Every new year brings new technology to the world of computer monitors, and every year newcomers are left wondering: what do I really need? This can be a tricky question, with so many features and components all vying for attention. We developed this simple guide to help you narrow down your choices, so you’ll end up with a screen you’re happy with. You’re still going to have to perform a little research yourself, but at least you’ll know in which direction to look.
What’s Your Budget?
The most important question by far is what limits you put on your budget. While many computer monitors will cost in the $200-$300 range, it’s also possible to find cheaper options second-hand, and much more expensive options that range into the thousands of dollars. If money is no object, then you won’t have to compromise with a monitor like this one from lg.com. For the rest of us, it’s about picking which features are the most important and trying to find the best fit within our price range.
Your Use Case and Wants
Every user is different, and depending on your use, different monitors can have vastly different advantages. The biggest split here is between gamers and work users, both of whom can expect to target different specifications. For standard office work, you won’t need to reach above low specifications. Low refresh rate, 1080p, and no special features will all be acceptable if all you’re doing is working with email and work documents. If this sounds simple, that’s because it is.
Workers who engage with visual media like Adobe Photoshop, on the other hand, need to pay far more attention to what they’re buying. If you work with static images, good color and a 4K or above resolution will be extremely useful. Artists working with moving images will also want to consider HDR support and a higher refresh rate (at least 120Hz).
In gaming, components depend on your type of game and your competitiveness. For a starting point, consider the types of eSports titles covered at win.gg. These games like CSGO and Overwatch play much better on high refresh rate monitors, even giving advantages thanks to the extra frames. These gamers don’t need higher resolutions either, as it’s about hitting that 144Hz mark. To this end, adaptive sync technology is also well worth considering to prevent screen tearing.
Gamers who aren’t as interested in the fastest possible pace can instead aim for a resolution of 1440p, which as makeuseof.com mentions is the best all-around gaming resolution, or even 4K. Just note that the higher your resolution, the bigger the strain on your hardware, so the more expensive it will be to hit your target. Slower-paced gamers can also be happier with 60 or 122 Hz, though we’d still recommend adaptive refresh if possible. As for HDR, lower-end implementation can be so lacking as to not be worth it, so check this feature out in a store first to see if it’s something you care about spending extra for.
With these settings in mind, you can then plug them into a website like pcpartpicker.com and check out your choices. If a monitor looks good, browse around for professional and user reviews, and weigh it up against the other options. Remember, a good monitor will last you for years, so you want to look before you leap.