There are many things to consider when choosing a monitor and it can be overwhelming. Once you understand the basics, you can then narrow down what monitor works best for you.
You should first determine the purpose: gaming, color accuracy for editing photos or videos or just general use.
Want a monitor for gaming? Depending on what games you play will determine what monitor you get. If you play fast paced games like a racing game or first-person shooter, you’ll want a monitor that has a high refresh rate and a low response time for smoother movements. If your playing competitive first-person shooter, you might want to consider a 24” monitor to keep your competition more in front of you and not further outside in your peripheral vision on larger monitors, this makes your reaction time slower. Also more screen real-estate means the further you need to move your mouse. A lower 1080p resolution is popular so you can keep your frame rates and refresh rates high and input lag low.
If you’re not playing a fast paced game and just want it to look good, then shoot for a higher resolution monitor. Looking to get more immersed in your game? Check out the Ultrawide monitors for more screen real-estate.
Want your monitor to display the most accurate color for editing or displaying photos and videos? You’ll want a monitor that has a wide color gamut to be able to display a lot of colors. You’ll also want a higher resolution monitor so you have more pixels that will display a higher image quality.
Just need a monitor for general use? Then maybe cost is the most important factor. Or determine which monitor attribute below would matter most to you.
The higher the number, the higher the pixel count. Hence better detail and higher image quality. A monitor’s resolution is measured in pixels in width x height.
One thing to note, when using a high resolution monitor on a smaller display, on-screen items (like desktop icons etc) can become very small making it hard to read and see when not gaming. You’ll have to go into your Display settings and increase the scaling to change the size of text, apps and other items.
Below are common resolutions with Aspect Ratios of 16:9.
- 7680 x 4320
- Also known as “8k UHD” or “4320p”
- 5120 x 2880
- Also known as “5k UHD” or “2880p”
- 3840 x 2160
- Also known as “4k UHD” or “2160p”
- 2560 x 1440
- Also known as “QHD” or “1440p”
- Full HD
- 1920 x 1080
- Also known as “FHD” or “1080p”
- 1280 x 720
- Also known as “720p”
The aspect ratio of a monitor is the ratio of the width of the screen panel to its height. Most monitors are 16:9 like televisions. Harder to find 16:10 monitors are a little taller and are generally preferred for graphic designers and photographers. Ultrawide monitors have a widescreen view with aspect ratio of 21:9 or larger.
There are 3 main panel types used today in computer monitors: TN, IPS & VA. Let’s dive in to the Pros and Cons of them to see what would best fit your needs.
1) TN (Twisted Nematic)
The first LCD panel that has been widely used in desktop monitors. Each pixel has 3 light filters that allow only red, green or blue light to pass. The content on the screen is produced by a mix of these 3 colors at different levels of brightness.
- Lower Response Rate
- Highest Refresh Rate
- Minimal motion blur
- Low input lag
- Generally cheaper
- Terrible viewing angles
- Poor contrast
- Poor color reproduction
2) IPS (In-Plane Switching)
Panel technology that addresses the 2 main issues of a TN panel: color and viewing angles. With IPS, the liquid crystals are aligned on the same horizontal plane rather than vertically and are always parallel to the panel. This reduces the light pass through rate and requires more back lighting.
- Better image quality
- Best viewing angles
- Slower response time than TN but faster than VA
- Susceptible to Backlight bleed
- Most expensive
3) VA (Vertically-Aligned)
Invented in search of a middle ground between TN and IPS. In a VA panel, the liquid molecules are aligned perpendicular or vertical to the substrates when no voltage is applied producing a black image. When a voltage is applied, the liquid molecules shift to a horizontal position producing a white image.
- Best contrast ratios
- Best Image Depth
- Best Black levels
- Viewing angles better than TN but worse than IPS
- Slower than the other panels
- Longest response times
Frame rates are measured in Frames Per Second (FPS). One frame is a still image. Slightly different images are then put together to achieve a perceived motion like flip book drawings. The frame rate is how many of these images are displayed in one second.
Your CPU and GPU work together to produce an image. The GPU then takes that image, cuts them into pixels at the resolution you specify and sends it to your display. The better your CPU and GPU are, the more frames they are able to produce in one second.
A higher number equals better, smoother and less choppy images. A monitor’s refresh rate is measured in Hertz (Hz) and it measures how many times it can refresh the displayed image per second. If you have a monitor capable of 144Hz, it can redraw your screen 144 times a second. This all depends if your CPU and GPU are also capable and can keep up. If you’re into fast action, you’ll want a higher Refresh Rate.
