See it All — Your Comprehensive Guide to Computer Monitors
31 October 2023
See it All — Your Comprehensive Guide to Computer Monitors
It’s time we showed some respect for the humble computer monitor. In this fast-paced digital age, this steadfast piece of hardware stands as a gateway to the digital realm, unveiling a world of limitless possibilities. It's the window through which we interact with data, art, entertainment and innovation. Computer monitors have come a long way from the bulky CRT screens of the past — they’ve had a glow-up to become the sleek, high-resolution and feature-rich displays that grace our desks today.
This article delves into the multifaceted universe of computer monitors — how they work, their best use cases and how to get the most out of yours. Join us on a journey that reveals the significance of this often-overlooked device and how it continues to reshape our digital experiences.
What is a Computer Monitor?
A computer monitor, often referred to simply as a monitor or screen, is a hardware output device that displays digital information generated by a computer — anyone who has ever come into contact with a computer no doubt knows what they are! It’s an essential part of a computer setup — as the visual interface that you use to interact with a computer, it’s the key to actually viewing content. Monitors come in different sizes, resolutions and budgets to cater to different needs and preferences.
Let’s talk through some of the key aspects of monitors.
Monitors use various display technologies, including LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and LED (Light Emitting Diode), OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) and CRT (Cathode Ray Tube). LCD and LED monitors are the most common types in use today due to their slim profiles and energy efficiency.
The resolution of a monitor refers to the number of pixels it can display horizontally and vertically. Common resolutions include Full HD (1920x1080), 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160), and 8K (7680x4320). The higher the resolution, the sharper and more detailed your images will appear.
Monitor sizes are measured diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner. They come in various sizes, from small 19-inch monitors to large 32-inch or even ultrawide displays. The choice of size depends on personal preference and what you’ll be using it for.
The refresh rate represents how many times per second the monitor can refresh the displayed image. Typical refresh rates are 60Hz, 120Hz and 144Hz. A higher refresh rate results in smoother motion — so gamers and video editors should be looking for something in the upper range.
LCD and LED monitors often use different panel types, such as IPS (In-Plane Switching), TN (Twisted Nematic), and VA (Vertical Alignment). Each panel type has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of colour accuracy, viewing angles, and response time.
Monitors feature various ports for connecting to a computer or other devices. Common connections include HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA and USB-C.
The aspect ratio is the ratio of a monitor's width to its height. Common aspect ratios are 16:9 (widescreen) and 4:3 (traditional). Widescreen monitors are more common today as they better accommodate modern content.
Many monitors come with additional features like built-in speakers, USB hubs, touchscreens, curved displays and adaptive sync technologies for gaming. These extras can totally enhance your computing experience but might not always be necessary — it all depends on your budget and intended use.
Monitor Buying Guide: Navigating Choices
Like most tech purchases, the sheer amount of choices on offer when shopping for monitors can be overwhelming. There are a few key things you need to consider when choosing your monitor — and we’re here to help.
Purpose and Usage
Consider your primary usage: gaming, graphic design, office work or general use. Different tasks require different features.
Choose a screen size that suits your workspace and provides a comfortable viewing experience. Common sizes range from 22 inches to 34 inches or larger.
Opt for a higher resolution (e.g. 1440p or 4K) for tasks like graphic design, video editing and gaming, as it offers sharper image quality. Full HD (1080p) will generally get the job done for everyday use.
For gaming, a monitor with a higher refresh rate (e.g. 144Hz or higher) is ideal for smoother gameplay. Standard 60Hz is adequate for general tasks.
Choose the panel type based on your priorities:
IPS (In-Plane Switching): Offers excellent colour accuracy and wide viewing angles, great for design and content creation.
TN (Twisted Nematic): Provides fast response times and is best suited for gaming.
VA (Vertical Alignment): Balances colour quality and response time, often found in budget and mid-range monitors.
A lower response time (1ms to 4ms) is preferable for gaming to reduce motion blur, while 5ms or higher is fine for most other uses.
If you're a gamer, consider a monitor with G-Sync (NVIDIA) or FreeSync (AMD) to eliminate screen tearing and provide a smoother gaming experience.
Ensure the monitor has the necessary input ports — such as HDMI, DisplayPort and USB — to connect to your devices. USB-C ports are handy to have if you want laptop and mobile device connectivity.
Protect your neck! Look for a monitor with adjustable height, tilt and swivel capabilities to set up the screen ergonomically.
For professional work like graphic design or video editing, choose a monitor with good colour accuracy. Look for monitors that cover a wide colour gamut and are factory-calibrated.
Brightness and Contrast Ratio
Higher brightness levels (measured in nits) are better for well-lit rooms. A high contrast ratio ensures deeper blacks and brighter whites for superior image quality.
Determine your budget and try to find the best monitor that fits within your price range. Keep in mind that higher-quality monitors often come with a price tag to match — but you get what you pay for.
Want a more thorough breakdown? Check out our article on how to choose the best monitor for your needs.
