Choosing the right computer monitor for work might be a daunting task for some. A quick google search brings up a lot of technical jargon that if you’re not familiar with might sound intimidating and ignoring all the jargon and just purchasing any monitor might not benefit your specific needs in the long run.

Here’s a few monitor related terms explained to aid you in picking the right computer monitor for your needs.

Physical Size and Resolution

These two things are related in the sense that the resolution that you identify as optimal for your needs will determine the physical size of your monitor. For example a resolution of 1920×1080 starts at 21.5 inches and goes all the way to 28 inches, but the optimal screen size where you’ll get the best viewing experience is at 24 inches.

On a 21.5 inch monitor you may need to increase the scale of objects and text on screen for them to be adequately visible because the resolution and pixel density is high but screen real-estate is small. On the other hand, some objects and text on a 28 inch monitor of the same resolution appear too large and unattractive due to the pixel density being too low fit the large display. Once you get to 28 inch territory you’re better off getting monitors with a minimum resolution of 2560×1440 or larger.

Aspect Ratio

This is the ratio of the width to the height of a screen and there are 3 common Aspect ratios, 4;3, 16;9, and 21;9. Depending on your work, you might benefit more from a wider 21;9 aspect ratio screen, (Like when editing wide Excel spreadsheets) or from a taller 4;3 Aspect ratio screen, (Like when browsing the web, writing, blogging, etc.)

Here’s an illustration showing the type of aspect ratios available and how content restricted to certain aspect ratios appears on screen.

Panel Type

There are 3 main panel types that excel at different things. Choosing a panel type is an important decision you have to make as it can seriously affect the quality of your work especially if you’re in the design industry where color accuracy is important.

TN Panels (Twisted nematic)

This is the most widely available panel and the cheapest of the 3. It typically has a have a fast pixel response rate (5ms – 1ms) and have a higher refresh rate (up to 240Hz) which is good if you need to view and edit videos captured by a high speed camera, The downside of this panel however is that it has terrible color accuracy and images get distorted with visible shifts in contrast when the display is viewed at different angles.

VA Panels (Vertical alignment)

VA Panels are sort of an in between between TN and IPS panels. This is the panel for you if you’re an on the fence type of person. This panel offers good color reproduction (Better than TN but not as good as IPS) and the best/deepest blacks of the 3 panel types. Viewing angles are better than TN but not nearly as good as IPS as visible shifts in contrast are still observable.

IPS Panels (In-plane shifting)

This panel type is the choice for professionals (Graphic designer, photographers) they offer the best color accuracy and excellent viewing angles (178° vertically & horizontally). Also, unlike TN panels, IPS panels do not lighten or show tailing when touched. This is important for touch-screen devices found on some professional monitors and laptop displays. IPS panels however tend to have lower response rates (Typically 5ms and higher) and low refresh rates (60Hz-75Hz).

Tilt, Swivel & Height adjustment capability

This isn’t important to most consumers but to professionals and power users who might benefit from different orientations of a monitor, this is a very useful feature. The swivel feature can allow you to easily turn the monitor to show colleagues progress on a project you’re working on or turn it away from a nagging source of light (like morning sunlight), tilt allows you to adjust the monitor to a position that best suits your posture while working, also it can completely change the orientation of the monitor from wide (When working on wide Excel spreadsheets) to tall where viewing vertically long documents is beneficial (When blogging, writing, coding, etc). Height adjustment allows you to alter the vertical height of the monitor. The best position is where the top of the monitor is directly at eye level as this position helps to avoid neck strain caused from constantly bending your neck to look downwards or upwards at the display.

The illustration below shows the 3 adjustment options available.

Connector Types

Monitors come with different display connectors that you use to connect to your computer, mainly DVI, HDMI, and Display port. Generally, either DVI or HDMI is fine ranging from resolutions of 1920×1080 (or lower) to a maximum of 2560×1600. Though if you’re using a really high-resolution monitor higher than 2560×1600, avoid the hassle & go DisplayPort if your monitor and graphics card have those ports.

From left to right, Display port, HDMI and DVI

Something to consider

There a lot more specifications not mentioned here but these are the essential ones that matter. Thorough research on your part will help you get the best monitor for your money and for your work so don’t shy away from all the jargon you encounter.