Monitors come in a huge range of sizes, resolutions and panel types making them a tricky purchase to get right. We’ve reviewed and ranked the best ones and you can read our full monitor buying guide after the chart for advice on which to buy.
Before we get into the buying advice and your options, here’s a top tip: display technology does not move on at the same pace as a lot of consumer tech and, as you’ll discover in our round-up, you’ll often find better value with slightly older monitors.
How to choose a monitor
Size is probably going to be your first concern. It used to be the case that small meant cheap, but these days even 24in panels can be considered affordable. Our general rule is to go small only when space is at a premium.
The majority of modern monitors feature slim designs, with virtually bezel-less frames and decent backlighting technology. This makes it easier than ever to experiment with a multiple-monitor setup, keeping that gap between each display to a minimum – ideal if you’re working from home and battling with large spreadsheets and multiple open windows.
We’d advise looking for a fully adjustable stand so you are able to easily position the display at a comfortable height. If you’re going to spend hours staring at the thing, your body will thank you for maintaining a decent posture.
There is no comparison between 4K and Ultra HD,
they are the same thing – two different fancy marketing terms for the same measurement of resolution.
Screen images are made up of thousands of little dots, known as pixels, and resolution is simply a measurement of how many dots make up the picture. Resolution is therefore associated with the clarity of text and images on the screen.
The cheapest monitors will have Full HD resolutions of 1920×1080 pixels. Ultra HD or 4K displays quadruple this resolution to 3840×2160 pixels and thus are able to provide a much clearer image. You can also opt for something in between with Quad HD at 2560×1440.
Note that there are many more resolutions out there due to various aspect ratios beyond the typical 16:9 including ultrawide monitors.
4K TVs have become significantly cheaper over recent years, 4K computer monitors can still be expensive. But if there’s room in your budget to go all out on the resolution you won’t be disappointed: you’ll be able to see more detail in photos, stream super-high-quality 4K video, and get more realistic graphics in games.
If you are looking at older monitors, you may still come across some TN (twisted-nematic) rather than the more modern IPS (in-plane switching), PLS (plane-line switching) and AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) options.
TN panels tend to be cheaper and can offer the very fast response times demanded by gamers, but they may also come with restricted viewing angles, reduced brightness and less vibrant colours.
Creatives will much prefer the greatly improved colour accuracy of IPS and PLS, while AMOLED is a great choice for entertainment with its rich contrast and punchy colour palette.
Refresh rate is also something to consider if you want to also use it for gaming, too – aim for 120Hz if you can. We have a dedicated
gaming monitors chart but some monitors here might also be suitable for gaming.
Brightness, Contrast & Colour
Display manufacturers tend to over-exaggerate some specifications, thus brightness and contrast measurements are often more believable when obtained from independent reviews and paired with analysis on real-world performance.
Low brightness (anything below 200 nits) is mostly a problem in overly bright or dark rooms, and when contrast is also very poor. As long as contrast is above 500:1 you should be able to easily differentiate between the very brightest and darkest images a screen can display.
Colour gamut, the spectral spread of reproduced colour within our perceptual limits, is typically expressed in terms of how complete is a monitor’s coverage of standards known as sRGB and Adobe RGB. Both are good indicators of performance, but the latter a slightly more challenging spec that gets closer to the vast range of colour the human eye can appreciate.
Colour accuracy is concerned with reproducing the exact hue as intended. Deviation from true colour fidelity is represented by a Delta E figure, with lower numbers better. Close to or below 1.0 is a good achievement.
Gamers are most likely to require a fast response time, measured in milliseconds (ms).
All the monitors we’ve reviewed have at least two inputs, which determine which and how many peripherals you can connect. Some monitors still feature ageing VGA connectors, but we’d advise concentrating on digital inputs such as DVI,
HDMI and DisplayPort. The latest models may also feature USB-C or Thunderbolt connections for power/charging and data transfer.
Chief among your priorities should be
HDMI and DisplayPort, which are able to carry both digital image and audio information over a single cable. DisplayPort is a better choice for 4K monitors or those with high refresh rates and is increasingly common on Macs and
Windows PCs, but less so on home AV equipment.
HDMI with MHL support will enable you to mirror the screen of a connected Android phone or tablet, but today you also have wireless options for achieving this. Find the
best HDMI cables.
DVI is a high-quality digital video input and popular with gamers for its lower latency, but it doesn’t carry sound. Some monitors offer ‘dual-link DVI’, which allow two DVI streams through a single connector.