Computer MonitorsWhen there are so many aspects to computer monitors, like size, resolution, response time and TN/VA/IPS/PLS, it can be confusing trying to decide what monitor you should buy. The below guide explains some of the main features of computer monitors so that you can work out which features are important to you and thus narrow things down to decide which monitor you want to buy.
SizeWhen buying a monitor one of the most obvious things to decide is how big do you want it to be. These days monitors start at around 19 inches (measured along the diagonal) and can be well over 40 inches. Of course the larger the monitor is the more it will generally cost.
ResolutionThe resolution of the monitor is another very important thing to consider. A higher resolution will create a sharper picture. However the sharpness depends on the size of the monitor compared to its resolution. For example, a resolution of 1920x1080 on a 24 inch monitor is going to give a sharper looking picture than 1920x1080 on a 32 inch monitor.
So you need to consider the resolution of the monitor and not just its size. For example, is it really worth spending a lot more money to buy a very large monitor if its resolution is the same as a cheaper smaller monitor. You might be getting more inches but you're only getting the same number of pixels.
Response timeThe response time of a monitor isn't how long it takes to respond to your mouse or keyboard input, it's the length of time it takes for a pixel to fully change from one color to another color. These times are usually given in "grey to grey" (GtG) or sometimes "black to black", with grey to grey taking a shorter time than black to black and so the GtG response times being lower.
The average response time of a monitor is around 4ms to 5ms, depending on the type of monitor. The longer the response time the more motion blur and ghosting there will be, since pixels that are still in the process of changing colors can leave a trail.
Monitor Types: TN, VA, IPS, PLS
TNTN monitors are older than the other monitor types and are the least expensive. However they also usually have the worst picture quality, suffering from less accurate colors that became darkened and washed out depending on your viewing angle. TN monitors have lower response times on average though, which make them good for gamers since there will be less motion blur and ghosting of moving objects.
VAVA monitors are a mid-range option which are between TN and IPS in price and also in picture quality. VA monitors will generally have shorter response times than an IPS but longer than a TN. VA monitors are known for being capable of displaying the darkest blacks of any of the panel types.
IPSMonitors that use in-plane switching (IPS) technology are more expensive than TN and VA monitors but also give the best image quality. IPS technology was developed to fix the problem of washed out colors and the darkening which occurs when you're not looking dead-on straight at the monitor. Therefore the picture on monitors with IPS technology looks more or less the same when viewed from the sides, above or below the monitor, similar to looking at an older cathode ray tube monitor.
IPS monitors were initially very expensive, with an IPS monitor costing more than double a similar sized TN monitor. However, prices have come down a lot so that IPS monitors are only a bit more expensive now than TN monitors. Most people think that IPS monitors look the best and many people find it hard to go back to a TN monitor after using an IPS.
PLSPLS is a technology developed by Samsung for their monitors. It is roughly equivalent to IPS with some people thinking PLS monitors look slightly better than IPS.
Curved MonitorsCurved is a new feature where monitors curve around the user to some degree. Curved monitors will usually be a bit more expensive than a flat monitor, however the general consensus seems to be that curved monitors are mostly hype and not worth it.
Some people do prefer curved monitors though, claiming it feels better since their eyes are not looking at different distances when looking near the edge of the screen. A lot of people also prefer curved monitors when using a multiple monitor display since the multiple curved monitors wrap around them immerseively.
BrightnessA monitor's brightness is usually provided in the given specifications and is another aspect to consider. A brighter monitor can be seen more easily in a brightly lit room and the higher the brightness a monitor can achieve the better.
Contrast RatioThe contrast ratio tells you how high a contrast a monitor can achieve between its darkest colors and its brightest colors, ie black compared to white. A higher contrast ratio is considered better for image quality.
What's the difference between LED and LCD monitors?You will see most monitors described as LED or LED LCD. an LED monitor is an LCD monitor that uses LED to light the screen. LCD does not provide its own lighting and so it needs a backlight behind it to light it. LCDs used to be backlit by CCFL lights but these days most are lit by LEDs behind the LCD.
Input PortsThere are four main types of input port that a monitor can come with:
VGA or D-sub is a 15 pin connection which carries an analogue signal. This is the oldest type of connection and the port that is found on nearly all of the old CRT monitors. Because VGA/D-sub carries an analogue signal instead of a digital signal, the image on the monitor might not always be pixel-perfect. The analogue signal can especially degrade over long distances.
DVI, HDMI and Displayport are newer technologies which all carry a digital signal. Because they're digital, these connections all provide a pixel-perfect image and the picture should look the same from all three connection types, all other things being equal.
HDMI is the most supported of the three digital connections and is the connection most used in other equipment such as TVs and Blu-ray players. Nearly all graphics cards these days come with an HDMI output. HDMI carries both video and audio signals within the one cable.
Displayport also carries both video and audio signals within the one cable. It is not as widely supported as HDMI and is mostly found in computer equipment and not so much in TVs and other equipment.
DVI is older than HDMI and Displayport and unlike them it only carries the video signal. Therefore if you want to use your monitors speakers and are using a DVI connection then you'd need to connect a separate audio cable from your computer to your monitor.
SpeakersMany monitors come with stereo speakers built into the monitor. However these are usually pretty basic speakers, often only being around 2 watts (RMS) of power per speaker, and so more serious users will probably want to run external speakers or headphones instead of using the monitor's built in sound.
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