size is without any monitor connected), causing your windows to shrink. When the TV is powered on again, Windows now sees a new monitor connected, but any application window sizes and positions were already lost, so everything appears together in a bunch.
Now, I’ve also encountered this same issue before with higher resolution monitors over DisplayPort, but there was a registry change that could fix this issue. This is how it works. You go into the registry here, and you’ll see a list of folders that represent displays that had been connected and configured. You’ll need to find the entries that seem to 1) represent your monitor and 2) represent the “blank” or “simulated” display that Windows defaults to when no display is connected. Then, you change the resolution surface area entries to be the same resolution as your actual display, so that Windows will not shrink any existing windows when switching between these real and fake displays.
However, this registry fix does NOT seem to work with the LG C1 OLED TV I have. I tried changing every single entry in the registry to reflect a 4K screen size, but it still didn’t work. It was driving me crazy, but then I found a little app called Persistent Windows, which has mostly solved the problem.
Persistent Windows essentially saves your window positions and sizes when the monitor turns off, and then restores them after it gets connected again. It’s mostly worked, but I have experienced a few times where it was delayed in restoring the windows, or just completely crashed, and therefore wasn’t able to put the windows back at all. Still, its the best solution I’ve found so far to this problem.
Luckily, macOS seems to remember window placement with no issues over HDMI, so that’s definitely one thing that Apple made just work.
So today I went over 5 reasons you should NOT use your TV as a computer monitor. Most of them are mainly annoyances that you can workaround, so it hasn’t prevented me from using my LG C1 48″ OLED TV as my sole computer monitor. I still think the pros outweigh the cons, but let me know what you think in the comments.