With the many features out there ranging from different sizes to different display types, monitor features can be confusing. Here is the definitive guide to how to choose a monitor which will include 11 key factors for you to consider so you know how to ask the right questions when buying a monitor.
1. What’s Your Purpose Of Buying A Monitor?
Considering the reason why you’re buying a new monitor is as important as choosing the right monitor size. If you’re a professional graphic artist, you need a much larger monitor. This also includes photographers and video editors.
If your purpose of buying a new monitor is for gaming and watching movies and TV series, buying a relatively smaller sized monitor is the ideal choice.
This includes buying a new monitor for carrying out basic computing skills, which is surfing the internet, sending emails, and reading articles. There are plenty of lower-priced, efficient, and fast-operating monitors designed for such a purpose. It even comes feature-packed with advanced settings so it doesn’t feel like you have to settle for a smaller screen.
Such monitors are more productive in function than appearance. Full HD monitors that are of 23 or 24-inches are probably the safest and best bet for basic computing performance.
Gamers need performance as much as design from their monitor. It has to be the right combination of speed, visual intensity, and response time to keep up with today’s stellar games. For gamers, a full HD resolution with a faster response time, refresh rate, and comfortable viewing angle is the perfect choice.
Opting for a dual box monitor that allows you to set up to another monitor is also a major plus point. You can play multiplayer with the help of a second monitor, which is a deal well-done.
This involves photographers, video producers, artists, editors, and graphic artists. Monitors that can handle multimedia use must be either full HD or Quad HD resolution. Professionals want more screen space and faster responses. Not to forget, a comfortable and wide viewing angle that you can’t go wrong with.
Such monitors also boast of a unique IPS panel which allows deeper blacks, more intense colors, and accurate images. So if you’re editing a movie or an image, the little details don’t go unnoticed.
This involves using a monitor for photo viewing, sharing, and movies. Even though there’s not much function involved, you need a high-performance monitor with faster refresh rates. You can view slideshows, stream music, watch movies, and video-chat with such a multi-purpose monitor. It also helps if the monitor has touchscreen capabilities.
2. Choosing An Accurate Display Type
When you walk into an electronics store, the salesperson would want to know what type of monitor you’re looking for. While this factor is also based on the purpose of buying a monitor, it’s always good to know what each display type stands for.
Before we begin, let’s take a quick dive into the history of monitors. The first ever monitor screen, known as a cathode ray-tube or CRT, came in white boxes that took up most of the space on your desk. But now, due to the advancement of technology, such CRT monitors have been defeated by precise LCD monitors.
The latter offering crystal-clear visual performance in thinner and sleeker bodies. CRT monitors were low-cost, standard, and only above average in productivity. But their picture quality and power don’t match up to that of today’s modern packages. On the other hand, they make good budget companions for the less techie in you.
Now, moving on to the different types of monitors on the market.
Most consumers opt for an LCD panel type monitor for their work. It is a traditional and highly-effective monitor with faster response time, higher refresh rates, and precise color reproduction. There are a lot of key features involved in using LCD monitors.
For example, LCD monitors come in thinner packages and are less expensive than other types of monitors. They are more energy efficient and production to use, especially when compared to glass-based monitor screens.
The computer graphics and speed of LCD monitors are more favorable towards creatives and multimedia enthusiasts. This is because monitors provide high-quality performance at a good, valuable price. (1)
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, which is known for its high picture quality production. LED monitors offer brighter image quality using less power than LCD monitors. This makes them the best energy efficient monitor to use. LED monitors also surpass LCD in terms of appearance, as they come in sleeker designs.
LED monitors do fall in the category of LCD monitors, but the only major difference between them is the fact that they offer accurate LED backlighting.
IPS stands for in-plane switching, which offers more accurate color reproduction than both LCD and LED monitors. This makes it perfect for multimedia and gaming use. The best quality about IPS monitors is that they offer excellent wide-viewing angles, so even if you’re not sitting in close to the screen, it offers impressive visual feedback.
3. Deciding The Correct Screen Size For You
Don’t you prefer using a big screen TV when you have enough space to fit it in? The same logic applies to deciding on a correct monitor screen size for yourself. With an increase in screen size, the price usually goes up, as it does with TVs and laptops.
Here’s what you need to know about choosing the correct screen size.
Buying a 20-inch monitor or below is suitable for multipurpose use. This includes sharing photographs, viewing images, emails, and surfing the internet and social media.
Between 21 to 26-inches
A monitor screen between this range is good for home and work use. Some of you might also like watching movies, shows, and conducting videoconferences with this screen size.
