Screens Simplified: How to Find Good Deals on Monitors

Understanding screen specs can help you find monitor deals that work for you.

Oct 27

Monitors are the frontman of the computer world. They may not be the brains of the operation, but the show can’t go on without them. You can have the most powerful processor and the beefiest GPU, but without a screen, all you really have is a very large desk ornament that can charge your phone. 

The right monitor lets you access everything your computer can do, from enjoying the full extent of your machine’s visual capabilities to just taking advantage of modern features like snap layouts and widgets. If you're used to working on a laptop or buying a full computer setup with packaged components, you might be surprised by how much goes into finding a good monitor for your computer. 

How to Shop for a Monitor

Whether you spend hours gaming and yelling at the screen, create all kinds of visual goodies as a graphic designer, or simply looking for a better display for work or leisure, selecting the right monitor can greatly enhance your computing experience. Once you've got a handle on that, it won't be that hard to find a good deal on a monitor that still fits your needs. 

Breaking down monitor specs

1. Monitor size and resolution

One of the most fundamental aspects of choosing a monitor is its size and resolution, and it may also be the easiest part to really understand. When considering how big the viewing surface is, make sure you know which dimension is being measured. Monitor size is measured diagonally, so there hasn’t been a mistake if your 15.6" monitor measures 13.6" wide across the top.

"Resolution" is just a fancy way of saying the number of pixels on the screen. A higher number means more detail. Higher resolutions provide crisper images, but they may require more powerful graphics cards to handle them. Common resolutions include:

  • Full HD (1920x1080)
  • Quad HD (2560x1440)
  • Ultra HD, also known as 4K (3840x2160) 

2. Panel type

Monitor panels create the images that go on your screen. Monitors come with different panel technologies, each offering distinct advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most common panel types include:

IPS (In-Plane Switching): Known for vibrant colors and wide viewing angles, making them suitable for content creators and graphic designers.

TN (Twisted Nematic): These panels are budget-friendly but offer limited viewing angles and color accuracy, making them better for gamers on a tight budget.

VA (Vertical Alignment): Offering good contrast and deeper blacks, VA panels are a balanced choice for various applications.

3. Refresh rate and response time

The refresh rate measures how quickly the image on your screen updates based on input from the computer. A higher refresh rate, like 144Hz or 240Hz, results in smoother motion and reduced motion blur. A lower response time, usually measured in milliseconds (ms), means that fast-paced action is displayed without ghosting or blurring.

4. Connectivity options

Monitors have changed a lot from the days of yore, which means there are a lot of ways to connect monitors depending on the age and type of device. Legacy devices may use VGA connectors, which need an adapter if you’re connecting to a new computer. Common modern ports include HDMI, DisplayPort, USB-C. If you plan to connect multiple devices, a monitor with a built-in USB hub can simplify your setup. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one that can connect to your computer and pull power from the same port. 

5. Color accuracy and calibration

If you're working in any visual field like photography, video editing, or graphic design, color accuracy is crucial. Look for monitors that offer high color accuracy and consider purchasing a color calibrator to ensure your monitor displays colors as accurately as possible. 

6. Additional features

Consider any additional features that might enhance your experience. This could include built-in speakers or an adjustable stand. For laptop owners, this also means deciding if you want a second monitor that’s actually attached to your computer or a free-standing screen you can move around. 

Are Refurbished Monitors Worth It?

New or new to you? Monitors are like any other tech, and there are some awesome refurbished deals out there, but shopping for refurbished electronics means you have to know what you’re looking for.

You aren’t just checking hardware specifications. You also have to keep an eye on the quality of the restoration. It’d be a pretty major disappointment to boot up your computer and find a patch of dead pixels front and center — which would probably drive you crazy.

One of the primary attractions of refurbished monitors is that they’re naturally going to be cheaper than brand-new models, and sometimes they even have similar specs to their off-the-shelf counterparts. 

Keep in mind: Buying refurbished isn’t the same thing as grabbing a used monitor at a garage sale. Refurbished devices undergo rigorous inspection and testing processes to ensure they meet specific standards before being resold, and they’re labeled so you know what you’re looking at. Be sure to check the refurbished grade to get a good idea of what’s going to arrive on your doorstep.

As good as refurbished monitors can be, if you need the absolute latest technology in pristine condition, searching for a deal on a new monitor may be the best option. 

Which Monitor Should You Get?

Depending on what you’re using your monitor for, you might need to look for different elements within the specs.

For professional gamers, a high refresh rate and low response time are critical to staying competitive. The fluid motion and reduced ghosting can mean the difference between victory and defeat. On the other hand, graphic designers may need a monitor with accurate color reproduction, as color-critical work demands precision and consistency. A well-calibrated monitor could ensure that the colors you see on the screen match the finished product.

In office settings, productivity and screen real estate are best friends. One study even found workers are up to 42% more productive with a dual-monitor setup, and the sheer luxury of being able to view an entire spreadsheet without scrolling attests to that.

Multitasking also becomes a breeze, as you can comfortably have multiple windows open side by side. The increased screen space could benefit creative professionals who work with large images or video editing software. And don’t forget that means you can have work in one window and something fun in another. Power through your to-do list while you binge your comfort shows.

Leisure is important too, and it’s worth it to find the right monitor even if you’re just going to be using it to stream Friends on repeat. If you’re used to a dull monitor with dead pixels, pivoting to a screen with vibrant colors, deep blacks, and a good contrast ratio could make movies and games come to life. 

Portable monitors

Lightweight and mobile, these monitors are good to go whether you’re setting them up in a presentation room or giving your laptop some room to breathe with a plug-and-play second screen. 

Portable monitors come in two categories: freestanding and attached. Attached monitors stick to the back or side of your laptop. Freestanding portable monitors usually look like a tablet you plug into your computer. Attached monitors may be more portable, but freestanding monitors allow for a wider variety of placements and could be beneficial to desktop users as well. 

Attached portable monitors

Freestanding portable monitors 

Monitor PC bundles

Sometimes the cart comes with the horse. If you’re looking for a deal on a monitor and a computer, check out these bundles that put it all together for you.

Solo monitors

Whether you’re looking for a single screen or a good deal on a second monitor, we’ve got you covered with a range of monitor types, specs, and budgets. Hint: they may be sold individually, but they aren’t all solo screens. 

Prices subject to change. 

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