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How to Choose a Monitor

Catalogue

What is the difference between a standard office monitor and a gaming monitor? What is a “pivot” and how large should my monitor be? The following article gives a basic overview of computer monitors in order to help you choose one that will perfectly suit your needs.

If you spend several hours a day looking at a monitor, you should take some time and consideration for choosing the right one. Some features that are important to gamers are different than those needed by professional graphic designers, or those working at an office. Luckily, we're here to give you some advice on key monitor features that will help you choose the perfect one.

How to select a monitor

Basic Tips for a Quick Selection

  1. Think about what monitor size will fit on your desk.

  2. Larger screens are great for multimedia use, but two smaller monitors can be better for regular use.

  3. Choose the right resolution. Full HD is ideal for monitors up to 27".

  4. TN technology lacks perfect colours but has quicker response rates. The IPS is the exact opposite, and the VA occupies the middle ground.

  5. Your new monitor should have compatible connectors to your computer.

  6. A matte surface is easier to read outside, but a glossy screen shows colours better.

Monitor Key Features 

Size

The monitor size is measured diagonally in inches (1"= 2.54cm) from the opposite corners of the screen. To reduce eye strain and increase comfort, it is recommended that you choose the largest monitor possible, but keep the price and your desk size in consideration. The most common monitor size that you'll encounter is 24", but the average monitor size increases every year.

Display SizeIdeal UseAdvantagesDisadvantages
Up to 20"Displaying information, calling systemCompact dimensionsOnly for basic use
21-24"Reading emails, shopping onlineIdeal for using two monitors, a large selectionNot suitable for multitasking
25-27"Universal size for work and entertainmentThe perfect size for your work deskHeavier weight
28-32"Graphics, games, webCan replace the need for two monitorsFull HD is no longer a sufficient resolution
33" and moreAdvertising banners, good overview of tablesEasy to read from a further distance, can also replace a pair of smaller monitorsHigher resolution increases the demands on computer performance, more demanding assembly

Resolution

A higher resolution means that you'll see finer details, and pictures will have smoother edges in the given monitor size. On the other hand, the amount of detail processing requires higher computer performance. The monitor's display size can be easily used to determine the ideal resolution:

Display SizeUp to 20"21-27"28-33"34" and more
Minimum ResolutionSVGA (800x600px)WXGA (1280×768px)Full HD (1920×1080px)2K (2560×1440px)
Recommended ResolutionXGA (1024×768px)Full HD (1920×1080px)2K (2560×1440px)2K or 4K (3840×2160px)
Maximum ResolutionUXGA (1600×1200px)4K (3840×2160px)4K++ (4096×2160px)8K (7680×4320px)

Aspect Ratio

The optimal aspect ratio depends on how you intend to use the monitor. The standard aspect ratio is 16:9, which copies natural vision. Monitors used for reading text are best suited with a 4:3 aspect ratio because it resembles the layout of a classic paper page. Ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio monitors are becoming increasingly popular for two good reasons - when watching movies, you no longer have the black bars above and below the picture, and secondly, one wider 21:9 monitor can be used to replace two standard screens that stand side-by-side.

Monitor aspect ratio

Panel Type

Image quality is determined by two parameters: the display panel type and its backlighting. The vast majority of LCD computer monitors use LEDs with a uniform distribution of brightness. These have replaced the older CCFL lamps that had unevenly distributed brightness row by row.

The display panel determines the degree of colour saturation, colour depth and other parameters:

Panel TypeResponse RateColour DisplayContrastViewing AnglesPrice
TNhighbelow averageaveragenarrowlow
MVA/PVA/VA <averagegreathighwidemedium
IPS/PLS <averagegreataveragewidemedium

OLED displays are an independent technology with miniature diodes that take care of colour and brightness. These monitors have fantastic colours and a sharp contrast, but they come with a higher price.

Response Rate

The response rate is defined as the time during which one point of an image will transition from grey through black and white, and back to grey again (GTG, grey-to-grey) or black to black (BTB). That time is measured in milliseconds. Monitors used for gaming should have a response of up to 4ms, but if you do not need a fast response, a value that's twice as much will do perfectly well.

Monitor response

The response time is most often measured using blinking shapes in shades of grey.

Refresh Rate

The refresh rate indicates how many times an image can be drawn on the monitor in one second. With old CRT monitors, you stop noticing subtle flickering at about 100Hz, and with LCD/LED monitors, this number goes down to 60Hz. However, for gaming and watching 3D movies, the recommended refresh rate is doubled.

color depth

A higher refresh rate means smoother motion rendering. (source: imgur.com)

Colour Depth

Monitors display colours by mixing red (R), green (G) and blue (B), which is why this model is also called RGB. Each of the three basic colours has a dedicated space in the monitor's memory. It only needs a few bits, but a higher memory dramatically increases the number of displayed shades.

