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 for what we need.
However, there is such a wide choice of monitors available it’s hard to know how to narrow that choice down to the one which is best for you. There are typically over 500 different monitors listed on Ebuyer at any one time, all with different sized screens, resolutions, connections… 4K, HD, touchscreen… So where do you begin?
The size and quality of the monitor you choose should 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 will be less than one you might choose if you will be gaming or working in high-end graphic design, for example.
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 the choice from there. If you’ve set yourself a budget, the good news is that you can now get far greater value for money than used to be the case. Technology has advanced and prices have dropped – so high-quality monitors are more affordable than ever before.
However, there are more factors to consider than just price…
The first thing you need to think about is the monitor’s resolution, and this depends entirely on what your graphics card is capable of. There’s no point in getting a 4K monitor, for example, if your graphics card can only handle a lower resolution of 1080p. You’d be wasting your money. If you’re also looking for a new graphics card, check our huge range here.
Here’s a quick guide
Standard 1080p monitors have a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. This is still generally accepted as the most popular resolution for gaming. The benefit of 1080p is that it’s the most affordable monitor around, available from virtually anywhere.
This is a good middle ground between 1080p and 4K. These are generally regarded as PC gaming’s sweet spot, giving a boost over 1080p without you having to smash your budget. Solid choices for graphics cards in this budget include the brilliant GeForce RTX 3070 and the Radeon RX 6800.
4K is also known as UHD (Ultra-High Definition), and has a resolution of 3860×2160 pixels. This provides four times the number of pixels as a 1080p screen. With supreme clarity, this is the current must-have – especially when paired with HDR (High Dynamic Range) as you get an incredible image which will blow you away! If you’re going to be gaming on a 4K display, we recommend you go for a high-end graphics card such as the GeForce RTX 380 or AMD’s Radeon RX 6800XT if you want to see perfection! If you’re thinking of mainly watching TV on a 4K, then there is some content available – but not that much, currently.
4K isn’t the latest thing anymore as some manufacturers are already promoting 5K monitors with an even higher resolution. Unlike with TVs, you don’t have to wait for all the content to arrive before you feel the benefit – as, for example, graphic designers and people who work with video footage can use it straight away.
Let’s start with the obvious. You need to decide which size of screen you need. It’s not quite as straight forward as going for the biggest that your budget allows. It very much depends on the physical 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.
As more and more people seek to create perfect home entertainment by downloading movies and TV series, it’s really no surprise that super-wide monitors are proving extremely popular. These monitors are not only great for watching TV shows, but also for workers who can utilise the split-screen feature. Instead of 2 x 21” monitors you might find a 34-inch provides all the viewing space you actually need and you can emulate two or even four separate monitors!
Whenever curved screens are talked about, you’ll probably hear the phrase “immersive experience”. If you’re gaming, you’ll feel like you’re a part of the action, and if you’re working then curved monitors are ideal for multi-monitor uses and provide more natural viewing angles.
Curved monitors are often associated with a more active computer experience and, as a result, this type of monitor is best for those who enjoy a more close-up experience. That means curved monitors may not be right for everyone. However, if you’re a regular gamer, a desk-bound worker, or someone who likes to take in a movie on their own, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a curved display.
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’re 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 nitty-gritty of the tech. But 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 the problem of poor viewing angles. If you’re looking at the screen directly head on you won’t notice an issue. But 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 for you.
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 IPS 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 monitors are poor viewing angles compared to IPS monitors, plus a slow response rate.
Which is best: TN, IPS or VA?
There really isn’t any real way to say which panel is best. They all have their strengths. The one you choose will very much depend on what you intend using the monitor for.
In a tiny 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
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) then 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” VA monitors available for well under £200.
How to choose a gaming monitor
A gaming monitor needs to be fast and able to output top quality graphics. TN monitors often provide great value with their speed and colour accuracy, which makes 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.
All monitors can of course be adjusted but it’s 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.
Do monitors come with speakers?
Most monitors don’t come with speakers built in, because that would add weight, size and cost. Also consider that most places which use monitors (schools, offices and studios, for example) require other audio solutions. Schools use headphones with their computers so that one student’s learning does not interrupt the learning of anyone else.
One, two or three monitor set-up?
Most people get along fine with a single monitor set-up. But, increasingly, the benefits of having two or even three monitors is being realised. A study by Fujitsu Siemens aimed to find out if multiple monitors aided productivity. It revealed that dual monitors saw a 25% increase in productivity, while a triple monitor set up saw a 35% increase compared to a single monitor.
With a dual monitor set-up you can run multiple applications simultaneously – for example you can have your email open on one monitor and work documents open on the other. Of course, you’ll need more desk space to accommodate two monitors but as far as the costs go, prices have dropped dramatically in recent years so you should be able to find bargains out there.
For a three-monitor set up you’ll need even more space, but it means you can use several programs simultaneously, saving you lots of time and enabling you to be much more productive. If you just have a laptop as your main computer, don’t forget that you can easily add a second monitor by using a docking station, so you don’t have to rush out and buy a whole new set up.
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’s likely you’ll have to upgrade your graphics card to maximise the performance of your new monitor and receive the best possible images.
Graphics cards are used by gamers to ensure they get the most out of their PC games and by designers who need better graphics handling from their PC. So install a new graphics card in your PC and bring your gaming experience into the twenty first century.
Graphics are an integral part of all PC games. However, most PCs aren’t built for the high-end graphics featured in a lot of PC games, so images can lag and end up ruining gameplay. No matter what type of PC games you prefer it can be a disaster if your gaming sessions don’t run smoothly.
If you’re having problems with images when playing games, you don’t necessarily need to buy a whole new PC or monitor. Simply upgrade your graphics card and it’ll be like having a new PC!