There are numerous features and specifications about a simple piece of hardware like a computer monitor that you need to know if you are planning to purchase a new monitor.
Some of these are screen size, resolution, panel type etc. Different monitors have a different combination of specification parameters making them suitable to certain kind of use cases only.
For example some monitors are good for daily home and office use, whereas others are designed for fast graphics games or high color accuracy.
If you need to buy a monitor for a very specific professional task, then its important to properly examine the specifications and choose the one that performs the best in the given budget.
Here are some of the important things to consider when buying a new monitor
- Screen Size - 21.5", 23.8", 27"
- Resolution - 1920x1080 / 2560x1440 / 3840x2160
- Panel Type - IPS, VA, TN
- Refresh Rate & Adaptive Sync
- Response Times
- Video Connector Ports - HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, DVI
- Color Quality & Brightness
- Ergonomics & Comfort - Title Adjustment, Height Adjustment, Vertical Rotation
1. Screen Size
Screen size is the first thing to look for. The most common minimum size is 21.5" which mostly comes in the resolution of 1920x1080.
This monitor size is suitable for most home and office users and is compatible with all kinds of general applications like web browsers, graphics designing applications, games and media players.
Popular screen sizes include:
Larger sizes between 24" to 31.5" are for gamers who want a more immersive visual experience. For those who are setting up a media PC for home theatre may go upto 40" display sizes but it would be expensive and require more space to setup.
The biggest benefit of a larger display is to your productivity, simply having more space on the screen to keep tabs and applications for work and research side-by-side. This is especially helpful for video editors, architects, digital content creators, and even Microsoft Excel specialists, who all want more space to access different elements on-screen.
While these benefits are also attainable with a multi-monitor set-up, this is a more expensive, time-consuming, and space-hungry solution that is not as effective. The bezels in between reduce the set-up’s cleanliness, and having 2 separate displays makes extended mouse movements necessary to move from one to the other.
For those looking to do light work and casual browsing on their system, there is no need to go above a 21.7” or 24” sized monitor. Professionals and binge-watchers, however, will feel a massive difference after an upgrade to a larger monitor with more digital space to work and relax with.
Ultrawide and SuperWide
When deciding on the screen size you also have to option to choose larger sizes that come in a wider aspect ratio. The standard monitor sizes have an aspect ratio of 16:9 whereas the ultra wides are 21:9 and super wides are 32:9
Ultrawide monitors are useful, if you need to keep multiple applications visible side by side without having to switch between them from the task bar. It is more of a professional requirement and is used by graphics designers, 3d cad designers and animators. The 32:9 size is even wider and is similarly used by professionals.
More information about ultrawide sizes can be found here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultrawide_formats
Monitors are also available in curved variants with screens that are curved horizontally. The curvature is measured in numbers like 1800R or 3000R. Higher numbers represent greater curvature.
Most curved monitors are made using VA panels and they are more popular amongst gamers who want a more engaging 3D graphics experience.
Resolution counts the number of pixels present on the screen horizontally and vertically. For example 1920x1080, 2560x1440 etc.
It is important to note that monitors may be available in same physical size but different resolutions. For example there are 23.8" monitors available in 1920x1080 as well as 3840x2160 resolutions. A higher resolution at the same size means a higher pixel density.
Monitors with higher pixel density have a much more sharper and clearer display.
1280x720 pixel, or 720p HD resolution was once the standard, but graphics and visuals have evolved so much that this resolution is now subpar.
1920x1080 pixel resolution—also known as 1080p or Full HD resolution has become the new standard for any modern monitor no matter what you use it for.
The most common resolutions are:
- 1920x1080 - Full HD
- 2560x1440 - 2K
- 3840x2160 - 4K
An important thing to bear in mind is that higher resolutions need more pixel data and hence more graphics processing power. So if you plan to do graphics intensive work on a high resolution display you would need an equally capable graphics card or else your system will fall back to lower FPS or frame rates.
For higher-end PC builds, options of 2560x1440 pixel (Quad HD 1440p) and 3840x2160 pixel (4K) displays are available, creating a sharp image on-screen. Professional users like digital artists and video editors, would often use such displays.
3. Monitor Panel Type: TN, IPS or VA
There are 3 common panel types in various monitors on the market, but if you know exactly what your PC system will be used for, this can be very easy to decide on.
