How do I choose a reliable monitor at a good price? Which manufacturer to choose – Asus, Acer, AOC, BenQ, Dell, LG, Philips, Samsung, or another? How are the inexpensive monitors different from the expensive ones? Diagonal 19, 22, 24, 27 or 32 inches? How to determine the type of matrix, contrast, refresh rate, and other characteristics of the monitor? What else to look for when choosing a monitor? All the questions related to monitor buying guide are answered here.
In this article, we will understand how to choose the right monitor that fits your choice. If there seems to be too much material and you want a ready-made answer at once, then at the end of the article – the best monitors of 2020 in terms of a price-quality combination. So read this article about monitor buying guide till the end.
-> How to Pick a Good Monitor
It would be a little strange or cumbersome to have several monitors for different tasks, therefore, in the understanding of most buyers or me, a good monitor should always be universal – that is you can work on it without fatigue for long hours in a row, comfortably play games late into the night, surf the Internet until the morning in search of a way out or binge-watch your favorite TV shows and movies. And only a few buyers clearly define the purpose of the monitor for themselves – for games, for working with documents, for working with photos, and so on.
Then why are there so many models on the market, most of which differ from each other completely insignificantly, isn’t it easier and cheaper to come up with several universal good monitors and churn them out in the millions? The answer is simple – to sell more, since most likely you will choose a monitor from a manufacturer that has dozens of models and not one who has three of them, although very good ones. Well, along the way, create the illusion of choice for you. But among the hundreds of models, there are sure to be several monitors that can really be considered the best in their niches from each manufacturer. How to find them or help you make your own choice, we will consider below.
-> Monitor screen diagonal :
Screen diagonal or Screen size is one of the main characteristics that distinguish one monitor from another and at the same time significantly affects your budget. The small scale of the image does not allow you to really assess the differences. According to the majority of buyers, monitors with a diagonal of about 19 inches are small, 22 inches are regular, 24 inches are large, 27 inches are very large, 30 inches are larger, and are something like WOW.
Conventionally, in terms of size, 4 groups of monitors can be distinguished as follows:
- 18-20 inches – budget and office segment. Due to low in price, small monitors of this size are usually chosen by organizations for their employees, as well as buyers who are very limited in funds or for some fundamental reasons prefer small monitors.
- 21-24 inches is the mass segment. About half of the monitors sold in 2019 belong to this group. Naturally, content creators (like games, videos, websites, etc.) also know this, so many of them initially rely primarily on such diagonals.
- 27 inches is a promising segment. This size is optimal for both work and play, but it keeps in mind that in Full HD resolution (usually these are inexpensive monitors), the image looks a little rough, since individual pixels of the image may already be visible. This feature is not available for monitors with WQHD resolution and higher.
- 30 inches and above is an exclusive segment. Due to the high price and too large width (the opposite edges are out of the field of view without head movement) monitors with a diagonal of more than 27 inches are unlikely to become a mass product, so buyers rarely choose them.
It is very rare to find systems of several monitors, which have some advantages (for example, high realism in games), but for the normal operation of such a completely expensive monster, a very powerful computer is needed, besides, already now (mid-2020) there are high-quality glasses on sale and virtual reality systems at a reasonable price (for example, various versions of HTC Vive ), which are more convenient and at the same time have a simply stunning effect of being present in the virtual world. And although they are unlikely to quickly replace conventional monitors, since they create too high a load on vision, they can replace most of the monitors with very large diagonals.
It is strongly recommended that you only buy large monitors 24 ” and above for several reasons:
- more information is simultaneously available on the big screen without scrolling, so you don’t need to actively work with the mouse;
- some large objects (maps, diagrams, drawings, complex tables) are extremely inconvenient to work on small screens;
- in games, the large screen occupies almost the entire visual space of the player, which adds realism;
- the expected lifespan of modern LED monitors is over 10 years, so buying a small monitor for such a long period is at least unreasonable.
There is a common misconception that monitors with a diagonal of 24 “and above are tiring on the eyes (” eyes run wide “), but in reality this is just a strange legend, as you get used to a large monitor quickly, which cannot be said on the contrary.
