Upgrading a PC is very complicated, and choosing a new monitor is not as easy as it seems. Making a good choice can be really complicated, especially if we want a monitor for specific purposes or if we are looking for certain specific game-oriented characteristics.
Not everything is about the display size and resolution, as a good monitor means much more than just that, therefore we wanted to make this guide where we will give you a series of basic tips so you can choose your new monitor without hesitation.
We will avoid unnecessary complications, as the most useful guides are definitely those that are the simplest and most concise, which does not mean that we will end up with an overly simple guide.
As always, we hope that you like it and we invite you to leave your opinion in the comments section.
Display size and resolution
These are two basic and essential elements that we have to bear in mind before making a decision. Nowadays the most typical monitor sizes go from 15 to 34 inches, although there are larger monitors for customers with a bigger budget.
The display size should fit both the way that we are going to use it for and the distance between the display and us. So if we are going to be sitting very close to it, a display around 18 to 24 inches is the best option. The farther it is from us, the larger the monitor should be.
As for resolution, we need to take it into account always keeping in mind the size of the display. The smaller the screen and the higher the resolution, the more densely packed the pixels will be and the greater the sharpness will be perceived by us. On the contrary, a larger display will show ‘stretched’ pixels and we would have less definition with the same resolution in comparison to smaller displays.
In this sense, distance is also important and there is no such thing as a universal display size, but I can give you some general recommendations:
- Up to 19 inches: resolutions lower than 1080p are acceptable.
- Over 19 inches and up to 24 inches: resolutions up to 1080p are acceptable.
- Over 24 inches and up to 28 inches: we should consider switching to resolutions like 1440p. Higher resolutions are also acceptable.
- Over 28 inches: 2160p or similar resolutions (3,440 x 1,440, for example).
Aspect ratio and panel types
Once we have made up our mind about the size and the resolution that we are going to need, we should start thinking about the monitor’s aspect ratio (the screen format) and the panel that we want or that better fits our budget.
Let’s start with the aspect ratio. Currently the format used on monitors with HD resolution (1,280 x 720 pixels), Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), QHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) and UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) is known as 16:9, also called ‘widescreen’.
It is the most widely used format and the least troublesome one, especially when gaming since we can use all the screen space leaving no borders at all.
The 21:9 format is used for ultrawide resolutions, like 2,560 x 1,080 pixels or 3,440 x 1,440 pixels, but it is not always fully supported. We say this because we will be forced to use a 16:9 format showing two black bars when playing games not supporting the ultrawide format.
Lastly we have the 4:3 format, which was one of the most popular formats until the HD and its equivalent ‘higher’ resolutions were launched. It is not usually used anymore, but as a side note I can tell you that we could use 1,600 x 900, 1,920 x 1,440 and 2,048 x 1,536 resolutions with it.
If you are planning on gaming and want to enjoy both older and newer games seamlessly, your best option is to go for a new widescreen monitor, 16:9 in other words.
Now let’s talk about the panel types, also known as LCDs (liquid crystal displays). Currently the three most well-known and widely used types are: Twisted nematic or TN, Vertical alignment or VA and In-plane switching or IPS.
These are the advantages and disadvantages of each one of them broadly speaking:
- TN panels: they have better response times and are cheaper, but they have the worst image quality and reduced viewing angles because they suffer from a lot of backlight bleeding.
- VA panels: they improve the image quality considerably and offer wider viewing angles (up to 178°), but they are a little more expensive and have worse response times.
- IPS panels: they offer a good image quality and excellent viewing angles as well, and their brightness is very high, although their price is the highest of the three.
For an average user who wants a simple and low-cost monitor to work, play multimedia content or even game with, a TN-panel monitor is enough.
On a personal note, I have used the three types of panels and I currently have a VA-panel monitor for the PC that I use for virtually everything, and I am delighted with it, to be honest.
Anyways, you will get the best possible experience with an IPS panel, so it should be the panel to go for on your new monitor if your budget allows it.
Refresh rate, response time, brightness and contrast
Now we will take a look at four major elements that almost nobody really understands. The refresh rate is how often a display changes its images, which is measured by cycles per second.
This means that a 30 Hz monitor will refresh the screen 30 times in a second, a 60 Hz monitor will do the same 60 times and a 120 Hz monitor will double the 60 Hz monitor’s refresh rate.
This is really important and it is closely related to the average FPS on videos and games. Leaving aside any unnecessary complications, we will give you an example so you can understand this easily.
We will not enjoy a video at 60 FPS properly if we watch it on a 30 Hz monitor, but we will on a 60 Hz one since 60 FPS will not be displayed on a monitor that refreshes its images 30 times per second.
Usually, a new monitor with a 60 Hz refresh rate is enough for an average user.
Now it is time to talk about response time. It is used to measure the time taken by a pixel to change from white to black in milliseconds.
This is crucial because flashes and shadows can happen on dynamic scenes or with a lot of movement, which is closely related to games and movies, if the change in color is not done quickly enough.
It is not necessary for our new monitor to have response times of 1 or 2 ms since the experience will be very good at up to 5 ms.
Lastly, we must talk about contrast and brightness. The contrast measures the difference in luminance between the brightest and the darkest pixels, but there is not a fixed ratio, thus making things more complicated when talking about the topic.
It all depends on the panel type, but to keep things simple we can set as a general rule that the best is to look for a ratio over 800:1, always talking about real and native contrast, not about dynamic contrast or anything alike.
The brightness measures the intensity of light coming from any screen, with a unit known as candela, and affects how clearly we see the screen under a very high environment brightness.
This means that it is not essential when choosing a monitor since we are going to use it indoors anyway. However, you have to bear in mind that a very high brightness might end up straining your eyes, especially when using white backgrounds.
Other elements to take into account
On a side note, we have some elements that are easier to review before choosing a new monitor, such as the connections that we need, whether we need integrated speakers or not and the possibility for tilt and height adjustments.
There is nothing else to it. You simply need to think about what you might need and make sure that the new monitor has it.
Additionally, I remind you that having integrated speakers can be a good way to save space and money, especially in offices and workplaces, but be aware of their real limitations since their sound power and quality is usually quite average.
As for connections, try to always think medium-term and not short-term, especially if you are going to connect more than one device to the monitor.