Upgrading to a larger monitor

Upgrading to a larger monitor might seem appealing, especially as prices of 32-, 42- and even 46-inch monitors plummet. While there are a plethora of factors to consider when buying a new monitor, we’ll focus on the most apparent one – the physical size.

Viewing distance

Viewing distance is an important factor you should consider if you’re looking at buying a larger monitor. While various online calculators exist to give you viewing distance, all of these use different calculations to arrive at a recommended viewing distance, and all of them seem to focus on viewing distance for watching HD movies, rather than office work or gaming.

Regardless, viewing distance between the user and the monitor will be limited by the next section, desk space.

monitor physical size comparison
Physical size comparison of desktop monitors

Desk space

The table below lists the width (in inches) of various popular monitors available today. Note that this is just the size of the panel itself, and you’ll need to add a bit more in for the bevel on either side.

What this shows is that in terms of desk space requirements, you only need an extra 3.4 inches (8.6cm) of space to upgrade from a 23-inch monitor to a 27-inch one. Similarly, the height of a new 27-inch monitor (assuming the monitor stand is the same) is only 1.9 inches (4.8cm) taller than that of a 23-inch monitor.

The main issue when it comes to desk space is the depth of the desk relative to your sitting position. Chances are you won’t change your seating position once you have a new monitor, though the viewing distance needs to increase. So you’ll probably have to push the monitor further away from yourself, an issue if you have a shallow desk or prop your current monitor against the wall.

Diagonal size Ratio Width Height
15.6 16 by 9 13.6 7.6
19 16 by 9 16.6 9.3
21.5 16 by 9 18.7 10.5
22 16 by 10 18.7 11.7
23 16 by 9 20.1 11.3
24 16 by 9 20.9 11.8
26 16 by 10 22 13.8
27 16 by 9 23.5 13.2
32 16 by 9 27.9 15.7
40 16 by 9 34.9 19.6
42 16 by 9 36.6 20.6
46 16 by 9 40.1 22.5

Monitor size vs. resolution

The other thing to consider when upgrading to a larger monitor is whether the resolution on that monitor is high enough. Both the 23-inch and 46-inch monitor in the table above run a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (full HD), thus there will be fewer pixels per inch (PPI) and a larger dot pitch (the distance between dots of the same colour on the inside of a display screen) on the 46-inch screen.

For working at a desk, there is such a thing as too big. Using a large monitor (32-inch+) as a replacement for your desktop monitor brings with it a range of issues. While the physical width and height dimensions may allow for one of these large monitors to sit on your desk, the issue of desk depth to allow for a comfortable viewing distance will prevent many people from using such a monitor.

The other issue is quality for office tasks. Working in Word or Photoshop benefits from a higher PPI and smaller dot pitch, both of which you have to sacrifice in order to use a widely available, cost effective large monitor.

So while a large monitor is great for movies and in some cases gaming (I personally wouldn’t want to play an RTS on a 42 inch full HD TV, though an FPS RPG should be fine), using one as a replacement for your every day monitor can prove to be quite a challenge.

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Upgrading to a larger monitor