The most common monitors have 8-bit displays, where the three colour components can create as many as 16 million different colours. However, if a monitor supports 10-bit colours, it can display up to 1 billion shades.

color depth

When comparing 8-bit and 10-bit monitors, the difference is clearly visible.

Screen Surface

A monitor's screen surface affects how we perceive the picture quality. A matte surface appears blurred and the colours are not as bright as they could be. An advantage is that we are not disturbed by the reflections of the sun or surrounding lights. A shiny screen does the opposite - the colours are rich and have bright shades. Under poor lighting conditions, the picture is barely visible because the screen reflects the person looking at it. Anti-reflective screens try to solve this problem.

For at-home and professional use, a shiny screen is the best choice, that is if you have curtains. Matte screens are preferred for outdoor use.

Input and Output Ports

Since the monitor serves only as a display device, sometimes it is necessary to connect the monitor to a laptop, graphics card or video camera. However, you can't plug in every connector in the same port - each connector has its limits and intended use.

Image Ports

Image ports are used to transfer video from a specific source to a monitor, like a graphics card or a motherboard.
  • DisplayPort (mini) - this is the best way to connect your computer to the monitor. It supports resolutions that exceed both Full HD and 10-bit colour. That's why it is sought after by professional graphic designers.
  • HDMI - handles high-resolution images well. The 1.4 versions can even get past the 4K mark. However, the colour depth is always limited to 8-bit colours.
  • VGA (D-Sub) - this connector is usually found on older computers or laptops. It's used to connect to a data projector. Although it supports 10-bit colours, it is not enough to handle demanding tasks. As a result,  sharpness decreases in Full HD resolution.
  • DVI - the most commonly used interface for connecting desktop PCs - the DVI connector is rarely found elsewhere other than on graphics cards. The highest applicable resolution is 2K.
  • Older connectors - on some monitors, you can also find less commonly used connectors, such as Scart, S-video, BNC, or serial ports.  You can use them to connect to a video cassette player or analogue TV signal receiver.

The most commonly used monitor connectors:

HDMIDisplayPortDVIVGA (D-Sub)
HDMIDisplayPortDVIVGA (D-Sub)

Accessory and Data Ports

Data connectors are an optional accessory for monitors that add convenience, but they are not essential.
  • USB - a popular port for connecting flash drives, a computer mouse and other devices.
  • Headphone/Microphone - the 3.5mm jack is used to connect headphones directly to the monitor. You won't need to climb under the desk and search for the appropriate port on your computer anymore.
  • Optical - is for audio transmission in higher quality.
  • Network - is most often used to remote control large-format displays.

Extra Features

Top-of-the-line monitors can connect functions from other devices.  A monitor works perfectly well without them, but all of these extra features are there to increase comfort and user convenience. It can be anything from manipulating cables to video call support.

  • Speakers - built-in speakers help keep your desk free of clutter, but as far as sound quality is concerned, they are usually nowhere near as good as a separate speaker set.

  • VESA -this is the standardised size for installing a monitor mount and allows you to mount your monitor onto a wall or an adjustable stand.

  • USB hub - the USB hub is a handy monitor accessory that allows devices like a mouse and keyboard to directly connect to the monitor. This addresses the problem of short cables and desk clutter.

  • Webcam - a webcam is convenient for making video calls. If it's built-in, it saves you the extra cost of buying it separately. You won't have to deal with the hassle of connecting it to your monitor.

  • TV tuner - is used to process the TV signal directly in the monitor, so you can also use it as a TV set.

  • CI slot - "Common Interface" is a slot where a TV decoding card is inserted. This slot is a common feature when it comes to TV sets.

Special Monitor Functions

Looking at a monitor can strain your eyes and cause fatigue. There's a big difference between cheaper and more expensive monitors. Higher quality models offer different functions for protecting your eyes and for enhanced the image display.

