The monitor is an essential component for anyone who spends a significant amount of time in front of a computer, not only for the eyes’ well-being but also to find work more enjoyable. Since in many offices one is forced to work on old or small monitors, at least at home you should enjoy a higher screen quality.
When you buy a new monitor, it is important to check the key features it must have — not settle for the one that costs less or what is on offer and choose the best based on personal economic possibilities.
With this monitor buying guide, you will learn how to choose a new monitor, focusing on the most important features to consider.
Monitor Buying Guide
Before choosing the new monitor, let’s ensure we know all the characteristics it must possess to use it very well with all modern technology.
On the new monitor, you need to check the ports available on the back, so you can easily connect it to any computer. The ports that can be found to connect the monitor to the PC can be:
- VGA port or Video Graphics Array is the older video output standard, which may still be present on some motherboards and older monitors. The VGA cable is trapezoidal shaped with 15 pins and coloured blue, carrying only a video signal (no audio). If on the PC we have other outputs for the monitor, the VGA socket is no longer a requirement that we must look for because it is very limited compared to other types of connections. In general, VGA connections are only recommended for displays below the standard resolution of 1080p, which excludes most new monitors on the market today.
- DVI port or Digital Visual Interface is the digital successor of the analogue VGA standard. Although present for several years, it is on high-end monitors, desktop motherboards and discrete graphics cards. Dual-link DVI connections and cables can provide resolutions of up to 2560 x1600 at 60 Hertz, which is enough for most current small to medium-sized displays. DVI only carries the video signal.
- HDMI, or High-Definition Multimedia Interface, is a digital standard that carries both audio and video; it’s ideal if your monitor has built-in speakers or a headphone port, eliminating the need for a separate audio wire. HDMI is the most widespread video connection standard on the market, and the latest supports 4K resolutions and refreshes rates up to 144Hz. A latest-generation HDMI connection is generally the best for high-resolution or high refresh rate monitors.
- DisplayPort can also be found on gaming and high-end monitors. It is identical to an HDMI connector but has varied angles and can handle video and audio on a single cable. However, DisplayPort is a connection designed specifically for computers that also includes other features. For example, some DisplayPort-compatible monitors can be daisy-chained together, allowing two or more displays to be linked to a computer using a single cable running from the final monitor to the computer. DisplayPort supports resolutions up to 4K at a 240-hertz refresh rate.
Screen size is a personal choice, and it is perhaps the feature that most influences the cost — the bigger the monitor, the higher the price can be. What’s not subjective is that bigger monitors are better for almost every purpose — playing games, watching movies and videos, viewing and editing photos, and even working. Users who spend a lot of time on the computer may discover that a larger screen (or even using multiple monitors) can boost productivity and reduce fatigue.
Obviously, for those who use the PC little, especially in the case of space problems on the desk, a large monitor may not be necessary. But how big should a large monitor be?
We are not talking about a TV viewed from the sofa but a desk screen viewed from a fairly small distance. Therefore, any screen larger than 34 inches is out of the ordinary for standard PC viewing distances.
The ideal size is between 24 and 27 inches, satisfactory dimensions on any desk and with any use; for those who do a lot of advanced photo editing or video editing, large 30-inch monitors and up are the ideal choice, but we will have to place ourselves at the right distance so as not to strain our eyes.
Monitors can differ from each other in the ratio of width to height. Virtually all high-definition monitors use the 16: 9 ratio, but we can also find taller displays with a 16:10 ratio; the old “square” monitors with the 4: 3 aspect ratios have practically disappeared from circulation. 21: 9 wide or ultrawide monitors have recently gained popularity.
Modern LCD screens display images in grids of pixels. The meaning of resolution for a monitor refers to the total number of pixels, expressed as a horizontal time vertical numerical value. The standard resolution size is 1920×1080, or 1080p, which includes over two million individual pixels and is also the standard called “Full HD”.
In general, higher resolutions are better, and you can find:
- 1920×1200, slightly higher than 1080p.
- 2560 × 1440 for higher resolution monitors, sometimes called “2K”.
- 2560 × 1600 for the 16:10 variant of the 2K.
- 3840×2160 “4K” resolution, four times sharper than 1080p.
If we want to use the higher resolutions, we need to check that the video card allows us to reach the required resolutions.
A monitor’s refresh rate describes how often the image on the screen refreshes, expressed in hertz. The standard for LCD screens is 60 Hertz, and for most users, there is no need for a higher frequency monitor. Only gamers need a monitor with a faster refresh rate for smoother and more dynamic animations only if the PC is powerful enough to push the higher frame rate.
Gaming monitors can have refresh rates of 120, 144, or even 240 Hertz. Some of these high-end gaming monitors may also have a technology known as variable refresh rate (NVIDIA calls it G-Sync while AMD calls it Freesync). This causes the monitor to refresh at the same rate as the game if it jumps from one rendering speed to another.
Modern LCD screens can be divided into two main types — TN monitors (TN (Twisted Nematic) and IPS monitors (In-Plane Switching). The differences between these types of screens are specifically technical, and the important thing is to know that LCD-TN cost less. At the same time, LCD-IPS displays offer greater colour reproduction and wider viewing angles, but they also have a slower reaction time, making them less ideal for games.
There are also LCD-VA monitors, which aim to combine the fast response times of TN with the higher quality colours and viewing angles of IPS. Among the Samsung monitors, we can also find the acronym PLS or SuperPLS, i.e. IPS products with special technologies capable of offering a greater viewing angle and constant brightness wherever you look.
OLED panels are becoming increasingly popular in phones and televisions and are also starting to make their way into high-end gaming monitors.
Below we have collected other minor features in this monitor buying guide that you can view before purchasing a new monitor:
- Contrast Ratio: The contrast ratio can be the difference in brightness between the brightest white and the deepest dark produced by a screen. The higher the contrast between these two extremes, the more subtly a monitor may represent colour changes. The contrast ratio, however, is a specification that is difficult to quantify and notice by eye. Many professionals recommend a minimum contrast ratio of 350:1.
- Colours: Any self-respecting monitor displays the 16.7 million (24-bit) colours possible from an RGB colour space.
- Viewing angle is an important feature for televisions, not monitors always viewed from the front.
- Response time is not essential to check when you buy a new monitor unless you buy a gaming monitor, where it assumes great importance to see the images without slowdowns and stuttering. Gamers may need a faster response time (less than 5ms) screen.
- Curvature: the curvature of the screen is a non-essential stylistic choice.