However, as technology is progressing, IPS is becoming the default and most widely used display type across all users, and is replacing both TN and VA panels.
The most economical type is twisted nematic (TN), that cuts down output delay and input lag. This makes it a perfect fit for users who want an edge in-game. However, TN panels have poor color accuracy and poor viewing angles.
If you are looking for a cheap high refresh monitor like 120Hz or 144Hz then TN panel monitor can be a worthwhile investment because of their low prices.
However besides that, they are pretty much inferior to the IPS panels, in all ways.
In-plane switching (IPS) panels are the most expensive panel type among the three, but creating the best possible colors and viewing angles by far.
When compared to TN panels, IPS panels had lower refresh rates and slower response times in earlier times. However they have made significant improvement in recent years and now there are high refresh rate ips monitors available. Though they may be slightly more expensive than the TN panels.
Some higher-end options on the market are capable of combining the visual fidelity of an IPS monitor with the reduced delays of a TN but at a very steep price targeted towards a specific set of users.
Unless you have a maxed-out PC set-up to make the most out of such a monitor for both intense gaming and specialized work, VA monitors are for you.
Last but not least is Vertical Alignment (VA) technology, whose pricing is in between IPS and TN, but still allows for accurate color display and attractive contrast. Some monitors on the market dub themselves as Super VA monitors and these improve viewing monitor angles significantly - but not to the level of IPS.
VA panels have the best contrast ratio in their displays compared to TN and IPS. More-over VA panel is the most commonly used panel type in curved displays.
So if you looking to buy a curved display for high speed gaming then you might have to go for a VA panel
Here is a color chart that shows the difference in the color display of a TN, VA and IPS display:
4. Refresh Rate and Adaptive-Sync
The refresh rate determines how many times the monitor updates the display every second, and is measured in hertz (Hz). Higher refresh rates mean a smooth and lag free display of fast moving objects with low output delay.
Standard PC monitors come at 60Hz / 75 Hz which is compatible with the typical 60FPS frame rate of most video games and streaming online videos. Matching frame and refresh rates is necessary to avoid screen tearing and blurring even in fast-moving scenes on-screen.
Normal home and office users don't need more than 60/75 Hz for regular work. Those who would opt for higher refresh rates like 120Hz, 144Hz, and even 240Hz are competitive gamers and animators.
Apart from monitor type, refresh rate contributes to lowering on-screen lags and delays, and this is particularly attractive to gamers who play twitchy shooters or MOBAs.
It is also important to note that even if a desktop system can handle above 60FPS, the monitor’s refresh rate is a limiting factor, and visual smoothness will not go beyond what the monitor is capable of displaying. So if you want higher refresh rates, then make sure that both your graphics card and the monitor are capable of producing it.
This is why AMD and NVIDIA have developed FreeSync and G-Sync respectively, to address potential mismatch between on-screen frame rates and refresh rates. Both these technologies are implemented inside the monitor. They enable the monitor to adjust its refresh rates dynamically depending on the frame rate available from the graphics card. This eliminates problems like tearing and stuttering.
Most monitors will come with either one, but FreeSync is more suited for general use, and G-Sync is better for gaming. If your GPU is of either brand, it’d be better to go ahead and pick up the same branded adaptive sync.
To learn more about Freesync and Gsync check out our previous post here:AMD FreeSync vs Nvidia G-Sync vs VSYNC - How they Work and what are the differences
5. Response Times
An average monitor will have a response time of 10-16ms, which indicates how much time it takes for individual pixels to change from a certain color to another.
When displaying fast moving objects on the screen there are problems like ghosting which occur due to slower/higher response times.
Higher quality monitors improve the response time to lower values like 5ms and 1ms which means that the pixels can change their colors much faster. This eliminates problems like ghosting or blurring.
For regular users who are doing regular work like web browsing or document editing, a response time of 16ms or lower is just fine.
However for dedicated gamers who need the best visual clarity in competitive games and esports, the response times needs to be 5ms or lower. In some cases the response times need to be as low as possible.
6. Input Connector Ports
All users have different motherboards and graphics cards installed in their systems, with different video connector options.
Older motherboards used to have only VGA ports whereas newer ones have HDMI and DisplayPort.
If you are looking to buy a new monitor, then make sure that your motherboard or graphics card is capable of connecting with the interface used by the monitor. Otherwise you might need to buy a convertor adapter.
