Goodbye TV licence — Buy a big monitor to replace your TV

While it is necessary to present a valid TV licence when buying a new television set in South Africa, you don’t need a licence for a large-screen monitor.

However, there are important technical features to consider before choosing a monitor over a TV, such as the type of panel used which influences the quality of the colour reproduction and the contrast ratio.

Last week, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies published the SABC Bill for public comment.

This new legislation includes a section for TV Licences and stipulates that anyone with a TV will still need a valid licence, or face a fine and potentially imprisonment.

As more South Africans switch to streaming from services such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Showmax, and DStv Now, they can avoid the need for a TV licence by choosing a big screen monitor over a TV.

It should be noted that even if you buy a monitor, you do technically require a TV licence if you connect a satellite TV decoder to it.

There may also be substantial technical differences between your typical monitor and TV that should be considered.

Essentially any display on the market makes use of either three display types: In-Plane Switching (IPS), Vertical Alignment (VA), and Twisted Nematic (TN).

These differ in how they allow light to pass through for users to see the images on-screen. The lighting tech behind each panel type has a range of differences, most of which are becoming less pronounced as the technology progresses.

IPS panels are known to produce the best viewing angles and are hands-down the best for larger audiences situated at different angles from the screen. IPS panels also tend to provide the best colour accuracy.

VA panels allow for much higher contrast ratios, which means clearer image quality, and these panels also usually allow for “deeper” blacks.

TN panels have the worst viewing angles and lowest contrast ratio of the three technologies.

Though TN panels used to provide by far the highest refresh rates and response times, new IPS and VA panels are reaching equivalent or even better refresh rates.

The best example of this is the world’s first consumer monitor with a 360Hz refresh rate, the ASUS ROG PG259QN.

Most TVs will make use of VA panels, and most large monitors tend to follow suit.

However, several of the large monitors available in South Africa from local brand Mecer use TN panels.

A notable feature of 4K TVs is their 4K upscaling capabilities, which can enhance 1080p content to look good on higher resolution screens.

This does not come near the quality of native 4K content but is certainly a big point in favour of 4K TVs compared to monitors.

Backlighting tech also differs between displays. This varies between OLED or QLED — both of which are pixel-specific lighting technologies — or DLED, which is an array of LED lights that light the pixels themselves.

Below is a table comparing 4K TVs and monitors at 55, 65 and 75-inch display sizes:

4K TVs vs Monitors in South Africa
Product Panel Type Contrast Ratio Response Time Price
55-inch
Samsung 55TU7000 55-inch 4K Smart TV 
VA 5,110:1 18ms R8,999
Dell C5519Q 55-inch” 4K Monitor VA 4,000:1 8ms R14,099
Mecer 55L83U 55” 4K Monitor w/Built-in media player TN 1,200:1 8ms R9,990
65-inch
Samsung 65TU7000 65-inch 4K Smart TV  VA 5,110:1 18ms R13,999
Mecer 65S76U 65” 4K Monitor TN 1,200:1 8ms R21,979
75-inch
Samsung 75TU8000 75-inch 4K Smart TV VA 6,421:1 17ms R19,999
Mecer 75C1 75-inch 4K Monitor TN 1,200:1 8ms R16,899

Now read: Best 4K TVs in South Africa for under R6,000

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Goodbye TV licence — Buy a big monitor to replace your TV