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Guide: Choosing a Monitor

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Choosing a monitor can be a bit complicated as there are so many things to consider when buying one. This guide will give you an idea of what these specifications mean and what is more important than other. For reference, we have taken 22MP68VQ-P as our option. If you don’t want to go through this guide, then click here to check out some recommended monitors for your build.  

Panel Types

There are numerous kinds of TV Panels out there. But some of the most common ones are IPS, VA and TN. 

TN Panels or Twisted Nematic are panels that are very fast with response time of 1ms and with refresh rate going over whopping 240hz. They are mostly suited for competitive gamers due to their high refresh rates and low response times. But they come with some disadvantages: poor color reproduction and viewing angles. To overcome this shortcoming, IPS and VA panels were introduced in the mid 90s. This panel is the cheapest to produce. 

VA or Vertical Alignment Panels have better viewing angles and colors than TN, but they are not very fast compared to TN panels. VA Panels have nice deep blacks and so the contrast is really good, even better than IPS panels. They also come with disadvantages: longer response time and less accurate colors that are still better than TM panels. Only buy VA panel if budget restricts. 

IPS or In-Plane Switching panels have the best color reproduction and viewing angles over VA and TN, but they are not as fast as TN Panels and are costly to produce. they mostly come with 4/5ms response time and 60Hz refresh rate. Higher refresh rate IPS panels are available but are costly. This panel is recommended for productivity like video or photo editing or any other work that requires accurate reproduction of colors. 

Colors may vary depending on your screen type.

 Matte or Glossy IPS? 

Colors are more sharp and vibrant with deep blacks on glossy screens. Unless your PC in a super bright room with no option to make the room dark, go for matte displays. 

Matte on the left, Glossy on the right. Notice how the colors are more vibrant on the glossy screen.

Resolution and Aspect ratio 

Resolution is the number of pixels in each dimension that can be displayed. So, for a 1080p resolution (which is 1920×1080), for example, “1920 × 1080” means the width is 1920 pixels and the height is 1080p pixels. Multiplying them gives us the total number of pixels in a screen. So, 1920×1080 gives us 20,73,600 pixels. Aspect ratio is the ratio of the width to the height of a screen/image. Previously, 4:3 was the standard for almost everything. Now 16:9 is the standard for widescreen and 21:9 for ultra-wide. Movies are best viewed on 21:9 ratio screen as it covers the full screen. Two black bars appear at top and bottom when watching a 21:9 ratio movie on a 16:9 ratio screen. Here are some common screen resolutions with their aspect ratio. 

Data taken from Wikipedia 

Standard  Aspect Ratio  Width x Height 
SVGA  4:3  800×600 
WSVGA  17:10  1024×600 
XGA  4:3  1024×768 
XGA+  4:3  1152×864 
HD  16:9  1280×720 
WXGA  5:3  1280×768 
WXGA  16:10  1280×800 
SXGA  5:4  1280×1024 
WXGA  16:9  1360×768 
WXGA  16:9  1366×768 
WXGA+  16:10  1440×900 
other  16:9  1536×864 
HD+  16:9  1600×900 
WSXGA+  16:10  1680×1050 
FHD  16:9  1920×1080 
WUXGA  16:10  1920×1200 
UW-FHD  21:9  2560×1080 
QHD  16:9  2560×1440 
WQHD  21:9  3440×1440 
4K UHD  16:9  3840×2160 

 So what’s the best resolution to choose from? The best resolution is what your hardware and money can support. According to a steam and global survey, HD and Full HD are the most common screen resolutions used by consumers with 63.72% of steam users using 1080p displays and 27.16% of web users using 720p displays (these are the max figures). 

You can compare the aspect ration here: 

The 21:9 (2560 x 1080) Experience

Screen size 

Choosing the right size is not simple, as this depends on your seating distance and the resolution. If one parameter changes, then other parameter changes too (however this depends on how much). Generally, we should sit far enough to comfortably see the screen without seeing any pixels. But this is too vague for us to know the right size. Because we do more stuff on a computer than a TV, it is important for the monitor to be placed at the right distance, so you don’ t have to move your head towards the screen to read normal size font. This leaves you with basically no answer on what size is right for you, as it depends on your and the desk space and resolution and purpose. 

