Computing

How to Choose the Perfect Monitor for Your Needs in 2023

You rely on your computer monitor for work, gaming, and entertainment. Whether you’re upgrading or replacing a broken monitor, finding the right one to suit your needs is essential. With so many options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But fear not! Our comprehensive monitor buying guide will help you make an informed decision.

What Size Monitor Should I Get?

Alienware ultrawide OLED on a desk.
Image: Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The first thing to consider is the size of the monitor. When it comes to computer monitors, you want one that comfortably fits on your desk while giving you ample screen real estate. We recommend a minimum size of 22 inches, with 24 inches being the baseline. You can find great 24-inch monitors at affordable prices, and they look fantastic at 1080p resolution. For those who want more screen real estate, there are larger options available, such as 27-inch monitors or even impressive 48-inch ultrawide monitors. However, keep in mind that ultra-wide monitors can be expensive and may have limited media compatibility.

A monitor size between 24 and 32 inches is suitable for most users and offers a balance of affordability and functionality. These sizes are popular among PC gamers, as they provide optimal resolution and color clarity. Plus, they allow you to work with multiple open webpages without the need for multiple monitors.

Resolution

A PC gaming desktop setup with two monitors and a gaming chair.
Image: Digital Trends

After choosing the size, it’s time to consider the resolution. While 1080p was once the gold standard, there are now other options available that offer improved screen space and gaming visuals. However, be cautious of overly high resolutions on small screens, as it can lead to small text and images that need constant zooming.

  • 1080p: This resolution is ideal for displays up to 24 inches. It offers reasonable clarity and is budget-friendly.
  • 1440p: Considered the sweet spot for gamers, 1440p provides better visuals and extra screen real estate without putting too much strain on your graphics card. It’s also more affordable and supports high refresh rates.
  • 4K/Ultra HD (UHD): With a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, 4K displays offer a highly detailed image. However, running games at this resolution requires a powerful graphics card. While 4K monitors are now more common and affordable, they still cost more than lower-resolution options.
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There are also less common resolutions, such as 5K and 8K, but they are not widely available or necessary for most users. Additionally, ultrawide monitors offer unique aspect ratios and resolutions, providing a wider field of view. These monitors are popular among gamers and content creators.

Contrast, Refresh Rates, and More

Asus ROG Swift OLED PG27 gaming monitor announced at CES 2023.
Image: Asus

Apart from size and resolution, there are other factors that contribute to an excellent monitor. Here are some important aspects to consider:

  • Aspect Ratio: The aspect ratio determines the width-to-height ratio of the screen. The most common and versatile aspect ratio is 16:9, suitable for various content. Other aspect ratios, like 21:9, are better for specific work situations or gaming preferences.
  • Brightness: Consider the panel type and peak brightness of the monitor. While most monitors are bright enough for typical office use, high-end models offer brighter displays. However, excessive brightness can cause eye strain.
  • Contrast Ratio: Higher contrast ratios indicate better differentiation between colors, resulting in a more vivid image. However, be aware that stated contrast ratio specifications may not always be accurate.
  • HDR: High dynamic range (HDR) technology enhances visuals by improving contrast, color accuracy, and brightness. While most monitors lack the necessary brightness for true HDR, some models excel in this area.
  • Refresh Rate: Measured in hertz (Hz), the refresh rate determines how frequently the monitor updates the image. Higher refresh rates result in smoother movement on the screen and reduce input lag. Aim for a refresh rate of at least 120Hz, with 144Hz being the sweet spot for most users.
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Other factors to consider include response time, viewing angle, and the type of backlight used. Each of these factors contributes to the overall quality and performance of the monitor.

Panel Type

Overwatch 2 running on the Alienware 500Hz gaming monitor.
Image: Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The panel type plays a significant role in how a monitor looks and performs. Different panel types have strengths and weaknesses that cater to different types of users. Here are the most common panel types:

  • TN (Twisted Nematic): TN panels have fast response times, making them suitable for gaming. However, they tend to have less accurate colors and limited viewing angles. TN panels are more affordable but have become less common in recent years.
  • VA (Vertical Alignment): VA panels offer better colors and viewing angles compared to TN panels. They are popular among gamers due to their response times. However, VA panels may suffer from ghosting and can be less accurate than IPS panels.
  • IPS (In-Plane Switching): IPS panels provide the best colors and wide viewing angles. They are ideal for color-sensitive work and offer a more immersive gaming experience. However, IPS panels generally have slower response times compared to TN panels.

It’s important to note that IPS panels tend to be more expensive, but their combination of color accuracy and high refresh rates makes them a popular choice among gamers.

Curved vs. Straight Displays

Dell 32 Curved Gaming Monitor - S3222DGM
Image: Dell

Curved monitors are another option to consider. These displays have a concave curvature, enhancing the viewing experience and immersion. The curved shape is particularly effective in ultrawide monitors. Here are some pros and cons of curved displays:

Pros:

  • Immersive experience, especially for gaming
  • Reduced glare and reflections in certain lighting conditions
  • Space-saving, especially for ultrawide monitors

Cons:

  • Narrow field of view, not suitable for group viewing
  • Larger curved monitors can be more expensive
  • Not ideal for wall mounting

Curved monitors have become more affordable and are increasingly popular, providing an extra level of immersion.

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Ports

Dell UltraSharp 38 Curved USB-C Monitor bottom view showing ports.
Image: Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Consider the ports available on a monitor to ensure compatibility with your devices. Common ports include HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C. The latest HDMI and DisplayPort versions support high resolutions and refresh rates. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • HDMI 2.0: Supports 4K resolution at 60Hz refresh rate.
  • DisplayPort 1.4: Supports up to 8K at 60Hz or 4K at higher refresh rates.
  • USB-C: Can support up to 4K resolution but lacks the capabilities of HDMI and DisplayPort.

Choose a monitor that offers the necessary ports for your specific needs, ensuring proper connection and optimal performance.

Design and Mounting

A woman using the LG UltraWide 40WP95C-W 5K monitor.
Image: LG

Consider the design and mounting options of a monitor based on your preferences and workspace. Look for a monitor with an adjustable stand that allows you to tilt and rotate the screen for optimal viewing angles. Built-in controls for navigation and monitor modes are also convenient features. Cable management features help keep your setup neat and organized.

If you want to save space or create a more ergonomic setup, consider mounting your monitor on a wall. Look for monitors that are compatible with VESA standard mounting options, allowing you to choose from a wide range of mounting arms available in the market.

Webcam

The 4K webcam housed above the Dell UltraSharp 6K monitor.
Image: Dell

For video communication, you have the option of a built-in webcam or an independent camera. Some monitors come with an integrated webcam, offering convenience and extra security features like facial recognition. However, if a monitor lacks a built-in webcam, don’t worry. Standalone webcams are easily mountable, adjustable, and offer more flexibility. Upgrading or changing a separate webcam is also simpler compared to replacing a built-in camera.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of what to look for in a monitor, you can confidently choose the perfect one to enhance your work, gaming, and entertainment experience.

OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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