Your 20-Point Monitor Checklist Buying Guide
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When it comes to choosing a monitor, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. This 20-point monitor checklist buying guide will help you choose the best display for your needs. First, you need to decide what size monitor you need, then lose sleep over the resolution, then cry about all the additional features you want (like a milk frothing port for late-night latte preparation). Finally, you need to sell your Lambogini to pay for the thing, for that’s what’s important—right?
Guardian of Text & Treasure
The Obligatory TL;DR* Summary in 3.87 Seconds
I recommend a minimum of a 27-inch flat-screen display with at least 4K resolution and one that uses IPS panel technology.
That’s it—3.87 seconds later and we’re done.
Now go brew yourself a coffee, warm that cinnamon donut, and binge-watch The Mandalorian for the 12th time.
But if you want a little more monitor education so you can watch, work, and live in the future, then continue reading as this article delivers everything you need to stay entertained, informed, and refreshingly relevant in a geeky sort of way.
* Too Long – Didn’t Read
What Are My Monitor Options: Defining Your Display Needs?
When it comes to buying a new monitor, it can be a daunting task.
Do you buy the biggest one?
The cheapest one?
What about the color of the power cable?
There are so many monitors to choose from as you scan Amazon, Best Buy, PC World and whatever other online computer emporium wanders across your browser space.
This monitor buying guide will help iron out some of these issues, answer a few questions that you never thought you needed answers for, and cause you to be armed with such an advanced esoteric knowledge of which monitor is ideal for your specifications that you will be the go-to-girl/guy in all things monitorish.
Picking out a monitor is a lot like dating: You want to make sure you don’t end up with an awful model that leaves you unsatisfied; you’ll spend a lot of time in close eye contact, so you want one that looks good up close; and if you don’t have a good connection, maybe it might be time to move on and forget the whole thing.
Here are at least five key questions to consider when beginning to think about your future display needs:
What Resolution Do I Really Need?
When it comes to monitors, there are a lot of options on the market. So, how do you know which one is right for you? One key criterion in any monitor decision often lies in the resolution of the actual screen.
Resolution is the number of pixels that make up an image on a screen.
It determines the quality and clarity of graphics, video, text, and other images that you view. A higher resolution means more detail can be seen in the image, while a lower resolution means fewer details are visible.
The most common resolutions for computer monitors today are:
|Weird Display Name to Help with more Acronym Confusion||Even Weirder Pixel Resolution & Aspect Ratio|
|Full HD (FHD)||960 × 540 pixels (16:9)|
|Wide quad HD (WQHD)||1280 × 720 pixels (16:9)|
|Wide quad XGA||1920 × 1080 pixels (16:10)|
|Ultra wide quad HD||2048 × 1080 pixels (21:9)|
|Ultra HD 4K (UHD)||3840 × 2160 pixels (16:9)|
|Digital Cinema Initiatives 4K (DCI 4K)||4096 × 2160 pixels (16:8 and 16:9)|
|5K||5120 × 2880 pixels (16:9)|
|8K (Ok, so not really a ‘common resolution’, but it’s in this list by command of the Imperial Grand Moff Tarkin himself.)||7680 × 4320 pixels (16:9)|
A higher-resolution monitor can display more pixels per inch (PPI), which results in sharper images and typography. This is beneficial if you are doing a lot of detailed design work.
Trust me, when I was beginning my designing/development freelance career and using lower-resolution, cheaper monitors, and then jumping over to a high res screen such as an Apple retina high-definition monitor, the ease on the eyes, the general sense of quality, and details of intricate client design work was very noticeable.
Additionally, a higher resolution will also mean that a picture will have more depth and dimension, as well as both better color quality and/or color accuracy.
In the world of digital photography, this higher detail, an expanded range of values, and added clarity can bring out elements of texture and tone that were not visible at lower resolutions. This leads to much more vibrant photography with realistic shadows and highlights.
I have used Adobe Lightroom, Illustrator, and Photoshop for years (and even the up-and-coming competition seen in the Affinity Suite). This greater detail becomes critical for any long-term use in design work, coding, and web development.
Suppose you’re looking at a picture of an interstellar dragon about to blast a mining colony on Iapetus, the third moon of Saturn. In that case, you will be able to see the individual scales or blood-moon eyes on the creature, as well as the blue-arcing sigma particle emissions as the Iapetus photon defenses kick in to ward off the creature.
And who does not want better contrast in such a space scene?
What about Dynamic Range? And Will It Help Me Escape Earth’s Gravity?
High-resolution monitors offer a wider dynamic range which allows photographers to capture details in both the dark areas as well as bright spots in their pictures. With the additional data gathered from the larger number of pixels, photos will appear sharper and have better contrast when viewed on high-definition displays.
Dynamic range is a measure of the difference between the darkest and lightest tones that can be displayed on a screen. It is used to accurately reproduce videos, games, and other graphics.
A monitor’s dynamic range is measured in bits per color channel; the higher this number, the more vivid and accurate an image can be rendered. Dynamic range determines how close to reality images can appear on a monitor, as well as what levels of brightness are best suited for different tasks.
For example, a higher dynamic range allows for better viewing of dark scenes in movies or video games without losing details such as shadows or textures—this will obviously benefit those serious gamers.