-> Monitor design and ergonomics
Design is the second after a size that buyers pay attention to when choosing a computer monitor, although it is almost the last factor in importance. It is worth noting that the more unique and rare the monitor design, the higher the chances of getting an unsuccessful model that loves to travel to a service center. For the same reason, one should not pay special attention to various exclusivity, because we usually look not “at”, but “at” the monitor, and all sorts of chips will cease to be noticed in a week.
Nevertheless, when choosing a monitor, some design elements are still worth paying attention to:
– A thin frame around the screen (especially black or to match the interior) is less noticeable and therefore less distracting from the perception of information;– a bright power indicator can greatly spoil life since bright light in the eyes in low ambient light is noticeably annoying. If the monitor is in the bedroom and does not turn off at night, models with a flashing indicator in standby mode can also be annoying. It is treated with the settings in the monitor menu or with a piece of electrical tape;– all monitors have the ability to tilt back and forth, but not every model has height adjustment. A monitor that is too low requires tilting the head down, which leads to increased fatigue and over time can cause health problems in the cervical vertebrae.
-> Monitor resolution, aspect ratio, and grain size
Since at present most media for personal computers (games, video, many programs, and sites) are designed for 16: 9 aspect ratio and standard resolutions HD (1366×768 pixels), FullHD (1920×1080 pixels), WQHD (2560×1440 pixels), and UHD (UltraHD, 3840×2160 pixels), then for more complete compatibility it is worth choosing monitors with such resolutions: small monitors – HD; medium and large monitors – FullHD; huge monitors – WQHD and UHD. By the way, the latter format still cannot become fully relevant for the mass buyer, since currently there is still too little quality content for him, and watching TV shows like “All 125 episodes + bonus on one DVD” on a UHD monitor at least silly. For the same reason, you should not get carried away with super-detailed “living” presentations of UHD monitors and TVs in stores are just a demonstration. The only place where you can already appreciate the benefits of UHD is viewing high-quality photos in original quality, as they look more detailed and realistic.
The so-called “square” monitors are still available for sale, since they are convenient for working with documents, therefore they are in demand by office workers, but still, for the reasons indicated above, and the inadequately high price, they are of little use for universal use.
Grain size(the smallest point in the image) affects the quality of information display. The larger it is (the higher the graininess), the better the small fonts are read, which is especially important for people of advanced age or with poor eyesight, but at the same time everything else is displayed coarser – photos, smooth lines, etc. The smaller it is (the lower the graininess), the more realistic photographs and other complex objects look, but at the same time small fonts can be practically unreadable. The trend is that more and more programs use scaling correctly, and therefore in the future all new monitors will have ultra-fine grain, while the image will be very clear and realistic, and small fonts will be correctly enlarged to an acceptable level. But nowadays there are many programs
In most cases, the grain size of monitors is:
- 19-20 inches – large (0.27-0.30 mm);
- 21-22 inches – small (0.24-0.25 mm);
- 23 inches – medium (0.265 mm);
- 24 inches – large (0.27-0.28 mm);
- 27 inches – very large (0.31-0.32 mm) for FullHD and small (0.23 mm) for WQHD;
- 28 inches and above – medium to very large (0.26-0.36 mm);
- UHD monitors – very small (0.14-0.22 mm).
According to many buyers, 24-inch FullHD monitors have the best price, diagonal and grain size ratio. If you have low vision, then it is strongly not recommended to buy monitors with small and medium grain sizes, as many details and system fonts will be too small for comfortable work. Although later you can change the resolution or scaling to make the image larger, but this usually degrades the sharpness or distorts the proportions.
Some buyers complain about the so-called “crystal effect”(fuzzy boundaries of individual pixels of the image), others in the same models of monitors never notice it, since this is due to the peculiarities of vision and perception of each individual person. For the same reason, the presence or absence of the crystalline effect is not indicated in the technical characteristics of the monitor and it is determined only personally or subjectively based on test results. It is worth noting that the crystalline effect can only be present in monitors with a matte finish, glossy and glossy antiglare ones never have it, but they can reflect well-lit objects located behind the back, which can be much more annoying than the indicated effect. Above, two macro photos are placed side by side – a monitor with a moderately pronounced crystalline effect (left) and a monitor without a crystalline effect (right).
