Use a Monitor for Console Gaming to Save Money, Space and More

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Looking for something to play your current or last-generation consoles on? Maybe you’re short on money, space, or you’d like to get more use out of your purchase? A computer monitor might just do the trick.

If you switched to a laptop years ago then you might not have realised that the lines between monitor and TV are blurrier than they have ever been, particularly since 1080p widescreen panels became standard.

Here’s why you might want to use a monitor for your PlayStation or Xbox marathons, and a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering doing so.

Portable Monitors Occupy Less Space

I recently purchased a 27″ Samsung monitor (below) for the express purpose of playing Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4 games. My partner and I are tired of taking it in turns, and decided that we could both be playing at the same time if we had a second screen on which to do so. Unfortunately we don’t have the space or desire for a second TV in our living room.

By opting for a monitor instead, we have a lightweight and portable display that can be quickly moved onto the desk when not in use. When we want to play games, with the aid of a cheap but longer-than-usual , the monitor can sit on the coffee table while the TV remains in its usual place. In our case, the monitor was a great budget solution for playing two consoles at once.

A smaller panel naturally occupies less space, but a lack of TV “bloat” means that the display is thinner and lighter too. There’s no quad core processor inside the monitor as there is in many of the latest screens, the bare minimum number of inputs, and the stand occupies barely a quarter of the total screen width.

If you’re tight on space — maybe you’re moving into a college dorm, have an especially small bedroom, cramped study, rented property that doesn’t allow you to mount your TV on the wall, or you live in a household where everyone’s competing for the only TV — a monitor provides a suitably small and cost-effective solution for playing console games.

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You Get More Bang for Your Buck

A good monitor is cheaper than a bad TV, especially if you just want the panel for playing games and you’re not interested in features you won’t use. You don’t have to pay for a tuner or bloated smart TV features, network interfaces, HDMI slots and other connections you’ll never use, USB connectivity, or a remote control.

Full HD displays are much cheaper than they used to be, and the technology behind the panels is improving too. Most monitors provide better quality images than similarly-priced TVs, with higher contrast ratios, faster response times, less ghosting, and less image interference from pesky manufacturer features like de-judder effects that aim for an unnatural “smoother” image.

Only paying for what you need also means you’ll be able to afford fancy extras like an IPS panel, a curved screen, or a display with a tiny bezel. You may even already have a monitor sitting in an attic or on your desk which you can repurpose as a display for gaming, without spending a penny.

You Probably Don’t Need a 4K Screen Yet

A logical upgrade from your current full-HD television is to invest in a 4K screen, but the technology is still relatively expensive and you can be forgiven for not feeling compelled to upgrade yet. In terms of gaming, unless you’ve got a fairly powerful PC, you won’t be playing console games in “true” 4K resolution until Microsoft’s Project Scorpio arrives at the end of 2017 (or Sony and Nintendo surprise us all with their own offering between now and then).

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Though the upcoming Xbox One S and PlayStation Neo promise to upscale games to 4K resolution, titles will continue to be rendered at 1080p. Games will look better, but the biggest improvements will be to frame rates and optimized versions of games designed to run on these updated consoles. If you’re looking for a second screen for gaming, it might be worth waiting till 4K technology drops in price, consoles are rendering games in 4K, or you have the bandwidth to support a 4K movie habit.

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You Can Use It For Other Stuff Too

Most modern TVs can be used as monitors, both through HDMI and D-Sub (VGA) connections, but if you’ve ever used a 42″ 1080p TV as a monitor on your desk you’ll likely not want to repeat the experience unless you’re planning on sitting some distance away. Monitors are smaller by design, and even 1080p can look rough on a 24″ display if you’re used to the same resolution on a smaller screen (or you have a high DPI display like those found on Apple’s latest iMacs and MacBooks).

A modern monitor with a HDMI connection will work on any last or current generation console, whether it’s an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or their successors. Depending on the monitor, you may even be able to use it for even older consoles (Dreamcast VGA box anyone?), and just about any old console can be used on a modern high definition screen if you know how.

Considerations When Using a Monitor

There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of saving some money and space by opting for a monitor for use with your PS4 or Xbox One. Unlike TVs, monitors don’t generally come with speakers. There are exceptions to this rule, but even those that do will provide disappointing results that are usually worse than even a cheap TV.

For years now TV manufacturers have been shoehorning weak speakers into increasingly smaller displays, and as monitors are even smaller the space constraints are even tighter. The Samsung 27″ monitor I purchased does in fact come with a set of speakers, but sound is dull and lifeless, like someone put a blanket over the TV next door. For best results you’re going to have to sort out the audio for yourself.

Fortunately since HDMI became standard, both sound and video are carried over one single cable. That means most monitors receive sound, and usually output it to a 3.5mm stereo jack on the back or side of the unit. Plug in a nice set of headphones and you’re set. You could also connect your monitor to an old amplifier, or invest in a cheap but effective sound bar (a horizontal, standalone speaker that sits beneath a display) and you’ll get better results than most TVs on the market.

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You’ll also want to check that your monitor is HDCP compliant. High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection is designed to stop users from taking a video feed and illegally copying it, like from Blu-Ray discs or streaming content providers like Netflix. Most new monitors will be HDCP compliant, though many early HDMI models were not — you can check by reading the manufacturer description, or searching the DCP website (which isn’t a complete database by any stretch). A lack of HDCP for input devices means you can’t use an iMac in target display mode for console gaming.

It probably goes without saying that a monitor will be smaller than most TVs, so they’re better suited to sitting up close. If you’re planning on using a computer desk for this purpose and you’ll have other things plugged into the monitor, you might want to invest in an HDMI splitter and a few cheap cables so that you don’t have to mess with cables too often. Remember — never spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable!

Monitor or TV?

Some people prefer the compact nature of a monitor they can move around and use for different purposes over a TV, others prefer the big screen experience. Some of you will no doubt already have invested in 4K, and in that case downgrading to an inferior resolution might not make a lot of sense. But if you are trying to justify the purchase of a second screen, have space concerns, or are thinking about adding another monitor to your home office setup; don’t forget that monitors aren’t just for spreadsheets and word processing.

Do you use a monitor or a TV? Have you made the jump to 4K yet? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credits: HDMI (Sam-Cat)

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