Even the most expensive gaming computer is just a mere paperweight without its trusty monitor. Needless to say, a monitor can be just as important as the computer itself, especially for desktop PCs. It’s one of the components you’ll regret if you cheap out on it. But before you splurge on a monitor, it’s good to know which monitor specs with which to stay on the lookout.
After all, monitor specs can be as confusing as the computer’s specs. Too many letters, numbers, and abbreviations from brands and manufacturers are present.
So consider this a monitor buying guide as well. We’ll be enumerating and explaining the specs in descending order based on how important they may be to the typical user.
Size Is King
Size matters here, and as with televisions, bigger monitors are typically better since they let you sit further away from the screen, reducing eye strain and other digital screen-related problems.
Granted monitor sizes are pretty self-explanatory. They’re usually measured in inches. But don’t be confused if you measured it horizontally and it came up a few inches shorter than its advertised length (like how some people on Tinder lie). The advertised size is diagonal length, not horizontal, and certainly not vertical.
When deciding which monitor size to buy, it’s best to see the monitors themselves personally, but the standard range these days for the average user would be around 24 to 27 inches. Anything larger than that will start getting more expensive, which is something to keep in mind.
It’s also best to consider how much desk space you have, as bigger monitors will compel you to sit further away.
Resolution Is Just as Important as Size
Most of the time, a monitor’s resolution is proportionally related to its size. Bigger sizes typically have higher resolutions since bigger screens can fit more pixels, and that’s what resolution is; it’s just the number of pixels within the screen.
So something like FHD (1080p) or 1920 x 1080 means 1,920 pixels horizontally and 1,080 pixels vertically, multiplying up to a total of 2,073,600 pixels. More pixels mean a sharper image and you’ll be able to see the difference between FHD and QHD (1440p) because the change is dramatic.
For reference, QHD is 2560 x 1440 and has a total of 3,686,400 pixels which is nearly double that of FHD. That means more of the visuals, the user interface, and the general view can fit in or be rendered.
One thing to note is that size must stay proportional to the resolution. A 24-inch screen with QHD resolution, for example, might look a little too sharp or tiny with its pixel density. Meanwhile, a 30-inch screen with FHD resolution will look blurry since the pixels are stretched.
There’s no rule of thumb to this, but generally, here’s the acceptable size-to-resolution ratio for monitors; anything that defies this might make your eyes complain:
- Below 20 inches – 900p (1600 x 900)
- 21 to 27 inches – FHD / 1080p (1920 x 1080)
- 27 inches to 30 inches – QHD / 1440p (2560 x 1440p)
- 27+ inches – UHD / 2160p / 4K (3840 x 2160)
Currently, the most popular range seems to be 1080p but even that’s starting to feel outdated or cramped for a lot of people, and the shift to 1440p has been going along for a couple of years now. But don’t feel pressured to upgrade or upsize, your preference or need is all that matters here as a buyer.
It’s also worth noting that there are ultrawide options and these come with altered and wider resolutions and sizes. Not all applications support their resolution, sadly; nonetheless, they’re great for work and gaming.
Refresh Rate Determines Smoothness
This monitor spec typically shows up as 60Hz (Hertz) or sometimes 144Hz and in layman’s terms, it indicates the maximum frames that the monitor can display per second (framerate).
To understand how framerate works, think of it as a flipbook where you can draw a stickman figure. The frames are the pages in the flipbook, more pages mean your stickman figure can move more smoothly since there are more transitions in the drawing or animation. Hence, higher framerates (measured in frames-per-second of FPS) produce smoother movement and feel. The monitor’s refresh rate is the gatekeeper that allows you to see all this. Any framerate higher than the monitor’s refresh rate is wasted.
This is especially important in fast-paced or e-sports games since players need to react to split-second changes in pixel information.
However, higher refresh rates (coupled with higher framerates) are also noticeable in mundane activities such as resizing tabs or windows in Chrome or merely moving the cursor.
So if you want a good monitor, then pick something with a high refresh rate. The standard these days is 120 to 144Hz. 60 Hz is a thing of the past and is starting to become outdated these days.
You won’t notice the huge difference if you’ve never compared 60Hz to higher refresh rates, of course, and ignorance is bliss. In that case, don’t feel pressured to step outside that bubble. The thing is, however, smartphones have already adopted higher refresh rates so comparison is inevitable and more or less unavoidable these days.
In any case, your eyes and your brain will be thanking you if you shift from 60Hz to 120Hz or higher. You might even get fewer headaches.
If given the choice between a branded 60Hz and a more affordable but off-brand 144Hz, it’s still better to go for the latter.
Panel Type Might Be a Game-changer
These kinds of monitor specs can appear as abbreviations, namely:
- IPS (In-plane switching) – This is LCD tech (liquid crystal display)
- VA (Vertical Alignment) – This is also LCD
- TN (Twisted Nematic) – This is still LCD
- OLED (Organic light-emitting diode) – This LED tech (light emitting diode)
- Mini-LED – Also LCD tech despite the LED in its name
Those are the most common types of commercial monitor panels these days and they make a difference in viewing angles, black levels, and color accuracy, among other factors.
The most balanced among them that’s also currently the most popular would be IPS since it gives low latency or delay while also letting its viewers see it accurately from all horizontal angles unlike VA and TN panels; those latter two have distorted or negative colors when viewed from the sides, thus, they’re mostly reserved for budget monitors. VA and TN panels require their users to be at the center of the screen for image quality.
Meanwhile, OLED is a shiny and relatively new tech that gives superior color accuracy compared to LCD-based monitors. It also gives deeper black levels and a low refresh rate. However, its two main drawbacks are the high price and the burn-in (static images leave permanent ghostly imprints on the screen if they’ve been displayed for too long).
And then there’s Mini-LED. It’s even better than OLED since it doesn’t have burn-in and achieves similar or slightly worse color accuracy and latency. Being a new tech, it’s still expensive but not at the same premium level as OLED.
Overall, if you want the best image quality a monitor can offer, go for either OLED or Mini-LED. If you can’t afford those, stick with IPS monitors and we don’t recommend VA or TN panels, especially flat ones. Curved VA panels are alright.
Color Gamut Is an Indicator of Image Quality
Such a monitor spec might show up as “NTSC” or “sRGB” in the spec sheet or name. This corresponds to the monitor’s color gamut and it’s a measure of color representation or accuracy.
Higher numbers, of course, result in better image quality. Monitors with a low color gamut will have colors that look washed out.
So what counts as a good color gamut? Look for anything between 92 to 100 percent coverage of NTSC for the color gamut. For sRGB measurements, look with or above 90 percent color coverage. This is what professional designers consider accurate color representation, which is important for their work.
If it’s good enough for professional work, then you can bet that it will be impressive for gaming.
Every Other Monitor Spec Is Arbitrary
There are more monitor specs, but none matter as much as the five above.
Stuff like HDMI ports, VESA mounting, built-in speakers (which tend to be bad anyway), and aspect ratio are all up to your personal preference and won’t affect the “bang-for-your-buck” metric.
Just make sure you’re not compromising on the aforementioned monitor specs just to get a color you like. We hope you learned something along the way, and make sure to spread the good word by sharing this.