Compare screen size here

Refresh rate 

Monitors come with varying refresh rates, LCD Monitors are typically 60Hz, 75Hz, 120hz, 144hz, 240hz. This is the amount that a screen updates it’s buffer. In other words, refresh rate is the maximum number of times an image on a screen can be “drawn”, or refreshed, per second. 

From Wikipedia: 

The refresh rate is the repeated drawings of identical frames, while frame rate measures how often a video source can feed an entire frame of new data to a display. 

For example, most movie projectors advance from one frame to the next one 24 times each second. But each frame is illuminated two or three times before the next frame is projected using a shutter in front of its lamp. As a result, the movie projector runs at 24 frames per second, but has a 48 or 72 Hz refresh rate. 

Ports 

Every port is different in respect to quality and bandwidth. Before buying a monitor, check if your motherboard or graphics card have ports that are compatible with the monitor. If your graphics card have, say, only DP (Display port) and HDMI 1.4, then get a monitor with HDMI 1.4 or above or/and with DP port. You can however use active converters in case there is a mismatch for whatever reason. If you decide for the later route, make sure you check the availability of active converters. 

Ports you will need for resolution and frames: 

Data taken from Wikipedia 

Port  Resolution & Refresh Rate 
DisplayPort v1.3 and v1.4  8K a 

5K 60Hz and below 

4K @60Hz and below 

1440p @240Hz and below 

1080p @240hz and below 

 

Display Port 1.2 

 

4K @60Hz and below 

1440p @165Hz and below 

1080p @240hz and below 

 

HDMI 2.1 

 

8K @30hz 

5K @60Hz and below 

4K @144Hz and below 

1440p @240Hz and below 

1080p @240Hz and below 

720p@120hz and below 

 

HDMI 2.0 and 2.0b 

 

4K @144Hz and below 

1440p @144Hz and below 

1080p @240Hz and below 

720p@120hz and below 

HDMI 1.3-1.4b 

 

4K @30Hz 

1440p @75Hz and below 

1080p @144Hz and below 

720p@120hz and below 

 

HDMI 1.2–1.2a 

 

1080p @60hz and below 

720p @120hz and below 

 

HDMI 1.0–1.1 

 

1080p @60Hz and below 

720p @60Hz and below 

 

 DVI (Single link)  1,280 × 1,024 @85 Hz 

1920 x 1,080 @60Hz 

1,600 × 1,200 @60 Hz 

1,920 × 1,200 @60 Hz 

2560 × 1600 @30 Hz 

DVI (Dual link) 

 

2,048 × 1,536 @72 Hz 

1,920 × 1,080 @120 Hz 

1,920 × 1,200 @120 Hz 

2,560 × 1,600 @60 Hz 

3,840 × 2,400 @30 Hz 

 

 

 Brightness 

Brightness or Luminance is the intensity of light measured in nits or candelas per square meter (cd/m2). One nit equals to one cd/m2. Typical brightness ratings range from 250 to 350 cd/m2 for general purpose monitors. 

 Color Gamut 

Color Gamut is a complete subset of colors. 

This should not be a concern as most of the IPS displays have 99% sRGB color space. This is a complicated stuff, so we will keep it short, stick to sRGB, as it displays enough colors for even professionals. AdobesRGB is not used everywhere and sometimes it can create complications as some printing stations use sRGB and not AdobesRGB (Adobe sRGB has more colors than sRGB and costs more). 

 

Various Color Spaces

So when you see Color Gamut (CIE1931 or CIE1976) of 72% and 82%, respectively, that doesn’t mean it has 72% or 82% sRGB, but it covers over 99% sRGB. CIE 1931 XYZ color space was created in 1931 by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE). CIE1976 is a revision based on LUV. CIE is an organization that creates international standards related to light and color. 

Color depth 

Color depth is how many shades of a color are available for each pixel. More color depth means more expensive monitor and better picture quality. 

