How to buy a monitor for gaming or working from home. How to find the best monitor

A smaller monitor, best suited for multi-screen setups in tight spaces or for more focused productivity, lets you focus on tasks where you need less screen space, such as single-person typing and streaming.

How to buy a monitor for gaming or working from home

Here are the basics you’ll need to start your search for a new monitor for work or play.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Should I go for 24 or 27 inch? Full HD or 4K? If such questions are circulating in your mind, you’ve probably just started looking for a new monitor to make your work-at-home setup (or gaming at home) more efficient. In this guide, we’ll try to slow down your spinning head.

In this article

The TL;DR

If you’re looking for a regular display for work or home study and don’t want to hurt your brain by thinking too much about it, for adults I recommend a 27-inch 4K flat screen display and one that uses an IPS panel. It should cost you around $ 500. If you need it cheaper, go for the 24-inch model with 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is Full HD resolution, which you can buy for less than $ 150; 22 or 24 inch is a good choice for kids as well, or if you need something for a small space but honestly it’s a small side.

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Unless you’re a die-hard gamer or creative pro, many of the most technical specs – the color gamut and lags for example – won’t really matter to you (and you should always take the manufacturer’s specs with a grain of salt, anyway).

When connecting your laptop, you need to make sure you have the right connections: some USB-C or USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports support a feature called Alternate Display Mode, which means you can use a USB-C to HDMI cable (or adapter) or USB-C to DisplayPort to connect a monitor using these connections. Older laptops may still have native connectors such as HDMI or DisplayPort.

Do you have a Mac? If it’s an old MacBook with an HDMI port, or an iMac or Mac Mini computer, you won’t have a problem. More modern MacBooks with USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 connectors will require an adapter or cable with built-in conversion. You may also have to play around with the resolution and scaling settings in Mac OS as it natively prefers the 16:10 aspect ratio rather than the 16: 9 aspect ratio which is much more popular on Windows.

If you want to go deeper into details, here are a few rules of thumb to follow:

  • Within budget and desk space constraints, get the largest monitor you can. You will rarely regret buying a monitor that is too large, but you will often regret buying too small. There are also 21: 9 super wide screen monitors (also known as 2.35: 1). Many of these models are curved and most of them are 34 ” displays with a resolution lower than 4K. This is mainly a special item for players.
  • If you can afford it, go for 4K. If not, choose an aspect ratio of 16: 9, which is usually 1920×1080 (also known as FHD or Full HD). You can find the aspect ratio by dividing the horizontal resolution by the vertical resolution and the result for 16: 9 should be 1.77: 1.
  • Please make sure the stand can adjust to the correct height for you to be comfortable using and tilt it to a useful angle. Depending on your needs, you may also want a stand that can rotate or allow you to rotate the screen 90 degrees for use in portrait orientation. For example, portrait will allow you to see more vertically scrolling web pages, or it will be a little more convenient if you work with print layouts.
  • Choose one that you find attractive – you will stare at it often. For many people, this is synonymous with “thin frames”. You also need a stand that looks good and has reasonable cable organization, allowing you to run wires through an opening or conduit to keep them together. Cable management can be important if your monitor has a USB hub, as you want to keep these cables under control as well.

Unlike other types of PC monitors, OLED panels use a newer technology that does not require any backlight as they use organic material to emit light. They are also the first major monitor panel that is not based on LCD technology.

What size monitor should I get?

the best ultra-wide monitors

Bill Roberson / digital trends

How big is big enough? When it comes to computer monitors, you need something that fits comfortably on your desk while providing a large screen area. While in the past monitors under 20 inches were commonplace, today, unless you’re really limited in space, there’s no need to buy anything under 22 inches. For most, 24 inches will be a staple as you can buy a couple of screens this size for around $ 100 and they look fantastic at 1080p.

The best monitors you can buy

For those who want something more, there are many sizes to choose from. Monitors that span 27 inches diagonally are becoming more popular, and there are plenty of options beyond the 30 inch that are affordable. If you want to go extreme, we’ve even tried some great computer monitors that go as far as 50 inches, such as the Samsung CHG90.

While you will have to take a break from them, it cannot be denied that they look amazing. They provide the same screen as many smaller monitors, without a bezel separating them in the center. They are quite expensive though, and if you go really wide you will have a hard time finding a medium that can display near its native resolution, leaving the image either stretched or surrounded by black.

For most users, anything between 24 inches and 30 inches will be fine. They allow you to take full advantage of modern resolutions and color clarity, and also host several different websites open simultaneously without having to use two monitors, which is useful for many professionals. In this size, they are also not very expensive, unless you choose top-shelf models.

Resolution and screen type

Today, all the best screens are still LCD monitors that use LED technology, creating a slim product that saves energy while providing perfect backlight. We’ve waited years for OLED technology to move to PC monitors, it’s finally getting started with brands like LG, but the technology is still relatively rare.

One aspect of PC monitors to consider is resolution. While 1080p was once the gold standard, today it is just a staple. If you’re happy to spend a little more, there are a few other options to consider, especially if you want to improve screen space or visuals in games. However, resolution is not the most important feature of a monitor. In fact, too much resolution on a screen that is too small can often be annoying as it reduces all images and forces you to zoom in on everything to make them easy to read.