Since the tangible advantages of matte screens are in most cases more important than glossy ones, nowadays more than 95% of monitors are produced with matte screens, so they have a more or less pronounced “crystal effect”.
-> Matrix type, backlight, and monitor contrast
The second most important characteristic of the monitor after its size is the type of matrix , but there are also viewing angles, contrast, maximum brightness, backlight uniformity, color depth, response time and other parameters. They are very closely related, and usually good values for one parameter suggest that others will be at least good. The complexity is also added by the fact that in addition to the basic types of matrices, there are more than a dozen subspecies, each of which, in turn, have different characteristics. The most common are TN, IPS, PLS and * VA, but there are also their subtypes AH-IPS, A-MVA and others.
If it’s very simplistic about the main types, then TN-matrices are the fastest and cheapest, but have worse viewing angles and black depth; IPS-matrices (PLS in the Samsung version) have the best color rendition and viewing angles, but at the same time they are expensive and relatively slow; matrices of the * VA type are the best at rendering black color, but at the same time there are difficulties in transferring halftones and problems with changing color balance at different angles of view.
The conclusion is disappointing – with such a variety, there is no ideal type of matrix, since all have drawbacks that can be easily noticed if desired, but in most cases we can say that monitors on a matrix:
- TN – inexpensive and fast, so ideal for gamers and those looking to save money on buying a monitor;
- * VA – have a relatively low price, the highest contrast and at the same time an acceptable speed, therefore they are excellent as universal monitors for the home;
- IPS (PLS) are usually expensive, but have very high-quality color reproduction and good contrast, so they are best suited for working with graphics and photographs, as well as for buyers who do not care about the numbers on the price tag.
Technologies do not stand still and often monitors with different types of matrices have similar characteristics and even an experienced specialist will not always “by eye” be able to correctly separate one type of matrix from another. What is really important for a particular monitor is viewing angles, color depth, matrix contrast, and for gaming use also response time and maximum frame rate.
One of the most annoying features of modern monitors is the limited viewing angles.(distortion of the image when viewed from different sides), which is especially critical for monitors with large diagonals on TN-matrices, since in some cases, even when looking directly at the monitor, the image in the corners will already be distorted. To protect yourself from such problems, you must choose a monitor with viewing angles of at least 170 ° horizontally and 160 ° vertically.
Screen backlightpreviously it was carried out with special fluorescent lamps (CCFL), which had significant disadvantages – a limited service life and uneven illumination. Currently, almost all monitors have light-emitting diode (LED) backlighting, which in some respects is much better than CCFL – unevenness is usually less pronounced, and the expected lifespan will end much later than the monitor ends up in a landfill as obsolete. Uneven backlighting on the cheapest monitors (up to $ 100) can often be very noticeable, but on more expensive models it rarely spoils life and can usually be seen only if you specifically conduct a test like “dark screen in a dark room” or watching a dark movie scene with huge margins above and below. The problem of uniform backlighting is relevant even for the best monitors, but again, if you really want to see her. Ultra-thin monitors are more likely to suffer from uneven backlighting than comparable standard-thickness monitors.
Low contrast ratios (500: 1 or less) usually result in a complete inability to display black – it will not be noticeable in the bright areas of images, but dark and black areas will appear dark gray, so images will look pale and “lifeless”. Various technologies such as dynamic contrast in some situations can slightly correct this deficiency, but it is still better to add quite a bit of money and buy a monitor with a static contrast ratio of 1000: 1 or higher. It should also be borne in mind that, according to the test results, the real contrast values are usually slightly lower than the passport ones.
-> Monitor response time and refresh rate
The response time is an almost mythical parameter for gamers, who often discard all other factors for maximum realism in games and choose exactly those monitors with a response time of 1-2 ms. In fact, even cheap modern monitors have quite satisfactory response times, and the main problem is the standard refresh rate of monitors of 60 Hz and the peculiarity of human vision, which still remembers the previous image for at least 10 ms.