Gaming Monitors: Enhancing the Gaming Experience
Gaming monitors transform the gaming world into a visually stunning, responsive and immersive playground for gamers of all levels. Looking to take your gaming experience to the next level? The right monitor can take your next session from ordinary to out-of-this-galaxy amazing. We’ve pulled some key elements you should look out for when purchasing a gaming monitor:
- High refresh rates, such as 120Hz or 144Hz, result in smoother motion and reduced motion blur, ensuring that fast-paced games unfold with precision and clarity.
- Low input lag minimises the delay between a player's action and its on-screen response, crucial for competitive gaming.
- High-resolution displays, like 4K or Ultra-Wide screens, provide detailed and immersive visuals.
- Adaptive sync technologies, such as G-Sync or FreeSync, eliminate screen tearing for a smooth and seamless gaming experience.
- Gaming-specific features like fast response times and customisable gaming modes optimise visuals for different game genres.
For more hot tips, read through our article on eight things to consider when buying a gaming monitor.
Professional Monitors: Precision and Performance
Choosing the right monitor for your job is crucial — you need to balance performance and productivity. Different industries and professions have wildly different priorities when it comes to their computing setups, and the monitor is another separate piece of the puzzle that can really elevate everything. Here are some tips on how to choose the best monitor for your job.
Graphic Design and Photography
- Look for an IPS panel with high colour accuracy and a wide colour gamut (sRGB, AdobeRGB or DCI-P3).
- Opt for a high-resolution display (4K or above) for detailed image editing.
- Ensure the monitor is factory-calibrated or invest in a colour calibrator for precise colour reproduction.
- Need more in-depth info? Check out our article on how to find the perfect monitor for photo editing.
Video Editing and Production
- A monitor with 4K resolution or higher provides ample screen real estate for video editing tasks.
- Choose a display with a wide colour gamut (Rec. 709, DCI-P3) for accurate video colour grading.
- Consider HDR support for working with high dynamic range content.
Programming and Development
- Opt for a monitor with a high-resolution display to accommodate multiple code windows and improve productivity.
- Consider an ultrawide monitor for better multitasking capabilities.
- Ergonomic features like adjustable height and tilt can enhance comfort during long coding sessions.
Office and General Use
- A Full HD (1080p) monitor is typically sufficient for general office tasks.
- Focus on screen size and ergonomics for comfortable reading and multitasking.
- Blue light reduction and flicker-free technology can reduce eye strain during prolonged use.
Data Analysis and Finance
- An ultrawide or multi-monitor setup can provide ample screen space for displaying large datasets and spreadsheets.
- Look for a display with good text clarity and colour accuracy.
Architecture and CAD Design
- Choose a monitor with a high-resolution display (4K or above) to view detailed architectural designs and CAD models.
- Ensure the monitor supports colour profiles suitable for architectural renderings.
Like all tech, maintaining your computer monitor will help extend its lifespan and increase its performance. Here's a brief guide on how to maintain your monitor:
- Regularly clean the monitor's screen with a microfibre cloth or a screen-specific cleaning solution. Avoid using abrasive materials or paper towels, as they can scratch the screen.
- For stubborn spots or smudges, lightly dampen the cloth with distilled water or a screen cleaner. Make sure not to let any liquid seep into the monitor's bezels or ports.
- Dust is the enemy of hardware — it can accumulate on the screen and inside the monitor, affecting performance. Use compressed air to blow away dust from the monitor's exterior and vents.
- Periodically open the monitor's back panel and carefully remove any dust that has settled inside. Be cautious not to touch any sensitive electronic components.
- Ensure that the monitor has adequate ventilation. Avoid blocking vents, which can cause the monitor to overheat.
- As well as the methods we mentioned before, it’s overall best practice to maintain a clean and dust-free environment around your monitor — prevention is the best cure!
Screen Saver and Sleep Mode
- Enable a screen saver or sleep mode when the monitor is not in use. This conserves energy and extends the monitor's lifespan.
Optimal Brightness and Contrast
- Adjust the brightness and contrast settings to appropriate levels. Excessively high settings can lead to premature wear and tear.
Avoid Direct Sunlight
- Position your monitor away from direct sunlight or other intense light sources. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can damage the screen.
Power Surges and Electrical Protection
- Use surge protectors to safeguard the monitor from power surges and electrical fluctuations, which can damage the internal components.
Troubleshooting Common Monitor Issues
Common computer monitor issues can range from minor annoyances to more serious problems. Here are some of the most typical issues and troubleshooting steps to resolve them:
No Display or Blank Screen
- Check the power source — ensure the monitor is plugged in and that the power button is on.
- Test the monitor with a different power outlet or cable to rule out power-related issues.
- Verify that the computer is powered on and functioning properly.
- If the screen is still blank, the monitor might have a hardware issue and professional repair might be necessary.
Flickering or Flashing Screen
- Make sure the video cable is securely connected to both the computer and the monitor.
- Try a different video cable to rule out cable issues.
- Adjust the refresh rate and resolution settings in your computer's display options.
- Update or reinstall the graphics card drivers.
