When shopping for a new desktop computer, everyone’s aware that it is great to have a performant CPU and a powerful graphics card, whether it's for gaming, watching 4K movies or professional photo and video editing. However, there is one part of the rig most people tend to take for granted though, and it happens to be the one which contributes the most to a great user experience.
The monitor is more than just another peripheral component. It is the one we stare at for all the time we use our computers, displaying all the visual information that the graphics processor outputs. Imagine having one of the greatest performing GPUs, only to get disappointed with how unattractive those processed images look like on your monitor. To help you choose one of the best monitors of 2017, we compiled a guide with the essential specs and features you should take into account when choosing a new monitor.
The screen size is measured in inches and is the diagonal measurement of the display, not including the bezel. Monitors typically come with displays with diagonal measurements falling between 15 to 34 inches, with the average being 24 inches. You might want to go for the biggest sized display, as long as it will fall within your budget, and you have enough space on your desk. The monitor with the biggest display around today is the Sharp LB-1085, with a 108-inch display. The bigger the display, the bigger is the viewing area.
The screen resolution is the number of pixels for each dimension (vertical and horizontal). Most computer monitors these days have a 1920 x 1080 resolution. The screen resolution alone however cannot determine how crisp the images are going to be. When it comes to determining the quality of a display, the pixel density is an important parameter.
Pixel density is calculated using the screen resolution and the screen size, representing the number of pixels per inch (PPI). It is generally accepted that most people cannot detect a difference between a display with 300 PPI and a display with more than 300 PPI, although this is still dependent on one's visual acuity, the viewing distance and the lighting. The average pixel density for desktop monitors is 100 PPI.
The response time is another key parameter. It refers to the time it takes for the pixels to change and is measured in milliseconds (ms). A lower response time is desirable since it reduces the ghosting effect, which can make blurred out versions of images stay on the display after the image changed. It's distracting and bothering, especially when watching movies or playing games. The standard response time is around 5ms. Going above 5ms is considered unacceptable for gaming. High-end monitors can have response times of as little as 1ms.
It is also worth considering what kind of coating you would want to have on your screen. There are two kinds of panel coatings, glossy and matte, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. Displays with glossy coating tend to have more accurate and lively colors, as well as deeper blacks, but are very susceptible to glares or reflections. Matte panels are much less susceptible to glares or reflections, but the colors aren't as vivid as on glossy panels. If the monitor is placed in a well-lit room, with multiple light sources all around, it might be better to have a matte-coated display. Otherwise, a glossy panel would be the better choice.
Other useful features are:
VGA (Video Graphics Array) is an analog display connection and the oldest display standard still in use to this date. They are still widely used for resolutions below and including Full HD (1920 x 1080 px). Although the connection technology could theoretically support higher resolutions, since there is still enough transmission bandwidth, the image quality might be affected.
DVI (Digital Visual Interface) was developed with the goal of establishing a standard in the in transfer of digital image contents across devices. It is a hybrid between analog and digital connections, and can be programmed to support analog only, digital only, or both analog and digital connections. It is also backwards compatible with VGA, which is one major reason why it became very popular. It is the most widely used connection standard for PCs.
HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is the most recent display transfer technology. It is designed to completely replace analog display technologies. Instead of transferring analog signals through the cables, the cable instead carry uncompressed digital signals from the source, and to the monitor where the digital codes are translated and decoded. With that in mind, the technology is not at all susceptible to quality loss due to low quality cables. In addition to the transfer of digital images, HDMI also has the capability to transfer uncompressed digital audio content.
USB ports: most monitors have built-in mini USB hubs. This comes in handy if your computer has just a few USB ports. It can also help in setting up a much neater rig. Other peripherals, like the mouse, keyboard or external speakers, can be connected to the monitor.
Speakers: a lot of monitors have built-in speakers, so that you don't necessarily have to buy a separate speaker system. Although they are not really widely used, as they are relatively weaker and have lower sound quality than dedicated audio systems, it is still great to have built-in speakers just in case you'll be unable to use external speakers. You should check how many speaker drivers the monitor has and whether it offers stereo sound.