Monitor Buying Guide; Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Your Next Display

For anyone whose work depends highly on their computer, be it a desktop or a laptop, a high-quality display can make all of the difference. After all, the monitor is where you will be staring for hours. With hundreds, if not thousands of choices out there, choosing the right one can be difficult. It’s no secret that the computer monitor market is being flooded by insanely cheap options at one end, and ridiculously expensive at the other end. And we all know that expensive doesn’t always mean great. Newer models pop up almost every month, which makes the choosing even more difficult. Fortunately for you, Dual Monitors Guide is here to help. In this entry, we will break down the important things you need to ask yourself before buying a new computer monitor.

 

Jump to Best Monitor for Small Business

Jump to Best Monitor for Photography and Film Editing

Jump to Best Monitor for Graphics Design

 

What resolution and Aspect Ratio Should I get?

There are two basic things to look for in monitor specifications: resolution and aspect ratio. Resolution means the dimensions of the computer screen in pixels, while Aspect Ratio refers to the relationship between the two. Today, we have quite a wide range or resolution and Aspect Ratio to choose from. When choosing for a new computer display though, it is best to never go below the Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) resolution and 16:9 Aspect Ratio. This specs means the screen’s width is much longer than its length, providing better view and movement for the eyes. This setup is good for general computing tasks, gaming or even watching movies in Blue-ray HD.

One notch higher is the 1920 x 1200p. It’s a relatively rare resolution, and it’s a great choice for professional setting as it shows two documents better side-by-side.

2560 x 1440p resolution has far more pixels, providing more space to work.

Ultra HD or more popularly known as 4K are popping up in the market right now, sporting a resolution of 3850 x 2160p (some even higher). But they’re relatively expensive and demands powerful graphics card to run at full setting. For people looking to play more games or watch more movies in their computer, a monitor with 2560 x 1080p with 21:9 Aspect Ratio can provide a great avenue for entertainment for more dramatic and immersive experience.

 

Acer B296CL has 21:9 Aspect Ratio (image from Amazon)

For more about screen size, resolution and aspect ratio, and the best choices available in the market today, check our post about choosing the perfect monitor here.

 

What Refresh Rate do I need?

Refresh rate (Hz) refers to how many times the display refreshes per second. In simpler terms, it’s the frame rate of the monitor. Basically, the higher the number, the smoother the images on screen will look. When choosing a new monitor, expect at least 60Hz Refresh Rate. New models of top-tier gaming monitors now run at 120Hz to 144Hz. They’re far smoother, but their full potential can only be utilized in certain games, and you will need to have powerful graphics card to run them at their best Refresh Rate.

We have actually dived into this topic before, check out our post about Refresh Rate here.

 

Should I be concerned about response time?

Response time is the amount of time it takes for pixels to change colors. Slow response time, such as those from older computer screens, leads to what we call ghosting or screen tearing, as pixels struggle to catch up with the sudden movements on the image. Modern monitors out there however, no longer suffer from this issue, as they come with faster response time. For games, the fastest and the best response time out there is 1ms. Some products out there make a little compromise and runs at 5ms, but a little better in some areas, such as color accuracy, viewing angle, etc. There is however, very small difference in 1ms to 5ms that is very hard to notice on a naked eye.

 

What should I know about image quality?

On Color Accuracy

At the end of the day, all you would want is a monitor with superb image quality. Image quality can be broken down into three things: color accuracy, contrast and black levels. To measure color accuracy, check for its percentage of sRGB standard colour gamut. Higher percentage, say 95% up, means the screen is fully capable of showing larger range of colours, which means accurate reproduction of images.

 

In higher-end monitor, it is important to look for Adobe RGB gamut. This aspect is for professional applications designed for printing. Displays with higher percentage in this aspect can be expensive. Also, for people looking for professional monitors, such as photographers, it is important to pay attention to colour temperature.

Acer XB280HK has excellent color accuracy, with crisp and life-like picture quality, and rightly so, as it’s the brand’s flagship entry to 4K gaming monitors market.

 

On Contrast Ratio

Contrast is often measured by comparing the brightest white and the darkest black that screen can show. LCD in monitors work by filtering the light from the backlight, however, some LCD allows some light to pass through even in supposedly black (dark) areas. High contrast level means better detail between light and dark areas of the screen.

When reading monitor reviews, you will often notice how reviewers talk about the uniformity of the LED backlights. Many monitors place their backlight at the center of the panel, which often times to uneven brightness and darkness (areas in the middle look bright, while the sides will have traces of darkness). Reviewers also often talk about traces of backlight bleeding, where the backlight is lighting up supposedly dark images and areas. This can become problematic in games as well as contrast levels.

However, don’t fall for products claiming to have millions or even billions worth of contrast ratio, as this can only be accurately measured when the monitor is set at Dynamic Mode, adjusting the backlighting to suit what’s being displayed on screen, and can be quite distracting when the backlight often changes intensity. A ratio of 500:1 will do, while some can opt for 2000:1 or higher.

 

On Black Levels

Black levels (measured in cd/m2) refer to the level of brightness at the darkest black of the screen at which no light is emitted, resulting to pure black screen, the closer the number to zero, the better, as it means dark and inky blacks. Higher numbers make black look grey, which can cause issues to high-contrast images. Anything below 1.0cd/m2 is good enough, but if you want to get the best, then look for somewhere around 0.25cd/m2.

