Photo of a computer monitor on a desk
Photo by Max Nelson on Unsplash
It’s still summer and hopefully the sun is shining in whatever corner of Canada you find yourself. But thoughts are already turning to school and if want to get ahead of the curve and avoid the last minute rush to get prepped, it’s time to start making your must-have list of tech and gadgets.

Thinking about investing in a new TV or monitor? Then read on...

When I was in first year university we had a running Friday night appointment in a friend’s room, chosen because he was the only one with a TV. Six of us would squeeze into this tiny space and watch all the must-see TV shows on a small, boxy old TV. Happy days.

Back then we were watching terrestrial TV, but nowadays most students are using streaming services, so the question is, ‘do I even need a TV?’.

If you’re looking for a bigger experience than a laptop screen can provide, then you’re probably weighing up the option of a Television versus a monitor. Well today you’re in luck because I’m going to give you the knowledge you need to make an informed choice.

Before you start window shopping however, you do need to consider what you are going to be using your TV or monitor for, and how much space you’ll be able to dedicate to it. For example, is it purely for watching sports, TV and movies? Are you going to be using it for gaming purposes? Is it going to be connected to a PC, or a cable box? Do you use programs like Photoshop or Premiere Pro? Do you spend a lot of time browsing the internet? Are you planning to write and research papers?

The smart TV is a most flexible option

I’m going to say right out the gate that a Television is the most flexible option. It will likely be able to handle all the above uses with relative ease. If you buy a smart TV it will have a bunch of apps preloaded that will allow you to access your favourite streaming and video services. All you need to do is connect to your Wi-Fi network, log in to your accounts and you are up and running—no cable guy required!

A photo of the Toshiba 43" 4K UHD HDR LED Smart TV - Fire TV Edition
The Toshiba 43″ 4K UHD HDR LED Smart TV

Input ports let you attach peripherals

Most TVs come with a selection of input ports to allow you to add whatever peripherals you happen to own. For example, the Toshiba above has three HDMI ports to allow you to add an additional streaming device like an Apple TV or a Roku Streaming Stick+, as well as a gaming console like the Xbox One, and a Blu-ray or DVD player. A USB port is common nowadays too, which allows you view your own photos and videos on your TV. If you want to connect a PC to your TV however, be aware that most televisions won’t have a DVI port, so you might need to invest in a DVI to HDMI adapter. Also, bear in mind that your graphics card may or may not support 4K viewing.

Monitors are great for web browsing

Where monitors really come into their own is web browsing and text editing. This is their wheelhouse, what they were designed for. I’ve heard complaints in the past about text displaying poorly on TVs and this can be a real headache if you’re going to spend a lot of time writing papers. Despite your best intentions, I guarantee you you will spend many a late night racing to meet a deadline and trust me you do not need to throw eye strain into the mix!

So much of the research students do nowadays is web based, and aside from the eyestrain factor there is the ergonomic factor of screen placement. Working on a laptop can be really tough on your back and neck, so having a separate monitor mounted at eye-level can save you a lot of aches and pains.

Bigger screen for the same price

One of the interesting things you’ll notice when you compare TVs and monitors is in the size options. When it comes to monitors, a 32″ monitor like this Samsung 4K LED FreeSync Gaming Monitor is considered pretty big, whereas for the about the same money you could get a 49″ TV like this Toshiba 1080p LED Smart TV. The problem is that if your dorm room is as small as my one was, a 49″ screen isn’t really an option. You can easily find a 32″ TV for less than $250 though, so even if your budget is tight and you get a pretty sweet TV and still enjoy some campus nightlife!

Gamers need high refresh rates

If you are a serious PC gamer then you probably know about the importance of refresh rates, but for the uninitiated here’s my take. The effect of motion on any screen is achieved by showing a serious of frames in rapid succession, like a hi-tech flip book. The more frames per second the smoother the motion appears to be, and in gaming smoother motion means a better, more immersive gaming experience. This is achieved with TVs and monitors through higher refresh rates. The refresh rate is measured in Hz (hertz) which is analogous to frames per second, and you’ll find that monitors often have higher refresh rates than TVs, which is why they are the default choice for serious gamers. Monitors are also often equipped with G-Sync or FreeSync technology which further improves the motion characteristics of the monitor.

TVs have better sound

One final point worth mentioning is the difference between TVs and monitors when it comes to sound. Monitors don’t often come with integrated speakers, and if they do the sound quality is usually not up to much, whereas every TV will come with a built-in audio solution. This usually means speakers, but not always. The Sony Bravia A8F OLED TV actually produces sound by vibrating the entire surface of the screen, which creates a pretty amazing experience. That said it’s probably not in the budget for most students!

I hope I’ve given you some useful info to help make what can be a tricky choice between a TV and a monitor. While the balance probably falls in favour of a TV due to price and flexibilty, there are still situations where you can’t beat a good monitor!

Check out all the TVs and all the monitors available at

I am a professional photographer, working in motion and stills. I create portrait, lifestyle and documentary work, and I strive to tell real and authentic stories. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia.


  1. Thanks for the comment Ian! I think it’s pretty common to spend a lot of time browsing the web and watching TV and it’s not easy to find a screen that does both well, that’s the conundrum I guess.

  2. I’ve been using my TV as my monitor as well for the past several months. I don’t game on my PC so that isn’t an issue, but you make some good points that I will have to look into when it is time for me to upgrade. Thanks.

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