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Computer Monitors Buyer's Guide

Updated on July 2009 - by Digital Versus Computer Monitors Buyer's Guide

You can no longer buy a cathode ray screen, just a LCD flat screen that is himself evolving and taking their cue from televisions. Like TVs, screens are now appearing in cinema format (16/9), high definition and on the latest models, with HDMI sockets. This allows you to link them to a computer, games console, set-top box (to serve as an extra TV) or DVD/Blu-ray player.

Screens are also getting bigger. You can find 22 inch screens at 100 euros and 24 inch screens at 200 euros.

As you move up the range, the differences are less to do with image quality than connectivity, build of the base (whether it can be adjusted vertically, pivot etc) and angles of vision.

1 - Making a choice

Entry level (< £ 99)

Low priced screens thanks to basic build and design, less (or even no) options. Bases are fixed and often you’ll only find a VGA in (even if more now have DVIs), not the most reactive panels nor those with the widest angles of vision (known as TN 5ms). This means that the image darkens if you look at it from below and there’s slight ghosting in game play (objects in movement are blurry). For purely office doc use, however, these screens are more than good enough!

  1. HP Compaq Q2159 21.5''
    £106 - £152 Compare Prices »
  2. Dell IN2010 20''
    £95 - £133 Compare Prices »
  3. Acer V203Wd 20''
    £121 - £162 Compare Prices »
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For gaming

Video gaming requires good responsiveness to avoid ghosting (blurring effect of movements), accurate colours (so you don’t find yourself entering a black room when it’s only supposed to be dark) and good connectivity.
Older graphics cards use a VGA in whereas newer cards use DVI or HDMI. Games consoles such as PS3 or Xbox 360 use HDMI. You can link them to these screens!

  1. BenQ M2200HD 21.5''
    £176 - £189 Compare Prices »
  2. Viewsonic VX2433WM 23.6''
    £178 - £209 Compare Prices »
  3. Iiyama ProLite E2209HDS 22''
    £156 - £204 Compare Prices »
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TV screen

The advent of the HDMI socket on screens means they can also serve as an extra TV. You can also link them up to a broadband box and watch television on them, changing channels with your mouse.
A new generation of screens has taken this even further with a built-in TNT tuner, sometimes HD and a remote. This means you can get yourself a small TV (19 to 26 inches all the same) cheaper.
Make sure you add some speakers to your system to get the best out of it. Those that are built in to the screen are always of very poor quality.

  1. Samsung SyncMaster 2494HM 24''
    £172 - £274 Compare Prices »
  2. LG W2261V 22''
    £122 - £205 Compare Prices »
  3. Viewsonic VX2260wm 22''
    £141 - £225 Compare Prices »
  4. More products »

2 - The Science

The really important aspects of the spec

  • - Response time :

    : In theory, the faster the response times the more fluid and sharp the movements on the screen. Given in milliseconds, response time is the time needed for a pixel to change from white to black and then back again. Today most screens have a response time of 5ms. Gamers look for more reactive screens, with a response time of 2 ms.

  • - Screen size :

    anything under 21 inches is today considered as a small, entry level screen. Most basic screens are now 22 inches. Above that, you’ll find 23 inch, 24 inch, some 28 inch and 30 inch screens that are usually reserved for pro use.

  • - Format :

    this is the ratio between a screen’s length and height. There are currently two main formats, standard (4/3, which are close to the format of old cathode ray TVs) and wide, (derived from modern TVs, HD and much longer than they are high). The standard format is gradually disappearing.

What you’ll need to go a bit further

  • - Interface :

    VGA, DVI and HDMI are the three most common connections to be found at the back of your screen. The first two can only be used to link a computer to the screen. The HDMI in can be used for a PC, but also for a consol, a broadband box and so on.

  • - Screen resolution :

    unlike cathode ray screens, flat screens are designed to function at a particular res, given in pixels. For example: new 22 inch screens often display 1920 x 1080 pixels. You can if you like go for 1440 x 900 pixels instead to display the image at a larger scale but it will be less precise and a bit blurry. It’s better to go for what is known as the “native resolution”.


3 - Accessories

Cable

although screens sometimes have plenty of video connectivity, manufacturers often deliver them without the analogue VGA cable, so as to economise. DVI and HDMI compatible cables are rarely in the bundle.

3D card

the larger the screen, the more powerful a graphics card you’ll need for the most recent games. If your card doesn’t match up the game will jump and the visual effects will not run smoothly into each other.

Headphones

most screens have a headphone out on the front or side of the screen. This allows you to play games or watch films without disturbing those around you.

Cleaning products

you’ll find different screen cleaning kits on the market. Wipes, aerosols and so on. Never use alcohol-based products and make sure you use a soft cloth.

3D glasses

Samsung launched the first screen that is compatible with 3D games and others will soon be on the market. You’ll need some good 3D glasses to enjoy the 3D experience. Nvidia have produced the first pair.

4 - Going further

Buyers Guide

Which computer monitor is right for you?

Which computer monitor is right for you?

Everything you need to know to find a computer monitor that meets your needs.

View buyers guides »

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