4 things to look out when buying a monitor

Aloysius Low
·4-min read

Buying a new display can be tough, especially when you're faced with the plethora of choices available. Things to consider include display size, resolution, response time, frequency, and dead pixels. But fret not, here are some helpful tips

Display size

Monitor sizes can range from 14-inches to massive 34-inches or even larger. If you're looking at using it on a desk, 20-inches to 24-inches can be ideal.

Larger sizes, such as a 27-inch and above, should be best used if you have plenty of table space, and enough distance between the monitor and yourself to feel comfortable.

You need enough space to make sure your eyes are able to cover a 140 degree field of view (FOV), so usually a distance around 80cm to 1m for a larger screen and somewhere closer for a 24-inch (around 40-60cm).

Too close, and you will get tired out from moving your head around to track details. Too far, and you're wasting all the details from a higher resolution display. You can refer to this handy online calculator to decide.

For those looking at curved displays, because of how the screen wraps around your eyes, they feel more immersive. Manufacturers use a curvature number to represent the radius of the curve, with 1800R and 1900R signifying aggressive curves, and 3800R meaning a softer, less aggressive curve.

Your eyes don't have to move as much since the curvature helps bring the images at the edge closer. Basically, you'll want to sit closer to enjoy the experience. Also, you'll want a larger display to really benefit from the curve — 30-inches or larger.


Another thing to know is resolution — a smaller display with a higher resolution will also mean you have to sit closer to the screen to make out the details, while a larger display with a lower resolution will mean fuzzy pixels if you're too close.

Common resolutions include Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), 1440p (2,560 x 1,440 pixels), and 4K (3,180 x 2,160 pixels).

While it is tempting to buy the highest resolution monitor, be warned that this could be tough on your GPU, as running games in 4K is quite taxing for most graphic cards.

There's also frame rates to think about, higher resolutions will stretch your GPU performance. The sweet spot for modern gaming is 1440p, or you can stick to the good ol' Full HD.

Refresh rate and response time

If you're playing games that require you to respond fast, a higher refresh rate monitor will be to your advantage. Refresh rate basically means how many times an image updates a second, and the higher the number, the smoother it looks.

Otherwise, what happens is tearing, where the image seems to "tear" to catch up to a high frame rate output. Most movies playback at 24fps, so a 60Hz monitor may feel like overkill.

Gamers, however, will appreciate having a higher refresh rate, from 120Hz, 144Hz, to even 240Hz. This gives you the ability to react faster to things you see on screen, and the upgrade in smoothness from the standard 60Hz displays to 120Hz is something you will visibly notice. As with resolution, you'll want a video card capable of pushing out the high frame rates to keep up with the refresh rates, though most newer cards should be able to do so.

Response times also play a part for the refresh rate of the monitor, with a lower number better. It's a measurement of how many times a pixel can change colour. It's measured in milliseconds — one thousand of a second — and the lower, the better.

Higher response times can mean blurred visuals, called ghosting. These days, it doesn't matter as much — most monitors have tech to correct ghosting, so don't worry too much about this.

Dead pixels

If there's one thing that everyone dreads after buying a monitor, it is to find out they have dead pixels.

A dead pixel is basically an unresponsive dot on the screen that doesn't change when the image moves. It can be dark, bright, or coloured. One to five dead sub pixels or pixels are usually the standard industry tolerance, which means you can only swap a panel if there are five or more.

You may want to read up on each manufacturer’s and distributor’s warranty policies if this is a concern, but it's a very rare issue these days.

I've also found that you can usually rub it out and reset the pixel, but if it's permanently stuck, do try get it swapped if it's a brand new monitor.

Some manufacturers will do so out of goodwill, even if you're below the five dead pixel limit.

Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com

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