How to Choose a Computer Monitor

What to look for in a monitor

A new computer monitor can enhance productivity and entertainment, as well as extend the life of your current desktop PC. Our monitor buying guide covers everything you should look for when shopping for a monitor.

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Computer Monitor

To choose a computer monitor, you need to examine your needs. Different monitors have different features such as resolution, refresh rate, size, and of course, price. You need to know what you are looking to do and what your budget is.

  • Cost
  • Type and Purpose
  • Resolution
  • Monitor Size
  • Additional Features

How Much Should a Computer Monitor Cost?

Monitor prices vary almost as much as PC prices can, with so many options available there's always something for everyone. If you don't want to spend too much on a new display, for any reason, there are models out there for less than $100—though these are generally smaller than the recommended size, coming in at around 20-inches or so. But if you want the biggest and the fanciest, you could be looking at an MSRP up to $6,000 or more.

 Price Range What You Can Expect
 $75-$200 Low-end prices don't necessarily mean low-end quality. There are a number of reasonable options available in this bracket that can fit a variety of needs, but they won't be ideal for more specialized functions.
 $200-$500 This price range is where you'll really start to see higher resolutions and larger screen sizes. You're also more likely to encounter additional built-in display ports like HDMI.
 $500-$1500 Here's where a lot of the 4K monitors live, as well as some curved options. You'll find more 360Hz gaming displays around this price point, too.
 $1500-$6000+ The highest tier is home to the most premium monitors, such as large screens, curved, 4K UHD, and G-Sync. Apple's Studio Display also lives here.

What Will Be Your Monitor’s Purpose?

Do you want a gaming, general, or professional monitor?

A gamer prioritizes fast refresh rates and low response times, whereas a professional monitor focuses on color accuracy for imaging and office-related tasks. If you want a monitor primarily for watching videos, opt for one with an IPS panel, which is ideal for streaming videos.

Monitor Resolutions

A higher resolution is the key to a crisp and highly defined picture. As the resolution increases, so does the cost. Most monitors sold today are HD monitors with a 1920 x 1080 (also known as 1080p) resolution. We suggest you make this the minimum resolution you consider. Other resolution options include (but aren't limited to):

  • 1280 x 1024
  • 1366 x 768
  • 1600 x 900
  • 1920 x 1080
  • 1920 x 1200
  • 2560 x 1440
  • 3440 x 1440
  • 3840 x 2160

If you want something better than Full High Definition (FHD), there are monitors available that go up to 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD). 4K monitors can reach resolutions of 3840 x 2160 and beyond, but know that with the added visual quality comes added cost—a lot of added cost.

How Do I Choose a Monitor Size?

24 to 30 inches is an ideal-sized monitor for most consumers.

Like resolution, a monitor's price goes up as the size increases. Since only you know what you'll display on the monitor, where you'll be placing the monitor, and your budget, there is no such thing as the ideal monitor size. For the average home user who checks their email, browses the web, etc., a 24-inch monitor is probably perfectly fine. However, if you are doing office work (think comprehensive spreadsheets), then a bigger, higher-resolution monitor would make more sense.

Unlike choosing a TV, the biggest monitor isn't always the best. Unless the resolution increases with the size, the clarity of what's on the screen will decrease. For example, if you have two monitors with the exact resolution, the bigger monitor won't appear as sharp as the smaller monitor. And the smaller monitor, however sharp, might be too small for your eyes to use comfortably.

HP suggests that a 24-to-30-inch monitor will be adequate for the average user, while a 1080p monitor (25-inches or more) is the minimum size you'd want for gaming.

Additional Features

It's handy to have USB ports on your monitor, so you don't have to go far to plug in a mouse, keyboard, or webcam. Also, consider the adjustability of the monitor. Does it move to accommodate more than one size of a person? This might not apply if this is just for you, but if you have a family or even just one other person using it, you'd be surprised how nice it is to place the monitor just where you want it.

Some specialized monitors also include additional ports for HDMI cables, and mounting accessories so you can attach the monitor directly to the wall. They may even come with their own "gaming hub," which can be used to more directly control software, hardware, or live services.

Computer Monitor Variations

Many manufacturers market monitors for general use, such as checking spreadsheets and emails, to more immersive work, such as video editing, photo editing, and graphic design. There are even monitors made specifically for folks who are deeply into gaming.

