When it comes to computer peripherals, a monitor is debatably the most important.
To ensure that you’re making a wise investment for your needs, it’s worth taking a closer look at the features that different monitors can bring to the table.
The device that you should buy largely depends on what you intend to use it for.
Here are a five essential factors to consider to ensure that you’re buying a product that suits your needs without paying for features you don’t need!
1. Screen Size
The first thing to think about when deciding on a monitor is screen size.
The screen size listed on most monitors refers to the diagonal length between two opposite corners.
For reference, an office monitor used for everyday tasks is typically going to be 22-24 inches. This size provides enough screen space to comfortably browse the web, compose documents, and navigate programs without taking up too much of your desk.
However, if your monitor is going to be used for activities such as gaming or watching movies then you may want to consider going for something a bit bigger; 27″ monitors are currently very popular in gaming communities and often come in flat or curved variations.
There are even much larger, wider screened monitors available for more niche consumers.
These are intended for those who often need to multitask on several programs at once or even those enjoy gaming with a particularly wide field of view.
2. Speakers and USB ports
A lot of monitors nowadays come with built-in speakers or extra USB ports.
These can be very convenient for some users but unnecessary for others.
For example, having speakers built into a monitor can free up some desk space and conveniently eliminate the need for extra audio devices.
However, they generally aren’t going to be as high quality as dedicated speakers.
With that in mind, those using their PC for sound-heavy activities like music or gaming will likely want to avoid monitors with built-in speakers and opt for something with better sound quality.
Having extra USB ports is always a nice feature simply because flash drives or peripherals can be plugged into the monitor instead of the tower itself.
Depending on how many USB devices you use and how often you need to plug and unplug them, it could be rather convenient to have a couple extra ports right on your monitor.
Ultimately, it’s up to your discretion whether or not you would get enough use out of them to justify any price differences.
For the majority of users, resolution is going to be one of the biggest selling points of a monitor.
Resolution refers to the number of pixels that make up a monitor’s display and, thus, represents the overall picture quality of the device.
Nowadays, the most common resolution for computer monitors is 1920×1080 or “1080p.” This means that the display is 1920 pixels across and 1080 pixels high.
This resolution provides high definition picture quality on media such as videos, shows, movies, games and graphics.
More recently, monitors with 2k or 4k resolution are slowly becoming popularized.
These resolutions are going to be specifically for users who consume a lot of video content like movies and games and don’t mind spending some extra cash for sharper image quality.
While there are monitors still on the market that fall below 1080p resolution, they would probably only be worth it if they will very scarcely be used for video content and you happen to find a significant discount.
Overall, 1080p currently dominates the market as a balance between excellent picture quality and affordable prices.
4. Refresh Rate and Response Time
Refresh rate is where things start to get a little more specialized.
To put it simply, refresh rate refers to the number of frames that a monitor is able to display per second.
You’ll find refresh rates listed in “hz” or “hertz.”
The vast majority of monitors nowadays are going to be 60hz, meaning that they’re capable of generating up to 60 frames per second.
For standard users of internet browsers, office applications, and video streaming websites, a 60hz monitor will be more than sufficient.
It’s primarily in video games or possibly animation and graphics software that you may want something higher than a 60hz monitor.
This is particularly the case for those who have a high quality graphics card capable of running games at more than 60 frames per second.
Even if a machine is capable of running a game at 140FPS, the user won’t be seeing any more than 60 if their monitor isn’t over 60hz.
Gamers with high quality GPUs may want to consider going for something with a refresh rate of 120hz, 144hz or, in more extreme cases, 240hz.
Response time is far simpler. It refers to the amount of time it takes for a monitor to receive a signal from the computer and react accordingly.
The lower the response time, the better.
While gamers are going to want to opt for a 1 or 2 ms response time to make sure their input is being reflected immediately on their display, a casual user isn’t likely to see enough difference in this area for it to be an important factor.
5. G-Sync and FreeSync
G-Sync and FreeSync are features found on high-end monitors tailored to gaming.
To decide whether or not you’re going to want a monitor with G-Sync or FreeSync, you’ll want to understand what exactly they are.
Games on a PC are often running at a variable refresh rate, meaning that the number of frames being output per second isn’t standing entirely still but rather constantly jumping within a small window of maybe around five frames.
Monitors, however, typically have static refresh rates. This means that they’re constantly attempting to output one exact frame rate (which is determined by the monitor’s refresh rate specification).
When a game runs at a frame rate that is different from that of the monitor it’s being displayed on, it can often lead to visual effects known as “artifacts” or “screen tears.”
Screen tearing is when a monitor is displaying two different frames on top of one another due to a difference between its own refresh rate and the frame rate of the game that it’s displaying.
This causes a sort of jumpy, studdering graphical effect at times.
The function of both G-Sync and FreeSync is to allow a monitor to dynamically adjust its refresh rate to match the program being run on a computer, eliminating the problem of screen tearing and ultimately providing a smoother graphical experience.
So how do you know if you decide between the two technologies if they do the same thing? Well, to put it simply, Nvidia brand graphics cards are only compatible with G-Sync and AMD brand graphics cards are only compatible with FreeSync.
You can still use a monitor with either technology with any graphics card, you just won’t be able to use the G-Sync or FreeSync features if your card isn’t compatible.
Use this guide as a reference when shopping for a new monitor and you should have no problem picking out the perfect device to suit your needs.