You use it for work. They use it to play. They use it to access Netflix, YouTube, and your ex's HBO account. It's your computer monitor, and choosing a model that fits you and your needs is crucial. Whether your old display has failed or you've decided to upgrade to take advantage of the latest software, buying a new monitor is a big decision.
However, not everyone is looking for the same thing. Some buyers are looking for a great display while others put features and connectivity first. With so many great options, it's easy to get confused. That is why we have put together the practical shopping guide below.
First decisions: Making it big is a good idea
Bill Roberson / Digital Trends
How big is big enough? When it comes to computer monitors, you want something that fits comfortably on your desk while giving you plenty of screen space. While in the past, monitors under 20 "were commonplace, today there is no real need to buy anything under 22" unless you really run out of space. For most, 24 inches will be a baseline, as you can buy a number of screens this size for around $ 100 and they look amazing at 1080p.
The best monitors you can buy
However, for those who want more, there are many sizes to choose from. 27 "diagonal monitors are becoming increasingly popular, and there are many options that go beyond 30" and are affordable. If you want to go extreme, we've even tried some great computer monitors that reach nearly 50 inches, like the Samsung CHG90.
While you need to sit back and relax, there's no denying that they look amazing. They offer the same screen as several smaller monitors without a bezel dividing them in the middle. However, they are usually quite expensive. If you go really far, you will struggle to find media that can be displayed close to the original resolution so that the image looks either stretched or surrounded by black.
Anywhere between 24 and 30 inches will be perfectly fine for most users. They allow you to get the most out of modern resolutions and color clarity, and they also fit multiple different web pages open at the same time without the need to use two monitors, which is convenient for many professionals. They're not too expensive even at this size unless you opt for the top-end models.
Resolution and screen type
The best screens today are still LCD monitors that use LED technology for a slim product that saves energy while providing ideal backlighting. We've waited years for OLED technology to move to PC monitors, and it's still in sight despite ongoing teasing and demonstrations at big tech shows.
One aspect of PC monitors that you need to consider, however, is resolution. While 1080p was once the gold standard, today it's just the base. If you're looking to spend a little more, there are a few other options to consider, especially if you want to improve the screen area or graphics of games. However, resolution is not the be-all and end-all of monitor functions. In fact, too high a resolution on a screen that is too small can often be annoying as it shrinks all of your images and forces you to zoom in on everything for easy reading.
- 1080p: If you want decent clarity but want to save costs or focus on other, more important functions, 1080p is for you – as long as the monitor you buy isn't extremely large. 1080p is ideal for 21 to 24 inch displays. These monitors offer great picture quality and now that they are competing at 4K, prices are at rock bottom. However, if you want to get larger than 24 inches, consider a resolution of at least 2560 x 1440 and possibly 4K resolution.
- 1440p: The often forgotten stepchild in the gradual connection of consumers and 4K, 1440p is still the recommended solution for gamers as it offers noticeable improvement in graphics over 1080p, but doesn't put undue stress on your graphics card. It's also far cheaper if you are interested in additional features like high refresh rates.
- 4K: 4K is the solution that the industry wants to move consumers to the most. It looks a lot more detailed than 1080p at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, and prices have dropped significantly in recent years. However, gamers need a powerful graphics card to run a system at this resolution, and it is still difficult to find affordable monitors with full support for frame sync or high refresh rates. However, there are plenty of 4K media out there that you can enjoy whether you're streaming or using UHD Blu-rays.
- 5K: This resolution hit the headlines when Apple first introduced it on its iMac, but it is still far from a common solution years later. The Dell UP2715K is a great looking display, but we would recommend a lot of high-end 4K monitors as you won't see too much of a difference between them.
- 8 THOUSAND: There are also some 8K monitors available, most notably Dell's 8K Ultrasharp. Such a high resolution monitor is not currently required, but they are available for those on a budget when resolution is absolutely paramount.
While the above are the most common resolutions you'll find on monitors, there are some that fall into more niche categories. The best ultrawide monitors offer unique aspect ratios and resolutions with a wide horizontal number of pixels but fewer in the vertical dimension. Then curved monitors have to be considered. They don't have any resolutions other than their flat counterparts, but they differ noticeably. Curved screens are by no means a necessity, but they have uses and we certainly have our favorites.
Contrast, refresh rate and more
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
Various other aspects of how a monitor looks contribute to how impressive an image can be. The following additional factors should be taken into account the next time you buy a monitor:
- Aspect ratio: The aspect in which images are displayed on the screen (length versus height). A general standard and your best bet is 16: 9. It works with a lot of content and is great for movies or games. Some fancy monitors like to stretch things out at a 21: 9 ratio, but that's better for unusual work situations or hardcore gaming. Another common format, 16:10, provides a little more vertical space to display multiple open documents or pictures. 3: 2 is becoming increasingly popular with laptops to provide better web viewing. However, this is rare with standalone displays.
- Brightness: Nowadays high-end monitors have a brightness of 300 to 350 cd / m2. Extra brightness can be useful when working in a well-lit room or next to large windows. However, too much brightness is a recipe for eye strain. As long as the brightness options reach 250 cd / m2, your monitor is ready for use. However, if you want one with HDR support, the higher the peak brightness, the better to get the most out of this technology.
