How to Choose a Computer Monitor

What to look for in a monitor

What to Know

  • 24 to 30 inches is an ideal-sized monitor for the average consumer.
  • Monitors with a curved display can be more immersive for graphic design and content creation.
  • Monitors with a fast refresh rate are best suited for gaming.

This guide will discuss what to look for in a new computer monitor. A new computer monitor can enhance productivity and entertainment, as well as extend the life of your current desktop PC.

How Do I Choose a Computer Monitor?

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

  • Determine the purpose. Do you want your monitor for gaming, general use, or professional use? A gamer prioritizes fast refresh rates and low response times. Whereas a professional would focus on color accuracy for imaging and office-related tasks. Folks looking to watch videos primarily should opt for a monitor with an IPS panel, as this is ideal for streaming videos.
  • Look for high resolution. 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.
  • Size is important. Much like the resolution, the size of a monitor is equally essential. And like resolution, as the size increases, so does the cost. Because 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 likely to be perfectly fine. However, if you are going to be doing office work (think wide spreadsheets), then a larger, higher-resolution monitor would make more sense.
  • Look for additional features. It's handy to have USB ports on your monitor so, if you have a computer tucked away, you don't have to go far to plug in a mouse or keyboard or even a 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.)

How Do I Choose a Monitor Size?

Unlike choosing a TV, the biggest isn't always the best. Unless the resolution increases as the monitor gets physically bigger, 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 be as sharp as the smaller monitor. The smaller monitor, however sharp, might be too small for your eyes to use comfortably.

Most likely, you'll find a good monitor for your needs between 24 and 30 inches when measured diagonally (that's how they'll be advertised when you go shopping).

Which Type of Monitor Is Best Suited for My Use?

Now that we perform so many different tasks using a computer, plenty of monitors are geared towards specific uses. From 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 for folks really, really into gaming.

General Use

You've already seen what we're calling 'general use' monitors. You are likely 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 (sometimes larger). They are suitable for doing what most of us do most of the time: Reading email, online shopping, social media, watching some short videos, etc.

Professional

Professional monitors are generally for graphic designers and creative professionals. A monitor geared toward a creative professional can accurately display billions of colors. UHD (ultra-high-definition) has become the standard choice for industry professionals, as it offers 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" to 32". 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

Gaming monitors have a different purpose than professional monitors. Because the action on the screen is moving at such a rapid pace, gaming monitors need a fast 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 240Hz. If you use your computer primarily for PC gaming, seeking out a gaming-specific monitor is the best course of action.

Ultrawide

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 wider than tall—way wider than your typical monitor. Anyone can use these monitors, but an ultrawide monitor is a good idea if your work spreads out horizontally. Some use cases would be two documents open side by side for reference or editing (with a third window for an email) or maybe a wide spreadsheet. 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

Curved monitors can give you the resolution of a bigger monitor without taking up quite so much desk space (they're still pretty big, however). Depending on what you are doing, they attempt to offer a more immersive experience, so you shouldn't have to turn your head quite so much. You do pay extra for the curve, and you should keep in mind some of these might be pretty more reflective than you like.

What Is the Ideal Computer Monitor Size?

A monitor sized between 24 and 30 inches will be adequate for the average user. These monitor sizes will allow you to make the most of modern advances in color clarity and resolution.

FAQ
  • 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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