In this article, I will be covering different computer monitor types, features, resolutions, and the optimal number of monitors depending on your workplace or battlestation requirements. Whether you need to buy a computer display for maximum productivity, ergonomics, gaming immersion, and so on, I hope to provide you the information that you need to setup the best viewing experience tailored to your specific needs.
Table of Contents
What Monitor Features Should I Look For?
Your monitor should have good response time. The response time of a display is measured in milliseconds (ms) and it refers to the grey-to-grey transition time. Grey to grey refers to the time that it takes for a pixel to change from one color value to another; so a shorter grey to grey transition time is better. So faster response time means less ghosting, where ghosting refers to what appears to be a blurry after image when the picture shown changes.
For video gaming, the Grey to grey pixel transition time of 8 to 16 miliseconds is good for casual use gaming, but you need a grey to grey of 1-2ms for competitive gaming. ASUS VG248QE 24″ Full HD 1920×1080 144Hz 1ms HDMI Gaming Monitor has a very good response time.
Your monitor should have a good refresh rate. The refresh rate of a computer display is measured in hertz (Hz), and hertz is the unit of frequency that measures the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. For the case of computer screens, 1 hertz measures 1 frame per second. And the number of hertz a computer monitor can display in one second dictates the quality of a moving image that shows on the monitor.
So what does this mean for video gamers? Well, cranking up your video game FPS (frames per second) above the maximum refresh rate of your monitor means nothing. By default, your game graphics is locked to the maximum that your computer display can show; so it is important to have the same or more Hz than FPS so that you aren’t losing any frames in graphics rendering.
Note that most major movies and TV broadcasting do not display anything more than 30 frames per second. Console systems like the Xbox and PlayStation generally do not exceed 60 frames per second and 60 Hz. For computers and laptops I’d recommend 144 Hz. You should try to have the same or more Hz than frames per second when gaming. 3D content requires 120 Hz.
In a FPS game, the higher the Hz the smoother the rendering and less blurring from image artifacts. This is especially important when playing games like first person shooters or ones where scenes and game-play are fast action. The higher Hz and FPS allows for smoother aiming, tracking, and rendering so game-play is enhanced and provides an advantage over those with slower Hz and FPS. The ASUS VG248QE 24″ Full HD 1920×1080 144Hz 1ms HDMI Gaming Monitor also has a very good refresh rate.
Contrast & Black Levels.
Your monitor should have a good contrast and black levels. Contrast is the amount of difference between color and light from pixel to pixel, and black levels refers to how dark a pixel can actually become.
LCD technology in general have less contrast and poor black levels when compared to other types of technology, like plasma and CRT screens.
Poor overall contrast results in flat looking displays given that the difference between color and light contrast from pixel to pixel is very low. To use a photography term, a high contrast display will look like it “pops.”
Black levels on LCD panels are poor, because the liquid crystals are not self-illuminating, which is why you need a back or edge light to light up the pixels. Well, if you have a light shining through a pixel, it is easy to reveal brighter colors and whites. But, what about blacks? If the liquid crystal has a light directly behind it, then the only way to show black is for the liquid crystal to block all of the incoming light. So you can tell if a LCD monitor had absolutely terrible black levels, because then the Liquid crystals wouldn’t absorb enough light and thus blacks on the LCD would simply become a very visible gray. With poor black levels, once again you have reduced contrast, because you need deep blacks and bright highlights in each image for good contrast.
That means an LCD with poor black leveling is acceptable for computer work, but is bery bad when it comes to consuming media, especially movies. That’s because the black bars at the top & bottom of a widescreen movie become a very visible grey.
Bad black levels on your monitor also make it bad for image editing. Your images most likely will end up with too much deep blacks since you would be compensating visually for the lack thereof in the display. The ASUS MX279H (MX279 Series) 27″ Full HD 1920×1080 IPS HDMI DVI VGA Frameless Monitor has good Contrast and Black Levels.
Wide Color Gamut
Your monitor should have a good color gamut. A monitor’s color gamut refers to color reproduction, or how well colos can be accurately displayed. Creative professionals need a wide color gamut so that the display can reproduce the extended colors featured in Adobe RGB and NTSC color gamuts.
So whether you check the color grading in video editing, photo editing, or making your digital art exactly the right color, you need a monitor that can most accurately reproduce color seen in real life. And so without a monitor with accurate display colors, you cannot be sure that your finished product will display correctly in its final format.
