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Guide to choosing a monitor
The most popular monitors are LCD ie liquid crystal flat screens. At the same time that LCD screens took over the television market, they became a standard in the world of computer monitors as well, quickly supplanting the old CRTs (large and bulky cathode ray tube monitors). In the six following chapters, we will illustrate the characteristics that a good modern computer monitor must-have, so as to avoid making mistakes when buying.
Characteristics of a monitor
LCD monitors also require less power, emit far less radiation than CRT monitors, and the technology allows for clearer images, higher resolutions, and a flicker-free display that’s good for eye health. While all monitors look the same, there are some important features to keep in mind before purchasing.
The screen size is measured in inches, in the diagonal distance from the lower-left corner to the upper right corner of the screen. Available sizes range from 15 to 30 inches (although super displays over 40 inches are available) but generally, the most common sizes for a desktop monitor is between 22 and 27 inches.
It is not wrong to focus on a large monitor but larger dimensions require more space on the desk and the cost goes up considerably. Using the computer on a large screen is especially useful for those who work with graphics programs and those who have to keep multiple windows open in parallel, not to mention that we will still have to adapt icons and fonts to be able to see something with higher resolutions, as seen in the guide Enlarge PC Screen: All Ways.
With the disappearance of CRT monitors, the most widespread aspect ratio is certainly 16: 9, identical to that visible even on modern TVs. Whatever the activity to be performed (work, fun, games) the standard is now 16: 9 therefore programs are also better exploited.
New types of aspect ratios such as 21: 9 (Ultra Wide) or even 32: 9 are starting to spread on some elite monitors, which widen the horizontal space enormously while keeping the vertical space intact: they are ideal for 4K games and for those who work a lot with charts, tables, and spreadsheets.
To this end, we invite you to read our guide 21: 9 wide monitors (ultra widescreen): which ones to buy.
Resolution is the number of pixels displayed horizontally and vertically. Higher resolutions mean sharper images, greater clarity, and more desktop space for icons and programs; on the other hand, at higher and higher resolutions the text becomes much smaller and more difficult to read (even with glasses!).
So, before thinking about the association “more pixels = more quality”, it is worth thinking about how you use your computer, if you use it to work with text documents or if it is mainly used for watching videos and images. The minimum resolution for all modern desktop monitors is Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), but monitors with 4K Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) are increasingly popular in order to obtain double the detail and resolution.
For further explanations, we can read our guide to the Meaning of screen resolution for TVs and monitors and for photos.
A monitor must be connected to a computer and possibly other devices, so it is important to know the number of ports that can be used.
For a standard monitor, we need to check that they are present at least one HDMI port and one DVI port, both well supported by integrated video cards and dedicated video cards. If we play video games we will have to focus on a monitor with a DisplayPort port, now increasingly widespread and used in the gaming field to bring the new adaptive synchronizations in real-time.
In another article, we made a complete guide on computer cables, ports, and connectors.
Other parameters for choosing a monitor
What we have shown you above are the basic parameters to check before choosing any new monitor: if those features are present we are already well underway! If we want to deepen the discussion and find out which monitor is really suitable for us we will also have to consider the following additional features:
- Contrast ratio: It describes the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black that the LCD monitor can display. Higher contrast ratios, show more defined whites and blacks, thus improving the color rendition of the monitor in any scenario. 1,000: 1. We can also not use this parameter to choose between two monitors since dynamic contrast is often used (via software) to obtain a better contrast in an artificial way.
- Brightness: LCD monitors have a large rear panel that provides all the necessary light for the pixels; in the most recent models the backlight panel is made up of LEDs, which consume much less and allow to obtain a good result in terms of brightness. Brightness is measured in candelas per square meter (cd / m2); a value of at least 300 cd / m2, i.e. higher brightness, and is ideal for watching movies or playing games on your computer. For office work and internet browsing, a ratio of 200 – 250 cd / m2 is just fine.
- Viewing angle: For the viewing angle of the image, LCD technology has taken a significant step back from cathode ray tubes, because the farther we are from the center, the more the colors fade and the image becomes much more charged with white. This parameter is relative because if we use the monitor only with the PC, we will always look at it from the front and never from the side (which can happen with a TV). Regarding this topic, we can mention the difference between TN and IPS monitors; TN technology is the most widespread and cheapest of TFT screens and is characterized by a low viewing angle and a low contrast ratio. On the viewing angle, we can also read the guide Better a curved monitor or one with a flat-screen?
- Integrated audio: thanks to the HDMI and DisplayPort ports, the PC audio can be brought on a single cable together with the video, so many monitors have integrated audio speakers. Our advice is never to rely on it too much: the speakers built into the monitors are really small and rarely sound so good that they can replace a small 2.1 sound system (practically never!). So if space is limited we can consider a monitor with integrated audio, otherwise, it is always better to focus on separate speakers.
- Adaptive synchronization: some modern monitors, especially those designed for gaming, have a special chip capable of synchronizing the refresh rate of the displayed images in a completely automatic way, without having to change any parameter in the game or in the program that uses it. These technologies are known as NVIDIA G-Sync is AMD FreeSync and must also be supported by the video card to function properly. If we want to learn more, we invite you to read our guide Meaning Video game graphics and video card settings.
Which Monitor to buy
After seeing some of the features to take into consideration when buying a new monitor, let’s see together some models that can fit in some of the most frequent scenarios; we will therefore see an inexpensive monitor, a monitor to work, and a gaming monitor.
The cheapest and simplest model on which we can focus HP 22w, available on Amazon for less than € 100.
On this monitor, we find a 22-inch Full HD IPS panel, 60 Hz refresh rate, Micro-Edge backlight, anti-glare system, 5 ms response time, on-screen controls, HDMI, and VGA ports.
If, on the other hand, we are looking for a good monitor for an office or to work on very large programs (such as Excel or Photoshop) we advise you to focus on Samsung U28E570D, available on Amazon for less than € 300.
On this Samsung, we find a TN panel with UltraHD 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels), 1 ms response time, 16: 9 aspect ratio, 60 Hz frequency, LED backlight, AMD FreeSync synchronization system, 2 HDMI ports, and one Display Port.
If, on the other hand, we are looking for something specific for a gaming PC, we advise you to focus on the MSI Optix MAG272CQR, available on Amazon for less than 450 €.
On this advanced monitor, we find a 27-inch 16: 9 panel with WQHD resolution (2560 x 1440), refresh rate up to 165Hz, HDR Ready, 1ms response time, Type-C port, 1500R Curvature, Mystic Light RGB system, Gaming OSD interface, VESA 100×100 connection, and AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync adaptive synchronization system.
When we go to buy a new computer monitor we must first consider the size, aspect ratio, and resolution. In the next step, you can compare all the models available in the shop to check the other features and, above all, look at the contrast ratio, brightness, and available ports. Finally, we clearly look at the price and, for normal use of the computer (if we do not work with advanced graphics and video programs) we must not exceed 300 Euros for a high-level screen; for a gaming PC instead, we must not exceed € 500 for the monitor.
To find other monitors to buy we can also read Best PC monitors to buy, LED, between 100 and 200 Euros.