Stuck or Dead Pixels
- Dead pixels are often permanent, but you can try using pixel-fixing software that rapidly changes the colour of the stuck pixel to attempt to unstick it.
- If your monitor is under warranty, contact the manufacturer for a potential replacement.
- Enable V-Sync or use adaptive sync technologies like G-Sync (NVIDIA) or FreeSync (AMD) to sync the monitor's refresh rate with the graphics card's frame rate.
- Adjust the monitor's refresh rate and resolution to match the capabilities of your graphics card.
Colour Calibration Issues
- Use your operating system's built-in colour calibration tool to adjust colour settings.
- Invest in a hardware colour calibrator for precise calibration, especially for tasks like photo or video editing.
Blurry or Distorted Images
- Ensure you’re using the monitor's native resolution for the sharpest image quality.
- Adjust the display settings in your operating system to optimise text and image clarity.
Backlight Bleeding or Clouding
- Backlight bleeding is a manufacturing issue and can be difficult to fix. If it's excessive and your monitor is under warranty, contact the manufacturer for a replacement.
- Reducing brightness and adjusting viewing angles may help minimise the effect.
Image Persistence or Burn-In
- Use screen savers and enable power-saving features to reduce the risk of image persistence.
- Some monitors have built-in screen refresh functions to help prevent burn-in; use them periodically.
Unusual Artefacts or Lines
- Update your graphics card drivers to the latest version.
- Inspect the video cable for damage and replace it if necessary.
- If the issue persists, consider testing the monitor with a different computer to determine if the problem lies with the monitor itself.
If you've tried these troubleshooting steps and the issue persists, it’s worth reaching out to the manufacturer for additional support or seeking professional help for hardware-related problems.
Monitor Setup: Configuration and Optimisation
Setting up a computer monitor is a straightforward process, but taking the time to configure and optimise it will take your computing experience to the next level. Whether you're setting up a new monitor or fine-tuning an existing one, here's a step-by-step guide to help you get the most out of your display.
- Place your monitor on a stable surface at eye level to reduce strain on your neck and eyes. Our article on choosing a monitor stand can help you find something that works for your whole setup.
- Once that’s sorted, connect the monitor to your computer using the appropriate cables (HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA or USB-C), making sure everything is secure.
Resolution and Refresh Rate
- Ditch the defaults! Access your computer's display settings and choose the recommended resolution for your monitor — this is your ticket to the best image quality.
- Adjust the refresh rate to the maximum supported by both the monitor and your graphics card. A higher refresh rate (e.g. 120Hz or 144Hz) results in smoother motion and reduced motion blur, which is crucial for gaming and video editing.
- If you want accurate colour representation, you need to do some calibration — especially if you’re doing photo or video editing. You can use built-in tools or dedicated calibration hardware for precise results.
- Adjust the brightness and contrast settings to achieve optimal clarity without straining your eyes.
Gamma and Colour Temperature
- Fine-tune your gamma settings for a balanced distribution of brightness. A gamma value of around 2.2 is a standard setting.
- Adjust the colour temperature to match your preferences. Warmer temperatures (e.g. 6500K) make whites look more yellow, while cooler temperatures (e.g. 9300K) make them bluer.
Anti-Aliasing and Overscan
- Enable anti-aliasing to smooth out jagged edges in images and text, especially if you're using your monitor for tasks like photo editing.
- Check for overscan settings. If your monitor cuts off edges of the screen, disable or adjust this feature to see the full content.
- If you're using multiple monitors, configure their alignment and order in your computer's display settings. You can choose to extend your desktop or duplicate the screen.
- Set the primary display to the monitor you use most frequently.
- Need more advice? Check out our guide to the best monitors for a dual-screen setup.
- Ensure your graphics card drivers are up to date. Manufacturers release updates to improve performance and compatibility with the latest monitors.
Monitor Specific Features
- Explore your monitor's on-screen display (OSD) menu for additional features such as gaming modes, colour presets and low blue light settings. Customise these to suit your needs.
Screen Saver and Power Settings
- Set a screen saver or sleep mode to save energy and prevent screen burn-in.
- Adjust the power settings to turn off the monitor after a specified period of inactivity.
Test and Adjust
- Finally, test your monitor with various applications, including movies, games and productivity tasks. Tweak the settings further if needed to suit your specific use cases.
By taking the time to customise your monitor's settings, you’ll get the best possible visual experience — whether you're working, gaming, streaming or chilling.
Finding Your Perfect Monitor Match
Now that you’re armed with all the knowledge you could possibly need to find your ideal monitor, it’s just a matter of sourcing it. If you’re looking to buy a new monitor, Mwave is the place to find your perfect match — as Australia’s leading online tech retailer, we’ve made it our mission to stock only the best and most trusted hardware and software. Our team has expert knowledge of all things monitors, whether you need something for work, gaming or streaming. With leading brands like Acer, Dell, ASUS, LG and so many more, you can be sure you’re getting the best quality from the most trusted names in the industry.
Need some help finding your dream monitor? Contact our friendly and knowledgeable team for expert advice any time.