When you’re shopping for a monitor everyone always talks about refresh rate, panel type, this can be a bit confusing when you’re juggling five different terms and trying to figure out what a twenty thousand to 1 contrast ratio actually means, and that’s where we come in today.
We will be breaking down 7 things you need to know about monitors before buying.
The very first thing you have to figure out is what you actually plan on doing with the monitor.
Are you a gamer? A professional videographer? Do you look at spreadsheets all day?
Different tasks will be better with different aspect ratios, this figure determines the shape of the monitor.
16 by 9 is the standard used in HD television and even YouTube, so for most people, this is a perfect fit.
However, if you take your gaming very seriously or if you’re a content creator, then an ultra-wide monitor may be better suited for you.
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An ultra-wide gives you the productivity and immersiveness of multiple monitors without the hassle of having multiple monitors all around you, and no ugly bezels in between. It’s also great when watching movies since 21 by 9 is frequently used in cinema.
After choosing an aspect ratio, you can take a look at whether you want a curved display. In general, a slight curve to the display helps improve the immersion and image quality since it mimics your eyes natural field of view.
We’d recommend going with a curved display only if you choose an ultra-wide monitor since the normal widescreens aren’t expansive enough to see much of a difference.
If you are someone who works with 3D models or graphic design, then you may want to stick with a flat display since the slight curvature can kind of distort straight lines. Sometimes a curved display is also not recommended if you need to share your screen a lot since it only offers better image quality if you’re the one sitting in that sweet spot in the middle.
The next thing we need to look at is the size.
Most people are happy with a monitor that’s 22 inches to 27 inches, but this heavily depends on where you’re going to put the monitor. How far you’ll sit from it and how good your eyesight is.
Now you need to pick your resolution. This determines how many pixels there are on a screen, so the higher the resolution the more pixels there are. But you need to carefully match it with the size in order to keep a comfortable pixel density.
A high resolution in a small screen will have a high density while a low resolution in a large screen will have a low density so what does that mean?
Here’s an example — let’s start with the 27-inch monitor with a resolution of 1920 by 1080, now imagine there’s a picture on the screen with a resolution of 960 by 540 that picture will take exactly 25% of the screen total area, and physically be sixteen point eight centimeters tall.
Now if you try to view the same picture on a 27-inch monitor that has a resolution of 3840 by 2160, that picture will only take up 6.25% of the screen and physically only be 8.4 centimeters tall. The sweet spot is a pixel density of around 90 to 110 pixels per inch anything lower than that usually provides an image that isn’t as sharp as it could be, and anything higher than that can make things like text too small to be easily read.
There are exceptions if you’re a photographer or videographer then having a high-density monitor can be great for working with high-resolution photos and videos, a higher resolution also looks better for gaming if your computer is powerful enough to handle it.
The next choice is one that’s a bit more difficult to decide: your panel type.
The main differences here are the color accuracy brightness, backlight bleed and refresh rate.
There are three main panel types that you can get right now, in order from least to most expensive they are – TN, VA, and IPS.
You may have seen the terms LCD and LED before but these don’t actually affect your panel, these describe the type of backlighting a monitor uses and pretty much all modern displays use LED backlighting.
TN stands for twisted nematic and that’s the most common type of LCD panel. These offer the most standard experience that people are used to, with good colors good brightness and little backlight bleed. The main advantage of a TN panel offers is pure speed, it can have a response time of as quick as one millisecond and a refresh rate as fast as 240 Hertz.
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Here’s a quick side note though, TN panels weren’t designed for vertical viewing so if you plan on rotating a monitor on its side, use a VA or IPS panel.
VA or vertical alignment, you can think of this as a step up from a TN panel since it offers slightly better color accuracy, better contrast and even more black levels than IPS panels. These can range anywhere between 60 and 200 Hertz and typically features a response time down to four milliseconds.
IPS, or in-plane switching, these offer the best image quality and often come factory calibrated to match certain color standards such as SRGB and Adobe RGB. Having a monitor that’s accurate to a color standard is crucial if you’re a content creator or some sort of designer since you need to know exactly what your stuff looks like.
Just like the VA panels, these feature a response time down to 4 milliseconds, but these panels can have a refresh rate up to 165 Hertz. IPS panels also offer the widest viewing angle, so they’re great if you plan on having multiple monitors or like sharing monitors.
With all that out of the way we can start to group it into categories.
If you use your monitors for basic things like web browsing, checking emails, shopping or watching YouTube, then save yourself a few bucks and get yourself a basic TN panel.
If you’re a gamer and need the absolute fastest experience possible, you’ll want a higher end TN panel that’s capable of ultra-fast response times and high refresh rates.
If you enjoy watching a lot of Netflix or movies or play a lot of games that are less about competitiveness and more just about great graphics and exploration, then a VA panel is perfect. if you like watching movies with other people, or your content creator, then get yourself an IPS panel and a way of calibrating it.
The next feature is an important one — refresh rate.
Refresh rate is how many times per second the monitor can display an image, generally speaking, the higher the refresh rate the smoother the image will be, and yes, the human eye can see more than 24 frames per second.
The difference between a 60 Hertz monitor and a 165 Hertz monitor is pretty noticeable, but the difference between a 165 and 240 Hertz is a little subtler. if you don’t game at all then just get a 60 Hertz panel, if you play games do yourself a favor and try to get a 165 Hertz panel or at least a 120 Hertz.
And if you’re a very competitive gamer especially in fps then a 240 Hertz is probably perfect for you.
Also, make sure your computer is fast enough to actually make use of your monitor. I cannot stress this enough, if you’re only getting 60 FPS in game then your fancy 165 Hertz monitor just is going to waste.
Another spec we need to look at is response time — generally speaking, any monitor under 10 milliseconds will be great for most people, this used to be more of an issue back when LCD monitors first became mainstream, and they had a response times as high as 20 milliseconds, but nowadays even VA and IPS panels can be as fast as 4 milliseconds.
A shorter response time is good but don’t make it your first priority.
Contrast ratio measures the difference in luminance between white and black, so the higher the number the better. However, there are currently no standard processes or guidelines for measuring this, in fact, every manufacturer has their own way of measuring this so, for the most part, you can ignore this number.
Now you should be able to narrow down your monitor choices to a handful of models.
Many monitors actually share the same panel, so this is when you start comparing the physical differences that each brand brings.
Does it have an adjustable stand? Is a surface matte or glossy? Does it have mounting points? Does it have speakers built-in? Etc…