If your frame rate is different than your monitor’s refresh rate, you may experience Screen Tearing. To prevent Screen Tearing, you can enable Vertical Sync or VSync. This will sync your frame rate and refresh rate. The problem when you enable VSync, you might get Stutter and/or Input Lag. If this is a problem for you, you can turn VSync off and turn on a framerate limiter with a third party tool like RivaTuner or within the game itself. You can also look at a G-Sync or Freesync monitor to eliminate Screen Tearing and reducing Stutter.
Tells you in milliseconds how long it takes your monitor to change a single pixel from black to white or from one shade of gray to another (GTG response time). The lower the response time, the smoother movements will be. High response times leads to Motion Blur during fast movements because the pixels don’t have enough time to switch between colors.
- Transfers both video and audio signals. It has the ability to daisy chain which is allowing 2 or more displays to be connected to each other and then the last monitor connects to your computer.
- Supports 32.4Gbps bandwidth
- Supports 4k at 120Hz or 8k at 60 Hz HDR deep color
- 10 bit color depth
- Supports 8k at 60Hz
- Supports 4k at 60Hz 24-bit color depth w/o compression with simultaneous USB 3.1
- 5k w/o compression with simultaneous USB 2.0
- Support for BT.2020 color space, HDR and HDCP 2.2
- Superspeed USB 3.1 data
- Up to 100 watts of power over a single cable
- Reversible plug orientation
- Backward compatibility to VGA, DVI, and HDMI with plug adapters or adapter cables
- Adapters supports HDMI 2.0a and full 4k UHD resolution
- High-end multichannel audio support
- Very common and transfers both video and audio signals.
- Supports 48Gbps bandwidth
- Up to 10k at 120 Hz with DSC 2.1 compression
- Supports the latest color spaces including BT.2020 with 10, 12 and 16 bits per color component
- Supports Dynamic HDR
- Supports 18Gbps bandwidth
- Up to 4k at 60Hz
- Up to 144Hz at 1080p
- 10 and 12 bit color depth
- Supports HDR
- Support for 21:9 aspect ratio
- Supports 10.2Gbps bandwidth
- Up to 4k at 24Hz
- Up to 120Hz at 1080p
- 8 bit color depth
- Thunderbolt 3
- Supports 2 4k UHD 60Hz displays and even provide charging
- Has top data transfer speed of 40Gbps when cable is 1.6ft (.5m) or shorter
- For 3.2ft (1m) or longer cables, Thunderbolt 3 supports passive ones (doesn’t require power) that have a top speed of 20Gbps and active cables (requires power) that retain the 40Gbps speed
- All Thunderbolt 3 cables will work as USB-C cables
- All USB-C cables will work as Thunderbolt 3 cables as long as they are good quality cables
- Backwards compatible
- The digital successor to the analog VGA standard. It’s old technology but the Dual-link DVI connections and cables support resolution up to 2560 x 1600 at 60 Hz (or 144Hz at 1080p) and is video signal only. Not too shabby but you can do better.
- The oldest analog standard still on some older monitors and computers. Colored blue and carries only a video signal – no audio. Maxes out at 1920 x 1200 at 75Hz.
- Not even your grandma wants to use this.
- 3.5mm Audio Input
- USB-A ports
- The current most common USB port
Brightness is commonly measured in “nits”. A rating greater than 200 nits should be good for most people. A brighter monitor at 300 nits or greater allow for better display of color and contrast ratios. Graphic designers, photographers and gamers may prefer a brighter monitor for richer and more accurate colors.
The contrast ratio is the difference between the whitest white and the darkest black that the monitor can reproduce. The ratio is obtained by dividing the white brightness by the black brightness. The higher the contrast ratio, the deeper the blacks and more vibrant images. A Contrast Ratio of 1000:1 is excellent for photo editing.
Be careful though as a lot of manufacturers are claiming extremely high contrast ratios since there is no international standard for measuring it. Some manufacturers deliberately use measurement methods that are intended to give higher contrast values.
There are 2 types of contrast ratio: Native (Static) and Dynamic. Native (Static) is what your display can show. On an LCD monitor, it’s what the liquid crystal can achieve. Dynamic measures the maximum possible color range between white and black shades. It requires a special feature to maximize the picture quality when playing a dark game.
