LCD Monitor Buying Guide
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Monitor
There are a number of practical considerations to bear in mind when purchasing a computer monitor
- Always match the size of the monitor to the amount of available desk space. Be mindful of the size and shape of the base when considering space.
- Shop for a monitor according to the spec of your computer’s graphics card. If your computer is 5 or more years-old, for example, then you are unlikely to be able to enjoy the monitor’s full potential and may need to consider updating or upgrading your PC.
- Consider how many people will be using the monitor. If the monitor will be enjoyed by multiple users, consider purchasing one with ergonomic features such as adjustable height.
- It is important to bear in mind how you intend to use your monitor. If you expect to use it as part of a media or gaming hub, for example, ensure the monitor you choose has high resolution, fast response times and high levels of connectivity.
Monitors come with an array of features and components that have an impact upon picture quality. However, there are three key aspects to consider when determining which monitor will give you the performance that meets your need.
- Resolution: resolution is a measurement of the number of pixels on the screen. The larger the pixel count, the greater the detail, the better the picture. The highest resolution, however, comes at a cost. A good starting point is a monitor with Full HD. If you work in media or are a film aficionado, consider upgrading to a 4K monitor.
- Response times: response time is a measurement of how quickly a pixel can change colour. The faster the response time, the less likely the monitor is to show ghosting. Aim to purchase a PC monitor with the quickest response time that you can afford. Anything below 5ms is sufficient. 2ms is ideal.
- Contrast ratio: this is measurement of the difference between the light intensity of the brightest white and the darkest black. A contrast ratio of above 10,000:1 will meet almost any need.
Monitors are available with a range of panel types. A monitor’s panel can have a huge influence over its performance, so it is important to understand what kind of results you can expect.
- Twisted Nematic (TN): TN monitors tend to be fast (2ms or less) and affordable. However, they are likely to offer inferior brightness and colour reproduction when compared with other panel types.
- Vertical Alignment (VA): VA monitors tend to offer better viewing angles, brightness and colour reproduction than TN monitors. However, they tend to be slower and can thus be prone to ghosting.
- In-plane Switching (IPS): IPS panels offer the widest viewing angles and the most accurate colours, making them ideal for anyone who wants their monitor to double as a TV. IPS panels can, however, be much slower so be sure to check response times before purchasing.
- Plane to Line Switching (PLS): similar to IPS, PLS panels offer wide viewing angles with superior image quality, an increase in brightness and a flexible panel, making them very versatile for your monitor needs.
Features to look out for
Monitors come with numerous features that can help you get more from your computer and your favourite media. As always, it is important to consider if you will get any use out of these features as they often come at a premium.
- Built-in speakers: purchasing a monitor with built-in speakers can save you money and desk space. It should be noted, however, that more often than not these built-in features will not offer the same performance levels as external equipment.
- Connectivity: connectivity is of vital importance when choosing a monitor. If you intend to use your monitor to enjoy movies, games and other media, look for one with at least one HDMI or DisplayPort. If you regularly connect USB devices to your computer, you may find that a monitor with USB ports located along its side hugely convenient.
Type of Monitors
If you are shopping for a monitor that will do little more than help you surf the web, send emails and prepare documents, then you could save yourself money by opting for an entry-level monitor. These monitors are likely to be light on features and have reduced resolution but will still be fit for purpose.
- You may find that purchasing a smaller monitor with 4:3 aspect ratio fulfils all your needs and saves you money. After all, if you don’t expect to use it for watching videos or gaming, you are unlikely to benefit from high resolution.
- If picture quality is not of paramount importance, then you may wish to consider opting for a monitor with a TN panel. Such monitors offer fast response times and come at a lower price point than most other panel types.
- Regardless of how you intend to use your monitor, it is still worth buying one with the highest level of connectivity that you can afford. The very least you should look for is VGA connectivity.
If your line of work requires you to deal in detailed images or work in high resolutions, you may wish to consider opting for a larger, more versatile monitor with advanced features that can help you get more from your time in front of the screen.
- If you are shopping for a work monitor, then you should look for the highest resolution, highest contrast ratio and the highest colour accuracy that you can afford. If you don’t intend to use you monitor for video, it might be worth sacrificing response time if it means you can buy a monitor with higher picture quality.
- If your monitor is going to be used extensively throughout the day, consider shopping for a monitor with a green or eco mode. This could help you reduce your environmental impact and your energy bills.
- If the monitor you are shopping for is to be used by more than one person, look for one with a stand that enables you to adjust the height. This will allow every user to work at the screen in comfort.
Gaming & Multimedia
Multimedia and gaming monitors are specifically designed to produce the sharpest images and the crispest video to heighten your entertainment experience. The features they boast come at a premium so are only likely to be of interest to hard core enthusiasts or those looking to combine a TV and a monitor into one unit.
- A 3D monitor can provide an enthralling experience like no other. There are two types of 3D monitor, namely active and passive. Active tends to offer a wider angle and clear imagery, however, it requires the user to wear battery-operated glasses. Passive 3D glasses are more comfortable, however, passive monitors tend to have a narrower viewing angle.
- Response times are essential when shopping for a gaming or multimedia monitor. The simple rule is to shop for the fastest monitor that you can afford to avoid lagging and ghosting.
- Similarly, it is important to shop for the highest possible level of connectivity. Multiple HDMI ports for example will enable you to connect media players and games consoles as well as your laptop or desktop computer.
Cables & Adapters
Adding HMDI cables and port adapters to your computer equipment ensures that you can enjoy the highest picture and audio quality so you continue to get value from your purchases.
Webcams & Headsets
If you use your computer to make video calls, you may wish to consider adding webcams and headsets so you can enjoy conversations in higher video and audio quality.
Desktop speakers and wireless speakers allow you to enjoy crisp, room filling audio direct from your computer. Compact and discreet, they fit seamlessly into any décor scheme.