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It’s easy to think you can get by with just a laptop. After all, it comes with a built-in keyboard, trackpad and screen all in one package — what else could you possibly need? But if you’re working from home or gaming for long hours — as more and more people increasingly are — you should absolutely have a dedicated monitor set at eye level. It’s far more ergonomic and you’ll stay comfortable for longer periods of time.
How to shop for a computer monitor or screen
I’ve been testing and reviewing PC monitors for years, and there are so many factors that go into monitor choice that the market is flooded with hundreds of slightly different models. Having said that, there are a few crucial factors to consider when shopping for the best monitor for you.
The best screen size for your needs
Most desktop monitors range from 20 inches to 32 inches and you’ll need to consider which size is best for your space. Obviously, a larger monitor is going to make your work easier to see and provide an immersive experience for movies and games — but smaller monitors will fit better in cramped spaces.
Which screen resolution do you need?
A display’s resolution is the number of pixels it has on screen, usually denoted by horizontal pixels x vertical pixels (like 1920x1080, otherwise known as 1080p).
You’ll find monitors from slightly below 1080p all the way up to 3840x2160 (aka 4K) and above. Most people will be just fine with 1080p and 1440p options — especially if the main use of the screen is work-related and doesn’t involve video editing or other high-function visual needs. If you keep a lot of windows open at once, springing for 1440p is worth it over 1080p though, with some folks (including myself) even going so far as to use two monitors to research and write at the same time.
A monitor’s panel type determines its color accuracy
You’ll find monitors with three basic display types:
- Twisted Nematic (TN) panels are more affordable and provide smoother motion but aren’t as color-accurate, and those colors can shift (or tint) when viewed at an angle. This is the best choice for budget-conscious shoppers and super-skilled gamers, though they're becoming less common.
- In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels are more color accurate and have great viewing angles, but blacks are a bit more washed out. This is generally the best all-around display type, unless maybe you plan on gaming in a dark room.
- Vertical Alignment (VA) panels sit in the middle, with deep blacks and good colors, but slightly blurrier motion and weaker viewing angles. These are common in gaming monitors aimed at slower-paced single-player titles.
I’ve always preferred IPS for its good colors and viewing angles, but certain VA panels have also impressed me for their deeper blacks and gaming features.
Best monitors for your desktop PC or laptop
Monitors can range from around $100 all the way up to $2,000 or more, and we could easily craft a list that goes on and on for every scenario. But most people will probably stick to the lower end of that range and look for a few basic things — that’s where our recommendations lie.
Best all-around computer monitor for everyday needs: Asus
Asus' new ProArt line ticks the most important boxes for most people: the PA278CV has a 27-inch, 1440p screen for a large space to work, great color accuracy, and plenty of ports for whatever you need to plug in. Its IPS display means you get great viewing angles, the stand height is adjustable for better ergonomics, and its price is in a relative sweet spot of affordability, making it an all-around winner.
Best affordable monitor for everyday needs: HP
If you’re on a tighter budget, HP's 24mh gets you the best bang for your buck near the $100 mark. Unlike many of its competitors at this price point, its IPS display is attached to a height-adjustable stand, so you can position it for ideal ergonomics. It’s only 1080p, but that's enough for an open browser window or two, and can't be beat for the price. It is, however, backordered at the time of this writing.
Best affordable monitor with deeper blacks: ViewSonic
If you need something now, ViewSonic's affordable VA monitor is a great alternative to HP's offering, with deeper blacks for movies and gaming that pop — albeit without the ergonomic adjustments. You could always grab a monitor stand or stack of books if you need to raise it to eye level.
Best affordable 4K monitor for creatives: LG
Most people don't need a 4K monitor at their desk, but if you're editing high-resolution photos or working with 4K video, upgrading to a 32-inch monitor at that resolution is worth the extra money. While there are plenty of incredible pro-level monitors out there (like Apple's Pro Display XDR), folks on a more typical budget would do well with LG's 4K offering. Its IPS display offers a wide color gamut, HDR10 compatibility, and an adjustable stand for superb ergonomics.
Best large, ultrawide screen display alternative to dual monitors: Dell
If one monitor isn’t enough room for you to work, dual monitors are great — I’ve been using dual monitors for 15 years and can’t give them up. But if you don’t have the space for two displays, a single ultrawide monitor can give you some extra real estate on your screen with a simpler setup. Dell’s UltraSharp P3421W is a great choice for the price, with a 3440x1440 resolution and all the benefits of Dell’s highly-regarded UltraSharp line — from its solid IPS panel to its adjustable stand.
Best computer monitor with gaming-specific features: Samsung
Picking a gaming monitor is tough since it depends a lot on your gaming PC. But Samsung's Odyssey G7 is hard to beat for most people. At 32 inches, you get a large screen for immersive gameplay, a super-smooth 240Hz refresh rate, and NVIDIA G-Sync to eliminate screen tearing and stutter. Check out our full guide to gaming monitors for more options.