Shopping for a monitor can be a difficult undertaking. There are so many types with different, potentially confusing specs that it can give you a bigger headache than using one with a low refresh rate — a very real issue. There's a treasure trove of information we've learned over the years when it comes to buying monitors, and we're sharing that here with you in the interest of helping you find the best monitor to purchase.
It can be tempting to buy a familiar brand or what you perceive as the "best" picture when buying a monitor. But there are far more features that monitors offer and parameters that they offer within, so much so that it's almost similar to buying the right TV for your home. The most expensive monitor may not be right for you, either, and cheaper screens may not have what you're looking for. You'll need to keep these things in mind when looking for a monitor, especially if you have a specific use case planned for your new screen.
Reduce blur by choosing a monitor with a shorter response time. Response time refers to the time it takes for your monitor to shift from one color to another. This is generally measured in terms of milliseconds (ms). Typically, you'll see an average of 10 to 15ms, with LCD screens shaving a few seconds off of that time. In general, buy a monitor with a shorter response time if you're looking to lessen motion blur. This can occur even if you're just watching your favorite Netflix series or YouTube video, but it's a major concern for anyone looking to do some hardcore gaming. You'll see smoother, sharper motion and most importantly, less ghosting, where objects can appear twice on one screen.
Higher refresh rates mean happier eyes. A monitor's refresh rate is important if you're going to be staring at the screen for any length of time. Look for a higher number here, as it measures the number of times your monitor continuously updates itself per second. Measured in hertz (Hz), refresh rate numbers of at least 60 to 75 Hz are in the decent range to protect you from watering eyes, eye strain, and general irritation when working, gaming, or enjoying your favorite shows. If you're looking to use your new monitor for gaming, choose a higher refresh rate of about 120 Hz. Pair high refresh rates with low response time and you'll have a winning combination on your hands.
Seek out higher resolution for a crisper, sharper image. Where a monitor's response time and refresh rates are equally important, you're going to want to purchase a monitor with higher resolution if you want it to look its best. The resolution is communicated in terms pixels in a width by height format. At a minimum, for HD viewing, you'll want 1920 x 1080 resolution, but you can go much higher and spend a lot more money on even better, sharper images. Of course, this isn't going to matter to you so much if you're a more casual viewer, but visual fidelity can make or break some users' enjoyment and even functionality when it comes to monitors, so choose wisely.
Know the difference between LCD and LED monitors. Most monitors are split up into two categories: LCD or LED. While all monitors are LCD monitors, not all LCD monitors are LED monitors. LED monitors are thinner and tend to be a bit brighter with better contrast and high-intensity color, due to the light-emitting diodes they get their name from. They're a bit more expensive than LCD monitors, on the other hand, which are affordable, but utilize older technology. Instead of light-emitting diodes, LCD monitors use cold cathode fluorescent lamps to light the screen. They're much less harsh on the eyes, but also feature duller colors, which can translate to a net positive: they're great for longer periods of use.
Choose the best type of panel that fits your needs. All LCD monitors feature different types of panels, ranging from twisted nematic (TTN) to IPS or VA, OLED, and AMOLED. TTN panels are older options with higher refresh rates and low latency that gamers tend to gravitate toward, and they're a bit more affordable. IPS and VA monitor panels are a slight upgrade, and both are found easily on the market. They both feature good viewing angles, decent input lag, good color reproduction, and great contrast. VA panels specifically are good for graphic editing, as their color reproduction is higher quality. OLED panels are a major step up, as they aren't based on LCD technology, nor do they require backlights to operate. They're pricier, but offer excellent brightness settings, great viewing angles, and less power consumption. Finally, an AMOLED display is a step up that costs even more, but it offers a faster refresh rate along with brighter colors and overall crisp, fantastic-looking screen. Ultimately, the one that works for you will depend on what you want to spend as well as what you're going to use it for.
Consider a curved monitor instead of a flat screen. Like many screens these days, monitors have some gimmicks up their sleeves. Your phone may fold, but some monitors these days are curved. Why would you want that? You'll get a much more immersive experience from the game you want to play or the show you want to watch, as the curve of the image gives the illusion that what your eyes are fixed on is multi-dimensional and helps to reduce image distortion. If you play a lot of games and want to feel like you're right in the middle of your favorite one, a curved screen might be the best option for you.
Know your ports. If you've weighed the other pros and cons attached to the monitor you plan on buying, there's one more thing to consider: what types of video connections there are available on your chosen product. There are a variety of ways to connect to other devices, such as via USB-C, HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, and VGA. Be cognizant of what your other tech at home works with and what you need to hook up to your monitor before you purchase anything, because not every model is created the same in terms of connectivity.