After an exhausting night working on the Top iPhone Headphones, I said to myself: “I should get some well deserved R&R, and what better way to do this than to make a buying guide”. And something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now is a PC Monitor Buying Guide. This way I could satisfy my love of writing about PC’s (yes, I’m a PC person, I hate tablets and laptops) and also get some work done.
Now, to get down to business. What are the important aspects when browsing for a new monitor. I’ll try to explain what all of the technical gibberish means and what to look for and what to avoid when buying a new monitor. As with all buying guides, I’ll start with the 3 most important aspects:
- what will you use your monitor for?
- what features will you need on your monitor?
- what is your budget?
How to Buy a PC Monitor
The things you must know when buying a monitor are not as many as with other components, but just as important. Monitors are simpler than other electronics. They have a limited number of specs. Monitors come in a variety of sizes and two shapes:
- Widescreen – which is the standard nowadays
- Square – they are not so used now, so I won’t bother talking about them
- CRT - or Cathode Ray Tube, are the old fashioned monitors. These are no longer produced and they offer no advantages over modern day monitors
- LCD/TFT – LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) monitors still have a great number of users worldwide. Although they are much better than CRT monitors, consume less power and have better overall picture quality, they are slowly but surely replaced by LED displays.
- LED/OLED/AMOLED – (Light Emitting Diode) at this moment, these are the best monitors available They consume even less power than LCD displays and offer better picture quality.
This is the distance between two opposite corners of the monitor. They are preset to standard lengths, such as:
- 32” and so on.
The diagonal is the actual size of the visible screen, the bigger the diagonal, the bigger the monitor. These are all widescreen displays, and I will be talking about these because they are the ones that are produced now. Square displays are almost gone. I think a 32 inch monitor would be too much for your needs, so my guess is you should go with a 27 inch one.
2. Resolution and Aspect Ratio
These are tightly bound together. The aspect ratio of the screen is determined by the length and height of the screen, these are 16:9 and more recently, 16:10. The resolution is the number of pixels on the screen. It is determined, like the aspect ratio, by the height and length of the screen. From here you can see that Aspect ratio and screen resolution are tightly bound. The common resolutions for widescreen displays are:
- 1024 x 576
- 1152 x 648
- 1280 x 720
- 1366 x 780
- 1600 x 900
- 1920 x 1080
- 2560 x 1440
- 3840 x 2160
3. Response time
The time between the moment a signal is received by the monitor and the time it is shown on the screen. Typical for modern day screens have a response time of 5ms – 2ms. As you might of guessed, the quicker the better. Although, apart for avid gamers, the difference between the two is hardly noticeable.
4. Viewing Angle
A very important aspect to look for. LCD displays have always suffered because of tight viewing angles, compared to CRT displays which had up to 180 degrees. Although you might find some that offer that viewing angle, most are around 160 – 170 degrees. Also, the bigger the angle, the better, as you can see the image from more points of the room.
This problem is slightly addressed in LED displays, but still, most of them are under 180 degrees. Keep in mind if the surface of the display is glossy, no matter what the viewing angle says it is, you will see shadows and light reflected off the screen in more wider angles, so try to stay clear of glossy screen. They do offer better contrast, but I think the cost to the visibility is too high.
Measured in cd/sq m (candela/square meter) or lux (1 cd/sq m = 1 lux). This is the amount of light generated by the monitor. This figure usually is more than 250 cd/sq m, anything lower and you will have problems viewing the display.
6. Refresh Rate
An important aspect of screens. This is the number of times the screen is refreshed in a second, or, the number of times the image is replaced by a new one in a second. It is measured in Hz, and a typical number is no less then 60Hz. If you want to view 3D images or movies on your monitor, then you will need a higher refresh rate (no less then 120Hz). High end monitors and TVs now have up to 600Hz refresh rate.
The interface is the type of connector you need to connect your monitor to a video source (usually your computer’s video card). There are a number of connectors available, and most monitors offer more than one. They are:
- VGA (old and lower picture quality)
- DVI (offers a better image quality)
- HDMI (the best quality image possible)
- DisplayPort (the newest connector available that transmits a high quality digital image, but no noticeable difference over HDMI).
Most monitors offer 2 or more of these connections types. You might be better off looking for one that has DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort, the most used interfaces nowadays.
After knowing all of the different specs of a monitor are, now it’s time to move on to what will you need your monitor for. I would normally recommend a no less than 21” 1920×1080 display. They offer a great image and a nice size, not too small that you will have trouble viewing and not too large that it will exhaust you looking at it.
Additional PC Monitor Features
Normally, for multimedia (gaming and movies), the bigger the monitor the better, or look towards multiple-monitor arrays, but for office work (except design and image or video manipulation, where you need big displays) you won’t need a big screen, so a 21” screen would be great. But that is entirely up to you how big the display should be. Monitors do not have lots of features, unlike other electronics. But they still offer some additional features that could prove worthy.
Although they won’t offer crisp high quality sound, they are still good for an office environment or small workspaces.
Some monitors offer you the possibility to have a USB hub integrated. And if you are like me, then you always need an extra USB port.
A very nice addition to any monitor. This could save you from buying a separate WEBCam and, of course, desk space and the hustle of setting it up. Even if you don’t usually use it, it’s a good thing to have it around, you never know when you might need it.
Monitors nowadays don’t use that much power as older ones, but still if you find one that offers power management options and if you are interested in saving a few dollars on the electrical bill (the same goes for reducing PC power consumption), then you might consider them.
What is Your PC Monitor Budget?
The budget is probably the most important aspect of all. But, it’s tightly bound with the two above. If you need a gaming monitor, or if you are a CAD designer and need a big screen for high resolution designs, then you will need a big monitor, usually no less than 23”. These monitors come in the price range of $200-$400 depending of the features, manufacturer and type of the monitor (now LEDs are slightly higher in price than LCD screens). Of course, if you have enough money, you could always go for an all-in-one computer.
But on the other hand, if you use your computer for sending emails and browsing the web, then a 21” monitor is more than enough. These are around $150 – $250. Of course, monitors can go up to $1000+ and beyound, it all depends on what features they have and what manufacturers produce them. The budget is up to you to calculate, first of all figure out what you need your monitor for, then what features you want it to have, then look at what monitors are available in your price range.