On the other hand, graphic designers often require a high dynamic range to distinguish between subtle color shades when creating designs for clients.
HDR (High Dynamic Range is starting to be a big trend!) is all about expanding the colors our displays can reproduce. HDR allows you to capture a wider range of luminosity than what is possible with standard digital imaging techniques.
HDR also gives you a greater ability to manipulate the contrast, saturation, and color temperature of your photos. If you think you want to purchase an HDR monitor instead of your regular standard dynamic range (SDR) display – use the following as a guide:
General use Monitor: DisplayHDR 500—a minimum max brightness of 500 nits (more on nits below) with HDR media.
Gaming Monitor: DisplayHDR 600 or more.
Creative Professional Monitor (such as graphic designers or video editors) should look for at least DisplayHDR 1000.
Read a little more on HDR below…
Screen Size: How Big Should Your Monitor Be?
When it comes to monitors, size does matter.
But how big should your monitor be?
First, think about what you’ll be using your monitor for. If you’re a graphic designer or video editor, usually the larger the screen real estate, the better the visual workflow—as it will enable you to see all the details of your work. I would be lost without my ultrawide these days (and even writing this post on my MacBook Air while on vacation is a bit of a chore!)
Unlike bananas, most monitors usually come with a 24-inch, 27-inch, or 32-inch widescreen panel. Some are curved; some are not. And then there are the rather large yet rather beautiful ultrawide screens.
I have used an ultrawide curved 35-inch screen for over a year now, and whilst I am soon to upgrade to two top-quality, ultra-thin bezel, 4K displays sitting side-by-side—I have so appreciated this larger space.
What about a second breakfast—what about a second monitor? Why not.
If you are involved in any creative work (or plan to be), I recommend a minimum of a 27-inch screen. And remember, screen size is measured diagonally, from one corner to the opposite corner.
Viewing from a typical desktop distance, 32 inches is more than enough to get an optimal viewing experience. Not only that, it’s not too difficult to find a 32-inch gaming or general-use monitor at 4K resolution for under the $1,000 mark.
A quality 32-inch monitor is great for those who don’t have the space for a large screen but still want the same level of quality. With this type of monitor, you can still see all the details and colors with clarity and precision. The vibrant colors and sharpness of images and text are sure to keep you captivated while designing, gaming, or watching movies.
If you’re a more casual computer user or gamer, a smaller screen may suffice. Although for the best gaming experience, a larger monitor will always give a far more immersive experience.
Second, consider the resolution of the monitor. As you read above, a higher resolution means more pixels and sharper image quality. However, it also means that text and icons will appear smaller on the screen. If you have poor eyesight, a lower-resolution screen may be better for you.
Moonpixel Floop of the Gnorg Collective recommends the following:
Moonpixel Floop likes IPS monitors, bathing in orange juice, and oversized marshmallow spacesuits. He is over 200 years old but looks no older than 22.
Best 24-inch Budget Monitor: LG 24MP400 IPS Panel – Full HD, AMD FreeSync technology to reduce image tearing and stuttering.
Best 4K 27-inch Monitor: Dell U2723QE IPS Panel – Incredible screen & massive connectivity.
Best Overall 32-inch Monitor: LG Ultrafine 4K IPS Panel – Exceptional image quality & ergonomically advanced.
Which Screen Type: TN, IPS, or VA?
LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors these days use LED (light-emitting diode) technology to backlight the LCD panel. This allows for a much brighter and sharper image than with traditional CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamp) backlighting. LED-backlit monitors also use less power than old monitors, resulting in lower electricity costs.
When it comes to choosing an LCD monitor, there are three main types of screens to consider:
- TN – Twisted Nematic,
- IPS – In-plane Switching, and
- VA – Vertical Alignment.
Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for before making a purchase. Here’s a quick rundown of the key differences between each type of screen:
TN panels are the most common type of LCD panel. This is because they are cheap to produce and give a fairly decent image quality. Gaming monitor manufacturers tend to opt for TN panels due to their current faster response times. However, they can suffer from poor color reproduction and narrow viewing angles.
IPS stands for in-plane switching. If you want to leverage liquid crystals aligned in parallel universes and quantum jump world at the speed of thought, then IPS is the way to go. An IPS monitor addresses some of the issues with TN screens, offering better color reproduction and wider viewing angles. They’re also usually more expensive than TN screens.
VA stands for vertical alignment. Does this mean you can only use a VA monitor if you have a super expensive standing desk powered by rare Tiberium crystals? Not really, but the blacks are so deep that the Kraken enjoys holidaying in their pristine obsidian depths. VA screens are a middle ground between TN and IPS screens, offering good color reproduction and viewing angles while still being relatively affordable.
Galandrius Cyg III recommends the following:
Galandrius Cyg III likes super-fast WiFi, bleeding edge monitor refresh rates, and chocolate muffins. He is linked to the Universal Mind via a highly modified HDMI neocortex cable.
One Superfast TN Monitor*: BenQ Zowie XL2566K – Very high 360Hz refresh rate, provided excellent motion clarity.
Best IPS Monitor for Creatives: Dell U2723QE IPS Panel – Incredible screen & massive connectivity.
Best IPS Monitor for Gamers: LG 32GP850 Ultragear – Exceptional graphics quality, ultrafast, QHD, DCI-P3 98%
Best Entry Level VA Monitor: LG 32UN500-W – For those who want a 4K HDR resolution monitor on a budget.
