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Monitor Buying Guide

Have you just finished your new PC build and now you just need to choose a monitor? Your monitor has just exhaled its last breath and now you have to replace it with something more modern? If for any reason you need a new monitor you have come to the right place because here you will find everything you need to know in order to choose the best one for you.

For example, do you already know the difference between IPS and TN panels? And do you know which one is better for you? There are certain monitors that are better for professional work and others that excel in games. There is the perfect monitor, but they tend to cost an arm and a leg. However, if you already know what your particular needs are going to be, then you can find the perfect monitor for you, without splurging for features that you are not going to use, thus saving a lot of money.

Panel types: IPS, VA or TN?

The first choice you’ll have to make is the type of panel: all displays currently on the market are LCD (most of them with LED backlighting) but be careful, not all LCD displays are the same. Depending on the type of panel used, they are categorized in TN, IPS and VA.

TN (Twisted Nematic) monitors are known for their very low response times (up to 1ms) and for their affordable prices. They are best suited for video games.

IPS (In-Plane Switching) monitors are perfect for productivity and multimedia applications, as they have better colors and wider viewing angles than TNs. Sadly, they also have a higher response time and cost.

VA monitors sport good viewing angle and the best contrast, but also a higher response time and worse color reproduction than IPS panels. They can also suffer from the annoying ghosting effect. They are further divided into PVA (Patterned Vertical Alignment) and MVA (Multi-domain Vertical Alignment) panels; the latter features even better contrast and deeper blacks than the former. This type of panel is mostly used in professional monitors.

Image quality

Each monitors image quality is affected by a number of factors (apart from the type of panel that we discussed earlier). Below you will find a list of the most important features to consider before buying a monitor.

Size and resolution – size matters (!), but the number of pixels, i.e. the resolution, that composes the image on the screen is equally important. Most monitors have a size that ranges from 18.5″ to 30″ in diagonal, but there are notable exceptions, like the 49” Samsung CRG9.

As for resolutions, the most commons ones are as follows:

  • HD or 720p (1280×720 pixels) – these are the cheapest monitors available today. They tend to become obsolete and we do not recommend them.
  • Full HD or 1080p (1920×1080 pixels) – these monitors are currently the gold standard and offer the best price to quality ratio. They are also ideal for gaming since they don’t require a powerful GPU. The recommended size for this type of resolution ranges between 21 and 27 inches with 24 being the perfect dimension for most.
  • 2K or 1440p (2560×1440 pixels) – these monitors are particularly suitable for professionals working with photos and videos. The recommended size is 27″ and up.
  • 4K or Ultra HD (3840×2160 pixels) – these monitors are the very best the market has to offer. They can be used for everything, primarily photo and video editing, but they are also great for gaming. They demand a powerful graphics card. The recommended size is at least 28″.

Response time – one of the main features you need to search for before buying a monitor is the response time, i.e. the number of milliseconds a pixel needs in order to change its status on the screen (this parameter is critical for gaming, and must be as low as possible).

Frame rate – this number (FPS) shows the number of frames “rendered” every second by the computer’s graphics card. Higher the number and more fluid the animation and movement.

Refresh rate – this number (measured in Hz) shows the number of times the image is drawn on the screen each second. The GPUs frame rate and the monitors refresh rate do a better job when they match each other, and the higher the number better the performance. Thus both Nvidia and AMD developed their respective technologies (called G-Sync and FreeSync respectively) that try to accomplish just that. They try to match the GPU’s frame rate to the monitors refresh rate, so as to avoid screen tearing and/or annoying artifacts (stuttering).

HDR – stands for High Dynamic Range, and indicates the monitor’s ability to reproduce a wider range of colors, including shadows and lights than SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) monitors can. This is a great feature that you can find only on high-end monitors. For example, an HDR monitor can reproduce very bright lights and very dark shadows in the same frame, without overexposing the former or hiding the details of the latter.

Extra features

Choosing a monitor is very personal, and it’s not just about the image quality. Its size mostly depends on the space you have available, but there are also other features to take under serious consideration before pulling the trigger on one of them.

Glossy or Matte – the display can have a glossy or matte finish. Those with a matte surface can better handle reflections; those with a glossy finish, on the other hand, have some issues with reflections but display more vivid colors. Choose whichever you like better or depending on where you are going to place the monitor.

Ports – most modern monitors currently on the market sport an HDMI and a DVI input. Many of them can also have a VGA port, while mid to high-end models also feature a DisplayPort. Some rare specimens can have a Thunderbolt connection. Anywho, the important thing here is before buying a monitor, to make sure that the monitor has all the ports you are going to need (for example, you may want to connect both your PC and a console) and at least the one port that your graphics card (or motherboard in case of an iGPU) has.

Other features to consider – the presence or not of audio speakers built into the monitor. I strongly recommend that you check the contrast level but do not trust the official spec sheet, better read a couple of reviews that rate the monitor’s image quality. Also make sure to check the brightness level, which is expressed in cd/m² (or nits) and must be at least 250.

The best monitor

Now that you know what you are looking for, keep reading in order to find out which are the best monitors in the market today.