The right monitor will help you make the most of your movies, your games, or your work. Our buying guide outlines everything you need to know when shopping, plus our top-rated displays in a variety of sizes and price levels.-The Best Computer Monitors of 2017
The monitor you’re using right now might have come bundled with your desktop PC, or maybe you bought it back when 1,240 by 768 was considered high resolution. Since you spend a huge part of every day looking at it, however, it pays to be picky when picking the right screen. Price ranges vary widely, as do the quality of panels. We’ll walk you through the latest trends in display technology, as well as the specific features to look for when buying your next desktop monitor.
Price: Monitor prices depend on the type, size, and features of the display. For around $130 to $200, you can pick up a 22-inch, no-frills model, but don’t expect niceties such as USB ports and a height-adjustable stand at this price. But these panels do use LED backlighting, require little power, and are very bright. Performance is adequate for most entertainment or basic business and productivity purposes, but not well suited to tasks where color and grayscale accuracy are key. At the other end of the spectrum are your high-end models that are geared toward graphic design professionals and photographers. These are 30- to 34-inch high-end panels that can display four times the resolution of a typical full HD (1,920-by-1,080) monitor. Moreover, they offer such features as a highly adjustable stand, USB ports, and a wealth of advanced image settings, including calibration hardware and software. Expect to pay $1,000 and up for a fully loaded, high-performance 4K or Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) monitor. Bottom line: Be prepared to pay for extras, but don’t overspend on features you will never use.
Size: Desktop monitors generally fall between 15 and 34 inches. The size of the panel is measured diagonally. While it’s always nice to have a big viewing area, it may not be practical, given desktop space constraints. Plus, the bigger the screen, the more you can expect to pay. A 24-inch monitor is a good choice if you wish to view multipage documents or watch movies, but have limited desk space. But there’s nothing like watching a movie or playing a game on a large screen, so if you have room on your desktop, a 27-inch display delivers a big-screen experience for a reasonable price. Or, if space is not an issue, consider a massive 34-inch, curved-screen model to bring a true movie-theater experience to your desktop. If you’re looking to replace a dual-monitor setup with a single display, check out one of the ultra-wide, big-screen models. They are available in sizes ranging from 29 to 38 inches with curved and non-curved panels, have a 21:9 aspect ratio, and come in a variety of resolutions, including Wide Quad High-Definition (WQHD) and Ultra High-Definition (UHD).
Pixel Response Rate: Measured in milliseconds (ms), this is the time it takes for a pixel to change from black to white (black-to-white) or to transition from one shade of gray to another (gray-to-gray). The faster the pixel response rate, the better the monitor is at displaying video without also displaying artifacts, such as ghosting or blurring of moving images. Monitors with a fast 1ms (gray-to-gray) pixel response are very good for gaming, but even monitors with a higher 6ms (gray-to-gray) pixel response can display games without much blurring or ghosting. The fact is, most users won’t notice lag, which is the time it takes for the display to react to a command, but hard-core gamers consider this a key factor when choosing a monitor and typically seek out the fastest models available. The fastest monitor we’ve seen has a lag time of 9.5ms, but you can get by with up to around 25ms before lag becomes a problem.
Resolution: This is the number of pixels a monitor can display, both horizontally and vertically. For example, a monitor with a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution can display 1,920 pixels across the width of the screen, and 1,080 pixels from top to bottom. The higher the resolution, the more information can be displayed on the screen. These days, most monitors in the 22- to 27-inch range have a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 and are referred to as full HD monitors. There are also plenty of 24- to 27-inch displays that offer a WQHD (2,560-by-1,440) native resolution. Stepping up to a UHD or 4K (3,840-by-2,160) monitor usually means you’ll need a 28-inch or larger screen, although we have seen a few 24-inch UHD models. UHD monitors are ideal for viewing highly detailed images or viewing multiple pages in a tiled or side-by-side format.
Extra Features: If you have to share a monitor with a coworker or family members, consider a model with an ergonomic stand that lets you position the screen for your most comfortable viewing angle. A fully adjustable stand offers tilt, swivel, and height adjustments, and you can rotate the panel for Portrait-mode viewing. If you transfer lots of data back and forth between USB devices, look for a monitor with built-in USB ports. Ideally, at least two of these ports will be mounted on the side of the cabinet, making it easy to plug in thumb drives and other USB peripherals. Embedded webcams are ideal for Web conferencing, but don’t expect stellar image quality, as they typically have low resolutions.
Most monitors come with built-in speakers that are adequate for everyday use, but lack the volume and bass response that music aficionados and gamers crave. If audio output is important, look for speakers with a minimum rating of 2 watts per speaker. As a general rule, the higher the power rating, the more volume you can expect, so if you want a monitor with a little extra audio pop, check the specs. A display with a built-in card reader makes it easy to view photos and play music without having to reach under your desk to plug in a media card. Finally, glossy screens can provide very bright, crisp colors, but may also be too reflective for some users. If possible, compare a glossy screen to a matte screen before you buy to decide which works best for you.