8 Computer Monitor Features to Consider Before You Buy

A monitor is an essential part of any desktop setup. You’ll be staring at your display for hours every day, so it’s important to choose one that provides both optimal functionality and a comfortable viewing experience.

Rather than stress over trying to learn everything there is to know about computer monitor all at once, my advice would be to start by identifying your specific needs and priorities. Think about how you typically use your computer—is it for office productivity? Gaming? Video and photo editing? Knowing your intended applications ahead of time helps narrow down which monitor features deserve the most attention during your research. 

Let’s dive into eight essential monitor characteristics to consider before buying a new display. 

1. Picking the Perfect Panel for Your Space

One of the first things you’ll need to determine is what size computer monitor will fit comfortably in your workspace while providing an optimal viewing area. 

  • Monitor sizes range from as small as 15 inches up to massive 49-inch ultra-wide displays. Consider the physical dimensions of your desk and how far away you typically sit. The standard viewing distance is equal to 1–2.5 times the screen diagonal measurement.
  • Screen resolution impacts image sharpness and detail. Common options include 1080p (1920×1080), 1440p (2560×1440), 4K (3840×2160) and higher resolutions like 5K. Make sure to get a resolution high enough for your needs but not so high that it impacts performance or is unnecessary for your screen size.
  • 4K resolution is best if you work with high-res photos and videos professionally, but it requires a powerful graphics card to drive the massive 8.3 million pixels without compromising smoothness or frame rates. 1440p is a great balance of clarity and smoothness for most users.
  • For gaming, higher refresh rates are generally more important than ultra-high resolutions, which you can’t take full advantage of anyway due to hardware limitations. 1080p at 144Hz or 1440p at 120Hz are excellent options for a fluid gameplay experience.
  • Screen size and resolution go hand in hand. General guidelines are 15–24 inches for 1080p, 24-27 inches for 1440p, and 27 inches or larger for 4K or ultra-wide resolutions. But your personal preference also matters; some prefer larger screens, even at 1080p.
  • An ultra-wide computer monitor provides a much more immersive and horizontal workspace than a traditional 16:9 display but requires re-arranging your entire desk setup for best ergonomics and to avoid neck strain from constant side-to-side head movements.
  • Dual-monitor setups are also a popular option, allowing you to multitask across two screens of different or matching sizes. This can boost productivity significantly compared to a single monitor.
  • When using multiple screens, it’s best to have the primary monitor in the center at eye level, with any secondary displays placed on the sides at the same height for neck-friendly ergonomics.

Always try to physically see the monitor in person before purchasing, if possible, rather than just going by specs alone. Size, resolution and image quality can be hard to visualize accurately online. Sample different models in stores before committing.

2. Seek Smooth Scrolling and Gameplay

The refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz), impacts how smoothly images display on your monitor. For regular office tasks, 60 Hz is usually fine, but if you do any graphics work or gaming, you’ll want a higher refresh rate. Options of 120Hz, 144Hz, 165Hz or even 240Hz provide a super smooth experience by updating the image more frequently. This is especially important for fast-paced games, where a high refresh rate can give you a competitive edge.

3. Eliminating Eye Strain with Quick Pixels

Response time refers to how long it takes for a pixel to change colors, measured in milliseconds. Faster response times mean less blurring and ghosting of moving images on screen. A response time of 5 ms or lower is ideal to reduce eye strain during tasks like scrolling documents or browsing the web. Gamers will want 1 ms or less to eliminate any potential smearing of fast-moving in-game objects.

4. Choosing Between IPS, VA and TN

Monitor panels come in three main types: IPS, VA and TN. IPS panels offer the best color accuracy and viewing angles but may be more expensive. VA panels are a good mid-range option with deep blacks but slower response times. TN panels are the most affordable but have limited viewing angles and color quality. Consider your budget and priorities when deciding between panel types.

5. Supporting Your Setup with HDMI, DisplayPort and More

Check which input connections your new monitor has. HDMI is common but only supports 60Hz at 1080p; you’ll want DisplayPort for higher refresh rates. USB-C is also useful for laptops that only have that port. Make sure your computer monitor has the right inputs to connect easily to your computer or game console without any dongles. Wireless connectivity like WiFi is another bonus some high-end monitors offer.

6. Customizing Comfort with Height, Tilt and Swivel

The best monitors allow you to easily adjust the height, tilt, swivel and even rotate the screen for comfortable ergonomics, no matter your setup. Check if the stand offers smooth, single-hand adjustment controls. Bonus features include integrated headphones hangers, pop-out webcam covers for privacy, and cable management clips underneath. A fully adjustable monitor pays off by preventing neck strain over long workdays.

7. Experiencing High Dynamic Range Visuals

Look for VESA DisplayHDR certifications of 400 or higher for true HDR capabilities. You’ll also need compatible content and an HDR-ready graphics card to take full advantage of the feature. HDR is best for media consumption but may be overkill for regular tasks.

8. Considering Extras Like Picture-by-Picture

Some computer monitors offer useful additional capabilities beyond basic displays. Look for features like integrated speakers, ambient light sensors, and picture-by-picture multi-viewing of multiple inputs simultaneously. Consider if any extras could meaningfully improve your workflow.

Read more: 9 Essential Features for Choosing the Perfect Computer Monitor in 2024

Final Words

Carefully evaluating these key factors will lead you to the right monitor for your specific needs, whether it’s for work, gaming or both. Take your time to research specifications and read reviews from other users. A quality monitor is an investment that can enhance productivity for years to come when selected to match your setup and daily activities. Happy shopping!

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