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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.
In this article
- How to shop for a computer monitor or screen
- How to pick screen size
- How to pick screen resolution
- How to pick a monitor’s panel type
- Best monitors for your desktop PC or laptop
- Best all-around monitor
- Best affordable monitor
- Best ultrawide screen display
- Best gaming monitor
- Best affordable gaming monitor
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.
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.
- 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: Dell
Dell’s UltraSharp line has long been hailed as the all-around and affordable best, and the 24-inch U2415 is the monitor I’d recommend to most people: Its IPS panel provides great colors and viewing angles, the stand height is adjustable for better ergonomics, and its price is in a relatively sweet spot of affordability. I’ve been using this monitor’s predecessor for years, and it’s still one of my favorites to this day.
Best affordable monitor for everyday needs: BenQ
If you’re on a tighter budget, BenQ’s GL2480 is a solid 24-inch monitor in the $100 price range. It’s a TN panel, so its viewing angles won’t be as good as an IPS screen but it’ll do the trick in a pinch — it’ll even decently perform for some gaming (if you play casually on the side).
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 dual monitors, a single ultrawide monitor can give you some extra real estate on your screen with a simpler setup. Dell’s UltraSharp U3419w is a great choice at less than $1,000, with a 3440x1440 resolution and all the benefits of Dell’s UltraSharp line — from its solid IPS panel to its adjustable stand.
Best computer monitor with gaming-specific features: ASUS
Picking a gaming monitor is tough since it depends a lot on your gaming PC. But ASUS’ ROG Swift PG278QR is a great bet for most people. At 27 inches, you get a decently large screen, a super-smooth 165Hz refresh rate, and NVIDIA G-Sync to eliminate screen tearing for under $500. If you have an AMD card, ASUS’ TUF Gaming VG27AQ Monitor is a good alternative at a similar price.
Best affordable computer monitor with gaming-specific features: AOC
If you do a lot of gaming but want to keep costs down, check out AOC’s C24G1. It’s a bit smaller at 24 inches, and it’s only 1080p, but its VA panel is pretty decent, once you turn the Overdrive setting on to eliminate blur. And at under $200, it’s hard to beat the price you get for the performance. There’s also a 27-inch, 1440p version for $225 if you have a bit more to spend.
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