Tech enthusiasts are often keen to talk about the latest advances in computer technology. Usually, this will revolve around the most exciting internal components – the brains of the PC, which are always becoming faster, smaller, and cheaper. It’s therefore quite understandable that consumers are relatively unaware of changes to PC monitor hardware. But although what’s going on inside the computer is exciting, the monitor can be seen as important because it allows us to interact with the computer. A better display can lead to less eye strain and a more pleasurable experience. So if you’re in the market for a new monitor, but you’re unsure what to go for, you’re in the right place.
There is one new piece of technology in particular which is revolutionizing the monitor market. In-Plane Switching (IPS) screens offer a far more accurate reproduction of colours, leading to a visibly improved image. Importantly, IPS technology saves the viewer from the annoying ‘glare’ effect normally associated with LCD screens; where you can only view the screen from a certain angle. Anybody who uses their PC to view movies will no doubt appreciate the increased ability to recline. This comes at a premium, though; conventional Twisted Nematic (TN) panels are still the standard, especially at the lower end.
Of course, a key concern when picking out a new monitor is that it will be compatible with the rest of your equipment. Those who only wish to hook up their screen with computer cables will be satisfied with any modern monitor, all of which come with the required DVI input. However, anybody who wants to turn their PC into more of a media centre might want to opt for a model with an HDMI port. This will allow you to plug in your games console or Blu Ray player.
The bigger, the better. The resolution figure is the number of pixels displayed on screen at any one time, and is closely related to the physical size of the monitor. Higher pixel counts are more demanding on your PC, but produce a smoother and higher-quality picture. Consumers should only worry about performance if they intend to be playing the most modern games, and so in general, you should get a monitor with the highest resolution you can afford. A resolution of 1920×1080 (otherwise known as ‘1080p’) gives a true HD image.
This is one aspect that most people won’t need to be concerned with. The response rate of a monitor is, as you might expect, reflective of the speed with which pixels change. A very slow response time leads to ‘ghosting’ which some might remember from years past – where your mouse leaves a blurry white trail behind it, as the screen cannot keep up with the speed of the cursor. As virtually all monitors now have a response time of 5-7 milliseconds, the average consumer can assume that they will have no problems. Gaming enthusiasts who want to squeeze every ounce of performance from their setup should go for a 2ms model if their budget allows, however.