Almost all computer displays use 24bit color depth which is actually 8 bit (8 bits for each color: R, G, B) and can display 16.7M colors. With 10bits of display, one can get 1.073 Billion colors. Thi doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy a 10bit display, unless your budget allows, as 8bit displays are more than enough. 

 


 

Pixels per Inch or PPI 

Every screen is made up of tiny dots that are called pixels that are spread evenly across the screen. These arrangement of pixels make up what you see on the screen and the total number of pixels gives us the resolution. PPI is how many pixels an inch of a screen has. The more the pixels per inch, the sharper the image will be. So, for a 24″ display with 1080p resolution has around 91.78 PPI. Note however that some monitor specs talks about Pixel Pitch, like the one in our reference case. Pixel pitch measures the number of inches per pixel whereas PPI measures the number of pixels per inch. 

If you increase the display size, but keep the resolution same, the PPI will get wider. 

So, for a 32″ 1080p display, the PPI goes from 91.79 PPI to 68.84 PPI. This is not advisable as you begin to see pixels and need to put the screen far away to enjoy better picture quality. For 1080p resolution, don’t go above 24″ screen, 27″ for ultra wide 1080p as the screen size gets wider and more pixels are added horizontally to accommodate the bigger size. 

Market is filled with, well, not much, 27″ 4K which can be great for movies and gaming, but not for other stuff as things gets too small, especially texts when you have to work at a specific font size and dealing with small details unless Windows scaling gets better. 

Contrast Ratio. 

Contrast ratio is, simply put, the darkest and brightest image your display can put. The more, the better, but a lot of the figures around contrast ratio is pure marketing. 

With low contrast, the blacks will not be deep black and the image will look washed out. A contrast ratio of 1000:1 is common and more than enough. 

 

HDR 

HDR stands for High Dynamic range and is a technique technique used in imaging and photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques. IN layman’s terms, HDR gives wider and dynamic contrast range with more stops in the level of brightness for smoother transition. 

True HDR starts with 10bit Panels. If you see 8Bit panels with the word HDR, it’s not HDR. HDR Works with greater range of colors. And the 8bit “HDR” actually uses dithering, which means the computer mixes two colors to produce a color that the screen lacks. This does not happen in  10 bit Panels as there is wide of range of colors that are available and thus HDR is achieved by the aforementioned technique. It is worth noting that HDR and Bit rate are related but doesn’t mean they are the same thing. A 10bit panel might or might not have HDR. 

Don’t bother with HDR if you are working with a limited budget, as they are quite expensive and 8 bit panels look lovely and are sufficient for most professionals. 

 

Response Time 

Response time, or grey-to-grey, is the amount of time it takes a pixel to change. High response time means there will be motion blur when, say, moving files and folders by dragging or in other visual aspects like quick jarring movements in game will look blurred. 4,5,6 response time are mostly common on IPS displays, with TN reaching as low as 1ms. Don’t worry, you won’t notice any difference in 1ms and 5ms keeping in mind that there is no standardized way of measuring response times. 

Input lag 

It is the time taken for data to travel and give update to the monitor. Higher input lag means it will take longer for PC and monitor to communicate. So, if you move your mouse, you will see a little delay. Companies don’t disclose this information on monitor for some reason. 

Adaptive Sync 

Some monitors on the market come with technologies like ‘G-Sync’ or ‘Freesync’, you may ask, what are those? 

They are basically technologies aimed at synchronising the output rate of your GPU with the maximum refresh rate of your monitor, so that the GPU doesn’t output extra frames to the monitor and cause screen tearing and stuttering while finishing the previous frame on the display. There are 3 major types of Adaptive Sync technologies that exist, they are:- 

  • V-Sync 

Vertical Synchronisation or V-Sync is a software based synchronisation technique which holds the frames of the GPU and waits for the display to refresh and then lets the frames be displayed on the monitor. While it is the most common widespread technology (available in almost every game), it is also sub-optimal when you are gaming competitively. Since it makes processed frames to be held, it causes a slight delay between your inputs and for the display to show them. Therefore it is not recommended for competitive gamers, but it can be helpful and a simple fix for those who are experiencing screen tearing and stuttering due to higher FPS that the monitor can support. 