- Contrast ratio: Contrast ratios show the difference between white and black that a monitor screen can get. Higher contrast ratios are a good sign as they make the colors more differentiated. However, there are several measurements of contrast ratios and the specifications given are not very reliable. So take everything with a grain of salt.
- HDR: The High-Dynamic Range (HDR) is a new addition to the PC monitor range and can have a dramatic effect on the visual representation. However, most PC monitors lack the brightness required to get the most out of them, and even the best don't look as good as they should.
- Update rate: The refresh rate of a monitor, expressed in Hertz (Hz), is how often the image on your screen is updated. While most support up to 60 Hz, some displays now offer much higher refresh rates. This can result in smoother movements on your desktop and in support of higher frame rates in games. This can make a big difference in fast-paced titles by reducing the input delay. 120 Hz to 144 Hz is a great target range, but you can go for the fastest displays with up to 240 Hz support. Just make sure you have a powerful graphics card to back up.
- Reaction time: The response time indicates how quickly the monitor shows image transitions. A slow response time is good for fast-paced action video, nervous gameplay, and similar activities. Response times are measured in milliseconds, with the best screens being able to switch pixels in just a few milliseconds, but not everyone needs such quick responses.
- Viewing angle: The viewing angle is not as important for a monitor as it is for a television screen. However, if you plan to watch shows with groups of friends on your computer, aim for a wider viewing angle so that people on the sides can easily see. Anything over 170 degrees is good news here.
The type of control panel your new display will be created with can have a huge impact on how it looks and how it works. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, which makes them more suitable for different types of PC users. While manufacturers have made valiant attempts to fill the gaps between types, both still have their evangelists. Depending on what you spend most of the time on your PC, you will likely want to go one over the other. However, certain functions may incur costs.
- TN: Twisted Nematic (TN) displays, the most common type of panel, have good graphics and some of the fastest response times, making them great for gamers. But colors can look a little washed out and the viewing angles aren't great. Displays with TN panels are usually the cheapest.
- VA: VA panels, sometimes referred to as MVA or PVA, have slightly better colors and good viewing angles, but they can suffer from ghosting. While their response times can be good on paper, they don't always translate well into practice.
- IPS: Displays with IPS panels tend to be the most expensive, but for your money, you get much richer colors and clear viewing angles that are nearly horizontal. The disadvantage of IPS panels is that they usually do not have as fast response times as TN displays. Some therefore consider them inferior for games. However, there are gaming IPS displays like the fantastic Asus PG279Q that do well against their TN counterparts. However, some IPS monitors suffer from quality control issues, and most IPS displays glow bloody due to the backlight when dark images are displayed.
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There are a few different connectors to look for on your monitor. Where VGA and DVI used to be standard, new displays with HDMI, DisplayPort and USB-C connections are most common today. To make matters even more confusing, each of them has its own multitude of generations that you need to consider when running a high resolution or high refresh rate display.
To operate a display with 4K resolution, you must use at least HDMI 1.4. However, HDMI 2.0 would be required if you wanted to support a refresh rate of 60 Hz. This should be a minimum unless you're just looking to movies on it. If you want to run games at high refresh rates, especially at higher resolutions, DisplayPort 1.4 monitors can handle up to 8K at 60 Hz and 4K at up to 200 Hz, making them better suited than HDMI in that regard.
The slightly older DisplayPort 1.2 connector can also handle 1440p and 1080p with high frame rates. So, unless you choose 4K, this connection option should be sufficient for lower resolution monitors. USB-C is an option because it supports resolution up to 4K, but isn't as powerful as DisplayPort connections.
Design and assembly
We recommend choosing a monitor that is easy to use, especially if you are creating a complex setup with more than one monitor. Consider adding a stand that you can tilt or rotate for the perfect monitor angle. Some monitors even let you adjust tilt and rotation with one hand.
Built-in controls for navigating through the monitor's menu and selecting different monitor modes are an interesting feature, but shouldn't feel clunky. Pay attention to the connector placement and cable management features to neatly hook up your new monitor. Some monitors go an extra step and include charging ports along the base station or even turn the monitor base into a wireless charging pad for your phone.
These are all good considerations for a computer monitor sitting right next to you on a desk. If you want to get an oversized monitor, using a monitor rack to mount your new monitor on the wall is probably your best option. In this case, look for monitors that support come with VESA standard mounting Options or are compatible with them. This feature gives you access to a wide range of mounting arms from different manufacturers so you can find the perfect rack or bracket for your new screen.
If your new monitor is to play a key role in web conferencing, you also need to decide whether or not you want a monitor with a built-in webcam. Some monitors, including very high quality models, have their own webcam.
While a built-in webcam is good for casual purposes like logging into your computer with facial recognition, it is not a create or pause function. We recommend buying a monitor and then choosing a separate webcam accessory that is easier to assemble and customize and can be taken offline at any time for privacy reasons. It's also much easier to update or replace a webcam if it's an accessory rather than a built-in monitor feature.