Computer Monitor Buyers Guide

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ModCrash Computer Buyers Guide to what to look for when choosing a monitor!

I want to first out with some terms that you will see plastered all over the box of the perspective monitor you may be wanting to buy.

General Terms:

  • Screen Resolution – The screen or display resolution of a monitor or viewing device is the actual number of individual pixels as it related to the width and height.  An example of this is the most common term you find on most television sets and monitors is 1920 x 1080. So basically at 1920 x 1080 you have a monitor or television that can display a maximum 1920 pixel width and 1080 pixels height that is non dependent on the actual size of the screen.
  • Refresh rate (vertical frequency) – The refresh rate is amount of times that a monitor can draw or display an image per second. Typically most televisions and monitors are 60 Hz with televisions going up to 240 Hz and high end gaming monitors going to 144 Hz.
  • Contrast Ratio – The contrast ratio is how well a display is capable is going from the brightest color (white) to the darkest color (black). An example is 1000:1 ratio means thats the brightest white a display is capable of displaying is 1000x brighter than than the darkest black it can display. Also high contrast ratios are typically better.
  • Response Time – This is the time it takes for a pixel to go from white (active) to black (inactive) to white (active) again. Response time is measured in ms and lower numbers are better which helps display fewer artifacts.
  • Viewing Angle – Measured in degrees the viewing angle is a simple measurement of ones ability to look at a display from different angles without excessive degradation of the image.
  • Pixel Density – Measured in pixels per centimeter (PPCM) or pixels per inch (PPI), the pixel density of a display is how many actual pixels can be fit in a physical 1 cm or in square. Higher the pixel density typically the better.
  • Aspect Ratio – The aspect ratio of a monitor is the ratio of the horizontal length to the vertical length that is always expressed x:y format. Most common aspect ratios are 4:3, 16:10, and 16:9. The 16:9 aspect ratio is currently the standard in the gaming industry and is the most recognizable.
Aspect Ratios

Aspect Ratios

  • Screen size – The diagonal measurement in inches of a display from typically the bottom left corner to the top right corner that is the effective viewable image size. Dependent on aspect ratio makes the same “screen size” not always the same i.e. 22″ monitor with a 16:9 vs 16:10 aspect ratio will have different height and width dimensions.

Backlight Types:

  • LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) – Uses liquid crystals to project images on the screen by allowing ot shutting out certain amounts of light to display the appropriate color. Most common type.
  • LED (Light Emitting Diode)  – Uses LED lights in conjunction with LCD technology.

Panel Types:

  • Twisted Nemantic (TN) – Oldest panel technology still in use. Mainly used for desktop monitors, fast pixel response, and cheap to make.
  • Vertical Alignment (VA) – High contrast ratio, good black levels, and wide viewing angles. Slow pixel response compared to TN panels. Cost wise in the middle between TN and IPS monitors.
  • In-plane switching (IPS) –  Excellent color and viewing angles that are superior to TN and VA panels but higher response vs. TN monitors. Typically best is 5 ms vs 2 ms on TN panels. Most expensive panel to make. Other variations of IPS exist and are called or different depending on manufacturer.


  • Video Graphics Array (VGA) – VGA is an analog 15 pin connector that carries red, blue, green, horizontal sync, and vertical sync signals. Typically found on older monitors.
  • Digital Visual Interface (DVI) – Current industry standard for carrying digital signals and limited to RGB colors. Two types of DVI connectors exist. The first being DVI-D which carries digital signal exclusively while the DVI-I connector can carry both digital and analog signals. Below are examples of the differneces and you can see that the DVI-I has more inputs for pins for the ability to carry both digital and analog.

ModCrash Monitor Buyers Guide DVI-I ConnectorModCrash Monitor Buyers Guide DVI-D Connector

  • DisplayPort (DP) – Made to be successor to DVI connector that has higher bandwidth and smaller in physically dimensions. DP to VGA, DVI, and HDMI exist for monitors without a DP. Depending on number of monitors active or passive DP adapters are needed.
  • High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) – Most common connector currently for carrying HD signal. While common on all types of audio/video equipment it is not as much on computer monitors.

Head over to the next section on tips of what to look for when trying to choose a monitor!

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