Monitor Buying Guide 2021
Are you overwhelmed with all sorts of monitors around you? Are you confused with what monitor to get? You want it for gaming, you want it for multimedia, you want it for work, or, you just want it. Monitors are often viewed minor in definition, but a monitor is what majorly defines your computing experience. So, hold on, we have a guide for you. A guide to buy monitors. Welcome.
There are lots of things to consider before buying a monitor. Be sure to ask yourself these two questions before you load on your shoes and march out on market.
|What is the main purpose of your monitor? What are you buying it for? (Gaming, Content Creation, Multimedia, Work or general) Be sure you are not going after trends and bandwagons. Buy what you need.|
|What size and resolution do you actually need? Yes, many people get confused on what size monitor they really need to buy. Again, ask yourself. Do you actually need an ultrawide monitor? Can you work enough in a single monitor setup? Do you really need 2k or 4k monitor?|
If you are still not able to figure out, don’t worry. You will probably figure it out at the end of the article.
A. Figuring out the purpose.
It is important to be sure of what you will be using your monitor for. The table below will probably narrow down your confusions.
If you are a content creator, an artist or an editor. And maybe you are a student learning these. It is obvious you would be playing around with physical properties of colors and visuals. So, it would be better if you invest as much as you can in quality.
Focus primarily on monitors that are color accurate and have good viewing angles. Starting off with 2K resolution would be wise. While, if you have enough budget purchase an IPS Ultra-HD monitor with advanced image settings. You may also want to get as bigger monitor as you can.
General monitors for basic tasks at homes and offices like running Microsoft office, word processing and pdfs, web browsing or social medias won’t require you an attractive spec. They are cheap and won’t catch your eye either.
It is suggested, you get a monitor of larger size since they won’t be expensive. Also, FHD is the full stop. It would be enough.
If your main purpose is gaming. You should be seeking an immersive experience and speed. Get a monitor with the specs that your machine can handle. Get the resolution and size, your PC can handle. Your monitor should be fast enough to response and refresh. You wouldn’t want ghosting or pixel blur while diving into a game. Also look out for connectivity options as well, you would want as much ports as possible.
Multimedia & Cinema
If you want to buy a monitor dedicated mostly for multimedia experience, focus on size and resolution. Get a large monitor, probably an ultrawide to enjoy the cinematic experience. If you would be watching ultra-high definition contents, you possibly would want a 4k resolution. Also, a curved monitor would be more immersive and reduce reflections.
B. Picking the right size
Monitors are available on quite a range of sizes. A monitor’s size is measured diagonally from corner to corner in inches. Most of the monitors in market are available between the range of 19” to 34”. It is often revered that- the larger the monitor size the better the experience.
A 22-24” monitor would be good baseline to start these days. But a larger monitor offers you more versatility and better productivity.
It is not always suggested to get a larger monitor, although. You would want to consider your purpose again. Not to forget, your desk space. And after all the budget. The bigger size you opt for, the pricier it becomes. So, take these things in consideration as well.
C. The right resolution and refresh rate
Resolution: Resolution is the number of distinct pixels that can be displayed. The higher resolution insures better and sharper image quality. One of the most common resolution is 1920X1080. When you are opting out for better resolutions, keep in mind that you have enough GPU power to process it.
Monitors are represented is length X height in pixels. Common resolutions are:
- 1280 x 720 read as 720p or HD
- 1920 x 1080read as 1080p or Full HD
- 2560 x 1440 read as 1440p or Quad HD
- 3840 x 2160 read as 4k or Ultra-HD
Pixel Density: Pixel density is the number of pixels per inch (ppi) of the screen. Pixel density highly impact the image you see on monitor. Higher the pixel density, better the over all image displayed on monitor. Look for a monitor with pixel density at least more than 100 ppi.
Refresh Rate: Number of times your monitor updates with new images each second. It is measured in hertz (Hz). It determines how smooth your experience is. The higher the refresh rates, you experience lesser input lags.
Frames per second (fps): Number of times at which consecutive images called frames appear on a display
If you have a higher resolution, you get a better image quality. The basic resolutions to refresh rates available are:
- 1080p @ 60hz
- 1080p @ 144hz
- 1440p @ 60hz
- 1440p @ 144hz
- 4K @ 60hz
Regardless of your usage, you can choose any refresh rates with any resolutions. There aren’t any hard rules what you should opt out for. But, seemingly you may need it or you may not. You can take a basic reference of these guidelines as per your intended use.