For example, typical uncalibrated consumer LCDs tend to be more blue/red than a calibrated or professional color correct LCD. Thus, when editing your image, you would tend to overcompensate an image to look warm on screen. However, once you printed said image, you would find that it comes out far too warm since your screen wasn’t correctly displaying the colors to begin with. Hence a monitor that doesn’t accurately display colors will force you to incorrectly overcompensate. The ASUS MX279H (MX279 Series) 27″ Frameless Monitor also has good color gamut.
Your monitor should have good viewing angles. A monitor’s viewing angle refers to the maximum angle at which a display can be viewed with acceptable visual performance. That means that if you have a monitor with a good viewing angle, then image should not easily become garbled, poorly saturated, of poor contrast, blurry or too faint when viewing the screen from an angle instead of being right in front of the screen.
Having a wide viewing angle for your display is important for creative professionals, because they rely on their displays to show accurate colors from edge to edge within the confines of their screen real estate. Monitors a narrow viewing angle will show color shifting whenever you are not viewing that particular area straight on.
And even if you sit right infront of the monitor, you will notice shifting in color and brightness from the center of your screen out to the peripherals of your screen. This isn’t a major issue when you are working on a smaller display (12-17″). But anything larger requires good viewing angles.
The only time a Narrow viewing angle is desirable is to bring a measure of security in businesses, where employees handle private information in the presence of customers, banks being one example. Although I’d think that getting Rectangular filters fitting to the computer monitor would be more than sufficient. Again, The ASUS MX279H (MX279 Series) 27″ Frameless Monitor also has very good viewing angles.
What Type of Monitor Should I Buy?
Well, it depends on what you are going to do with your monitor. The short answer is that if you are a pro gamer, you’ll receive higher FPS with a Twisted Nematic (TN) display. But if you are a creative professional, an In-Plane Switching (IPS) display will provide better viewing angles, clarity, and a better color gamut.
So what is an LCD Monitor?
LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. It simply refers to the thin display type that uses unlit liquid crystals to make up the display. It is important that you remember that standard liquid crystals are unlit, because this means that they require some form of back lighting in order to be visible.
TFT LCD stands for Thin Film Transistor LCD, and the TFT (active matrix) LCD is a variation from the regular LCD that boasts greater color, contrast, and response time compared to passive matrix LCDs.
Most monitors now a days is most likely going to be a type of TFT LCD. That’s the standard. And the two most common types of TFT LCDs are In-Plane Switching (IPS) displays, and Twisted Nematic (TN) displays.
What is a TN Display?
TN displays are the most common consumer LCD display simply because they in essence offer “the most bang for the buck.”
The TN displays have extremely fast response times compared to IPS displays. That means TN displays are better for media consumption or entertainment, given that you will observe little to no ghosting when watching sports, movies, or playing video games.
In regards to viewing angles, TN displays is extremely bad, such that your notice the colors invert at extreme angles on a display.
Most TN panels can only represent 70% of the 24-bit color available from graphics cards as they only display 6-bits per RGB color (i.e. 6-bits Red + 6-bits Green + 6-bits Blue = 18-bits). So, instead they display interpolated 24-bit color using dithering. Think of dithering as smudging two colors on a palette to make a desired shade, only instead of paint it is combining surrounding pixels to make the desired shade. If you have a high-quality TN display, this generally isn’t going to be noticeable. However, poor quality TN displays may only show as little as 10%-30% of NTSC, Adobe RGB and sRGB color gamuts.
Indeed, when it comes to creative professionals using TN panels for their work, choosing a high quality TN panel is extremely important. Overall quality, viewing angle, contrast, and color representation will differ significantly between make and model. The Acer Predator XB241H bmipr 24-inch Full HD 1920×1080 NVIDIA G-Sync Display, 144Hz, 2 x 2w speakers, HDMI & DP is a good quality TN display.
What is a IPS Display?
Now let’s talk about IPS panels. There are many different types of IPS techs, from IPS to S-IPS, AS-IPS, IPS-Pro, H-IPS, etc. But for the sake of simplicity & relevancy, lets make a dichotomy of IPS technology as a whole vs TN display technology.
IPS displays were designed to improve on the flaws of TN technology, primarily in regards to the poor viewing angles and color reproduction. How they do this can be generalized as simply altering the direction of the pixels within the display (parallel instead of perpendicular pixels).
When IPS technology was in its infancy, the IPS panels had horrible contrast and black levels. But now, IPS displays now have great contrast and black levels. However, an IPS panel’s response times still don’t compare to standard TN displays.
These features make IPS displays far better when it comes to professional creative applications than casual consumer entertainment uses.