General Use

You've already seen what we're calling "general use" monitors, and you may be using one right now. These are the types of computer monitors you'd recognize in an office. General-use monitors range in size from 21-inches to 41-inches. They are suitable for reading emails, online shopping, social media, watching short videos, etc.


Professional monitors are generally for graphic designers and other creative professionals. A monitor geared toward a creative professional can accurately display billions of colors. UHD has become the standard choice for industry professionals, offering a broad resolution of 3840 x 2160 (4K) up to 6016 by 3384 (6K). That is more than enough screen real estate to do everything from game designing to video production. These monitors will range from 24-inches to 32-inches. While you will see bigger monitors when you start looking, not all of them will reproduce colors as accurately and might not have very high resolutions.


Gaming monitors have a different purpose than professional monitors. Because of the fast, player-controlled action, gaming monitors need a rapid refresh rate (how quickly the screen can update the information). The lowest-end refresh rate (displayed as Hz for Hertz) you'd want for gaming is 60 Hz, but high-end models can reach 360Hz. If you use your computer primarily for PC gaming, seeking out a gaming-specific monitor is the best course of action.


Ultrawide monitors are becoming more common, and you often don't have to pay as much of a premium for one as you once did. Ultrawide monitors are much broader than they are tall—way wider than your typical monitor. Anyone can use these monitors, but an ultrawide monitor is a good idea if your work spreads horizontally. These monitors can also be good for watching movies. If we were picking a new monitor, we'd put an ultrawide at the top of the list for consideration.


Curved monitors can give you the resolution of a bigger monitor without taking up quite as much desk space (they're still pretty big, however). Depending on what you are doing, they attempt to offer a more immersive experience. You pay extra for the curve, and you should keep in mind that some of these might be more reflective than you'd like.

Who Should Buy a Computer Monitor?

Anyone purchasing a desktop computer should at least consider shopping around for a monitor because not all desktop systems include a monitor. And even if a monitor is included, it might not fit your needs.

Laptop users generally don't need a monitor since one is built-in.

Please pay close attention to what comes with your computer before you order it. If it's not already included, sometimes you can add a monitor to the set—just make sure it's one you want. Beyond that, if you already have a desktop setup and either need a replacement monitor or wish you had something bigger or more crisp, you'll want to shop around.

What Should I Do After I Buy a Monitor?

Definitely test your new monitor out as soon as you can. Hook it up to your machine to ensure everything is working as it should and accomplishes what you want. If you're primarily going to be using it to watch TV and movies, check the space to see that it fits. Start playing something you're already familiar with so you can compare the picture and sound quality to what you were getting from your previous monitor.

If you want to use it for work, open up a few programs and documents to get a feel for how legible everything is and how it may affect (for better or worse) your workflow. And if you're going to use it for gaming, load up a graphics-intensive game and see if it looks any better or responds faster.

More Tips

  • Shop around. Unless getting a new monitor is vital and time-sensitive, take your time to check out more models and compare prices. If time isn't much of a factor, consider holding off until a likely electronics sale event (such as end-of-the-year holidays).
  • Don't be afraid to return it. Think of your new monitor as more of an appliance than an accessory. It's going to be with you for a long time and see a lot of use. If you buy one that doesn't quite fit your needs or is otherwise disappointing, check the return policy and bring it back or exchange it if you can. You don't want to get stuck with a "just okay" monitor if you can avoid it.
  • Plan ahead. It's been said but bears repeating: Make sure you know where you're going to put your monitor. If you have a spot all picked out, check the monitor's dimensions and then measure the space where you plan to put it. If you intend to get a new entertainment center or desk to go with your new monitor, triple-check both their measurements so you won't end up with a display that's too big or too small.
  • How do you measure a computer monitor?

    Computer monitors are measured diagonally. To measure a computer screen using a tape measure, start at the upper-left corner and extend it diagonally to the opposite bottom-right corner. Measure only the screen and not the bezel or the casing.

  • How do I clean my computer monitor screen?

    Cleaning a computer monitor is the same as cleaning a flat-screen TV. First, turn it off, and then use a dry, soft cloth to gently wipe the screen with a microfiber cloth or dry eraser. If necessary, dampen the cloth with distilled water, an equal ratio of distilled water to white vinegar, or a special cleaner for screens. 

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