When it comes to the modern day computing, the visual experience is everything provided by your computer monitor. So it really does beg the question, What makes an excellent monitor ?
This article is a guide of sorts to elaborate about the various different aspects that make a good monitor.
What builds a monitor ?
A computer monitor has a display, ports for connectivity and a power supply.
Each part of the monitor serves an important purpose, let's take a look at them closely and see what matters.
The monitor's display is the main element of the monitor (quite obviously), As it's pretty much what you are looking at when you want to work with a computer. A good monitor needs to have good display characteristic.
Some of these characteristics in general are things like the display brightness, color -representation qualities, refresh rate, etc.
Here is a look into some of the more technical aspects of the monitor.
Brightness, quantified in nits, plays a pivotal role in determining the vibrancy of displayed content. This attribute becomes especially significant in well-lit environments and when dealing with HDR (High Dynamic Range) content, as it contributes to a visually impactful experience.
For optimal visual clarity, a good monitor should have the capacity to emit approximately 250 – 450 nits of brightness, striking the right balance for various scenarios.
Color Accuracy and Gamut
The accuracy of colors holds paramount importance, particularly in tasks involving precise content creation. The color gamut, elaborated through metrics like sRGB, Adobe RGB, or DCI-P3 coverage, signifies the expansive spectrum of colors a display can realistically reproduce.
For the average user seeking a commendable display, a panel featuring good sRGB coverage, ranging from above 60% to 100%, should suffice and align with budget constraints. However, those delving into professional studio work might seek the exemplary color fidelity of the DCI-P3 standard, often considered the gold standard for color reproduction.
In the realm of computer monitors, resolution and pixel density are pivotal factors shaping visual quality.
They come across in various ranges such as 1080p, 1440p, and 4K etc.
FHD/1080p (Full High Definition) strikes a balance between image quality and performance, with widespread compatibility and smoother gaming.
QHD/1440p (Quad HD or 2K) steps up clarity for detailed tasks, enhancing productivity while offering an approachable upgrade.
UHD/4K (Ultra HD) sets a new standard in clarity, ideal for design and content creation, though demanding more from hardware.
This comes at a cost, as display resolution compatibility also matters; higher resolutions may require scaling adjustments for optimal usage and may require a faster computer.
The aspect ratio of a display is also a key worthy feature of a monitor.
The aspect ratio is essentially the ratio between the number of pixels on the horizontal and vertical of the monitor. This gives importance to productivity and how you can space your windows and tabs of content on-screen.
16:9 is a typical monitor ratio, whereas 4:3 would be considered a tall monitor. There also exists ultra-wide monitors with aspect ratios like 21:9.
Pixel density impacts text clarity and visual edges, enhancing productivity and gaming, but necessitates proper scaling settings. The pixel density is a ratio between the monitor's size in inches and the resolution.
The higher the pixel density, the crisper and cleaner things like images and text look on a display.
Refresh Rates and Response Times
The refresh rate, measured in Hz (Hertz), dictates the seamless transition of images by quantifying how frequently the screen updates within a single second. The standard refresh rate of around 60 Hz is commonplace, yet there are monitors with capabilities of 90, 120, 144, or even 240 Hz. Higher refresh rates contribute substantively to rendering smoother motion on the screen, effectively conferring a fluid appearance to visual content.
Simultaneously, response times wield their influence on how promptly pixels transition between colors, playing a pivotal role in mitigating ghosting effects – the lingering blurring that occurs during rapid image changes. The response times in milliseconds are intrinsically linked to the monitor's refresh rate, making it an attribute that changes accordingly.
Ghosting and Motion Blur
Ghosting materializes when pixels lag behind during swift changes, leading to perceptible blurring. Reduced response times are instrumental in addressing this concern, enhancing the overall clarity of dynamic visuals and ensuring crisp portrayal.
A robust display, worthy of acclaim, ought to seamlessly surmount such issues, elevating the immersive experience for the user.
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
HDR technology represents a noteworthy advancement by augmenting the contrast and brightness levels of displayed content, culminating in a better visual engagement.
Foremost formats such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision spearhead this evolution, providing expanded color palettes and luminance ranges that translate into captivating visuals.
While the inclusion of HDR support is anticipated in a high-quality monitor, it's worth noting that this enhancement can lead to a higher budgetary consideration due to the premium experience it affords.
The contrast ratio, a fundamental determinant, gauges the monitor's capacity to distinctly differentiate between white and other colors against a black backdrop. This metric evaluates the visual dynamics, as a higher contrast ratio invariably contributes to the enhanced vibrancy and realism of on-screen colors.
The concept of viewing angles is in relation to the range within which a display maintains its color accuracy and brightness consistency.
In simple terms, when you're looking at a screen, distortions in colors and brightness should ideally not crop up whether you're sitting directly in front of the display or even when you're peering at it from slightly off-center angles, like when you tilt your head.
This convenient feature essentially removes the need to constantly align your line of sight perfectly with the monitor's center to enjoy a sharp and clear view of everything displayed on it.
Two giants stand at the forefront: LCDs and OLEDs. Each has its unique strengths and characteristics that define the visual experience they offer. Additionally, emerging technologies like microLED and QLED are pushing the boundaries further.
LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays)
LCDs have long been the workhorse of the monitor world. These displays rely on liquid crystal molecules that twist and untwist to regulate light passing through them. The three primary types of LCD panels are TN (Twisted Nematic), VA (Vertical Alignment), and IPS (In-Plane Switching).
- TN Panels: TN panels are known for their lightning-fast response times, making them popular among gamers. However, they suffer from limited color accuracy and narrow viewing angles, which can cause color distortion when viewed from off-angles.
- VA Panels: VA panels strike a balance between response times and color accuracy. They offer better contrast than TN panels, resulting in deeper blacks and more vivid colors. Viewing angles are wider than TN panels, but IPS panels still surpass them in this aspect.
- IPS Panels: IPS panels demonstrate excellence in color accuracy and wide viewing angles, making them a favored choice among professionals in design and content creation due to their ability to represent colors true to life. However, it's important to note that their response times can be slightly slower when compared to TN and certain VA panels.
The most commonly preferred type of LCD panel is IPS due to its highly favored characteristics, as it appears to balance all the various aspects of a good display.
OLEDs (Organic Light Emitting Diodes)
OLED technology is quite unique. Each pixel makes its very own light, which gives you incredibly deep black colors and really bright colors too. These displays are super thin and flexible because they don't need a big light behind them.
OLED displays excel in every field of the display criteria, Ultra bright, Extremely color accurate, Super fast refresh and sub millisecond response rates with infinite contrast.
But unfortunately, OLED displays can become the victim of burn-ins where certain parts of the display can become dim over time, which can ruin the display in local areas or the entire OLED in general.
Mini-LED displays are a bit of an innovation to LCDs, imagine an LCD with a contrast ratio similar to ones like OLED displays.
These displays use LCDs with a distributed backlight that uses small LEDs to achieve localized dimming, hence providing much more contrast to the picture, thus greatly improving quality.
Let's delve a bit into the various connectivity options monitors offer, ranging from the classic technologies to the latest cutting-edge:
VGA (Video Graphics Array)
VGA is among the oldest methods of monitor connections, dating back to the early days of computing. It uses a 15-pin connector and is known for its analog signal transmission. While it can still be found on some older devices, VGA's limitations in terms of image quality and resolution have led to its gradual decline in favor of newer options.
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
HDMI has become the de facto standard for connecting monitors to various devices. It supports both audio and video transmission in a single cable. HDMI offers robust support for high-definition resolutions, making it perfect for TVs, gaming consoles, and modern computers.
It's widely compatible and comes in different versions to accommodate evolving technological standards. Make sure your computer is capable of providing an HDMI version equal to or greater than the monitor to make the most use of its capabilities.
DisplayPort is another powerful contender, often seen on high-performance monitors and computers. It boasts high data transfer rates and supports higher resolutions and refresh rates than HDMI.
DisplayPort is also more adaptable for multi-monitor setups and offers daisy-chaining capabilities. It has gained popularity among professionals and enthusiasts who require superior performance.
USB-C and Thunderbolt
USB-C, known for its versatility, has taken the connectivity world by storm. It's not just for data and charging; it can also carry display signals. With a compatible port, you can use USB-C to connect your monitor, transmit data, and charge your device all at once.
Thunderbolt, often found in Apple devices, takes USB-C a step further by offering even faster data transfer and more display bandwidth.
DP over USB-C
DisplayPort over USB-C is the fusion of two great technologies. It's like getting the best of both worlds – the high-performance capabilities of DisplayPort and the convenience and versatility of USB-C.
This technology is particularly handy for laptops and devices with limited connectivity options, offering a single cable solution for power, data, and display.
Probably not talked about much, but still sure is important to consider is efficiency ratings.
Opting for monitors with Energy Star ratings translates to minimized energy consumption and reduced electricity bills. So it is worth checking out the monitor's power rating if you plan to use it in power constrained systems.
What is the recommended monitor ?
There are a lot of various monitors that cater to user specific needs. For example high refresh monitors for gamers, high color precision for designers and engineers, Different aspect ratio monitors for programmers etc.
Software is also very catered to the kind of monitor you view your content on, if you plan on using your monitor for entertainment, you might want to look into a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor.
This is because movies and other content are curated to be viewable in that standard aspect ratio, Also making sure that its HDR capable for the rich colors.
If you need to conduct business activities, consider a monitor that's taller like a 4:3 aspect ratio. This will help you fit more content in a tall space all in one view.
If you want to have multiple moniors along a line, why not consider a ultrawide monitor ?
You'll be able to fit all your content together in a wide immersive view.
Any other monitor related tips ?
Make sure you are looking to make the most out of the setup of your monitors with mounting accessories.
Usually monitors come with a very simple mount but are compatible with VESA mounting options.
So it might be a good investment in purchasing a desktop clamp type or swivel mount monitor stand, depending on the number of monitors you might purchase.
If you are looking to purchase a monitor, It's worth noting all the various points and aspects before consideration of what kind of monitor you want to buy. The more the extravagant features, the more it will cost for a good monitor implementing those features.
Avoid buying cheaper monitors as they do tend to become faulty after a while and have random lines and artifacts in their screens after a period of usage wear.
IPS monitors with a decent resolution for your needs is probably the way to go if you are looking for a good ratio of budget and features, but if you are willing to splurge on a monitor, getting an OLED monitor isn't a bad idea.