* These days, it’s a little hard to justify a TN panel and its general performance in today’s market when you have so many good IPS and VA panels available!
What about an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) Monitor?
Along with TN, IPS, and VA panels, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) monitors are becoming increasingly popular, and for a good reason. So what is an OLED monitor, how do they work, and what are some of the benefits they offer?
OLED monitors use organic materials that emit light when an electric current is passed through them. This means that OLED panels don’t require a backlight, which makes them even thinner and more energy-efficient than our traditional LCD monitors.
There are several benefits of OLED monitors over LCDs:
- OLED monitors offer higher contrast ratios than LCDs, which results in deeper blacks and brighter whites.
- OLEDs also have a faster response time than LCDs, meaning they can display fast-paced content more clearly without blurring or ghosting. This makes them ideal for gaming and other fast-paced activities.
- OLEDs are more energy efficient than LCDs, making them a great choice for those who want to save on their power bills.
- OLEDs have better viewing angles than LCDs and can be made thinner and lighter, making them ideal for space-saving applications.
When it comes to PC monitors, OLED technology is the way to go if you’re looking for vibrant colors and a crisp display. But keep in mind there’s one downside to this amazing tech – it’s still rather expensive!
That being said, if you’re willing to shell out the extra cash, you can get yourself an OLED monitor that will make all your friends, pets, avatars, and invisible sentient cephalopods a little jealous.
However, if you don’t have bags of golden bitcoins lying around, then maybe an OLED monitor isn’t for you. But don’t worry – there are plenty of other great options available at more reasonable prices.
So before you buy yourself OLED technology as your PC monitor, ask yourself: Is it really worth spending all that money?
Olly the OLED Pixel Bunny recommends the following:
Olly lives in OLED monitors as a pixel guardian. He likes red pixels the most, saving them in small nano eggs and releasing them to the multiverse every new year.
Best 34-inch OLED Monitor: Alienware 34-inch curved OLED – Impeccable design, precise color, and infinitely immersive.
Ultimate 4k Gaming Monitor: Gigabyte Aorus FO48U OLED – 10-bit 4K UHD display with 98% of DCI-P3 color space, whopping 48-inch screen.
Aspect Ratio, Borg Starships, and Your New Monitor
When looking to buy a monitor, you may stumble across a thing called aspect ratio.
“Yikes! That sounds weirdly too complex, I think I will go back to playing Minesweeper.”
No, wait, the aspect ratio of something is merely the relationship between its width and its height.
Super simple example: a square (like a 24th-century Borg starship) has an aspect ratio of 1:1 because it is equally wide as it is tall. A rectangle might have an aspect ratio of 4:3, which means it is four units wide for every three units tall.
Yeah, you’ve got it now—well done!
In monitor jargon, the aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and height of the screen. I know you’ve always nodded off when your friends speak about 16:9, 21:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios, but nod off no more intrepid one, the Borg have started to assimilate you into their gaming console collective.
The aspect ratio of most monitors and TVs today is 16:9 (widescreen), and we are seeing more and more content being produced in this format. There are a few reasons for this shift.
First, widescreen monitors and TVs are way more common, so there is a larger market for content that is produced in this format.
Second, widescreen offers a more immersive experience for the viewer, as it allows for a wider field of view.
Most 1080p and 4K monitors are 16:9 aspect ratio.
The traditional aspect ratio of 4:3 works well for older applications, while 16:9 is better suited for modern applications that are optimized for wide-screen displays. In addition, some monitors have an ultra-wide aspect ratio, which can be 21:9 or even 32:10.
We’ve already discussed the importance of monitor resolution, but resolution also plays an important role when selecting the aspect ratio for a new monitor.
Higher resolutions require a wider aspect ratio in order to look good on the screen. And different types of content work better with different aspect ratios; for example, video games (and movies) often benefit from a wider display to give an immersive gaming experience.
Therefore, it’s important to consider how these two factors relate when choosing the best computer with the right aspect ratio for your needs.
What is Pixel Response?
A monitor’s pixel response is another important factor to consider, especially if eSports and online tournament trophies are on your agenda.
Pixel response measures how quickly a pixel can change from one color to another and back again. The faster the pixel response, the less likely you will see ghosting, screen tares, blurs, or other annoying display disruptions. This is an important factor, especially for gamers.
A good rule of thumb is to look for a decent pixel response of around five milliseconds or less.
IPS and VA screens currently stand at between 3 to 5ms, and anything claiming about 1ms is most likely going to be TN panel. (Note: that gap is closing quickly, with some IPS monitors finally reaching the coveted 1ms response time.)
So, what does this all mean for you? If you’re looking for the best possible image quality, an IPS panel is going to be your best bet.
If you are into eSports or need to slay a raging dragon warming up its fire breath attack at the next castle door, then zippy response times are definitely something you need to consider.
Brightness: Will my Monitor Be Seen From Deep Space?
When you’re looking for a new monitor, another important specification to look at is the maximum brightness, the value is often expressed in nits.
So, what is nits? I am so glad you asked!
Nits (also referred to as candelas per square meter or cd/m2) is a unit of measurement describing the brightness of a screen. The word “nit” comes from the Latin word “nitere” which means “to shine.” It is typically used to measure the amount of light that a monitor emits, with higher numbers representing brighter displays.
