You need to consider a variety of features and specifications when you buy a new monitor for your desktop PC.
Many users simply look for the most inexpensive display of a certain size, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the best value for your money.
There are large differences between different displays beyond their sizes and prices.
We have outlined some of the most important factors to consider when shopping for a new display below.
Resolution refers to the number of pixels a screen can display. This is represented in a format such as 1,920 x 1,080 – which means that there are 1,920 pixels horizontally, and 1,080 vertically.
The higher the resolution, the better the quality of the image on your display.
Some common resolutions are listed from lowest to highest below.
- HD – 1,360 x 768
- HD+ – 1,600 x 900
- Full HD – 1,920 x 1,080
- QHD – 2,560 x 1,440
- 4K UHD – 3,840 x 2,160
The resolution of a display is arguably more important than the monitor’s size. A 27-inch 4K monitor will almost certainly provide a better viewing experience than a slightly larger HD display, for example.
This makes resolution an important consideration for any user – from gamers and graphics editors to the everyday user who just wants to watch Netflix.
Contrast ratio and brightness
The contrast ratio of your display refers to how significant the difference is between the brightest and darkest light levels of your screen.
A higher contrast ratio means that there is more colour diversity on your display, which in turn means that your image is likely to look more defined and realistic.
This is of particular importance to photo and video editors, as well as to designers – although it is also a worthwhile consideration for gamers, too.
The brightness of your display can also be a significant consideration when buying a monitor. Measured in candelas per square metre (cd/m2) or “nits”, a higher brightness level is usually considered to be better for image quality.
The viewing angle of a PC refers to the angle from which you can view a monitor without the image and colours losing their accuracy.
The angle listed for a monitor refers to the entire angle that the image can be viewed from without the quality being affected. For example, a 160-degree viewing angle means you can view the display from 80 degrees to each side before the image and colours lose their accuracy.
Refresh rate refers to the number of times per second that the image on a display will refresh itself.
This is of particular interest to gamers, as it means that their games will likely run smoother if their refresh rate is higher.
Standard displays usually offer a 60Hz refresh rate, but superior gaming monitors offer 120Hz or 144Hz displays, and there are even some displays that support 240Hz.
However, bigger refresh rates usually mean your graphics card will need to be fairly powerful to keep up with their rendering requirements.
Response time is another important consideration of gamers – particularly those who play high-octane shooting games.
It refers to how quickly your monitor can show image transitions, and means that FPS gamers can possibly get their first shot out before their opponents can.
This feature is generally less important to non-gaming users, but gamers should try to keep this at 5ms or lower.
Different panel technologies are of particular interest to certain types of users – making them an important consideration when buying a monitor.
- Twisted Nematic (TN) is the most common type of display, and generally offers fast response times but with poor colour accuracy.
- Vertical Alignment (VA) offers improved contrast ratios and colour accuracy at the expense of slower response times.
- In-plane Switching (IPS) offers superior colour accuracy to VA displays, but also offer slower response times than TN displays.
- Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays use the best current technology around. They offer better colour and image quality than the previous three displays, but come with an increased risk of screen burn and are generally less durable than other panels. They are very uncommon in the PC monitor market due to how expensive they are to produce.