Big size monitors are usually above 27-inches. They’re designed for hardcore gamers, photographers, and other creative artists. The wide viewing angle is also a major plus point for people who love watching movies on a big screen. It offers incredible graphic features and color accuracy. But they are fairly expensive to buy first-hand.
Ultrawide monitors are monitors that are specifically designed for wide screen viewing. They feature a 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio, ideal for serious gamers and movies fanatics. On the best ultrawide monitor, you can multitask on different apps, at the same time. It makes it easier to have multiple apps or documents open on a split-screen for a better immersive experience. The same applies to gaming and viewing offer kinds of software on screen.
4. What About Resolution?
A monitor’s screen resolution is just as important as its size. For those of you who don’t know, resolution refers to the number of pixels a screen has. This includes a simple calculation, that is horizontal x vertical. Buying a monitor based on its resolution alone isn’t right. You need to combine it with other features such as display type, screen, color, and refresh rate to understand why the monitor works for you.
The standard way of looking at a monitor’s resolution is by its aspect ratio. Only when you combine a monitor’s aspect ratio with its display size can you determine your ideal fit. That said, the higher the aspect ratio of a monitor in a given physical display size, the sharper the image quality is. (2)
Here are the common screen resolutions to look forward to.
- Standard screen - 1,920 x 1,080 resolution – 16:9 aspect ratio
- Full HD - 2,560 x 1,440 resolution – 16:9 aspect ratio
- Wide quad HD - 2,560 x 1,600 resolution – 16:10 aspect ratio
- Ultrawide quad HD – 3,440 x 1,440 resolution – 21:9 aspect ratio
- Ultra HD 4K – 3,840 x 2,160 resolution – 16:9 aspect ratio
- 8K Ultra HD – 7,680 x 4,320 resolution – 16:9 aspect ratio
With that out of the way, most high-end monitors are able to offer a full HD resolution or a wide quad HD resolution. This is perfect for animators, photographers, graphic designers, and other creators. It also helps you optimize content based on color accuracy and color reproduction. But an increase in resolution can also mean an increase in cost for a monitor upgrade. So taking all these factors into consider is very important.
Here’s what you need to know about the standard screen resolutions on the market.
HD $ Full HD
High-definition and full high-definition monitors offer plenty of features, including accurate picture quality and speed. All this at a valuable and inexpensive cost. Full HD monitors offer crystal-clear imaging, that is great for everyday viewing, watching movies, photo sharing, and browsing.
Quad HD monitors are next generation to full HD monitors. It offers 4 times the visual clarity and speed performance than previous models. Making it one of the best monitors for professional use. People prefer using quad HD for more demanding applications, including video and photo editing software.
4K Ultra HD
4K ultra HD monitors have the best resolution in the industry. They’re expensive, accurate, and very durable. Those of you who love an immersive gaming experience should opt for a 4K Ultra HD monitor. It also allows plenty of space for multitasking, video editing, and for other multipurpose applications.
5. Is It Connectable?
Naturally, your monitor should be able to connect with other devices such as your laptop to match its capabilities. High-end monitors come with plenty of connection features, that is input/output options, for better accessibility.
This includes HDMI, VGA, DVI, and Mini Display connections. It’s good to have such kind of flexibility when using a new monitor, keeping in mind your current laptop’s graphic supports such display mirroring. (3)
A step further is to be able to connect your monitor to your camera, tablet, or phone.
Even basic computer monitors come with HDMI inputs. An HDMI wire handles both audio and video signals, which is more than plenty for most of you. You can connect it for games, movies, presentations, and music.
It even holds well against Blu-ray players and other similar devices.
DisplayPort is the easiest and most effective choice for high-resolution monitors. It offers faster frame rates and video and audio signals. Compared with HDMI, DisplayPort can handle up to 60 fps (frames per second), offering blazing-fast games and movies compatibility.
DVI ports offer only video signal, quite similar to that of HDMI. The video support on DVI varies based on the resolution strength the monitor carries. The most common DVI compatibility is 1920 x 1080 resolution.
VGA ports is an old, analog type technology. While HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort are all digital connections, VGA is traditional. It is designed to carry high resolutions with faster frame rates, but it doesn’t offer excellent picture quality. At least not as accurate and effective as HDMI or DVI ports.
If your monitor doesn’t offer a USB port, it’s not worth having. With a USB port, you can easily plug in a pen-drive, your phone, or a Blu-ray device for playing music and movies. You can do all this without having to turn on your computer for mirroring. It’s that simple and quick.
