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Monitors Buying Guide

Although we spend a lot of time deciding which PC to buy we don’t seem to put half as much effort into choosing a monitor.  Which is a little strange as we all spend many hours staring at our screens.  So it makes complete sense to ensure we choose the best possible display.

However, there is such a wide choice of monitors available it is hard to know how to narrow them down to the one which is best for you.  For example, there are typically over 500 different monitors listed on Ebuyer at any one time.

Different sized screens, resolutions, connections……4K, HD, touchscreen…..where do you start?

The size, and quality, of the monitor will differ depending on what you will be using it for.  If you are going to be surfing the web and sending email the specifications of the monitor you need will be less than if you will be using it for gaming or high-end graphic design for example.

Budget

When looking for a new display, many of us will start with a budget in mind.  We then find all the monitors we can afford and begin to narrow down our choices from there.

If you are on a budget, the good news is you get far greater value for money than used to be the case.  Technology has advanced whilst prices have dropped and high-quality monitors are more affordable than ever before.

However, there are more factors to consider than just price…..

Screen size

Let’s start with the obvious.  First of all you need to decide which size of screen you need.

different monitor sizes

It’s not quite as straight forward as saying the biggest your budget allows, it very much depends on the space you have available.

For example, if you are looking at a multi-screen set up an average desk may not be able to accommodate anything wider than two 21” screens.  On the other hand, the same desk could comfortably cope with a single 34” widescreen monitor.

dual monitors on desk

Type of panel

Most, if not all, monitors use LCD panels though there are different technologies used which offer different advantages and viewing experiences.  When looking for a new monitor you are likely to come across Twisted Nematic, In-Plane Switching, and Vertical Alignment panels.

Whilst we won’t go into too much technical detail about each type of panel, there is a massive amount of information online if you would like to delve more into the techy nitty-gritty, we will offer a brief overview of each technology here.

Twisted Nematic (TN)

An old technology, at least in terms of LCD display, Twisted Nematic is the type of panel usually found on budget monitors.  This doesn’t mean they are necessarily inferior to other types, there are many very good TN monitors available.

TN monitors do suffer from poor viewing angles.  If you are looking at the screen directly head on you won’t notice an issue if, however, there is a slight angle, such as in a multiple monitor set up or slightly off-set viewing position, there will be a drop in image quality.

The biggest advantage which TN panels hold over other technologies is speed.  They are very fast and also respond quicker to user input which makes them ideal for gaming.

In-Plane Switching (IPS)

One of the biggest advantages of IPS is to remedy the shortcomings of TN.  Image quality is excellent and, because it doesn’t corrupt as the user moves position, the image remains uniform whatever the viewing angle.

This makes IPS monitors ideal for multi-screen set-ups and is the type of panel most of us will use.

Vertical Alignment (VA)

VA monitors arguably produce the best image of the three panel types with a higher contrast ratio than IPS or TN screens.

The downside of VA are poor viewing angles compared to IPS monitors and a slow response rate.

Which is best, TN, IPS or VA?

There really isn’t any way to say which panel is best.  The one you chose very much depends on what you are using the monitor for.

In a very small nutshell; IPS is undoubtedly the most popular thanks to the excellent and consistent image though, for speed and budget, a TN monitor is the way to go.  For image quality and greater contrast VA is the solution.

However, that being said, different users will have different requirements.  With this in mind we’ve split the next section into three parts.

How to find the best……

  • General use monitor
  • Gaming monitor
  • Professional monitor

monitor buying guide image

How to choose a general use monitor

If you are a gamer or someone who needs a specialist monitor, a designer or photographer for example, than this section won’t apply to you.

However, if you are going to be using the monitor for web browsing, Word documents and email, a general use monitor will be absolutely fine.

If you don’t need a huge screen or Ultra HD resolution, or simply don’t want to splash the extra cash on a specialist monitor, you will be able to find some amazing bargains.  The cost of a basic TN monitor is incredibly low and the quality is absolutely fine unless you are looking for the absolute top of the range display.

Lower specification IPS and VA monitors are also great value and, if budget isn’t an issue, there are some fantastic deals with 27 inch VA monitors available for well under £200.

How to choose a gaming monitor

A gaming monitor needs to be fast and output top quality graphics.    TN monitors often provide great value with their speed and colour accuracy making them an excellent buy.

For gamers with a little more cash to spend an IPS monitor will be a fantastic addition to any gaming room.

Of course, a great deal will depend on the rest of your gaming rig.  If you have dropped a lot of cash on the latest gaming PC it makes sense to invest in a monitor to match.

For an in-depth look at the specifications of gaming monitors check out our guide.

How to choose a monitor for professional users

Professional users such as graphic designers, photographers, and videographers will need a premium monitor for their job, one which provides precision colour control and reproduction.

working at computer monitor

All monitors can of course be adjusted but it is worthwhile when paying a premium price to purchase a monitor which is calibrated for colour accuracy by the manufacturer.  These displays are ready to use straight out of the box.

Graphics card

Finally, when you have chosen your monitor make sure your graphics card is able to handle it.  If your computer is a few years old it is likely you will have to upgrade your graphics card to maximise the performance of your new monitor and receive the best possible images.

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Craig Ellyard

Token old guy in the office and lifelong Hull City fan with all the psychological issues that brings. To relax I enjoy walking my two Labradors, as well as running and cycling. Set in my ways I like reading, abhor social media and just don’t get Game of Thrones.

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