PC monitor displaying gameplay footage

Picture perfect: how to buy the perfect computer monitor to match your PC

Published 16th December 2022
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The humble computer monitor is one of the most popular computer peripherals out there. It can transform a small laptop into a capable workstation for pursuing complex projects, while for desktop PCs it's a literal necessity.

So buying a monitor is a good idea, but it's also a difficult one, fraught with technical jargon and specifications. To help you choose the perfect computer monitor for your needs, here are some tips that you should consider before making your purchase.

Determine your budget

Before you start shopping, it’s important to determine your budget - luckily monitors come in a wide range of prices. Budget-friendly and refurbished monitors will cost around £70, whereas the latest ultra-wide displays with 8K resolutions can cost over £3,000. Knowing your budget will help you narrow down your choices and find the right monitor for your needs without breaking the bank.

Know what you'll be doing with your computer

Next you'll need to know how you'll be using your monitor. For instance, if you're using your PC for primarily word processing and other light tasks, a budget monitor will serve you fine. But if you're doing graphic design work or digital art, you'll want a monitor with extremely accurate colour reproduction for editing photos and videos. Gamers, on the other hand, will want a monitor with a high refresh rate and response time for smooth, lag-free gaming.

Look for the right features

Once you’ve determined your budget and usage, it’s time to look for the right features. For example, if you’re a graphic designer you’ll want to look out for a wide colour gamut that covers the vast majority of colours found in both the DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB colour palette standards.

If you'll be buying your monitor to use with a gaming PC, however, you'll want to look out for gaming-central features like Vsync and extremely high refresh rates (120Hz or higher).

One feature that's very important to your decision is the panel technology. There are three types of panels used in the modern era, IPS, TN and VA. Each has its strengths and weaknesses so we've written this separate blog going into depth on them.

Pick the right resolution

The next factor to consider is the monitor resolution, which tells you how many pixels the monitor has access to; the higher the number, the sharper any image will be. The most common resolutions are Full HD (1920x1080), Quad HD (2560x1440), and Ultra HD (3840x2160).

If you’re looking for a general-purpose monitor, then a Full HD resolution should be sufficient. However, if you’re looking for a monitor for gaming or graphics work, then a Quad HD or Ultra HD resolution would be more suitable.

If you’re interested in finding out more about PC monitor resolution, check out our full guide covering the differences between SD, HD, UHD and all the other monitor resolution initials as well as which one is best suited for you.

Learn the refresh rate

Monitors with higher refresh rates tend to be more expensive, but they can also provide smoother visuals. Most general-purpose monitors have a refresh rate of 60Hz, which is usually sufficient. However, if you’re looking for a gaming monitor, then a higher refresh rate of 144Hz or higher would be more suitable.

Choose the right screen size

The size of the monitor is also important. Generally, the larger the monitor, the more immersive the experience. But it’s important to choose the right size for your needs. For example, if you’re a student, you may want a smaller monitor that won’t take up too much desk space. If you’re a professional, you may want a larger monitor for editing photos and videos.

Modern monitors range from about 22-inch displays all the way to massive 49-inch ultrawide monitors. If you’re looking for a general-purpose monitor, then a 24-inch model is usually the best option. However, if you’re looking for a monitor for gaming or graphics work, then you should opt for 27-inch models at least, if not wider.

One way of increasing screen real estate is to buy two monitors and hook them up in such a way that your computer's display is extended across both. However, newer ultrawide screens minimise the need for multiple screens. While they can be on the pricey side, they're often cheaper than buying two monitors. If you’re interested in replacing your dual-screen setup for a single larger version, you should read our article about the benefits of using an ultrawide monitor.

Check the ports

Finally, it’s important to check the inputs and outputs of the monitor. Practically every monitor will have at least one HDMI port, but you might need more depending on what you'll be using your PC for, such as the more advanced DisplayPort connection. You should also check what generation your monitor uses, because this will affect performance significantly. For example, if you're a gamer that wants 4K resolutions at a high frame rate, then you'll need a monitor with a DisplayPort connection at version 1.4 or higher.

Best brands for PC monitors

As a closer, here's a few of the most well-regarded brands producing computer monitors:

Choosing the perfect computer monitor for your needs can be a daunting task. But by taking the time to consider your budget, usage, features, size, and inputs and outputs, you’ll be able to find the right monitor for you. So take your time, do your research, and find the perfect computer monitor for your needs.

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