How to buy a PC Monitor - The 2023 Guide
Your monitor is your window into the soul of your computer. The right display will make everything on your computer seem dull, be it gaming, editing photos or reading text from your favorite sites.
Display specs and features can make or break the user experience, so hardware vendors have created a flood of options. What features and specifications are the most important for you? What's the difference between 4K, 1440p and 1080p? What impact do refresh rates and response time have on the quality of your images? G-Sync, FreeSync, and flicker-free low-blue light mode are important. How should you change your priorities if you are focusing on gaming or general use?
If you are looking for suggestions, please visit our Best Computer Monitors or the gaming-specific Top Gaming Monitors pages. High-resolution picks are also available on our Best 4-K Gaming Monitors pages.
Quick monitor shopping tips
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- Decide the purpose of your monitor: professional, gaming or general. Professionals should prioritize speed and accuracy, while professionals should prioritize color accuracy. General use users will have more specific needs, but will opt for a panel with high contrast VA panels.
- Higher resolutions produce better pictures. A monitor’s resolution is the number of pixels it has in width and height. The minimum resolution you will need is 1920x1080, also known as Full HD (FHD), HD and 1080p. You'll see sharper images with QHD, and even more with 4K.
- It is also important to consider the size of your monitor. Monitor quality is affected by pixel density. Our sweet spot is 109 pixels/inch (ppi). If the monitor is larger, it will have a lower pixel density. 32 inches is sufficient for viewing from a typical desktop distance. For less than $1,000, it's easy to find a 32 inch gaming or general-purpose monitor with 4K resolution.
- Refresh Rates: larger is better. Measured in hertz (Hz), this tells you how often your monitor updates with new information every second. Larger numbers mean smoother images and less choppy. Gaming gamers will need a monitor that refreshes at least 75 Hz. Most monitors are designed to deliver at least 120Hz. The best response time is also important. A 60 Hz refresh rate is sufficient if you are not gaming.
- Response times are shorter than others, but they're still important if you're gaming. A longer response time can lead to motion blur in gaming and fast-paced video. Gaming monitors have the most responsive time at 5ms. The fastest gaming monitors may respond in 0.5ms.
- Panel tech. TN IPI VA are the best options for image quality. TN monitors have poorer quality when viewed from a side angle. IPS monitors respond slightly quicker and show color more clearly than VA panels. However, VA monitors offer the highest contrast of all three types of panel. The dedicated section below explains the differences between the panel types.
- A curved monitor is an option. Curved monitors can be more immersive and less distracting. They can also be susceptible to glare from viewing from certain angles. This is because light sources come from multiple angles. Curved monitors that work well are often ultra-wide and at least thirty inches in width, both of which can lead to higher prices.
Understanding curvature specifications is important if you decide to buy a curved screen monitor. A 1800R curve has a radius of 1800mm, and a maximum viewing distance of 1.8m. Curvature is curved more when it's lower (as low 1000R).
An LCD panel's images are made up of millions of tiny dots. Each pixel is composed of three sub-pixels. One for each primary color. The resolution of a monitor is the screen's width x length in pixels. A monitor's resolution is the number of pixels packed into every square inch. This determines how realistic and smooth the image will appear. If you need a monitor larger than 27 inches, a higher resolution (QHD) is essential.
Based on its name, you can determine how many pixels a monitor contains. There are multiple names for some resolutions. These are the most commonly encountered monitor resolutions, ranging from the best (highest number) to the worst (lowest number). We're talking about a 16 to 9 aspect ratio, except where otherwise noted.
|5K||5120 x 27880|
|4K||3840x2160 (typical monitor resolution) or 4096x2160 (official cinema resolution).|
|Ultra HD resolution||3840 x 2140|
|Wide Quad HD, (QHD), also known as Wide Quad HD or WQHD (WQHD), aka 1440p resolution||2560 x 1440|
|2K or 1440p resolution||2560x1440 (typical monitor resolution), 2048x1080 (official cinema resolution).|
|WUXGA resolution||1920 x 1200|
|FullHD (FHD), also known as 1080p or HD resolution||1920 x 1080|
|HD or 720p resolution||1280 x720|
Although more pixels are generally better, there are two reasons to consider a QHD monitor or a better resolution.