6. Knowing The Refresh Rate
The refresh rate is an important factor that only gamers would look forward to. Gaming monitors come with a high refresh rate to match up to the game’s requirements and your expectations. It is one of the most important factors for creating an immersive gaming experience.
Along with refresh rate, another key factor that goes hand-in-hand for gaming monitors is pixel response. Pixel response is the transition from one gray to another gray pixel, which is accurately measured in milliseconds. For example, the best gaming monitor will offer a pixel response from gray to gray, while some brands offer black to white pixel response.
The general consensus is that a lower the pixel response of a gaming monitor, the better it eliminates blurring of fast-moving images. A high pixel response interferes with picture quality, resulting in smeared and inaccurate color reproduction.
According to research, a pixel response of 2 milliseconds (or less) is best relevant for gaming. Anything that goes above 5 milliseconds isn’t adequate for serious gamers. (6)
The refresh rate of a monitor can be measured in Hertz and the time taken per second to redo the entire screen. For example, modern LCD monitors offer a 60Hz refresh rate. So this means that the screen refreshes 60 times in a single second.
The best refresh rate for gaming monitors is 120Hz, that is double of modern LCD monitors. A higher refresh rate reduces motion blur and catches fast-moving objects with accurate color reproduction and clarity. It’s better to look for monitors with a high refresh rate, unless you’re not using it for gaming.
Some have also found that buying a higher refresh rate monitor for watching movies and shows has proven beneficial. Look for a monitor that reduces screen tearing and lagging due to intense and fast-moving graphics. Try also a gaming projector if you have space constraints at home.
Meanwhile, for 3D technology monitors, you won’t find any monitor below 120Hz to match up to the requirements of active 3D viewing.
7. Checking Speaker Quality
Even though buying a new monitor is merely for video purposes, you’re not wrong to look for built-in speakers. This is a fact that not all monitors have speakers for impeccable video and audio performance. But if you invest a little more money on one, you might be able to find a monitor with built-in speakers.
Speakers makes it easier to connect to videochat, watch movies, and play games. It’s a deal well done if you want to hook up all important features on to a single monitor. So when you switch your monitor on for the day, you don’t have to spend even a minute configuring other players or speakers to the monitor.
Built-in speakers streamline the use of a monitor, and some more. So adding it to your checklist when choosing a new monitor is very important.
One more reason to pursue built-in speakers is space. With limited desk space, setting up an external speaker can be difficult. So look for monitors speakers that offer good sound quality as a stand-alone speaker.
The first thing to look for in monitor speakers is power handling. Power handling dictates how much power the speakers can produce for maximum audio signal. Next up is the speaker’s sensitivity to higher volumes per watt of power. The higher the sensitivity of your monitor’s speakers, the more energy-efficient is gets, especially when achieving higher volumes.
The last factor to consider is frequency response. The frequency response of standard speakers is 20Hz to 20KHz. Find a speaker that offers a frequency response between this range. But it’s also good to know that there isn’t a standard frequency response, power handling, or sensitivity for a speaker. It’s important to take into consideration all other features of speaker to make a sound decision.
8. Does It Have A VESA Mount?
Check for any display mounts or a VESA mount when buying a new monitor. VESA mount also goes by another name as Flat Display Mounting Interface. It’s the standard mounting hardware for most electronics, including flat panel monitors and TVs.
There are many variants to a VESA mount. The most common standard is 4 large screw-holes arranged in a square shape. These consists of both horizontal and vertical screw holes that attaches itself to the wall.
If you plan on mounting your monitor to a desk, look for a monitor that’s VESA compliant. This is because mounting a monitor on your desk can involve a set of different screw holes and tools. The same applies to when you want to mount your monitor to the wall.
For VESA mounting, look for the ideal weight and hole pattern of the monitor. And make sure it’s compatible to the VESA pattern and weight of the mount that supports the wall. Any sort of glitch or inaccurate measurement might lead to damages. (7)
9. Checking Picture Quality
After looking at all the features of your monitor, it’s time to do a quick test on its image quality. This is the last thing you need to do before you put down your investment for life. Here are the simple steps you need to take to ensure better image quality and performance.
The best way to determine sharpness in image quality is to look at the edges or corners of the monitor’s screen. This is important because sometimes the image quality at the center of the screen is much different than the corner. A high-quality monitor is sharp at both, that is at the center and the corners of the screen.
Even though you can adjust brightness settings on your monitor, knowing the lowest and highest intensity is important. In electronic stores, the brightness is always set to maximum, but that may not be case when you’re using it at your desk or at home.
The numerical and text sharpness of your monitor plays an important role for professional use. Open any text app on the monitor to make sure you can view a few lines of sentences well, even from a distance. Any kind of purple, red, or green outlines on the monitor screen is a bad sign.