At 60 Hz, the frame duration is 17 ms, and if we add to this time the inertia of our vision by at least another 10 ms, we get a modest 40 FPS, which we really perceive. At the same time, the frame duration on 144 Hz gaming monitors is 7 ms, and taking into account the inertia of our vision, we get about 60 real FPS – and this is almost the ceiling of our physiological capabilities. Therefore, for the observed maximum performance of the monitor, our eyes are more important than the maximum image refresh rate, and not only the response time.
Gaming monitors with a refresh rate of 120-144 Hz or higher allow to display very fast dynamic scenes in games much more naturally than conventional monitor models, but they have a much higher price and most often a TN matrix, respectively, far from the best viewing angles, contrast values , and color depth. A must-have “addition” for such monitors is the presence of a very powerful video card capable of high FPS values in games, which significantly increases the cost of the computer as a whole, therefore it is recommended to buy gaming monitors only in cases where active dynamic games occupy a very important place in life.
Also, a reasonable decision would be to buy monitors with G-Sync technology (only for NVidia video cards) or much cheaper monitors with similar FreeSync technology (for AMD video cards, as well as NVidia GeForce 1000 and 2000 series via DisplayPort), since the image refresh rate in them exactly matches the game one at a given time, so there are no twitching and tearing of the image, and the gameplay even up to 60 FPS looks much more realistic and high quality. By the way, it makes no sense to “squeeze” FPS above 60 from modern video cards on non-gaming monitors, since “extra” frames will simply be ignored.
-> Security of modern monitors
Modern monitors are quite safe, since they do not have the scary X-rays and similar horror stories of CRT monitors from the past, but it is worth remembering that the increased brightness causes eye fatigue and after several hours of work, a slight ache in the eyes may appear. Too low brightness also strains the eyes, as it is necessary to peer, moreover, in this mode, the backlighting of most inexpensive LED monitors begins to flicker significantly – it is almost imperceptible for consciousness, but for many people it can cause additional eye fatigue, since the pupil has to try to adjust by changing the brightness of the entire surface of the monitor matrix.
The photo above shows the well-known “pencil monitor test” (you need to quickly hold a pencil or similar object in front of the screen). If you see the pencil not smeared, but as if in frames, then you need to slightly increase the brightness in order to reduce the strain on vision, but it is still better to buy monitors with Flicker-Free backlighting, which have no flicker at any brightness value.
For most monitors, the optimal brightness value is 50-70%, since the image is already bright enough not to peer, but at the same time, possible flickering is weak, so as not to tire the eyes. It is strongly discouraged to buy monitors with a maximum matrix brightness of 200 cd / m2 or less, since in good ambient light the image will be too faded.
-> Other monitor parameters
Most monitors have an outdated analog D-SUB input (VGA, usually blue) as the most compatible with other devices, but information on it is transmitted not in digital, but in analog form, therefore, distortions are necessarily present (most often this is a loss of clarity and blur), and the higher the monitor resolution, the more noticeable they are. For this reason, for monitors with a resolution higher than 1366×768 pixels, it is strongly recommended to have digital inputs – HDMI , DisplayPort or at least DVI . HDMI and DisplayPort are preferred as they have higher bandwidth, built-in audio and look neater.
Although the built-in speakers are very convenient, it is hard to believe that they will be able to deliver deep quality sound. Built-in speakers are ideal for an office monitor, as they allow you to save space on your desktop and do without extra wires, and at home it is not at all equal to even the initial 2.1 solutions (for example, from Microlab ), not to mention more serious devices. It would be logical if monitors with built-in speakers also have a built-in webcam, but nowadays manufacturers rarely implement this idea.
If you intend to install the monitor not on a table, but on a wall or a special stand, then a VESA mount is required behind the monitor . Also, the VESA mount is often used not for its intended purpose, but to mount a compact system unit behind the monitor in order to get a monoblock, which will be much cheaper than factory models at a price.
The touch screen is simply irreplaceable in tablets, it can even be sometimes convenient in convertible laptops, but its installation in monitors of large diagonals is very doubtful since active work causes serious hand fatigue in those. It may be that with the advent of huge translucent touch screens (as in the movie “Avatar”) the era of “large sensors” will come, but still try to experiment with moving imaginary windows in front of you for a few minutes and you will understand that you can do the same with the mouse significantly easier.