  • Blue light filter - the blue light component is more straining on the eyes than red or green.  In the evening, it can cause sleep problems for those sensitive to bright lights. The blue light filter dims the blue light component. So, even if you do look at the monitor in the evenings, falling asleep will be easier.
  • FlickerFree - your brain processes flickering even when you do not consciously notice it, and this is a main cause of fatigue. Flicker-free monitors have a higher refresh rate, which lets the eyes rest better.
  • Backlight Adjustment - The Automatic Backlight Control feature is usually found in smartphones. This adjusts screen brightness based on the intensity of ambient light. It works with the same principle in monitors.
  • Screen tearing protection - screen tearing occurs when the monitor's refresh rate is not an exact multiple of the game's framerate. This is partly solved by software-based vertical synchronisation (Vsync). Some gaming monitors allow for advanced hardware-level screen synchronisation with a graphics card, such as G-Sync for Nvidia graphics cards, or FreeSync.
  • Touchscreen - touchscreens are equipped with a touch-responsive layer. Touchscreen monitors are therefore suitable for information stands or cash registers.
Game Monitors (ASUS)

Gaming Monitors

  • Fast response of up to 4ms
  • A refresh rate of at least 60Hz
  • High-quality display panel

Gaming monitors are designed for online action games. Emphasis is placed on fast image redrawing, high-quality colour rendering, and technologies supporting screen tearing protection. Some bonus features can include an adjustable monitor stand or a unique gaming design.

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Perfect rendering of dynamic scenes
  • Can often replace graphics monitors
  • More expensive

I like playing, but will a gaming monitor give me a competitive edge?

It depends on what games you play and what level you are on. The benefits of a fast response are evident in fast, dynamic games such as Counter Strike, Call of Duty or Battlefield - you shoot where the enemy really is, instead of where he was a few millisecond ago. It would be ideal to combine a quick response and synchronise the monitor with the graphics card. Nvidia graphics use the G-Sync feature, while other manufacturers rely on the Free Sync open platform.

If you prefer strategy games that emphasise tactics and logical reasoning rather than swift action, you will probably appreciate a larger screen size with a finer resolution.

Can a gaming monitor be used for graphic design?

In most cases, yes. Even avid gamers want their IPS panels to have distinctive colours. The quick response will be more useful for editing videos rather than photos, but it won't hurt to have it.

Office Monitors (LG)

Office Monitors

  • Suitable for long-term use
  • Aspect ratio 4:3 for easier text reading
  • Good price/quality ratio

You generally spend a large portion of your day looking into an office monitor. That's why you should never choose the cheapest screen in the market - it could have a negative effect on your eyes. A high-quality office monitor should have an adjustable pivot (perhaps with the option of turning it into a portrait view), a higher refresh rate, and an eye-protecting function to reduce eye fatigue.

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Also suitable for watching movies or playing games 
  • Simple setup
  • Limited range of connectors

How do monitors prevent eye strain?

There are several popular technologies, each with a slightly different effect.

  • Ambient light intensity sensor - The light sensor adjusts the brightness of the monitor based on the ambient lighting conditions. The backlight dims in the dark and becomes brighter during the day so that eyes are not burdened by the extreme jumps between light and darkness.
  • FlickerFree/Flicker Less - Although it is rarely noticed on a conscious level, the image on the screen pulsates in sync with the monitor's refresh rate. However, monitors labelled FlickerFree use a higher frequency that eyes can no longer register (the flicker). 
  • Blue light filter - Being exposed to large quantities of blue light leads to a lowered production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Looking into the monitor before bed can worsen sleep quality, or it can be more difficult to fall asleep. Some monitors therefore suppress blue light so that you can easily fall asleep, even after working on your computer in the evening.
Office Monitors (EIZO)

Professional Graphic Design Monitors 

  • Wide colour gamut
  • Large colour depth, typically 10 bits or more
  • Rich positioning options

Graphic designers and photographers must be able to see the finest colour differences. They need flawless image quality with high contrast, adjustable colour rendering and ergonomic features to help them survive those endless hours spent in front of a monitor. When it comes to choosing a professional monitor, choosing a cheaper alternative never pays off in the long run - it's better to get one smaller, high-quality monitor than to fall victim to larger dimensions and higher resolutions.

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Covers most of the colour spectrum
  • Wide range of options for settings
  • Also suitable for long-term work
  • More expensive

What is the difference between a monitor for at-home use and one used by professional graphic designers?

Most monitors with an IPS display are good enough for editing photos and videos at home, and the quality of their colour rendering is sufficient for private use. However, professional graphic designers must also take into account various print media, not just paper print. For this reason, they require compatibility with calibration probes, shades, and the ability to adjust the monitor to create an accurate representation of real-life colours.

Why do graphics monitors need a DisplayPort?

Quality graphics monitors support 10-bit colour, which uses more shades than conventional monitors. The computer's graphics card can be perfectly adapted to this, and the same goes for the connector. DisplayPort is the only interface that can handle high resolution and the necessary colour depth. Although VGA uses 10-bit colours, it does not support a high resolution. With HDMI it is quite the opposite: a higher resolution does not pose a problem, but the colours do.