First, your PC's graphic card . Your graphics card will need more processing power to change the pixels quickly, so the more pixels you have, it is more powerful. Although 4K monitors display stunning images, a system that can't handle 8.3 million pixels per frame will cause a slowdown in your experience. This is especially true if you are gaming.
Font-scaling capabilities in your operating system are the second thing that could prevent a high-resolution monitor from working properly. Windows works best with a pixel density between 90 and 110ppi. A monitor with a higher pixel density than this will make objects and text look very small, making it difficult to read. We had to use DPI (dots/inches) scaling when reviewing 27-inch 5K monitors. This allowed us to read text in our apps. There are many monitors that scale differently and it isn't always possible to fix text that is too small.
What resolution is required for gaming?
More pixels will produce a better picture. Gaming can be slowed down by those pixels if your graphics card is not powerful enough. Most video interfaces can't handle refresh rates higher than 60 Hz for 4K/UHD and 5K signals. This is changing, but it's still very costly to get 4K/UHD or 5K signals to work at 60 frames per second (fps). You can get there with the GeForceRTX 3080 and the GeForceRTX3090. But good luck finding one!
QHD resolution (2560x1440) seems to be the current sweet spot. Monitors larger than 32 inches can display a high pixel density and provide a clear image that is easy to understand for middle-priced graphics card users.
FHD (1920x1080) is the fastest resolution gaming monitors. It offers amazing frame rates that are not too taxing on your GPU. You should limit the resolution to 27 inches. This will cause a drop in image quality and make it more difficult to see individual pixels.
The minimum graphics card requirements will vary depending on the game. However, if you intend to buy a monitor to play at QHD resolution and don't want the in-game settings to be too low, you'll need a GeForce Ti or Radeon 6800.
4K gamers should choose the fastest card that they can afford. For lighter games, or if you need to lower some settings, the GeForce RX 3070 may be enough. However, the Radeon RX 6090 XT or Radeon RX6900 XT will do better.
Which type of panel do you need? TN vs. VA vs. IPS
Three major LCD technologies are used in modern PC monitors today: twisted neon ( TN , vertical alignment , and in-plane switch ( IIPS) . There are many variations of each technology that offer different benefits. We won't go into detail about the differences in panels. The chart below shows how each affects image quality and best uses for each panel.
|Row 0 - Cell 0.||TN||VA||IPS|
|Performance||The fastest: Low response times, high refresh rates, minimal motion blur, and low input lag||The most response time is usually the longest; Higher refresh rates are possible||Response times are slower than those of TN and VA, but they respond faster than VA. Gaming-quality refresh rates can be rare|
|Display||Worst viewing angles;Worst color||Viewing angles are generally better than TN, worse then IPS; Good colors; Highest contrast; Best image depth||Best viewing angles; Best color|
|Pricing||Cheapest||Performance can be comparable to that of TN in pricier models||Most expensive|
|Best Use||Gaming||General Use||For professionals|
This graph should suffice to help you make an informed decision about the type of panel. However, if your curiosity is piqued, here are some more:
- Contrast is an important aspect of image quality and reliability. 5,000:1 is better that 1,000:1. We believe VA panels offer the highest image quality of VA, IPS, and TN.
- We have seen a lot of TN screens that are comparable in color to more expensive IPS or VA displays. Although TN panels are perceived to be less accurate in color and contrast than VA or IPS panels, you may not notice any difference. Many gaming monitors use TN panels because of their speed. We have found that the quality of color depends more on its price than it does on panel tech.
What are the most important features of gaming monitors?
When buying a gaming monitor, there are many options and confusing terms. Let's look at the key features that gamers will enjoy. Some factors are dependent on the skill level of the player.
Our Best Gaming Monitors page contains our top recommendations.
Speed is a key factor for competitive gamers. This means high refresh rates (144Hz or higher) and low input lag. This will limit your options to 25-27 inches, with a lower pixel density and possibly without extended color or HDR.
You might not notice the difference between 60 and 144 frames per second if you are a casual gamer. You can choose 75 Hz, 60 Hz or even 75 Hz with or G-Sync (more details below). This will allow you to prioritize image quality, pixel density, and size of 30 inches or more. This could allow you to have more saturated colors or even HDR, if your budget permits.
What should the refresh rate and response times of my gaming monitor be?
A monitor should have a refresh rate at least 75 Hz. The fastest available is 360 Hz. You'll need a response time of no more than 5ms.