And in case you are super curious, the candela is the unit of luminous intensity in the International System of Units (SI). One candela is about the same intensity of light as that produced by a common candle (or a fairy dragon sneeze.)
Most monitors have a maximum brightness of around 300 nits, but some models go up to 600 nits or more. If you’re looking for a monitor that’s going to be used in a well-lit room, then you don’t need to worry about getting one with a high nit count. However, if you’re planning on using your monitor in a dim or dark environment, then you’ll want to make sure it has a high maximum brightness.
As technology advances, so does our ability to see farther into space. But will our monitors be seen from deep space? It is not impossible, but it is very unlikely—unless you are a lumen-feathered Hollycrystal Fae who can sense light emissions from over 30 light years away.
Refresh rate: 60Hz, 75Hz, 144Hz, 240Hz, or 2.1 Squillion Hertz?
The average person spends about 10 hours a day looking at screens, whether it’s a phone, tablet, computer, or television. All of these screens have something in common: a refresh rate.
Frames per second, or FPS, is a measurement used to clock the refresh rate of monitors. It’s an important factor in gaming and creative design; higher FPS means smoother images that can be easier on the eyes. If you’re looking for an upgrade in your monitor’s performance, knowing a little bit about FPS can help you understand what kind of monitor will give you better results!
Most screens have a refresh rate of 60Hz, which means that the image is refreshed 60 times per second.
However, some monitors have a higher refresh rate of 75Hz, 144Hz, and 240Hz.
The highly evolved Liquidian Squid race of the Alphafae Quantum Field have developed display technology that refreshes at over 2 squillion times per second and smells like lavender. This tech is currently unavailable on earth (and would cause utter havoc with international flight schedules if it was).
So, does the refresh rate matter of my monitor matter? Remember, a high refresh rate means that the image on the screen will be updated more frequently, and as a result, it will appear to be smoother and clearer.
For most people, the common 60Hz refresh rate is perfectly fine. And as a rule of thumb, anything above 144Hz is considered a high refresh rate.
The higher-end screens with 144Hz, 240Hz, or 360Hz refresh rates will cost a little more, and gamers or creatives/videographers may appreciate a 144Hz machine and could start looking at monitors at that level if desired.
There is even a 500Hz Asus Rog Swift model soon to blaze across your desktop like a hungry cyber-giraffe across an overheated Saharan desert. The ROG Swift draws frames more than eight times faster than typical 60Hz displays in a single second.
Talk about a smooth gaming experience—this might be overkill, but it would be super sleek. And if anything, its presence in the monitor market may now drop the price of 144Hz or 240Hz screens.
This Asus zoom-zoom machine offers 60% better response times than standard TN panels, allowing gamers to reach a new milestone in speed and clarity. Watch out, Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six Siege fans, this new kid on the block may spot you hiding in the shadows before Alpha-Bravo-Foxtrot can blink in your general direction.
Jargon Buster tip #1: Sometimes you will see GtG (like 1ms GtG) in monitor specs – this is a unit of measurement in pixel speed for how long it takes for a pixel to go from one gray level to the next. Also, look out for BwB (black-white-black) and WbW (white-black-white).
Good gaming monitors usually go below 4ms GtG, and many approach a super fast 1ms GtG.
Jargon Buster tip #2: MPRT is another term you may come across. MPRT stands for moving picture response time or motion picture response time; it tests how long a pixel remains visible on the screen, and the lower, the better. A fast MPRT (say around 1ms) reduces blurs and trails of objects on the screen.
Arrubin the Star Wizard recommends the following:
Arrubin lives in a 900km tube that is part of Saturn’s rings. He is very fast at quantum mathematics, likes very dark espressos, and has a very odd cat called Photon.
Best Budget High Refresh Rate Monitor: AOC CU34G2X – Affordable 34-inch display with great specs.
Best 240Hz Refresh Rate Monitor: Samsung Odyssey G7 – Photon likes the buttery-smooth graphics and 1440p resolution.
Premium Superfast 4k Monitor: BenQ Mobiuz EX2710U – Catch every detail with a 1ms MPRT response rate and 144Hz refresh rate.
Gamer Sidenote: AMD FreeSync or NVIDIA G-SYNC?
Which variable refresh rate technology is right for you: AMD FreeSync or NVIDIA G-SYNC?
This is a tricky decision, even for the most tech-savvy gamers.
Essentially, these two technologies allow gamers to experience fluid gameplay on their monitors by synchronizing the monitor’s refresh rate with the graphics card’s frame rate. Both help reduce screen tearing and stuttering while gaming, but they each have their own unique pros and cons.
Both techniques use adaptive sync, which means that your monitor can adjust its refresh rate to that of your video card at any time. This way, your video card and monitor are always in sync, and you can enjoy a smooth gaming experience.
Here’s a quick rundown of the key differences between the two technologies:
- AMD FreeSync is an open standard that’s supported by a wide range of monitors and graphics cards. NVIDIA G-SYNC, on the other hand, is proprietary and requires specialized hardware.
- FreeSync is typically more affordable than G-SYNC, but some high-end G-SYNC monitors are priced competitively with FreeSync models.
- Both technologies can eliminate screen tearing and stuttering, but G-SYNC tends to be smoother and more responsive overall.