  • Nvidia G-Sync 

Nvidia G-Sync is a proprietary adaptive synchronisation technology developed by Nvidia, which utilises a Nvidia developed module inside the monitor and causes the display to adapt to the refresh rate of the GPU, resulting in a fluid viewing experience and eliminates display lag due to the GPU outputting frames and doesn’t wait for the screen to refresh, the G-Sync module then adapts the frames to display them according to the screen refresh rate. Since this technology is proprietary and requires an Nvidia module, it makes the monitors about 30% more expensive than a similar model without the tech. It is only compatible with Nvidia GPUs, and only those from Kepler micro-architechture (650Ti and above) and beyond can utilise the G-Sync tech. 

  • AMD Freesync 

Developed by AMD in response to G-Sync, it dynamically allows the display to adapt to the refresh rate of the GPU, utilising the VESA standardised Adaptive Sync included in the DisplayPort 1.2a revision. This is much cheaper to produce and is royalty-free thus, one can find cheap monitors with Freesync. 

Widescreen vs Ultrawide vs Curved 

Widescreen are our typical 16:9 aspect ratio monitors whereas ultrawide monitors has 21:9 aspect ratio. 

For widescreen monitors, we do not recommend anything above 24″ for 1080p FHD monitors, 27″ minimum for 1440p and 32″ for 4K. 

Ultrawide monitors are great for more cinematic experience with a 21:9 aspect ratio. They are a bit shorter and more wider (with extra pixels) than their counterparts. Sometimes, it makes sense to get an ultrawide monitor above the specified resolution. We do not recommend a 27″ Full-HD Monitor as the PPI gets too low for a normal seating distance, but we do recommend an UW-FHD at 27″. Take an UW-FHD with a FullHD monitor. Here are the PPI of said monitors: 

24″ FHD with PPI of 91.79 

27″ UW-FHD with PPI of 102.9 

27″ FHD with PPI of 81.59 

Notice how the PPI of FHD 27″ monitor gets too low. But the same screen size with more pixels in the ultra-wide monitor has a PPI of 102.9 which is really sharp. So when buying a monitor, do take these things into account. Coming to the ultrawide monitors, They give more field of vision and more work space. Some big ultrawide monitors let’s you split screens. 

Curved monitors, on the other hand, provide a larger field of view and a more immersive cinematic experience. However, this experience is only achieved when you have a big screen. The problem with Curved monitors is that you need to sit at dead center and are only good for the person sitting in front of it. They also cause problem when you want to use multiple monitor setup. However, if you are ready to forego the disadvantages, then you can buy a curved panel on your discretion. But if you want a monitor for productivity, then curved monitors are generally not good. Curved monitors are more worth with 21:9 ratio as they allow the monitor to wrap around the curvature of your eye, thus allowing you to view the whole monitor at once and not moving your head to view it’s edges.

 LED vs LCD 

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. LED is a type of LCD with a different method of back-light. LCD TV/monitor uses fluorescent lights whereas LED LCDs use light emitting diodes. LEDs gives better picture than LCDs because they can be dimmed to display deeper blacks and LEDs use their own RGB separate lights to give more sharper and vivid picture. OLEDs are Organic LEDs with even better picture quality with far more deeper blacks and sharper colors. OLEDs have the ability to shut the respective OLED completely off to produce the deepest black you can think of, deep like a black hole. And they are more efficient. 

 Screen Space

Does a bigger size monitor mean more screen space? Well, no. Screen space depends on the resolution. Everything you see on a desktop has a defined dimensions in pixels, be it the taskbar, start menu, or the icons. Bigger the resolution, more screen space you have. Try lowering the resolution of your monitor to something very low and see what happens. Everything gets bigger as you lower the screen resolution. So, a 1080p resolution on a 32″ monitor or a 24″ monitor will have the same screen space irrespective of the screen size.