The curved screen is a fashionable feature that really creates a tangible immersion in the virtual reality of a game or movie, but it also has significant features. Firstly, in order for the immersion effect to really be noticeable, the monitor must be of a very large diagonal (from 30 inches) and at the same time be located no further than 60-100 cm. Secondly, this is a monitor “for an egoist”, since it is necessary strictly in front of it, the image for the viewer from the side will have strong distortions. Third, curved screens are more difficult to manufacture, so theoretically they have reduced reliability, and their repair is more expensive than flat monitors. And fourth, there are some features for those who work with design and graphics.
The most logical is the use of such monitors primarily for games, although lovers of the deepest immersion in virtual reality already (mid-2020) have affordable high-quality virtual glasses / helmets, the incredible depth and realism of the image in which, in principle, cannot compare with existing monitor technologies (eg different versions of the HTC Vive ).
-> Reliability of monitors
Modern monitors are very complex, but at the same time, very reliable devices and in the first six months, on average, no more than 1% fail. The reason for this level of reliability is the high integration of components and the absence of mechanically wearing parts. As practice shows, the most popular reasons for the failure of monitors are voltage drops and problems with the inverter / backlight lamps (not relevant for LED models), but death from physical old age occurs much later than from moral – still in some institutions are reliably working 17-inch monitors manufactured in 2002-2008 and usually retire only for reasons of backlight wear or replacement with newer models.
Unfortunately, available statistics on the reliability and durability of monitors of the most popular brands (Acer, AOC, BenQ, Dell, Iiyama, LG, NEC, Philips, Samsung, ViewSonic) are not available on the Internet, but according to reviews, reviews, available data from service centers and personal observations are the most reliable and expectedly durable LED monitors from Samsung and Philips, which is indirectly confirmed by repair shops, since the monitors of these manufacturers are repairable in 95-98% of cases, while on average this figure is 85-90%. Ultra-thin design, curved shape and the presence of all kinds of chips (3D, non-standard or outdated inputs/outputs, webcam, tuner, USB hubs, speakers, remotes, sensors, etc.) also slightly reduce the reliability of the monitor.
How to choose the best monitor of 2020?
- manufacturer Samsung or Philips;
- diagonal – 18-20 inches (HD resolution or slightly higher, economical option), 24-27 inches (FullHD resolution, universal option), 32 inches (WQHD or UHD resolution, advanced option);
- viewing angles not less than 170 ° horizontally and 160 ° vertically;
- matrix type TN (economical / gaming option) or IPS / PLS / * VA (best option), LED-backlight;
- availability of digital input HDMI, DisplayPort, or DVI. For a monitor with a resolution of 1366×768 (HD) or slightly higher, analog VGA is allowed;
- Flicker-Free technology is recommended (no backlight flickering);
- maximum brightness at the level of 250 cd / m2 or higher, static contrast ratio not lower than 1000: 1;
- body of standard thickness, it is desirable to have a stand with height adjustment;
- fewer additional unnecessary chips (unique inputs/outputs, tuners, remotes, sensors, etc.);
- it is desirable that the monitor model be massive or at least not very rare (this can be determined by its availability in many stores).
The expected service life of such monitors is over 10 years, while the likelihood of failure or even non-repairability is minimal. All recommendations are relevant primarily when working in Windows or Android operating systems.
What to look for when buying a monitor (monitor buying guide)?
With all the advantages of buying on the Internet (a huge selection of models, lower price), it is still recommended to buy a monitor in a store, since for some reason very often what we see in the characteristics of the monitor does not quite coincide with reality, besides, sometimes different copies of the same model have quite significant differences both in setup and in assembly quality. The 5% difference in cost is not that high, but it will minimize the possibility of a bad purchase. Perhaps the seller will find you very meticulous, but this is his problem.
So, what you should pay attention to when buying any monitor:
- Viewing angles. Just look at the image from different angles (left-right, top-bottom) – if it is strongly distorted, then it is better to refuse such a monitor. Please note that the black color must also be similarly checked separately, whether it turns into purple too much.
