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What Should I Consider When Buying a Computer Monitor?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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When buying a computer monitor there are a few things to consider that will ensure you purchase a product that meets all of your needs. Would you like an analog, Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor, or a digital Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) flat panel? Each has advantages, though the CRT lost considerable ground as flat panel technology improved. LCDs use less power, emit less radiation, and take up less space. Other considerations when buying a monitor include connection ports and graphics cards which add flexibility or extended function to the monitor.

Most people buying a computer monitor today choose an LCD display because they offer so many advantages over CRTs, while the drawbacks formerly associated with flat panels have been largely eliminated. Older models tended to look “washed out” if viewed from even a slight angle, and slower refresh rates made fast-moving images “ghost” — an unwanted artifact in gaming or movies. Today’s LCD monitors have not only dropped in price, but these problems have been addressed and virtually eliminated or significantly reduced as to be totally acceptable for most people's needs, gamers included.

Another consideration when buying a monitor is size. The ideal size is determined by how far from the monitor you will sit. A larger screen will be easier to see from further away, but sitting too close to a large screen can be uncomfortable. Conversely, screens that are too small create eyestrain. If deciding between two sizes, it's probably safer to err on the side of caution and get the larger screen, which you can set further back on the desk if necessary.

Before buying a computer monitor check the ports or connectors on the back. The graphics card that will connect to the monitor (from inside the computer) should have the same interface as the monitor. To this end you might want to know a bit about the current, competing, video interface standards.

The newest digital interface standards are UDI (Unified Digital Interface) and DisplayPort. Both carry audio and video signals, and both are compatible with HDMI interfaces used on high-definition televisions. However, there are some differences.

While UDI and DisplayPort each support high resolutions of 2500 x 1600, UDI supplies greater bandwidth, and DisplayPort richer color, all else being equal. Both standards also encompass anti-piracy technology that will prevent unauthorized copyrighted images from displaying — a feature that rubs some consumers the wrong way. DisplayPort is being positioned to replace all other standards, including HDMI and UDI, though the same was said of those standards at different points in time.

The previous digital standard, Digital Video Interface (DVI) does not carry audio signals. If connecting the computer to a television, for example, an audio cable would have to be run separately from the DVI video cable. DVI is compatible with HDMI and DVI-to-HDMI adapters are available. DVI also supports 2500 x 1600 resolution and, in dual-link mode, comes close to the bandwidth afforded by DisplayPort. In single-link mode, DVI offers the same bandwidth as HDMI. The DVI standard does not incorporate anti-piracy technology, making it unlikely to be supported beyond the near future.

While all of these considerations are important, buying a computer monitor is only half the battle when it’s flexibility you’re after. Virtually any decent LCD monitor will have great resolution and nice specs for all of your basic computing needs. Flexibility to interface with your home entertainment center, television or another monitor, however, are extras provided by the graphics card. Be sure to choose one with the ports and options you require to make interoperability as easy and problem-free as possible. Also be sure the card supports the native resolution of the LCD monitor.

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Discussion Comments
By spreadsheet — On Oct 12, 2010

As a hardcore gamer, I have the need for a big, bright and fast screen. For me it is all about the ability for the refresh rate of the monitor and it's way that it can handle the very fast graphics that flash on a screen during game play.

This results in me needed a very expensive style of monitor but as most gamers have found, the hobby is far from cheap to participate in.

There are a variety of manufacturers that make computer gaming screens with a wide range of specifications and capabilities. Samsung has been know for a while to be capable of producing brilliant, fast and reliable graphics output when combined with a modern day video card.

While the screen is very important it is also critical to realize that a decent video card must be used to push the best graphics out to a high-resolution screen. If you are very serious about gaming there are even options available that will allow you to hook up multiple monitors and this can be a consideration when finding LCD monitor deals on websites.

By ronburg44 — On Oct 12, 2010

When I evaluate a computer monitor for purchase the ability to calibrate the screen for color accuracy is very important. Just as Burlap and JoseJames point out, having a color accurate monitor can make all the difference between a satisfied client and an upset one. The other part to this is that a screen must have certain features to ensure color calibration is possible.

These functions like the ability to control contrast, backlight, brightness and color temperature are key to being able to bring color accuracy to your screen.

By JoseJames — On Oct 12, 2010

@Burlap is right about the ability for a monitor to display the proper color and it's effect that color accuracy can have on the media and design industries.

As a graphic designer I need to be sure that my colors in the artwork I produce will come out the same way for my clients. One part of this process that can be very daunting is having to deal with the color displace differences between my screen and a clients screen. That is why we always will produce a proof print of the product to ensure that the final color is how the client desires it.

By Burlap — On Oct 12, 2010

As a photographer and studio owner it is absolutely critical that the choice of monitor I make when purchasing a new is the proper type for the job that I have for it.

When doing image editing on today's digital photographs one of the most difficult variables to control is the color gamut of the monitor and ensuring that the screed is displaying all relevant and accurate colors that a photograph would need. For me color accuracy is key and is even more important then thinks like response timing in an LCD panel or the size of the screen.

If I am going to deliver quality and consistent photographic prints to my clients then I need to be sure that what I see on the screen is in fact what comes out in the final print. There are methods to correct for issues in the printing process but I must be certain that my monitor is accurate or the entire process is useless.

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