- G-Sync only works with NVIDIA video cards, so you really need FreeSync for an AMD video card.
What About Color Depth?
Modern displays use a combination of red, green, and blue channels (or RGB subpixels) to create the image we see on screen.
By combining different amounts of these colors, an almost endless range of colors can be created. These subpixels make up a single pixel of the image, and when they are combined with each other, they generate a variety of shades and hues that give us the vibrant pictures that we see on our screens today.
This is why modern displays offer superior picture quality compared to older technology. The combination of these three colors also makes it possible for high-definition televisions and computer monitors to produce stunning visuals with deep contrasts and vivid colors.
Color depth (also known as bit depth and pixel depth) in a monitor is an important and oft-overlooked metric for determining the quality of a digital image display. It is simply the number of bits used to represent the color of each pixel, which can range from 8 to 24 or higher.
A lot of consumer displays don’t even mention the number of colors they support; instead, they just list out a bunch of numbers that supposedly indicate their level of sophistication.
It’s like trying to figure out how many flavors ice cream has in a scoop by looking at its nutritional information! You could try counting all the possible combinations, but that would take longer than watching an entire season of your favorite show on Netflix.
So, next time you shop for a new display, don’t be fooled by all those numbers – make sure you check the total number of colors it supports before taking one home.
What is the key takeaway of all this?
The higher the bit depth, the more colors can be accurately represented on-screen, resulting in a more realistic and vibrant image.
For most of us, a standard monitor is fine, and this will more than likely be an 8-bit display (16.7 million colors), but be aware that you may see slight color banding on gradients. Some creative professionals recommend a 10-bit (1.07 billion colors) display if you are not on a budget—so again, determine your needs and base your purchase on those criteria.
Color Gamut or Old Lentils for Breakfast?
The phrase color gamut simply refers to all of the colors our eyes can perceive. Gamut is pronounced like ‘damn-it’ when your new monitor blows up the first time you turn it on—but with a ‘G’.
For some reason, I always thought it was pronounced like gourmet. Which incidentally is kinda helpful in explaining the whole thing…
Think of a good color gamut as going to a gourmet French restaurant—the menu is so well presented, and your tastebuds will be partying way into the wee hours of the morning at all the flavors they will experience. From Foie Gras to Escargots de Bourgogne, gastronomic ambiance and exquisite adventures are yours for the next couple of hours.
Now think of going to a cheap restaurant run by a neurotic blind chef called The Spade—here, they only serve tins of cold 10-year-old lentils. You’re told to sit in a corner. You wait till you get given a rusty copper spoon, a small can opener, and half a glass of water. There you sit with aged lentils and copper spoon in hand. That is the opposite of gastronomic ambiance and exquisite adventures.
If visual ambiance and exquisite adventures are your preferred option, and you want your XY Chromaticity Diagram to be all wonderful and exotic (like that gourmet French restaurant) in its range of colors within the visible spectrum, then pay attention to the color gamut specs of monitors.
You’ve probably seen a color gamut commonly represented by a weird horseshoe-shaped color figure that makes absolutely no sense at all.
This is called an XY Chromaticity Diagram—a two-dimensional representation of the spectrum of visible light, showing the dominant wavelengths of different colors and their relative intensity.
The entire horseshoe on the diagram represent the range of colors that can be seen by the human eye. For the sRGB gamut (the white triangle), pure red is (x=0.64, y=0.33), pure green is (x=0.30, y=0.60), and pure blue is (x=0.15, y=0.06). This gamut is the entire range of colors that a particular color system can produce.
The most common example of this would be the range of colors available in an RGB monitor or digital camera sensor.
sRGB, the most common display color gamut in use today, and while popular, it only covers a fraction of the visible light spectrum. The standard RGB (red, green, blue) color space was created by HP and Microsoft in 1996.
AdobeRGB is another standard, but this has limited practical adoption and thus remains a niche color gamut today.
Rec.2020 refers to various specifications covering aspects of video broadcasts, including a corresponding color gamut geared for ultra-high definition (4K and 8K) televisions.
The NTSC1953 color space is one of the oldest and most widely used color gamuts in use today. It was introduced in 1953 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a way to standardize color across televisions. Though much wider than sRGB, this color space is not used in today’s monitors—it is commonly used as a reference gamut.
DCI-P3 (Digital Cinema Initiatives — Protocol 3) covers a 25% larger area than the older sRGB and has seen much wider adoption than AdobeRGB. Furthermore, many top-brand smartphones these days offer good coverage of the DCI-P3 color space, as do most televisions and monitors.
So what does all this mean with my wad of $100 bills staring at monitors in a shop window?
sRGB is still fine in most cases, but DCI-P3 would be a better choice if you want to enjoy HDR to its fullest. DCI-P3 also uses 10-bit color compared to sRGB’s 8-bit, thus reducing banding. Apple, known for great display tech, has been incorporating Display P3 panels (a combination of the DCI-P3 color gamut with the D65 white point together with the sRGB gamma curve) in its iMacs, MacBook Pros, iPhones, and iPad Pros.
Arorae the Fire Elf recommends the following:
Arorae spends most of her time in the treetops of Bloombottom Grove studying color. She is adept at both bow and graphic design, can speak a rare hummingbird dialect, and thinks everyone should own a DCI-P3 screen.