Note that The ASUS MX279H (MX279 Series) 27″ is an example of an IPS monitor.
IPS is indeed a better display technology for creative professionals. If you are considering a long-term career as a creative professional, then a high quality wide gamut IPS LCD is an absolute must have.
However, high quality TN displays shouldn’t be ruled out completely. When calibrated, high quality TN displays can be used by creative professionals.
Remember that when it comes to each type of display technology, quality will vary. A high quality TN display can perform better than a low quality IPS display. Within IPS displays, there are several different types of IPS technologies.
What Resolution Should My Monitor Be?
And for most purposes, I definitely recommend getting an ultrawide monitor if you can afford it. Ultrawide monitors generally come in 2560×1080, 2560×1440, and 3440×1440 pixel resolutions. Whether it be for video gaming, digital graphic design, video editing, consuming media, movies, web browsing, you will surely benefit from the extra screen space. I really could go on. There really isn’t a downside to increasing your screen space.
More screen real state means that I can focus more on my creative work, and not feel my productivity hampered by the lack of screen space. With limited screen space, I have to flip through windows way too frequently to access them and to remember what I had on them. Doing this repeatedly throughout the day results is a significant accumulation of “mental lag”. When I am working, I want to eliminate all the lag or time-sap that hinders my creative process.
Expanding on the benefit of increasing your screen real estate with an ultrawide monitor, is that you can have multiple open windows viewable on screen. Being able to open 4 word documents side by side, or having more room for your timeline during video editing, or simply being able to view & reference multiple different windows at once is a great productivity enhancer.
The Acer Predator 34-inch Curved UltraWide QHD (3440 x 1440) NVIDIA G-Sync Widescreen Display (X34 bmiphz) is one of the highest quality Ultrawide monitors out there.
For video games, a larger resolution means that more resources are required from your graphics card in order to play smoothly. The benefit is that you experience increased immersion by filling the peripherals of your vision. You also still have the option of playing the game on the same HD (HD = 1920 x 1080) resolution that is currently the standard for most monitors, on the ultrawidescreen.
But if the cost of an ultrawide deters you, you also have the option of using more than 1 monitor at once.
How Many Monitors Should I Have?
So if you’ve noticed, good ultrawide monitors are extremely expensive. A way around increasing screen work space without having to fork extra money for an ultrawide, is to simply use more than 1 monitor. Although the bezels & the space between displays will be annoying to look at, and lessen the immersion of your gaming experience, you can still find a lot of benefit in using more than one monitor for increased screen space.
What I’ve done for a while now, is use two monitors side-by-side horizontally while I did my work. I then decided to mount my monitors vertically with a VIVO Desk Mount Stand. Although I think ergonomically, it would be best to have 3 monitors side-by-side for best ergonomic balance: left, center, and to the right. I’ll go ahead and discuss the pros and cons of each multi monitor setup:
- No bezels between viewing areas
- Better cable management
- Best Ergonomic Choice
- Limited Screen Real Estate
- Limited Viewing angles
2 Monitors Horizontal Array
- More screen work space
- Increased Productivity
- Less time & mental lag
- time lag for constantly pulling up one window after another
- mental lag for remembering all the different windows that you have opened- hidden on top of each other if you have limited screen space.
- With a 2 monitors in a horizontal array, you either have the choice of keeping both monitors equally split between left & right, or have 1 center monitor and 1 side monitor. Having a side monitor can be un-ergonomic; but having 2 monitors evenly split on your left & right sides means you will always be turning your neck away from the center, which can also be uncomfortable.
- bezels and space in between screen viewing areas.
2 Monitors Vertical Array
- More screen work space
- Increased Productivity
- Less time & mental lag
- Conditionally more ergonomic than 2 monitors in a horizontal array
- Conditionally Unergonomic
Ergonomic Condition: So having 2 monitors in a vertical array can either be ergonomic, or un-ergonomic depending on how you setup your battlestation, and how close you are to your monitors. For example, if you sit far away, then you only have to turn your head up or down a few degrees in order to see what is on the other monitor. However, if you sit very close to your monitor, then you’d need to crane your neck significantly more than a couple of degrees to see other screen. This can be an uncomfortable strain on your neck. A solution around this is either to sit back a bit more, or be able to recline on your chair so that you don’t have to crane your neck.
3 Monitor Side by Side: To the Right, Left, & Center
- Extreme amount of screen work space
- Even better productivity than only 2 monitors
- Least amount of time & mental lag
- Best ergonomic balance
- Not as immersive as a single ultrawide monitor
- Even more bezels and space in between screen viewing areas.