- “Pencil monitor test” (see the section above “Security of modern monitors”). Reduce the brightness below 50% before testing. If a pencil or pen will just look blurry, and not “frames” – this is very good and will surely please your eyes.
I don’t know what you’ll tell the seller, but the next three tests can only be done in a very dark room.
- The depth of black. Set the brightness to maximum in the menu, and then disconnect all signal cables from it – an inscription like “Check signal cable” will usually hang on a black screen. Black will almost never be black, this is normal, but if it is not even dark gray, but lighter, then it is better to refuse to buy.
- Illumination uniformity. It is necessary to make sure that the black color is more or less uniform over the entire screen area. Particular attention must be paid to the edges, as even expensive monitors often have unevenly lit areas. Small highlights are inevitable, but can be ignored.
- Defective pixels. Broken light (“hot”) pixels on a black background will be clearly visible – just look carefully at the black areas. Broken dark (“dead”) pixels are checked against a light background, but it is not necessary to do this, since in normal work it is difficult to notice their defectiveness.
Well, in general, it would be ideal to surf the Internet for half an hour or an hour to determine if the eyes are getting tired of the new monitor, but the seller is unlikely to agree to such a test. At home, before use, it is advisable to reset the monitor settings, then set the brightness and contrast to 50-70%.
The best monitors of 2020 (Summary monitor buying guide)
If all of the above seemed too long or complicated for you, then you can simplify the task and choose a good monitor according to the recommendations below. And do not forget that perfect monitors do not exist and each model, if desired, can have flaws.
Affordable (small): inexpensive Philips 206V6QSB6 (21.5 inches) with excellent performance for its price or cheaper, but with much narrower viewing angles Philips 193V5LSB2 (18.5″) – typical inexpensive monitors “for all occasions” (office work and quiet games).
Affordable (Medium): Samsung LC24RG50FQWXXL or slightly more expensive Philips 245C7QJSB (24-inch) are very good monitors with HDMI digital input and a nice price, which will be ideal for most budget buyers. The first model has a faster sensor, while the second has wider viewing angles.
Affordable (large): Samsung LC27F390FHWXXL, Philips 276E9QJAB, and Philips 271V8/94 are 27-inch monitors with a decent matrix for those who think size matters, but are not willing to overpay for size itself. A feature of these monitors is very coarse grain and from a distance of less than 60 cm you can already see individual pixels, so the image will be a little rough, but small fonts will be read very well, which will be especially appreciated by buyers with low vision.
Optimal: Samsung LC27F390FHWXXL(60Hz) or Samsung LC27F591FDWXXL (144 Hz) – 27-inch monitors with WQHD resolution (1920×1080 pixels), good color reproduction, and price adequate for their characteristics. On such monitors, you can both comfortably work with large documents or images, and enjoy watching movies and playing games. It is worth noting that these monitors have medium grain sizes, so there will be no problem with very poor readability of small fonts, as in 4K monitors.
UltraHD (4K) – inexpensive Samsung LU32R590CWWXXL. It is worth recalling that all 4K monitors with a diagonal of up to 32 inches have a very fine grain, which allows images and photos to be very clear, but at the same time the text of the menu and other elements in most old and some new programs will be practically unreadable, and scaling, especially in Windows 7, gives tangible distortion, so it is recommended to buy such monitors only if you do not plan to work in old programs. It should also be borne in mind that to connect a 4K monitor to a computer, you need DisplayPort 1.2 / HDMI 2.0 or higher and a high-quality cable, as well as the fact that modern games in native resolution require a very powerful video card (GeForce 1080 and higher) and a powerful processor ( Intel i7-7700 and above).
It is worth noting that monitors can often come with a VGA cable, but usually there are no cables for connecting via digital input (HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI), so they must be purchased separately.
Even the best monitors are not perfect, individual copies in the same batch can have significant differences due to their different factory settings, so it is better for a meticulous buyer to buy a monitor in a store so that they “see what they were buying.” If you are not going to spend hours on end doing tests and looking out for defects of the matrix with a magnifying glass, in order to then throw a tantrum to the seller, then you can safely save by buying a monitor on the Internet.