Best Overall DCI-P3 Monitor: Dell U2723QE Ultrasharp offers brilliant visuals, along with excellent connectivity for both Mac and PC.
Best Budget 4K Monitor for Creatives: LG 32UN500-W – For those who want a 4K HDR resolution monitor on a budget.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) Technology
High dynamic range (HDR) technology is a digital imaging process that allows for the capture and display of greater levels of detail and color representation in an image than traditional imaging methods.
HDR images are typically produced by taking multiple photos of a scene at different exposures, combining them into one image that captures a greater range of tonal values than any single exposure could produce.
HDR is used in photography, television, computer displays, video games, and other applications to create more realistic or vivid images. The technology also helps reduce the amount of noise present in an image and can even improve the overall contrast ratio between light and dark areas. With HDR, photographers and videographers have access to a wider range of colors and tones in their work, giving them more creative control over their images.
Most entry-level HDR monitors have a brightness level of 400 cd/m².
A monitor with 600 cd/m² peak brightness — a measure of how much light can be emitted by the screen (as mentioned above) — should be considered a minimum if you are looking for true HDR output.
What is the best 4K monitor for creatives? Crystal-clear images you need to get your work done with the brilliance you deserve—and all without breaking the bank:
Monitor Ergonomics: Everyone Needs an Adjustable Stand and a Mobile Holodeck
Ergonomics are important for everyone, even your computer monitor!
An adjustable monitor stand is essential for comfortable and safe working conditions.
With its ability to promote better ergonomics in the workplace and reduce long-term health issues associated with sitting for extended periods of time, an adjustable monitor stand is a must-have for any home office or gamer who spends hours trying to conquer the dark worlds of the Nethersphere in the Lands Between.
I have used a Loctek Premium Mount Gas Spring monitor stand for the last few years on my 35-inch ultrawide, and simply freeing up the desktop is a big bonus in itself. Then there are all the other ergonomic benefits (tilt, swivel, etc.) that make this an essential part of the entire monitor purchase.
We are spoilt for choices in excellent monitor arms these days, all at great prices, and I am sure you will find one that suits your use case. Amazon does offer the best ‘browsing’ range, whether for one monitor or for a larger dual-arm setup.
Connections, Ports, USB-2, HDMI and Portals to Terabithia
If you’re a tech enthusiast, you know that a PC monitor is one of the most important components of your computer system. But with so many different types of ports and connections, it can be hard to know which one you need.
Do I need a VGA port? Is it safe? Is it dangerous? What is an HDMI connection? Will that Hyper-Dimensional Magickal Interface help at the next Power Ball draw? Will I ever use that golden DisplayPort, and will my soul in the afterlife benefit from having used a DVI at 3:33am?
With so many different options in the monitor market, it can take a lot of work to keep all your neuron cables neat and tidy. Most monitors include an assortment of the following:
DisplayPort / DVI
DisplayPort and DVI are two of the most common digital display connectors used in computers, but they’re not interchangeable. Both types of digital video interface (DVI) have their own advantages and drawbacks, so it’s important to understand how they differ if you’re considering a monitor upgrade.
The biggest difference between the two is that DisplayPort can transmit audio as well as video, while DVI only transmits video signals.
Additionally, DisplayPort has a much higher maximum resolution than DVI at 8K compared to 1080p for DVI. Furthermore, DisplayPort can support multiple displays from one port compared to just one for DVI, making it ideal for multi-monitor setups. It also supports features like Adaptive-Sync technology which helps reduce screen tearing in games and videos for smoother visuals.
HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is a specification that combines video and audio into a single digital interface. It has become increasingly popular due to its versatility, allowing both audio and video signals to be transmitted with just one cable.
This type of connection uses small, flat connectors that are capable of transmitting uncompressed digital video data in addition to audio signals. Furthermore, HDMI also supports a variety of resolutions, which makes it ideal for HDTVs and gaming consoles. Most monitors have HDMI ports these days.
A VGA connector is typically rectangular in shape and has 15 pins arranged in three rows. This type of port has been around since
1066, no…1987, and is often found on older monitors and TVs as well as a few modern laptops. It sends both video and audio signals but only supports resolutions up to 1920 x 1200 pixels with limited color depth.
Having USB-C built into your monitor unlocks a world of potential for convenience and efficiency. With this technology, you will enjoy the benefits of a single port to connect multiple devices quickly and easily. This could include connecting a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or even an external hard drive.
USB-C also provides significantly faster data transfer speeds than its predecessors, allowing for faster video streaming and file transfers. Additionally, the universal power delivery (PD) capability can charge compatible devices directly from the monitor itself – no need to worry about having multiple separate chargers!
The possibilities are endless with USB-C built into your monitor; it is sure to revolutionize the way you work and play. So this would be one of my main ‘must haves’ when shopping for a new monitor, whether for home and office or for gaming.
A TAD MORE on Power Delivery
USB-C devices are everywhere, and with them comes the need for connecting to a power source that is essential to many of these devices. In theory, this should be great news; however, the USB Power Delivery standard is actually extremely difficult to understand. It’s like trying to learn the arcane language of an alien race that only communicates in blue electrical pulses!