BIAS Lighting

Everybody loves RGB: RGB RAM, RGB Cooler, RGB Fans, RGB graphics cards, and RGB Motherboards. While the RGB in a case serves no purpose except as circus lights, it does help a lot when you use one for the Monitor, especially for those who work in dark room. This is a feature which every user must add if s/he works in a dark room or likes to watch/play movies or video games in dark environment.

Our pupils dilate to regulate how much light enters our eyes. However, this depends on the average amount of light in our field of vision. In a dark room, our eyes perceive the brightness from the monitor as too bright because the surrounding area is too dark in relation to the light source. This causes physical discomfort, eye fatigue and headache due to prolonged eye strain. Apart from this, we don’t see the contrast level any better than we would have if we had some form of light behind the monitor or in our surrounding.

BIAS lighting achieves two purposes: Relieving eye strain and boosting the contrast. While any form of BIAS lighting will help in reducing eye strain, not every BIAS lighting will give you the optimal contrast level. For a BIAS light to give optimal contrast level, it needs to be manufactured with 6.5K color temperature. The reason for this is due to the LED bulbs in monitors being calibrated to 6.5K. And why are they calibrated to 6.5K? Because of the D6500 standard set by CIE that fixes 6.5K color temp for almost all the image producing and capturing equipment. Take a simple Simultaneous Contrast Illusion example to see how background light affects the contrast level.

In the image above, the bar of grey color is a single color, but it appears to be darker due to the lighter background. This illusion states that we perceive greys to be darker against a lighter background and this is how a good LED Strip boosts the contrast level.

Monitor Defects 

Ghosting 

Ghosting is an artifact caused by slower response times and you see previously rendered image for some milliseconds 

Here is a nice example of Ghosting: 

Dead Pixels (or stuck?) 

A pixel or a bunch of pixels can “die” due to several reasons, some of them being roughly touching the screen or due to manufacturing defects or just due to pure luck. So make sure you check your screen for any number of dead pixels by using some online utility tool. There is no way to know whether a pixel is dead or stuck, but you can check whether it’s either of them. To check/fix stuck pixel, you can use some online tools to free the stuck pixel or manually apply a very slight pressure where the pixel is (don’t apply too much pressure as this will lead to more problems) If nothing fixes the stuck pixels, then you have a dead pixel, which cannot be repaired. Time to RMA the monitor if under warranty. 

Manufactures have different policies on dead pixel warranty. Some allow to replace a monitor even if there is one dead pixel, whereas some won’t accept RMA unless a specified number of pixels are dead. 

 How to identify dead or stuck pixel? 

Stuck and dead pixel can be easily identified if a pixel displays wrong color, but it gets tricky to detect if it is black. If it is stuck in a colour, 99% of the times it results as a stuck pixel and can be fixed. If it is black, then use some tools to free the pixel and if no method works, then it is a dead pixel. 

 

Dead and Stuck Pixel (click on the image to learn more) 

IPS Back-Light Bleed 

There is always back-light bleed with IPS because of the way the technology works. The back-light leaks around the edges It’s clearly visible in dark or low-light situations around the corners, but it’s not a concern unless the back-light bleed interferes with your work. Higher quality models will have barely visible back-light bleed. 

IPS Glow 

IPS glow is similar to black-light bleed but it is visible when viewed at an off angle. This also happens due to how IPS screen works. Backlight-bleed is independent from viewing angle and distance unlike IPS glow. Too much of this is an issue 

The glow is visible at an off angle.

 Clouding 

Clouding is similar to black-light bleed except that clouding, as the name suggests, shows white splotches on the screen when it is very dark that looks like “clouds.” This happens when the screen is damaged and the only way to fix it is to ask for a replacement or buy a new one. 

 

Clouding

Color banding 

Color banding is a defect when a monitor shows more blocky transitions of color shades. You can take a simple gradient test to check if the gradient appears too blocky or not. This issue cannot be fixed. 

Color Banding (notice how the colors are not transitioned smoothly.)

 


Feel free to join the discussion at our awesome subreddit r/Indiangaming.

(All images used belong to their rightful owners.)