CURVED VS FLAT MONITOR
Some benefits of a curved monitor vs a flat monitor are subjective and depends on how far away you are from your monitor and whether you are sitting in the center of your monitor or not. It’s more immersive for a single player who sits in the center of the screen depending on how far away you are from the monitor. The peripheral left and right viewing angles allow you to maximize your field of view.
Some people report though that there is a slight “bow tie” effect in which the edges have slight distortions and are stretched compared to the center. This seems to happen when you are viewing from off center.
Either way, you should see for yourself and test the difference between a curved and a flat monitor to see which one would work best for you.
- G-SYNC was created to eliminate screen tearing while minimizing display stutter and input lag. It is a hardware-based technology that changes the monitor’s refresh rate so that it works best with what the graphics card is delivering.
- Without G-SYNC, you could enable VSync within a game’s settings to throttle the output from the graphics card to match the monitor’s refresh rate to avoid screen tearing. But enabling VSync introduces input lag and stuttering.
- G-SYNC is proprietary to Nvidia and adds a premium cost to monitor. Only works with Nvidia cards and supported G-Sync monitor.
- Currently Nvidia has 3 G-SYNC tiers: G-SYNC Ultimate (HDR), G-SYNC and G-SYNC Compatible for certain qualifying AMD FreeSync monitors.
- AMD FreeSync is an open standard that makes use of the pre-existing Adaptive-Sync protocols of DisplayPort technology and just recently, HDMI technology. Since it is an open standard, this helps keeps cost down.
- FreeSync delivers dynamic refresh rates that synchronize the refresh rate of a compatible monitor to the framerate of a GPU to reduce input latency and reduce Stuttering and Screen Tearing.
- If you’re going to be staring at your monitor for long periods of time during the day, consider getting a Flicker-Free monitor. Flicker is caused by the rapid on/off cycles of the backlight as it tries to maintain the brightness of the display and is more noticeable on a low brightness setting.
- The changing in brightness causes the pupil to expand and contract causing eye fatigue, strain and headaches.
- Low Blue Light
- Blue-Violet light have a higher intensity and lower wavelength on the light spectrum allowing it to penetrate the protective cornea of the eye. This damages the lens and retina resulting in myopia and macular degeneration.
- Blue light from monitors may cause headaches, eye strain, eye damage and sleep disorders.
- Anti-Glare Screen
- If you have eye-strain and fatigue from a glossy or smooth screen, you might want to look into an Anti-Glare Screen. This will typically be a rougher matte screen that will help mitigate any reflections and glare causing you problems.
- Overdrive reduces ghosting by speeding the rate at which pixels change through higher voltage.
- Test Overdrive and ghosting on your monitor: https://testufo.com/ghosting on your monitor. When you’ve gone too far, you’ll see a white trail behind the UFO.
- Overdrive reduces ghosting by speeding the rate at which pixels change through higher voltage.
- Motion Blur Reduction (ULMB, LightBoost, DyAc, ELMB, VRB, MotionFlow Impulse, 1ms MPRT)
- Maintains motion resolution when on-screen action becomes more intense. Utilizes strobe backlights as the method of blur reduction by synchronizing to the refresh rate, in order to bypass most of the response limitations of the LCD panel.
- HDR improves the image brightness, contrast and color range.
- Monitor Speakers
- Having speakers in the monitor are a bonus if you don’t want to get an additional speaker system and/or headset. They’ll tend to be less quality but an added bonus if the monitor has them.
- Pivot option
- Having a monitor that’s able to pivot from Landscape (horizontal) to Portrait (vertical) provides more viewing options.
- Vesa Options and mounting
- The Vesa Standard defines dimensions of the four-hole attachment interface on the back of displays and the screws used to fit those holes. It also dictates the placement of the hole pattern on the display.
- Take note of the mounting options your monitor supports as having it Vesa Compatible will increase your ability to find a compatible monitor mount for increased flexibility in positioning the monitor.
- The frame around the screen. Having a thin bezel will allow you to view more of the screen.
- FRC (Frame Rate Control)
- A method for achieving higher color quality in low color resolution panels. It uses a dithering method that combines adjacent pixels to simulate the desired shade. FRC is a form of temporal dithering which cycles between different color shades with each new frame to simulate an intermediate shade.
- Dithering is used to create the illusion of “color depth” in images with a limited color palette. In a dithered image, colors that are not available in the palette are approximated by a diffusion of colored pixels from within the available palette. The human eye perceives the diffusion as a mixture of the colors within it. These images can seem grainy or speckled in appearance.