- For Gaming
The resolution and refresh rate you need in your monitor depends on what kind of games you play. Is it graphic intensive or generic? But, it is suggested you get a monitor having refresh rate more than 75Hz if you are into gaming.
- RPGs/Story driven/Slow paced games- 60hz monitor
- FPSs/Action/Fast paced games- 144hz monitor
And for resolution, you should first check your GPU. If your GPU can handle games at the resolution you want, getting the monitor with that resolution is sensible. But, if your GPU is already facing lags and frame drops at HD or FHD, getting a higher resolution monitor will cause even further lags. Although, if you would be upgrading your PC in future, getting a high-res monitor is future proof.
Here are the basic resolutions corresponding to a GPU.
- 1080p 60hz- GTX 1060 / RX 480 and below
- 1080p 144hz- GTX 1070 / Vega 56 and above
- 1440p 60hz- GTX 1070 / Vega 56 and above
- 1440p 144hz- GTX 1080 / Vega 64 (minimum) GTX 1080Ti (Recommended) and above
- 4k 60hz – GTX 1080 (minimum) GTX 1080Ti (Recommended)
To note, a high-resolution monitor can still run basic tasks and generic games at its max settings. You can still get a high-resolution monitor and play games at native settings and enjoy medias at max resolutions of monitor.
Keep in mind that the resolution and refresh rates of a monitor should always go parallel with your GPU and tonnage of the game for a smooth experience.
If your prime concern is not gaming then choosing monitor is comparatively less burden for you. You don’t have to care about response time or refresh rate or motion blur. Just focus on the display resolution and color reproduction of monitor. If you are a normal user just scrolling web, writing contents (like me :D) and using social medias 1080p resolution will suffice you. If you are a content creator or a media consumer, you should choose as high quality as you can. 2k resolution would be a good base line to start with. But do not let resolution overshadow other factors. A HD monitor with better color accuracy, brightness, contrast ratio and high dynamic range is far better than a UHD monitor just high at resolution.
D. Choosing the right display type
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and LED (Light Emitting Diode) are the basic display types that is widely available in market right now. OLED displays are emerging out of horizon as well. But most of us would probably land on either with LCD and LED for their price and availability. But which one should you choose?
Slower refresh rates
Limited viewing angles
Consumes less power
(serves mercury pollution, if you are environment conscious)
Better Refresh rates
Better Viewing Angles
Better color contrast and quality
Faster response time
Consumes lesser power
Pixel Burn-in issue
Even though there are lots of advantages of LED monitor over LCD, we haven’t really made a big jump from LCDs to LEDs. And for the record, LCD monitors just keep getting better. And modern monitors are generally LCDs. One of the major things that matters in the display is the material of the screen. If you are out there, you ought to know these materials and their pros and cons. Many people have been betrayed because they were not well aware of these LCD panels.
|Twisted Nematic, TN Panels
Fastest response times in displays, has lesser motion blur and is one of the cheapest displays.
Downside is they have poor color reproduction and very narrow viewing angles. Very least appealing.
|In Plane Switching, IPS Panels
Higher color accuracy and deliver better viewing angles. They have relatively lesser response time (4 to 10ms) and tend to be a bit more expensive. Nonetheless, the best general display for all tasks.
|Vertical Alignment, VA Panels
They provide richer color reproduction than TN panels and better viewing angles than TN panels. However, they are not as good as IPS in terms of viewing angles and suffer from color shifting. It sits between TN and IPS for quality.
Yes, it is highly recommended to get a display with IPS panel. Even though IPS panels may lag by 2-3ms response time from TN panels, the overall experience the IPS panel brings is uncompromised-able than what TN panels puts on table. Take the word, close the eye, choose an IPS panel.
E. Aspect Ratio, Response Time & Refresh Rates
Aspect ratio is the ratio of width and height of the monitor. Monitors have constantly evolved in terms of aspect ratio. From 4:3 to 5:2 in 2003 to 16:9 since 2008. You are likely to get a monitor with 16:9 aspect ratio if you choose out of random. The latest ultrawide monitors are generally 21:9 in aspect ratio. And you will be fine with any of these two aspect-ratio.
