You probably spend more time in front of a computer monitor than you think, and finding the right kind that best suits your needs can have a large impact on your computing experience. Whether you’re using your computer for web browsing and email, or graphic design and gaming, there are subsets of monitors for every need. This guide will explain the different features and key specs you’ll need to know when looking for your next monitor.
Just like TV’s, computer monitors have a variety of different display types with their own strengths and weaknesses, and picking your display type is an important decision when looking at monitors.
LCD (liquid-crystal display)
LCD type displays are the cheapest and simplest type of computer monitor. They commonly come in smaller sizes and are a good choice for general home use like web browsing, word processing, and email.
LED (light-emitting diode)
LED type displays offer an excellent picture quality and brightness when compared to LCD while using less power and being much thinner and lighter. Most of today’s TV’s also use LED technology to offer a similar quality and experience you can expect from an LED computer monitor.
IPS (in-plane switching)
IPS Monitors offer superior picture quality when compared even to LED displays, with deeper blacks and more accurate colors. This makes them the display type of choice for photo editing, graphics work, and gaming. They also have enhanced viewing angles which ensures the image quality is retained even at extreme angles.
Just like TV’s, computer monitors are measured diagonally in inches. Also like TV’s, most monitors come in a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, so consider how much space you have available with how much you want to spend when considering screen size.
20” and under:
Smaller sized and price monitors that offer a good experience for viewing email, using office documents, and web browsing. Also ideal for fitting a screen into areas that have more space limitations.
The ideal screen size range for general home and office use. Monitors of this size are large enough to offer a better experience for watching movies, playing games, and viewing multi-page documents
27” and up:
Larger monitors that offer more screen space for multitasking, professional work, and enthusiast-level gaming. Monitors of this size fill more of your field of view, offering a more immersive experience.
Coming in a 21:9 aspect ratio, ultrawide monitors offer a superior experience for work and play. Allowing multiple full page documents and spreadsheets to be shown simultaneously allow for unappalled productivity, while offering an incredibly immersive experience for watching films with no letterboxing or gaming that feels like it wraps around you.
HD (1366x768) and HD+ (1600x900)
HD and HD+ resolution monitors are commonly available in monitors ranging from the 15”-20” range and provide a good picture at an affordable price.
Full HD (1920x1080)
Full High Definition monitors offer a resolution equivalent to 1080p HDTV’s. A very common screen resolution that most people are already familiar with.
Quad HD (2560x1440)
Also known as QHD and 1440p, these types
of monitors offer quality higher than most
HDTVs. Commonly the monitor of choice for enthusiast gamers, graphic designers, and photo and video editors.
Ultrawide (2560x1080) and (3440x1440)
Due to their 21:9 aspect ratio, Ultrawide monitors do not have standard resolutions like the more common 16:9 widescreen monitors. But, as evident by the two ultrawide resolutions, they come in 1080p and 1440p equivalents.
4k Ultra HD (3840x2160)
Currently, the highest resolution monitors currently available. Offering 4 times as many pixels as 1080p, 4K delivers the highest quality experience of all monitor resolutions and is the ultimate goal for any professional or enthusiast.
4k is not without its caveats though. Featuring 4 times as many pixels as 1080p, possessing high-end hardware with an exceptional amount of graphics horsepower is a requirement for gaming at 4K, and many old computers may not even be able to run anything at 4K.
See our article on Upgrading Your Computer.
Monitor displays usually come in one of two finishes, each with their own pros and cons. The first is the Glossy finish, which offers better picture quality while being extremely susceptible to glare and reflections. The second display finish is matte, which may not look as nice as glossy, but is much less affected by glare and has no reflection.
Consider your needs and where your monitor will physically be when considering what type of display finish to go with.
An important consideration if you’re going to be using your monitor in a brightly lit room. Measured as cd/m2 (candelas per meter squared), but often referred to as nits, 250nits or cd/m2 is a common monitor brightness. If your monitor will be in a brightly lit or sun-filled room, consider looking for a monitor with a brightness level of 350 or higher.
Refresh Rate is the measure of how many times your computer refreshes the image onscreen. Most monitors are limited to a 60Hz refresh rate, which means the image is refreshed 60 times per second. Faster refresh rates reduce motion blur, so the higher the refresh rate the smoother motion on your picture will be. Many Gamers consider 60Hz the bare minimum, and enthusiast gamers look for monitors with refresh rates of up to 144Hz.
Measured in milliseconds, response time refers to how long it takes a pixel to change its color. Exceptionally fast response times of 2ms or less reduce an effect known as ghosting, which can add to motion blur. Response times of 2ms or less are the choice for gamers, though 5ms is more common, and is perfectly fine for home and office use, as well as web browsing or video watching.