There are several worthy gaming monitors that are 60 Hz, while many 4K models are limited to 60. G-Sync and FreeSync are essential if you plan on gaming with a 60 Hz monitor.
Do I need a G-Sync/FreeSync monitor?
Gaming monitors typically have Nvidia G-Sync for PCs with Nvidia graphic cards and/or AMD FreeSync for PCs using AMD graphics card. These features reduce screen tearing, stuttering, and increase the price. However G-Sync monitors are usually more expensive than FreeSync.
G-Sync uses DisplayPort while FreeSync can be used with either HDMI or DisplayPort. Detailed information on which port is best for gaming can be found at DisplayPort . For more information on the two most popular Adaptive-Sync flavors see our G-Sync or FreeSync pages in Gameon.Store Glossary.
However, if you have a limited budget for a graphics card of low to medium speed, you will want a monitor that has either G-Sync, or FreeSync, and which works at a low minimum refreshrate.
Which should you choose: G-Sync or FreeSync Here are some things to think about:
- What hardware are you using?
- Team AMD or Team Nvidia? Remember that G-Sync and FreeSync provide comparable performance for most users. This was evident when both were tested against each other in the Nvidia FreeSync battle.
- What is the lowest supported refresh rate for Adaptive-Sync? G-Sync monitors can operate at a maximum refresh rate of 30 Hz, but not all FreeSync monitors. FreeSync monitors support Adaptive-Sync up until the monitor's maximum refreshrate, but that's not all they can do. Screens that have a maximum refresh rate of 55 Hz were tested by us. If your graphics card is unable to maintain frame rates at this level, it can cause problems. G-Sync offers low frame rate compensation (LFC) which kicks in below 30 Hz. However, this will only work if your maximum refresh rate exceeds 2.5 times the minimum. For example, if 100 Hz is the maximum refresh rate, LFC must be at 40 Hz.
- G-Sync can be run on many FreeSync monitors. Some of these monitors have been certified G-Sync compatible by Nvidia. Non-certified monitors may also be able to run G-Sync, but this is not guaranteed.
G-Sync Ultimate and FreeSync Premium Pro displays are great options if you intend to play a lot of HDR-content competitive gaming. These features have lower input latency, and offer additional benefits for HDR titles.
Do I need motion blur reduction or overdrive?
Many gaming monitors have motion blur reduction and overdrive. Understanding ghosting is necessary to fully appreciate their benefits. Ghosting refers to the blurred trail that a moving object leaves on your screen. This is caused by an uneven pixel transition. It takes longer for a monitor's pixels to change from Color A or Color B than it does from Color A to Color B.
Ghosting can be reduced by using Overdrive to speed up the process of pixels passing through higher voltages. If done correctly, the pixel will reach that level quickly and then change for the next frame, before the voltage goes too high.
During intense on-screen actions, motion blur reduction (also known as ultra low blur in the photo) maintains motion resolution.
Before you decide between the two, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Overdrive may cause inverse ghosting artifacts. Switch between the different overdrive options on your monitor to see the UFO. If you see a trail of white behind the saucer, it's too far.
- Motion blur reduces overall brightness.
What features are important in general use monitors?
Gaming and professional monitors can be used as general-purpose displays. You don't want to spend extra on a specialized display if you are looking for a monitor that can be used for all types of computing, entertainment, and productivity. This is how you can choose the best monitor for you.
- Contrast reigns supreme, and VA panels follow suit. Color saturation, accuracy, resolution, and color saturation are the next three measures of image quality. A display with a wide dynamic range will produce a more 3D-like image. VA panels offer contrast levels that are three to five times higher than IPS and TN screens. The VA screen will easily outperform IPS screens if they are placed next to each other and have the same brightness levels and calibration standards.
- You can consider the screen flicker-free if it's going to be viewed for more than 8 hours. It won't flicker at all brightness levels, so even people who are sensitive to flickering won't be disturbed.
- Low blue lights are not a selling point. Windows 10 has modes that reduce blue light. This is based on the theory blue light interferes sleep. This feature is not available on all monitors. A computer image that is less straining than normal can be made using low blue light. However, accurate calibration can also make it easier to see. You may notice a different look in photos and graphics due to the fact that reducing blue light can also affect other colors. This can be distracting, especially in videos and games. It's not necessary to prioritize low-blue light but it's getting harder to find monitors that don't have it.