There are 4 common types of video connectors seen in monitors:
1. VGA (Video Graphics Array, a.k.a D-Sub)
VGA is an outdated connector used on some older monitors. It is an analog interface port found on few modern monitors, for the sake of compatibility with older motheboards.
VGA does not support audio, and has limited refresh rate and screen resolution.
In case your PC has a motherboard that only has VGA port and no hdmi or displayport, you should consider looking for a monitor which has VGA port. Most modern monitors that have a vga port will also have an additional hdmi or displayport as well.
2. DVI (Digital Video Interface)
DVI is a decent connector for low to middle-end displays, as it is capable of producing a stable 1080p display with a 60Hz refresh rate at a respectable 8 gigabits/second bandwidth.
However, there is some extra hassle that comes with setting up DVI, as this connection type also does not support audio.
DVI is not that popular and is slowly being phased out in favor of HDMI and displayport.
3. HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
What has become the standard connector for most monitors is HDMI. It is capable of transmitting both audio and video, and is far easier to plugin and set up than its predecessors, due to it’s compatibility to various devices.
While older HDMI generations had capabilities similar to that of DVI, the latest HDMI 2.0 offerings can support 2K resolution at 120Hz, which encompasses many of the modern monitors.
These ports have a robust bandwidth of 18 gigabits/second.
Although, any generation HDMI should do fine for casual and general PC use.
DisplayPort is currently the most optimized standard connection port for modern monitors. It carries the same audio/video convenience as HDMI but can allow for the top of the line display output.
The DisplayPort 1.3 and 1.4 ports are the go-to for premium 4K/8K resolution and 144Hz refresh rate monitors, with their 25 gigabit/second bandwidth.
7. Color Accuracy, Contrast and Brightness
Color, Contrast and Brightness are rather technical terms that most regular users do not need to pay much attention to when buying a monitor since most monitors have decent values with regards to these parameters.
Moreover these are difficult to explain completely in a single article, so we shall just take a brief look at what each of them means.
1. Color Gamut
This indicates the total number of colors the monitor is capable of producing distinctly. It is measured in units like sRGB 99% and 72% NTSC. Basically the higher the color gamut, the more colors the display is capable of producing with accuracy.
In general most users need not worry about the color gamut. On users who do professional graphics work like image editing and processing where the color accuracy is a critical factor for proper results, are the ones who should look for monitors with higher color gamuts.
Contrast is a measure of how different one color looks from another. If the contrast is low, the fine differences will be difficult to spot and the image might look blurry even when it is not.
Usually contrast is measured in ratio like 1000:1 or 3000:1. VA panel monitors have the highest contrast at around 3000:1.
Higher contrast means that darker areas will appear more dark and lighter areas will appear more light giving a sharper image.
It is measured in nits like 250 cd/m2 or 300 nits and simply indicates how much bright the monitor can get. If you plan to use the monitor in a bright environment where too much light is directly falling on the screen, then the monitor needs to be bright enough to be visible.
If you need a monitor with higher brightness levels look for one with 500 nits or cd/m2 brightness.
8. Ergonomics and Comfort
Most users nowadays will use their desktop systems for at least a few hours daily, in addition to the screen time they might have already spent on a smartphone or television. This makes it important to pick a monitor that you will be comfortable to use for possibly even the whole day.
Ergonomics will refer to the range of possible physical adjustments that can be made on the monitor. Whether it be tilting the display a few degrees forward or backward, swiveling it to the left or right, or even height adjustments of a few inches, these can make a great difference in ensuring you consistently maintain healthy posture and comfortable user experience.
There is also possible on-screen customization in some monitors that allow users to adjust the display. This can be for anti-glare output, different viewing modes suited to various tasks, or even harmful blue-light reduction. You should keep an eye out for any of these features that you may need.
Various Use Cases
Not all users will need a monitor that has the highest specifications in all categories. What you will need is the right combination of features that work just right for your usage.
There are, however, key factors that every buyer should take note of regardless of their purpose or usage.
The available input connector ports should first be compatible with your system. Users who are on their system for at least 4-6 hours a day should ensure proper ergonomics on their monitor.
In addition, there is no real reason to buy monitors under 21.5”, as smaller display sizes highly limit both productivity and viewer enjoyment when it comes to video streaming or light gaming. Full HD 1920x1080 pixel resolution is the minimum for the same reason.