  • 1080p: If you need reasonable clarity but want to save on cost or focus on other more important features, 1080p is where it is – as long as the monitor you’re buying isn’t too big. 1080p is the perfect solution for displays from 21 ” to 24 ”. These monitors offer great picture quality, and now that they compete with 4K, the prices are at the lowest. However, if you want to reach a size larger than 24 inches, you should consider a resolution of 2560 x 1440 at least, and perhaps 4K.
  • 1440p: An often forgotten stepson in the gradual marriage of consumers and 4K, 1440p is still the suggested resolution for gamers as it offers a noticeable improvement in quality over 1080p but doesn’t put too much strain on the graphics card. It’s also much more affordable if you’re interested in additional features like high refresh rates. It is also commonly referred to as Quad HD / QHD.
  • 4K / Ultra HD (UHD): 4K is the most popular resolution in the industry. It looks much more detailed than 1080p with 3840 x 2160 pixels, and prices have dropped significantly in the last few years. That said, gamers will need a powerful graphics card to run at this resolution, and finding inexpensive monitors with a full frame-sync support package or high refresh rates is still difficult. However, there are plenty of 4K media to enjoy, whether you’re streaming or using UHD Blu-ray.
  • 5K: This resolution hit the headlines when Apple made its iMac debut, but even years later it is far from universal resolution. Dell’s UP2715K is a great-looking display, but ahead of it, we recommend a lot of high-end 4K monitors as there won’t be much of a difference between the two.
  • 8K: Several 8K monitors are also available, most notably the Dell 8K Ultrasharp. At the moment, a monitor with such a high resolution is not needed, but they are affordable for those on a budget if resolution is absolutely the most important thing.

While the above are the most common resolutions you can find on monitors, some fall into more niche categories. The best ultrawide monitors offer unique aspect ratios and resolutions with a wide horizontal pixel count but less vertical pixel count.

Keep an eye out for monitors advertised as “creative” are a good start as they tend to focus more on color accuracy than standard monitors. When it comes to specs, IPS panels are favored due to their higher pixel density, but VA can handle it as well.

Resolution

Different resolutions on a multicolored background

There are currently three resolutions worth considering seriously: 1080p, 1440p, and 4K. These three are well supported these days and which one you should go with just depends on how much you’re willing to pay. Also be aware of the size of the monitor as smaller displays can get away with it at lower resolutions while keeping the image sharp.

4K looks its best, is perfect for larger monitors, and usually comes with other benefits like HDR. 1080p looks good (especially on smaller screens), is most supported by media and software, and is more affordable. 1440p offers an interesting midrange – while not as sharp as 4K, it’s cheaper and still looks better than 1080p.

Regardless, 1080p is usually fine for most things. There is a limited amount of content available that uses 1440p and 4K, but it definitely is there, especially when it comes to movies and games. And if you do a creative job such as video editing, having a high-definition monitor also allows you to create higher-quality content.

Panel Type

A person using a monitor game development program

DC Studio / Shutterstock.com

The panel used by the monitor will determine what the image will look like. Most monitors now use LCD panels, but there are different types of LCD displays.

  • TN: It’s an older standard, but it’s still popular because of its low cost. TN (Twisted Nematic) displays are affordable and have extremely fast response times. On the other hand, the color reproduction is poor and the viewing angles (what the monitor looks like when you are not looking at it straight) are also poor. This leads to a disappointing picture. While they are affordable, TN monitors are a rare sight and likely won’t be worth the effort it takes to hunt them down.
  • IPS: When it comes to modern monitors, IPS (In-Plane Switching) is the favorite panel of most users. While it’s generally the most expensive, it makes up for it by its high pixel density – meaning much more accurate colors and better viewing angles. This leads to longer response times, but that’s a pretty small difference and the better image quality definitely makes up for it.
  • VA: Then we have VA (Vertical Aligned) which serves as the middle ground between TN and IPS. Color accuracy and viewing angles are better than TN, but not as good as IPS, with response times also in between. The price also reflects this intermediate state. A noteworthy feature of VAs is that their color contrast is superior to that of other LCD panels. For this reason, VA displays are still a good fit in some situations, but cannot compete with IPS as a general option.

Today, all the best screens are still LCD monitors that use LED technology, creating a slim product that saves energy while providing perfect backlight. We’ve waited years for OLED technology to move to PC monitors, it’s finally getting started with brands like LG, but the technology is still relatively rare.

How to choose a monitor resolution

When choosing a PC monitor, screen resolution is crucial. Resolution refers to the number of pixels, and the more pixels there are, the better the image quality. While 1080p Full High Definition (FHD) monitors were once the gold standard, they are now (in 2021) considered the standard. The FHD display is perfect for remote workers or video streaming as well as other more basic tasks.

The 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD, also known as 2160p) display has now become the gold standard. In fact, it provides four times the resolution of a 1080p FHD monitor – hence the “4K” designation. Coupled with a powerful 4K UHD graphics card, it provides one of the best monitor resolutions for gaming, video and photo editing, and more. That is, of course, until 8K takes over and becomes the next gold standard.

  • 1280 x 1024 Super-enhanced graphics array (SXGA)
  • 1366 x 768 High Definition (HD)
  • 1600 x 900 High Definition Plus (HD+)
  • 1920 x 1080 Full HD (FHD)
  • wide and extended 1920 x 1200 graphics (WUXGA)
  • 2560 x 1440 Quadruple High Resolution (QHD)
  • 3440 x 1440 Wide, Quad High Definition (WQHD)
  • 3840 x 2160 4K or Ultra High Definition (UHD)

Remember that the quality of 4K UHD monitors is reflected in the price, and they are almost always more expensive than 1080p FHD monitors.

Screen size and aspect ratio

The screen size of your PC monitor will ultimately determine whether it will fit on your desk, counter, or gaming area. For most users, a 24 ”to 27” monitor is the perfect solution. But if you have more or less space than most, you don’t need to worry. HP has a variety of monitor sizes to fit your requirements.

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