Buying a PC monitor may seem like a simple purchase, but there’s actually a lot to consider. What do you want to use it for? Why does refresh rate matter? Do you want an ultrawide? Is color accuracy an important factor? These (and more) are all things to consider when shopping for a new display.
If the monitor buying process suddenly seems a lot more daunting, don’t worry. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to shop for a computer monitor, so you’ll be able to pin down your exact needs.
The panel your monitor uses will determine how the image comes across. Most monitors use LCD panels nowadays, but there areof LCDs out there.
- TN: This is an older standard but it’s still kicking around because of its low cost. TN (Twisted Nematic) displays are affordable and have extremely low response times. On the downside, color reproduction is poor and viewing angles (how a monitor looks when you’re not looking at it straight on) are also subpar. This leads to an underwhelming image. Affordable as they are, TN monitors are a rare sight and probably won’t be worth the effort it takes to hunt one down.
- IPS: When it comes to modern monitors, IPS (In-Plane Switching) tends to be the favored panel among most users. While it’s generally the most expensive, it makes up for that with a high pixel density—meaning much more accurate color and better viewing angles. This leads to a higher response time, but that’s a fairly minute difference and the better image quality definitely makes up for it.
- VA: Then we have VA (Vertically Aligned), which serves as a middle ground between TN and IPS. The color accuracy and viewing angles are better than TN but not as good as IPS, with response times that also strike in between the two. The price tends to reflect this in-between state as well. The notable thing about VAs is that their color contrast is superior to other LCD panels. Because of this, VA displays are still a good option in certain situations but can’t compete with IPS as a general option.
The refresh rate is how many times a second your monitor updates with new images—this is measured in “Hertz” (Hz). In practical use, this affects how smooth movement looks on your screen, whether that’s a video or scrolling through a web page. The refresh rate also represents the maximum frame rate—a measure used to represent how many images per second are used in a video or game—a monitor can display.
For example, 60 Hz represents 60 frames per second (FPS) while 144 Hz represents 144 FPS. Most monitors you find will at least support 60 Hz, which frankly is all you need for most things. Movies and TV shows rarely exceed 30 FPS, most online content is produced with either 30 or 60 FPS in mind.
Higher refresh rates mainly matter if you’re working in video or playing games, as being able to view high frame rates are extremely important in both activities. If you’re not doing either of those things though, a 60 or 75 Hz monitor should be more than fine.
When it comes to ports, the more the merrier—whether it’s DisplayPort, HDMI, or USB. Having the choice between HDMI and DisplayPort is a nice option to have, as each hasworth considering. HDMI is available in a couple of different forms right now (HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 specifically, with 2.1 able to support higher resolutions and refresh rates), but it’s an overall competent connector that’s widely supported and affordable. DisplayPort is a bit rarer, but it can transfer higher quality audio and video signals while using longer cables without losing quality.
If you want a high-end monitor with some insane specs, DisplayPort is what you’ll want to prioritize. Otherwise, HDMI 2.0 is more than fine, and HDMI 2.1 does a good job at competing with DisplayPort in quality (although, a new version of DisplayPort, DisplayPort 2.0, is coming that promises even higher quality).
USB ports are a great bonus feature on a monitor, allowing you to plug devices into the monitor to connect to the PC. This basically turns your monitor into a USB hub and is a great way to simplify your cable management situation. You can also occasionally find monitors with USB-C PD ports. This connector can transfer data and power, which is especially great for laptop users as you can charge your device while using a monitor for more screen real estate.
supporting it. Some monitors come with simple unadjustable stands, while others go all out by allowing you to change the height, angle, and orientation between landscape and portrait. You can always pick up a third-party stand to get these features, but keep in mind that requires your monitor to be VESA compatible. VESA is the standard mounting method used by most monitor stands, and many monitors will be outfitted with a VESA mount of the box.
You can tell if a monitor has a VESA mount by looking at the back of it; VESA mounts are identifiable by four screw holes in a large square formation.
and . Monitors as a whole run laps around TVs when it comes to response times, but many gaming monitors boast even quicker responses to your input. Both G-Sync and FreeSync are tools to improve the visuals of games by reducing stuttering and screen tears (although, your computer needs a graphics card from either NVIDIA or AMD to make use of them). Quick response times and gaming-oriented tools like G-Sync, alongside a high refresh rate, are the recipe for a great gaming monitor.
Resolution is also an important thing to note because running games in 4K (or even 1440p) is no simple task. These higher resolutions take a toll on your computer’s graphics card, so if you want to play games using these resolutions, you’ll need a beast of a machine. Of course, you can always choose to run games at a lower resolution than your monitor is capable of to increase performance.
If you’re working in the field of photo editing or graphic design, knowing exactly what color you’re using is extremely important—this is where color accuracy comes into play. The name is fairly self-explanatory, but the issue is that many monitors won’t list their color accuracy outside of marketing terms.
Keep an eye out for monitors marketed towards “creatives” is a good place to start, as these typically focus more on color accuracy than your standard monitors. For specs, IPS panels tend to be preferred for their higher pixel density, but VA can do alright as well.
Color gamuts are important, which is the range of colors a monitor can display; sRGB is the standard that’s been used for years, but Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 are both designed for things like photography and editing. Delta-E value is also something you’ll see commonly listed, usually in the form of something like “E < 1” or “E < 3.” This represents the difference between how a monitor displays color and how the human eye perceives color—1 is the lowest and most accurate, but 2 also works well.
Those specs won’t always be available, which is where you’ll have to rely on reviewers giving you information on the monitors. It can be tricky to find a good monitor for color accuracy, but if you keep a keen eye on the specs page and do a little research before purchasing, you shouldn’t walk away disappointed.