Response time is the measure of how quickly a pixel can change its color from black to white or shades of grey. Other term associated with response time is input lag. Input lag is the time, a monitor takes to display the change output after receiving the input. But, it is a very less serious topic in today’s monitor since it is so negligible.
Refresh rate is the number of times a display refreshes its image in one second. It is measured in Hertz (Hz). The bigger the refresh rate, better will be the image or imaging experience. A higher refresh rate reduces motion blur and increases sharpness of the image. If you are a gamer, it is highly requested to get a monitor with refresh rate higher than 75Hz, if you are not, a 60Hz monitor suits you well enough.
F. About Adaptive Syncing (G-sync and Free Sync)
Adaptive sync was introduced to cope up with screen tearing. Screen tearing is one of those events where you see you image splitting into two. This happens when your monitor refresh rate does not match with your graphic card’s frame rate. Normally your monitor runs in a given refresh rate, for example 60Hz (60 times per second). If this refresh rate does not line up with the number of frames the graphics card is rendering per second, it results in screen tearing. Thus, in order to prevent this adaptive syncing was introduced. And graphics card manufacturers AMD and Nvidia has their own adaptive syncing technology for their GPUS, Free Sync and G-Sync respectively.
G-Sync works only with Nvidia and Free Sync works only with AMD GPUs. But it does not mean that you can not use a G-sync monitor with AMD GPU and a Free Sync monitor with Nvidia GPU. You can use them anyway you want but you can experience screen tearing sometimes.
And, to note Free Sync is widely available and is relatively cheap while G-sync requires proper criteria for its certification. Thus, G-sync monitors can be seen a little pricier. Also, a Free Sync monitor can process both on DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI, while G-sync requires a DisplayPort 1.4 for adaptive syncing. It can still run with HDMI but cannot process adaptive syncing.
But do you really need a monitor with adaptive syncing? Most of the people don’t. Adaptive syncing is only useful to those who play games where there is lots of FPS bounce. You won’t need it if you play games with constant frame rates, or, very uniform frame drops.
G. Ports in your monitor
You should look for a monitor with enough ports for your usage. Modern monitors have at least 1-2 HDMI port, 1-2 USB hubs and a DisplayPort. If you are into gaming, be sure you have good number of ports in your monitor as well. They come really handy when connecting joysticks and accessories. Otherwise, assure you have at least these of above-mentioned ports.
H. Mounting and Monitor Setup
The placement of the monitor is up to the personal experience. It is up to how you like it, or how spacious you want your setup to look. You can mount your monitor on to the wall and have a spacious desk space. Or, go classically with monitor stand, which looks pretty genuine, if you ask me.
What is more important than mounting is the monitor placement. You should really address your viewing position when placing your monitor. Your health matters and it is highly suggested that you place the monitor where you have the optimal and healthy viewing posture.
About people wanting dual monitor setup. Here are few tips
- If you are a gamer, go with two monitors of same size and model. It is more pleasing to eyes and more immersive. Try to get monitors with smaller bezels.
- Follow the first tip, if you want a really good-looking setup.
- Now for people who want to do be a little more versatile and use different screen for different purpose. You can buy a TN panel monitor with higher refresh rate and accompany with a IPS panel monitor with better color accuracy and viewing angles. That way you can do gaming and stuffs in one monitor while do multimedia on other.
It is still suggested you go with the first suggestion. Also, be sure to buy monitors of same resolution since it can cause some issue with scaling and syncing the windows across both monitors while dragging and expanding.
I. Other Features
We have probably discussed the major things you need to consider about. But, small things like speaker, mounting capabilities, monitor height adjustments, on board picture adjustments, ports and stands. Be sure to check them properly before making you final purpose. Let the big terms not overshadow these features. Even a slight compromise in these features can have a massive impact on your experience. I repeat, do no overlook these features.
So, finally we did it. You can now go on and choose the right monitor for you. Also, help friends and folks with your knowledge as well. Or, dang it ! buy an iMac and get this over with XD. The references for the article were taken from reddit sub (r/buildapc), wikipedia and other various sites on the course, a huge thanks to them. And, thank you people for reading down to the end of this article. Peace.
Tech enthusiast and a movie fanatic.