When you think of your computer setup, you probably will think of the hardware, software and components that determine the performance of your computer. It is easy to overlook certain aspects when buying, building, or upgrading your computer hardware, like a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Choosing a keyboard and mouse won’t take much thought, however there are a bit more factors to consider when shopping for a PC monitor. The monitor is the feed of information from our computer back to us, it effects our work, our entertainment, and even our health. It is not only about size, but quality and clarity for what you and your computer need so you can stay relaxed for long periods of time with comfort and no eye strain, complete your work, kick back to a movie, or immerse yourself in your favorite PC gaming.
Like most TVs, monitors have an array of specifications, sometimes even more so than a TV, and with a lot of technical terms and science. The following somewhat simplified breakdown of what specs to look for when buying a PC monitor or Gaming Monitor. This should help you in your quest in finding the right monitor for you and what to look for when browsing computer monitor deals.
Size may be one of the first things you think about when shopping for a monitor but choosing the right size should be determined by what you need it for. If you’re looking to be able to watch movies and play games, you will probably want a larger screen size, or if you are just trying to work on a spreadsheet, it may not matter what your screen size is. Ultra-Wide screens are also an option not just for entertainment but great for work or school conferences, and photography trying to get a 360-degree effect. Many Ultra-Wide screens offers in screen split modes if you need to participate in video and work on your computer at the same time.
Tip – Ensure the size would sit comfortably in your field of view (distance from your face and the screen), it’s easy to strain your eyes with a monitor that’s too big or too small depending on your field of view. For desk monitors that are 2 to 4 feet from your face, I recommend a 34” monitor or less.
Tip – The larger the screen, the more the image will stretch, so it is important to look at the display resolution. For example, the images on a large monitor with lower resolution will not be as sharp and crisp as a smaller monitor with the same resolution. For Gamers, photographers, and artists, you will probably want a larger screen with at least a 4k Ultra-High Definition. (See Resolution)
Tip – Multiple smaller monitors requiring lower resolution may be suitable and lower cost than one larger screen. This allows you better images on smaller screens and enables multiple viewpoints open for you to increase your productivity.
When you decide what size monitor and quality of image you need, you will then be able to figure out what resolution to look for. Again, for spreadsheets and basic work functions, this may not be a major decision, but for everything else it is extremely vital to your experience.
The size of your screen and the resolution will determine the pixel density (PPI – pixels per inch) of the display. For demonstration, a 22” monitor with 1080p Full HD will have about 100 PPI vs the same 1080p Full HD on a 32” monitor will only have a display of about 70 PPI because the image needs to stretch more to fit the larger screen. Keep this in mind when shopping larger screens for gaming, movies, or video. Especially when using your computer for photography and imaging, you will want a monitor that provides sharp images with accurate color.
Resolution specs usually will look like this on the manufacturers label, (sum of pixel lines horizontally)x(sum of pixels vertically). This is one factor why some 1080p resolutions may seem better when viewing because one may be 1920×1080 resolution while the better one has a 2560×1080 resolution. The pixels per row is greater on one of them.
Here’s a simple breakdown of different resolutions. Ultimately, the higher the resolution, the sharper your images will be.
1920 x 1080 – Nowadays, this is considered the standard HD and found in most monitors.
2560 x 1440 – This is 2k resolution, it has twice as many pixels as the standard 1080p.
3840 x 2160 – Otherwise called 4k Ultra-High Definition (4x pixels from 1080).
7680 x 4320 – 8k Ultra-High Definition and typically the best available (8x pixels from 1080).
*A quick note on Aspect Ratios if you’re curious, it is not that important as almost all monitors are 16:9 which is the aspect ratio of modern TV and movie theaters. Anything less is also not 1080p. Only when shopping for an Ultra-Wide screen, you want to be looking for a 21:9 aspect ratio.
Brightness & Refresh Rate
Almost all modernized monitors will provide good brightness and refresh rate levels. It’s hard to find anything under 60hz refresh rate and with a lower brightness level than 300 nits.
Tip – Gamers should look for higher refresh rate, typically 75-120hz. This will provide smooth flow of colors and gameplay with best results.
Tip – Photographers and artists should look for higher brightness levels of at least 400 nit which is the minimum requirement to officially be called HDR. This will provide the most accurate colors.
Panel Types and Response Times
The technology of the panel display will have great deal on your image quality. It is the backbone of your display. There are 3 general types of panels found in monitors.
TN – Decent color and contrast, fast response times (does not require much to process), not the best from viewing at an angle. Good monitor for basic computing or office.
IPS – A bit more expensive but usually offers the best colors with best contrast, 1-2ms response times and exceptional viewing from angles. Works best with powerful computers using advanced software.
VA – This panel is somewhere in between TN and IPS types with good color and contrast and response times of 4-5ms.
Most monitors today offer exceptional response times, although you ideally want to stay under 8 milliseconds.
Tip- Gamers require a fast response time and should look for 5ms or less.
There is no contesting that Curved monitors and TVs are making a splash on the scene. There are some awesome benefits of a curved monitor, but it may not always be the best for you. Some benefits include.
-Better field of view when sitting closer to the screen.
-More immersive experience for 2D games
-Study from Harvard Medical School shows 60% reduction in eye strain when using a curved monitor
This is the important part. For “high end” gaming and projects, you must only buy a curved monitor with a curvature rating of R1000 or better and this is why. A lower rating curvature will skew the perception of the image; therefore, I would not recommend for certain types of work like architecture for example. Because of the curvature, line perception may be impacted, in other words, some straight lines can look not straight from certain angles. Also, 3D game developers use something called rectilinear projection which makes 3D images on 2D surfaces which may also be impacted on a curved screen. For these types of needs, I would only go for a curved monitor with R-1000 or greater or I recommend a flat screen.
I also want to point out that one of my monitors I own is curved, I do love it and I adjusted quickly to the change. Its one of my favorite things I got for my computer rig.
I hope this quick synopsis on computer monitors helps you decide what’s best for you. I will leave you with a few final tips.
-Match the power of your CPU and GPU. If you have a powerful computer. It deserves a monitor that can support the powerful computing and chips to give you the best imagery and experience. There are many high-grade options and sometimes you may even get lucky and find a computer monitor for sale with high end specs.
-You can usually find best deals on monitor when they’re refurbished or open box. You can get a better monitor than you think that’s still within your budget. So don’t be afraid to look at monitors on sale and compare price points against something of higher quality.