- Only Red and Blue colors are used but as the squares are made smaller, they appear purple.
- Has a outer polarizing layer that has been coarsened to diffuse ambient light rather than reflect it back. Is used on Anti-Glare monitors.
- Reduced glare
- Potential reduction in eye strain since you don’t have to focus through reflections or glare
- Reduction in contrast and color vibrancy
- Has a smooth outer polarizing layer that tends to reflect ambient light back. The light emitted from the monitor makes images appear richer and vibrant.
- More vivid colors
- Easier cleaning
- Unwanted reflections and glare
- Show smudges and dirt easier
- Modern glossy screens that are coated to absorb some of the ambient light.
- Reduced reflection
- Easier cleaning
- Direct light emission enhances contrast and image vibrancy
- Can still be reflective and cause bleaching of the image
- Show smudges and dirt easier
- Color Gamut
- Refers to the various levels of colors that can potentially be displayed by a device.
- The most standard used color gamut in digital products.
- Rec. 709 (BT.709)
- Standardizes the format of HDTV, having a 16:9 aspect ratio.
- Adobe RGB
- Wider color gamut range than sRGB. The standard for professional color imaging environments and in the print and publishing industries.
- NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) is the standard for television. It covers a wide color gamut similar to Adobe RGB but varies slightly in the reds and blues and 72% of it is covered by the sRGB color gamut.
- EBU (European Broadcasting Union) developed their own color gamut that is similar to Rec. 709 with values of red and blue being the same but a difference in the green value.
- Introduced by SMPTE (The Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers) that is 26% wider than sRGB and commonly used for digital cinema.
- Below, the upside down ‘U’ in the CIE 1931 color space is what the human eye can see. The triangles are the different color gamuts. Source: https://color.viewsonic.com/zh-cn/explore/content/Color-gamut_6.html
- Bit Depth
- A short and simple explanation of bit depth is the number of colors you get from red, green and blue.
- Since there are 256 possible 8-bit binary numbers, you get 256 shades each of red, green and blue. Put these together by cubing them (256 x 256 x 256) and you 16,777,216 possible colors.
- With 10-bit color, you get 1,024 shades of each primary color. 1024 x 1024 x 1024 = 1,073,741,824 possible colors!
- With 12-bit color, you get 4,096 each. 4096 x 4096 x 4096 = 68,719,476,736 possible colors! Oh my.
- Screen Tearing
- When your GPU’s frame rate (FPS) is out of sync with the monitor’s refresh rate (Hz), you will see screen tearing. Screen tearing is information from 2 or more frames is shown in a single screen draw. Screen tearing does no damage to a display or GPU.
- Stuttering (GPU)
- Frame rate hitching
- Every so often, the frame rate freezes and resumes
- The frames-per-second is high but the overall feeling is laggy
- Timing discrepancy
- Frame rate is fine but animation and simulation are choppy
- Tools for stutter diagnosing
- Frame rate recording
- Quick stats
- Static and dynamic analysis
- GPU pipeline inspection
- In-depth analysis
- Frame rate hitching
- Input Lag
- The delay between a command from your peripheral (keyboard and mouse) and the monitor reacting to it.
- Old images leave behind artifacts. As the screen refreshes, the human eye still perceives the image previously displayed causing a smearing or blurring visual effect. https://www.blurbusters.com/faq/lcd-motion-artifacts/
- Test ghosting: https://testufo.com/ghosting
- Coronas / Inverse Ghosting
- Pixels can overshoot their final color value before bouncing back, causing bright inverse ghosting. https://www.blurbusters.com/faq/lcd-motion-artifacts/
- Motion Blur
- Motion blur is symmetric for both trailing and leading edges. https://www.blurbusters.com/faq/lcd-motion-artifacts/
- PWM Artifacts
- PWM artifacts look like repeated images and can affect motion fluidity. https://www.blurbusters.com/faq/lcd-motion-artifacts/
- Symptoms include triangular shapes all over screen, dots, funny lines, circles, textures etc. Basically not displaying what you’d expect on the screen. Usually caused by CPU or GPU overheating. If you’re overclocking, might be set too high.
- Backlight Bleeding
- Occurs when backlight is not 100% blocked allowing excess light to “bleed” around the edges of the panel.
- IPS Glow
- If you have an IPS Panel, you may see a glow that looks a lot like Backlight Bleeding but this can be remedied by changing the angle or the distance of which you’re viewing the screen. You can also mitigate it by decreasing screen brightness and increasing ambient lighting.