4K Monitors (Dell)

4K Monitors

  • Maximum resolution (3840×2160px)
  • 4× larger and more detailed image quality than Full HD monitors
  • Suitable for work, surfing the Internet, watching movies and playing games

4K monitors are perfect in situations when you need to see even the sharpest details. Whether you want to see the finer details in Photoshop or you're just tired of reading blurred letters in your text editor, 4K resolution is the right choice for you. The difference between Full HD and 4K resolution is evident at first glance. Maybe you'll end up using a 4K monitor as a replacement for two lower-resolution monitors.

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Very fine details in image quality
  • Can replace a pair of smaller monitors
  • High demands on the computer's performance
  • You need HDMI, DisplayPort, or DVI connectors

Who will most likely appreciate the benefits of a 4K monitor?

4K monitors are designed primarily for professional graphic designers, but other users can also appreciate their benefits. Text will appear perfectly in the office. You'll be able to zoom in when surfing the web and the pages will still be readable. Gamers will appreciate the highly detailed graphics. However, keep in mind that a 4K monitor will be very demanding on the computer's performance.

Monitor Monitors (Philips)

Curved Monitors

  • An elegant and attractive design
  • Reflects less light from surroundings
  • View a larger surface without turning your head

Curved monitors offer increased viewing comfort with a larger screen size. All of the points on the screen have the same distance from the viewer, so the screen is easier to read. You no longer have to turn your head when you want to see everything at once.

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Every spot on the screen is perfectly sharp
  • Stylish design
  • Partial anti-glare protection
  • The monitor will take up more space
  • Other people will have a poor view of the monitor

What are the main advantages of a curved monitor compared to a flat screen?

Curved monitors allow you to view a larger screen without having to turn your head. While it's nice to have a screen the size of a TV on your desk, you miss out on a lot of the content unless you turn your head, which can be very uncomfortable. Curved monitors are designed to eliminate this problem.

Monitors with TV Tuner (Samsung)

Monitors with a TV Tuner

  • Equipped with built-in speakers
  • A remote controller is often also included
  • Can replace a television set
  • Look for a DVB-T2 tuner

Monitors with a TV tuner cannot fully replace a smart TV, but they are ideal for the basic functions of a television. These monitors allow you to watch TV programs even when the computer is turned off. Their power consumption is lower than Smart TVs, and they are usually easier to operate.

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • You can watch TV on your computer
  • Lower power consumption than a TV set
  • Smaller screen sizes than most TVs
  • It does not include the functions of a Smart TV

What do I need in order to watch TV on my monitor?

One option is to buy a TV tuner card for your computer. However, it is a lot easier to simply buy a monitor which already includes a TV tuner and a CI slot. You'll be able to watch TV without turning on the computer.

Large-Format Displays (NEC)

Large-Format Monitors

  • Ideal for showing ads and presentations
  • Can operate non-stop
  • Often mounted on walls or stands

These monitors are designed for everyday use - for 12 hours a day and more. Their screen sizes are usually greater than 30".

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Can be connected to video walls
  • The displayed content can be changed remotely over the Internet
  • Integrated Multimedia Player
  • Lower power consumption settings
  • Fewer extra features
  • More expensive
Touch monitors Iiyama

Touchscreen Monitors

  • Allow you to control your computer without using the keyboard or mouse
  • They come in a more durable design

Touchscreen monitors are suitable for advertising kiosks, cash registers and self-service systems, but they can also be used at home or in the office. They allow you to use one screen for entering and displaying information.

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • You do not need a mouse or keyboard
  • Not suitable for standard work on a computer
  • The touch layer lowers the image quality

Glossary - Monitors

Screen Size

Measures the distance between two opposite (top and bottom) corners of the monitor. It is measured in inches, i.e. 1" = 2.54cm.

Resolution

Specifies the number of pixels that the monitor can render in the horizontal and vertical directions. The higher the maximum resolution of the monitor, the more detailed the image, and the larger the monitor display area is for work and entertainment. The current standard for monitors is Full HD resolution (1920×1080 pixels).

Refresh Rate

This is the ability of the monitor to plot a certain number of images within the space of one second. This value is given in Hz. The higher the refresh rate of the monitor, the smoother the picture. Monitors with higher refresh rates are also easier on the eyes. You are most to likely encounter a 60-75Hz refresh rate, but with gaming monitors it can reach up to 200Hz.

Response Rate

Indicates the length of time in which the monitor is able to process a request from the computer. The lower the response time, the sharper the picture the monitor provides in dynamic scenes. Response times are especially important for computer game players, which is why for gaming monitors it should not exceed 4ms.

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