1. Home & Office Users
For home and office users, an average-sized monitor of 21.7” or 24” will do just fine, as the size is good enough for basic activities such as word processing, and even for video streaming. These users don’t have to be concerned about refresh rates, response times, or even panel type.
Users looking to seriously game on their monitor should get at least a 24” to better appreciate in-game visuals and must consider getting a TN panel for higher refresh rates of at least 120Hz, and faster response times of below 5ms.
3. Graphics creators
Professional creatives such as artists or photo and video editors do not need speed on their display, but only accuracy and size. If you are one, you should look to get at least a 24” IPS panel type monitor, high RGB color accuracy, and possibly even a 2560x1440 pixel resolution monitor for a more crisp picture.
4. 3D Modelling
3D modelers should get at least a 27” monitor to accommodate larger on-screen designs that they have to make. At the same time, a higher 2560x1440 pixel resolution would allow these professionals to study project details more carefully. Size is so important for these users that it isn’t rare to see them use multi-monitor setups to fit more on their digital workspace.
Now that we have talked about the basic features of a monitor, lets take a look at some of the popular brands. The top brands include:
Dell monitors are more geared towards home and business users. The monitors have IPS display with good color accuracy and high resolutions. The monitors also have features like height and tilt adjustment. Dell does not make a lot of high refresh rate monitors for the gaming segment.
IPS panels are used in many of their products, ensuring better than decent picture quality and viewing angles, while keeping response times at around 5ms for users who want to do light gaming on the side. Their plentiful selection of products with respectable ergonomics and anti-flicker panels makes them a good choice for home and office use.
Sponsoring various esports organizations and competitions year after year, AOC has made a name for themselves making only the best gaming monitors.
Many of their available monitors aim to push response times down to 1ms, with refresh rates of 144Hz to allow for snappy on-screen output. This is impressive considering their use of IPS and VA panels, which means picture quality is not traded off for speed.
As a world-renowned TV manufacturer comfortable with designing premium displays, Samsung does not disappoint in making monitors that are very easy on the eyes when it comes to viewing shows and movies.
They have a wide array of eye-catching 3000R curved monitors, with high resolutions of 2K QHD or even 4K UHD. While cinema quality media viewing is their specialty, they also have a respectable set of rapid gaming monitors and a secondary Samsung Business brand for office or home monitors.
Asus monitors are more premium compared to the many other brands, but they are very high value for money displays. Many of their displays are ready to take on all sorts of tasks.
Their displays often come with good ergonomics and output adjustability for more comfort while working, but also high refresh rate and low response times suitable for competitive gamers.
For those who want to really get into heavy gaming, Asus’ flashy Republic of Gamers' monitor selection is highly premium and carries some of the fastest displays on the market if you have a powerful gaming rig to support one.
The brand is better known for its office products like printers and laptops, but HP also has a good selection of reliable monitors that are ideal for home and office users. Much like Dell, HP also makes high quality monitors suited for home and office users.
They do not have much to offer to gamers in their monitor range.
HP monitors are reasonably priced but have all the basics for a good monitor, such as decent ergonomics and 1920x1080 pixel FHD resolution. A typical HP monitor, however, is really not suitable for anything more than light gaming or casual content creation, as they have average response times, refresh rates and luminosity capabilities.
This company has a slim selection of gaming monitors, but their premium monitors for media viewing do rival some of the highest picture quality displays on the market.
If you are home or office user or a student who needs a monitor for regular work, then you just need to check the size and price. A 21.5" or 23.8" monitor in the budget price segment should suffice for all such needs. The monitors come with a standard resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and refresh rate of 60-75Hz which is just fine for more users.
If you are a professional who is into graphics work like image editing, or video editing or 3d modelling then you need a monitor with high end specifications. Higher resolution and better color accuracy are the key features to consider. Consider a 2K or 4K monitor with IPS display with higher brightness like in the 500 nits range.
For users doing 3d modelling, they may consider a large sized monitor in the 31" or higher range which could be widescreen or ultrawidescreen depending on what form factor makes you feel most comfortable with the applications you are working with.
And finally if you are a gamer then get a large sized display with high refresh rate and faster response times for the best experience in fast moving fps games.
If you have an feedback or questions let us know in the comments below.