Fortunately for us mortals, there are some simple guidelines we can follow when working with USB Power Delivery. If you’re using a device that requires more than 100 watts of power, then you need to make sure that it has been certified as being compliant with the USB Power Delivery standard.
I believe the dark elves are in the process of forging one cable to be the be-all and end-all charging solution for all of your gadgets — code-named the Cable of Power or the One Cable to Rule Them All.
Some clever marketers sometimes slap on the label ‘USB hub’ or ‘connectivity hub’ on their products but only include one or two other USB ports and sometimes not even a USB-C port that can power an external notebook. Just be aware of this and make sure you get a good mix of USB-A, USB-C ports, and other connectivity features.
Best Overall Monitor with Excellent Connectivity Hub: Dell UltraSharp U3223QE 31.5″ 4K will streamline your workspace with extensive connectivity ports, including USB-C (up to 90W power delivery), RJ45 (Ethernet), DP1.4, and HDMI. Quick Access USB-C (up to 15W of power charging) and super speed USB 10Gbps ports enable easy connections and fast data transfers.
What about Zeus’ Zippy Thunderbolt?
Thunderbolt was introduced in 2011 by Intel, and there have been several different versions of it have been released over the years.
The first iteration, Thunderbolt 1, enabled users to transfer data between two devices at a rate of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). This revolutionized how we interact with our electronic devices and allowed for faster connections than ever before.
Thunderbolt 3 saw significant improvements from its predecessors. With speeds up to 40 Gbps, users can now transfer data at an even more impressive rate than before. Not only does Thunderbolt 3 offer faster transfer speeds, but it also supports multiple connections such as USB-C and DisplayPort for connecting multiple displays or peripherals all through one cable. Additionally, this version offers power delivery up to 85 watts so you can charge your laptop all while connected to other devices.
USB-C and Thunderbolt are similar but not identical. USB-C is a type of physical connector, while Thunderbolt is an interface that uses the USB-C connector to transfer data and video. Thunderbolt is faster and more powerful than USB-C but requires specialized hardware on both ends of the connection.
Thunderbolt’s higher data rate is beneficial when faster file transfers and data access would help speed up workflows and tasks. The higher bandwidth could also be useful for gaming and streaming video content, allowing for smoother streaming of high-resolution 4K or 8K media.
Thunderbolt 3 also supports external graphics cards (eGPUs) for laptops, allowing users to run more powerful software on their machines than before.
Thunderbolt 4 is the latest generation of Thunderbolt—it can connect multiple displays. One Thunderbolt 4 port can connect up to two 4K 60hz DisplayPort or HDMI monitors through a compatible dock or an adapter.
The next major upgrade is Thunderbolt 5. Hold onto your hat and keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times! Thunderbolt 5 will allow for 8K HDR displays with lower latency, which is ideal for creative professionals and gaming enthusiasts.
With Thunderbolt 5 bringing a new level of speed, power, and convenience to the Thunderbolt ecosystem, it will increase transfer speeds up to 40Gbps and support up to four 4K displays at once. Thunderbolt 5 will also include USB4 support, allowing for faster data transfers between compatible devices. Additionally, Thunderbolt 5 will have improved power delivery capabilities, allowing for more demanding applications such as virtual reality gaming or high-end video editing.
Best High Class Thunderbolt Monitor: LG 32-inch Ultrafine 4K with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity
Most monitors do not have a built-in webcam. Bummer. But some do. Cool.
Remember, finding a monitor with the right resolution, refresh rate, USB-C connectivity, etc., is more important than having a webcam. Great external webcams exist (not to mention simply Facetiming with a phone) if you need to see friends and family.
Goodbye clutter, hello convenience! Who knew buying a monitor could be so exciting? Yawn.
Oh, and here is a little list of some monitors with decent webcams built-in if you so desire:
Karl the Kranky Kraken recommends the following:
Karl spends most of his time in the Pacific’s deepest trench being kranky at the current state of technology on the planet. He is kranky at mouse pointers, even more kranky at battery life, and especially kranky at keyboards.
Best Overall Monitor with Webcam: Dell 27-inch QHD S2722DZ with a super clear 5MP IR pop-up camera.
Best 4k Display with Webcam: Samsung M8 Smart Monitor with full HD Webcam.
Best Ultrawide with Webcam: Philips Curved Ultrawide Dual QHD with Philips’ innovative and secure webcam.
Best for Apple Mac: Apple Studio Display with 12MP Ultra Wide camera with Centre Stage.
Should I Buy a New Monitor with a 100 Gigawatt Speaker?
Sure, some monitors offer in-built speakers. But is it really a selling point worth considering?
Umm, not really. But let’s unpack this briefly.
With the addition of built-in speakers, the right monitor can help ensure you don’t need to buy external audio equipment. That might be a plus for you, seeing you can use the display for both visual and auditory components, killing two birds with one stone—or as they said in 12th Century Spain, ‘becoming heiress of Navarre and Catalonia with just one marriage’.
But apart from brief interludes in historical guff, most times, it’s simply not worth getting a monitor with speakers – they are usually sub-par in quality. For the serious sound buff, it would be better to spend those extra Lotto winnings on a good set of external speakers that plug into your computer’s audio line-out.
So, if you are looking for better sound quality and an immersive audio experience, then investing in a separate sound system will be the better option—especially if you plan on using your monitor for gaming or watching movies; investing in an external sound system will offer far superior performance.