 

What is the difference between Screen Panel technologies?

Right now, there are three basic types of LCD screens in the market, each has its own perks and weaknesses. The TN or Twisted Nematic panel is the cheapest, it has poor color accuracy and contrast, but has fast response time, making them the preferred option for cheap gaming monitors.

Next in line is the VA or Vertical Alignment panel (different versions includes AVA and MVA), and it offers wide viewing angles with very high contrast levels. However, it doesn’t always have the best colour accuracy, making it a subpar display for professional use that demands on point colors.

The IPS or In-Plane Switching panel has the best colour accuracy and viewing angle in the market, but it’s also very expensive.

 

Asus VS229H-P is good, affordable option for people looking for straight-up business monitor. It’s unassuming, but it makes everything on its screen look amazing with accurate colors, sharp definitions and good response time.

Never versions of these three panels have tried to bridge the gaps between each other and improved in their weaknesses. You can read our full dissection of screen panels here.

 

What extra features should I get?

Adjustable Stand

If you’re looking for a new monitor to upgrade your workstation, then it’s always wise to invest for something you can use long-term, an all-around display that can keep up with all your work and entertainment needs. This may mean taking extra features into account. For most users, a fully adjustable stand can provide the ergonomic needs for almost any type of work. Many computer monitors with $300 price tag often come with small and slightly wobbly stand, and only offers tilt adjustments, no swivel and height adjustment. This may be fine for most users, but if you’re going to spend hours in front of your computer on a daily basis, it is best to get a monitor with a sturdy and adjustable stand that you can set to your preferred viewing position.

 

Asus PB287Q is supported by a solid square base that keeps the monitor stable and secured in place. The stand also allows flexible adjustability for ergonomics.

 

VESA Standard Mounting Holes

If your preferred monitor don’t come with adjustable stand, or you want bigger displays that don’t allow adjustments, then make sure it has VESA mounting standard holes. This will allow you to mount the display to third-party solutions for a more ergonomic setup in your workstation. It’s also the best option for multi-monitor display, such as dual monitor or triple monitor setup.

 

USB Ports

More and more new monitor models right now come with extra I/O ports, and one of the most important add-ons you can have in this area is the USB ports. Often found on the side of the cabinet, USB ports lets you plug in your memory device, smartphone, tablet, or various gadgets to conveniently connect them to the computer and simultaneously charge the device. This allows faster and more convenient file transfer, particularly helpful for work and business environments. The standard USB 2.0 will do, but USB 3.0 offers the fastest file transfer speed and charging speed.

 

Built-in Speakers

Built-in speakers provide a lot of convenience for people with cramped desktop space. However, in most cases, built-in speakers are poor; lacking bass and sounds tiny. There are however, a couple of products out there with good built-in monitor quality. They’re great for watching movies, playing games or listening to music. They can be hard to find though, and they may compromise some aspects of image and performance quality for the audio quality.

speakers transforms your audio system for more immersive experience

Philips Moda 2 is equipped with a pair of high-quality built-in front-firing Bluetooth speaker right on its base. The speakers comes with SRS WOW HD sound technology can transform your workstation’s audio system for better immersive experience.

 

What do I need to know about FreeSync and G-Sync?

If you don’t usually play games on your desktop PC, then you don’t need to be concerned with about FreeSync and G-Sync. Both known as adaptive sync, these technologies are aimed for gamers, as they eliminate the age-old problem of screen tearing.

 

Almost all games experience screen tearing at some point; this is problem is characterized by horizontal lines across the screen the splits images. It usually happens during fast-paced games. There are lots of reasons behind screen tearing, but they primarily happen because of a mismatch in the display’s refresh rate and the output of the graphics card. For example, your display’s refresh rate is at 60Hz, while your graphics card only runs at 40fps. This means frames don’t show on screen at the exact moment it is refreshing, resulting to two or more frames appearing on screen.

Nvidia and AMD graphics drivers use VSync to fix this problem, however, this results to laggy and stuttering gameplay as the graphics card stop making frames to keep in sync with the monitor. FreeSync and G-Sync solves this problem minus the stuttering gameplay.

 

For more in-depth guides like this, check out Dual Monitors Guide today!



Back to Home

Recent Articles

  1. Standing Desk or Walking Desk – Which Is Healthier For You?

    Jun 21, 16 10:09 AM

    Standing desk and treadmill desk are two of the hottest trends in healthy workstation upgrades today. Which one should you get? Here's Dual Monitors Guide's tips.

    Read More

  2. Different Ways to Fix Computer Screen or LCD TV Scratches

    Jun 17, 16 02:24 AM

    Blame everyone you think have laid their hands on your precious LCD screen, the scratch will remain there. So what now? Check these tips from Dual Monitors Guide.

    Read More

  3. Tips to Convince Your Boss to Get You a Treadmill Desk

    Jun 17, 16 02:14 AM

    At Dual Monitor Guide, we don’t just feature the best products and office add-ons to improve one’s workstation comfort and ergonomics, but also health and wellness to improve productivity.

    Read More