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Things to Consider When Buying a Computer Monitor

Monitors can at times be a confusing and overwhelming topic, especially when its time for an upgrade. Here are some tips on what to you for and how to best decide on a computer monitor that suits your needs.

Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 – ultrawide monitor

What is your intended use?

If gaming is the goal, you’ll want something with a high refresh rate. Now days high refresh rate can be considered anything at or above 144Hz. At 144Hz your monitor will be changing its image 144 times a second (or however many frames per second your system is able to display). Make sure you have a system that can run games at a high FPS (frames per second) before investing in a high refresh rate monitor. Other things to consider for gaming monitors include fast response time (measured in milliseconds) and technologies like AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync to reduce screen tearing at low frame rates.
For general use, look for high contrast ratios, eg. 500:1 (1000:1 is considered ideal). For contrast ratios a good rule of thumb: the higher the better. High contrast makes text especially more visible.
For creative work it is best to prioritise colour accuracy above all other specs. Colour accuracy defines how well a monitor can reproduce colours and shades as intended.

Resolution

The more pixels your monitor has, the sharper the image is close-up. Screen size and resolution go hand in hand. An image will look sharper on a 22” 1920×1080(FHD) display than a 1920×1080 27” display.
This relationship is known as pixel density, below is a table which shows the relationship between screen size and pixel density.

Screen Size (inch) Pixel Density @ 4K Pixel Density @ FHD
32″ 137.68 68.84
31.5″ 139.87 69.93
30″ 146.86 73.43
27.8″ 158.48 79.24
27″ 163.18 81.59
24″ 185.58 91.79
23″ 191.56 95.78
21.5″ 204.92 102.46

 

No one should be buying a monitor below FHD (1920×1080) these days. Most gamers prefer 1440p or QHD as it offers a good compromise between high refresh rate and image quality. It is important to remember if you have the budget for a 4K(UHD) monitor, you will also need a system capable of running your intended program (game or otherwise) at that resolution.

Panel Technology

When it comes to image quality, TN < IPS < VA. VA panels typically have better contrast than even the best IPS panels, although IPS panels are known to have good colour saturation. Stay clear of TN panels – they have very bad viewing angles and are generally considered old technology now despite being cheap and having very fast response times.

sRGB or DCI-P3?

In most cases, your monitor of choice will either be made for the more standard sRGB colour space or the more colourful DCI-P3 one. In fact, DCI-P3 (Digital Cinema Initiatives Protocol 3 was initially developed for the cinema industry to replace sRGB) Technically speaking, Windows, the web and non-HDR games use the sRGB colour space. If you want the most colourful monitor, an accurate DCI-P3 monitor is more appropriate. Below is a colour gambut chart which shows DCI-P3 as having a wider range of colour.

sRGB VS DCI-P3 colour space

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