If you are unable to purchase an anti-glare monitor, try viewing your monitor from different angles to make sure it’s not interfering with your activity. Most monitors are susceptible to glare, especially when kept opposite a window or under bright lights. The only way to test out a monitor’s screen against glare is to tilt to at different viewing angles.
Are horizontal lines horizontal? And are vertical lines vertical? Most of you might not notice such a glitch in image quality, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Check the edges of the monitor’s screen for any sort of deviation. This will ensure better screen alignment and straightness.
The basic colors, that are red, green, blue, and yellow, should be pure and discernible on the screen. Any sort of smearing, blurriness, or shadowy effect is a bad sign. Make sure the flesh tones on the screen are crisp, crystal-clear, and bright.
10. Looking For Extra Features
Here are some of the extra features you can look forward to in a monitor.
Modern monitors include a webcam which you can use for videoconferencing or video-chatting. A webcam also comes in handy when you want an external camera attached to your monitor. This is for taking photos and recording high-quality videos.
For gamers, using 3D monitors is more beneficial and advanced. But not all games support 3D viewing, so checking if your games are compatible to such technology is extremely important. High-end monitors offer 3D technology, but at higher costs too. And they require a separate graphic card compatibility to create a truly immersive gaming experience.
An ergonomic monitor has better viewing angles and maneuverability. You can adjust the viewing height and alignment of a monitor so it’s centered exactly at eye-level. This includes swivel adjustment, height adjustment, pivot adjustment, and portrait position functionality.
Buying a touchscreen monitor? It’s important to look for swiping compatibility, sliding ability, and display features. These features will ensure you’re swiping right, are able to handle multiple apps, and you can play games and carry out touch-based tasks easily.
11. Paying A Good Price For Your Monitor
Based on the monitor’s screen size, panel type, and other features can you decide the right price budget for your monitor. If you’ll be paying a higher amount for your monitor, make sure it has high-end features, suitable for professional use and/or for gaming.
If you want more perks like a built-in speaker, webcam, ergonomic control, versatile digital inputs, or an adjustable stand, paying a higher price for it is inevitable. A good upgrade on your monitor will cost you at least $500 to $800 in billings. This also includes FreeSync support or G-Sync support, which is satisfactory for multipurpose use.
The last factor you’d want to take into serious consideration is warranty. Expect to pay a higher amount for a good response in terms of warranty, features, and durability. The price you pay also includes customer service, in case of any replacement or damages.
When choosing a monitor, all these factors play in combination with what you want. Considering any single factor out of the 11 will result in a bad purchase. And finally, lack of important features such as brightness control, ergonomics, or optimal screen size will hinder your viewing experience. Be it for watching movies, streaming music, editing, or browsing.
Taking Care Of Your Monitor
Here’s what you need to do to take care of your brand-new monitor. These simple steps will make sure your monitor lasts for a long time.
- To protect your monitor from electrical spikes, use a surge protector when plugging it in a wall current. Research suggests that manufacturers do not cover electrical spikes as a part of their warranty.
- Monitors generally come with multiple air vents distributed around the edges of the screen. Make sure they are open, at all times, to reduce heat build-up and dust collection inside the monitor. You can even use a compact vacuum to get rid of hair or dust from the ventilation holes.
- If you are going to be using your monitor for a long period of time, consider leaving it on all the time. Constantly turning your monitor on and off might cause power failure and excessive heating.
- Use a dry cloth to clean the monitor’s screen, on a regular basis. This will reduce the amount of fingerprints, scratches, and smudges on the screen. LCD and glass-based monitors come with protective coating to reduce chemical damage caused by general household cleaners. So using water or a lint-free cloth for general cleaning is ideal. (8)
Price of modern monitors is dropping exponentially over the years. This is because more and more people are opting for feature-packed and durable monitors for their everyday tasks.
It’s safe to say that I’ve covered all these significant factors in this guide, and much more. You no longer have to rely on what the brand is selling to make a wise purchasing decision. With these factors in mind, you can ask around to find the best monitor for you.
You need a monitor for daily work because a TV is incapable of such functionality. What I mean to say is that it’s just as easy to connect your laptop to a TV as it is to a monitor. But the major difference between the two is that you can only view a TV from a distance. A monitor can be placed much closer to the eyes for work.
A smart monitor comes with anti-glare and safety standards to ensure you don’t ruin your eyes in the process. And its high-resolution, excellent refresh rates, and quick response time makes it the best available electronic for gaming, viewing, and professional use.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.