Okay, but when should I buy a monitor with inbuilt speakers?
If you are looking for a basic setup for work or recreational purposes, then a monitor with inbuilt speakers can be sufficient. If basic audio requirements are all that is needed, then this type of monitor can be suitable; otherwise, it is wise to look into an external sound system to get the best performance out of your setup.
Of course, if the monitor you want to buy has speakers and you like the sound—then, by all means, click the ‘add-to-cart’ button and wait for the package to arrive.
Perhaps you live in a submarine or a small bomb shelter buried in the backyard, and you have no room for external speakers. In other words, if you are really pushed for space, then go grab a monitor with speakers.
However, in the long run, I would recommend treating the visual and the audio components of your entire system setup as two separate items and getting the best your budget can afford in both categories.
How Many Screens? One? Two? Ten? Or a Hundred?
Most humans like at least one screen.
Other humans like two screens.
And what is becoming a trendy (and somewhat simpler alternative) is purchasing one massive ultrawide that curves around your peripheral vision like a blanket on a cold winter’s eve.
When deciding between one or two screens or one ultrawide, the most important thing to consider is your needs. If you are someone who needs to multitask often and wants to have multiple windows open at once, then two screens (or perhaps an ultrawide) would be the best choice for you.
On the other hand, if you prefer a cinematic experience while gaming or watching movies and ‘need’ a larger screen, then an ultrawide monitor might be the better option. In addition to this, a single ultrawide monitor can free up some space on your desk since it takes up less space than two separate monitors.
Furthermore, having one large display may also reduce eye strain as well as make it easier for you to find what you’re looking. Overall, both choices have their own advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to you which one suits your needs best.
I have used a 35-inch ultrawide for web and graphic design and other creative client work for over a year now, and I must say that it was an excellent choice for streamlining my productivity.
However, I am shifting back to two top-quality 27-inch 4K monitors in the very near future. Obviously, swiveling an ultrawide is not an option—and as a designer, I wanted to take my workspace to the next level. One 4K I will use one in landscape mode, and the other 4K will be swiveled to portrait mode. This is a personal preference due to my work requirements.
VEGAN, VESA, ViSA…Whatever?
You’ve probably seen those little square screw holes on the back of screens. This option is to mount your monitor/s on an adjustable arm on either a desk, a wall, or a shower recess.
You’ll want to ensure that both the arm and monitor are VESA-compliant and of the same dimensions. VESA stands for Video Electronics Standards Association (introduced in 1997), not Vulcan Ethics & Stoical Advancement.
Many popular TV brands use VESA—the most common sizes being 200 x 200, 400 x 400, and 600 x 400. To clarify, the ‘400 x 400’ signifies that the horizontal screw distance is 400 millimeters and the vertical screw distance is 400 millimeters.
For PC monitors, two of the more common VESA sizes are 75 x 75 or 100 x 100.
The Monitor Checklist Buying Guide Potpourri of 20 Super Brief BuyingTips
What Will We See Next? The Monitor of the Future
Thinner, smaller (and bigger), brighter, faster, and higher-definition—the battle rages!
Over the last several decades, we moved from tube televisions to projectors, to plasma screens to LCD, and now OLEDs are trying to steal the crown as ultimate screen tech.
The advances in screen technology have been impressive over the last few years, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Big tech companies are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of their displays, whether that be through higher resolutions, HDR capabilities, or improved power efficiency.
As OLED and microLED begin to enter the market, they will provide even greater potential for increased image quality and performance. All of these developments combined suggest that screen technology will continue to advance quickly in the coming years.
There were once predictions that OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screens would likely replace TN (Twisted Nematic) screens. This was because OLED displays offer more vivid colors and deeper black levels than TN panels. They also have a faster response time and are more energy efficient than their TN counterparts. Additionally, OLED technology allows for thinner and lighter devices since it does not require backlighting as LCDs do.
Having said that, OLEDs still have some significant issues to overcome, such as lifespan, the blue-shifting of colors, and the fact that they are still prone to pixel burn-in.
For the immediate future, it is more likely that TN screens will be replaced by IPS and VA – this is already happening to some degree, except for some very niche gaming monitors.
TN, IPS, and VA monitors are all LCD displays, but will LCD be replaced by OLED technology?
It may seem that way, but it’s more likely MicroLED will be the clear long-term winner as it will have all the advantages of both OLED (deep blacks, wide viewing angle) and LCD (high brightness).
Engineers have created dramatically smaller Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and crammed more of them onto the same surface area than previous generations of LED screens—millions more—welcome to MicroLED technology.
With millions more LEDs fitting onto a single surface area compared to earlier generations of LED screens, it has opened up new doors for designers, allowing them to create stunning visuals with extreme precision and detail.
With these advances in LED technology, it is now possible to experience visuals that were previously only dreamed of – from large-scale outdoor display walls to edge-lit ultra-thin LED screens. The reason MicroLED technology is exciting is that it uses self-lighting pixels so that each pixel can control its brightness individually.
Some predictions worth considering:
Exciting times are upon us!
Steve Roberts is a full-time blogger, digital marketer, and freelance designer who also helps young Jedis make informed lightsaber decisions. Join Steve on this incredible journey, learning how to scale your business and entrepreneurial vision. His clients include organizations and businesses from Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA.