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The Business Buyer's Guide to: Monitors (Updated for 2021)

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Monitors Buying Guide for Business

Executive Summary

  • Your computer monitor is, in many ways, a window into your business. That’s why you’ll want to make the right choice when buying a new one.
  • In this Get Support Buyer’s Guide, we’ll share everything you should be looking out for when buying a new monitor for business use in 2021.
  • The guide will cover everything from display size, resolution, accessibility features, multi-monitor setups, VESA mounting, and much more.

Introduction

When’s the last time you really thought about your PC monitor?

For most of us, it’s not really something we consider – until it’s time to upgrade. A

All of a sudden, you’ll become aware that your monitor is like a window into your business, and that’s why you’ll want to make sure you’re buying the best.

But you also need to consider cost, and features, and future-proofing. Yep… there’s a lot more to this than you might think.

But don’t worry, because we’ve put together a top-to-bottom buyer’s guide for small businesses.

Here’s everything you need to consider when buying a new business monitor in 2021 (and beyond).

Quick Tips for Buying a Business Monitor

Don’t have time to read through the entire buyer’s guide right now? No sweat. Here are our key takeaways and recommendations when buying a business monitor in 2021:

  • The higher the resolution, the better the image quality. 4K is the best picture quality you can buy in business-grade monitors, but it’s probably not worth it for business use unless you do design, photography or video work, or prefer a larger monitor (over 25”).
  • Multi-monitor setups are great for productivity. Having more than one monitor gives you much more space to get things done, and setting them up is probably a lot easier than you think.
  • Consider your audio setup. Some monitors come with built-in speakers, but if you require high-quality sound, they won’t cut the mustard. In this case, you could save money by plumping for a monitor without built-in sound.

Part I: Form Factor

While there are plenty of technical aspects to consider for your new monitor, your first port of call should ideally be around form factor.

After all, what good is ordering a new monitor if it’s going to arrive and take up more than half of your desk space? That’s why you’ll need to think about the physical dimensions of the monitor before you buy.

Most online listings will include size details such as the height, width, and depth of the unit itself, so it’s a smart idea to measure the space you have available on your desk before starting your search.

Beyond the space needed on your desk, here are the other key considerations around monitor form factor:

  • Screen size. It might seem like bigger is always better, but when it comes to business monitors, that’s not always the case. Unlike TVs, you sit very close to your monitor while working, so choosing a larger screen size can actually be counter-intuitive – and may in fact cause eye-strain or headaches. That’s why a screen size of 23 or 24 inches is ideal for most business users. The only exception here is if you work with graphic design, photography, or if you frequently sit with clients and review content on your monitor. In these cases, a 27-inch monitor would be a good choice, or even a multi-monitor setup should you have the desk space.
  • Multi-monitor setups. Being more productive is often about making smart use of the space you have available. A multi-monitor setup is the ideal way to increase the amount of virtual real estate you have available without needing to install a television-sized monitor. Two 23-inch monitors linked together with an extended desktop in Windows can give you a highly productive workspace without dominating your desk. If you’re thinking of going multi-monitor, you should also look at the bezel size of each monitor. That’s the plastic border around the display, and, when it comes to multi-monitor, the thinner, the better.
  • Curved or flat monitors? Some might see curved monitors as a bit of a gimmick, and if you’re buying just a single monitor, there might be some truth to this. In that case, a classic flat-panel monitor, properly positioned, will be ideal. However, if you are going for a multi-monitor setup, curved monitors can actually be a big benefit. The reason is that, rather than having a sharp angle between them, the monitors will curve around you. You always wanted to look like a hacker from a 90s movie, right?
  • Ultra-wide monitors. Hey, remember when LCD monitors were just small squares and seemed like the most futuristic thing in the world? Us too, but those days are long gone. Now, most monitors use the widescreen (16:9) aspect ratio, and most content is tailored for this ratio, too. That said, you can now find ultra-wide monitors, which use the 21:9 aspect ratio. In plain English, that means they’re the same height, but wider. This means you’ll have more horizontal space to work with, but do bear in mind that not all apps are optimised for ultra-wide. Because of this, the standard 16:9 widescreen is usually the way to go.

Part II: Screen Resolution

Next up, we’re going to look at an element of PC monitors which is intrinsically linked with screen size – and that’s resolution.

In plain English, your monitor’s resolution refers to the number of pixels, or dots, on the screen which come together to form the picture. The more pixels you have, the higher the resolution; the higher the resolution, the more clear and sharp the image will be. It also means you can fit more stuff (like windows or apps) on the screen at once.

How does resolution relate to the display size of the monitor? Well, it’s all about something called pixel density. We won’t go into too much depth, but it’s worth mentioning that a lower resolution on a larger screen will always deliver inferior visual quality.

Think about those pixels that make up the image: the fewer of them there are, the larger they’ll appear relative to the screen size. This means certain images might look blocky or blurry at low resolutions, and it’ll be even more noticeable on large screens. Of course, the reverse is also true, high resolutions on small screens are almost pointless, because the pixels are so small that the human eye can’t differentiate them. (Fun fact: this is where Apple’s term “Retina Display” comes from).

Okay, with the technical bit out of the way, here’s what you should look for when it comes to screen resolution on your next business monitor:

  • 720p (HD Ready), which represents a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, is fairly uncommon these days, but it’s still technically “HD”, so worth a mention. You might find this on smaller laptops, but any monitor with a 720p screen is almost guaranteed to be a budget model and will deliver an inferior experience, especially for productivity.
  • 1080p (HD), which represents a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, is the most common desktop resolution for business users – and for good reason. It offers a great balance of visual clarity and available screen real estate. 1080p is the ideal resolution for display sizes up to and including 24 inches.
  • 1440p (QHD), which represents a resolution of 2560 x 1440, or Quad HD, is a lesser-known option, but it’s gaining popularity, even with business users. Striking the balance between 1080p and 4K, 1440p offers a lot more screen space and sharpness, but without compromising on legibility or requiring excessive scaling (as we’ll see in a moment).
  • 4k (Ultra HD), which represents a resolution of 3840 x 2160, or Ultra HD, is the cream of the crop when it comes to consumer-grade resolutions. It such a high resolution, in fact, that you’ll see almost no benefit on any monitor below 27 inches. There’s a reason 4K is more common on televisions of 50+ inches – the pixel density is incredibly high. It’ll make your Word docs look sharper than ever, sure, but some of the benefit will be absorbed by the fact that Windows actually scales 4K resolutions by default. Quite simply, the pixels are so small that it gets difficult to see UI elements, like the Start button, and so Windows makes them bigger for you.

Part III: Panel Types

Here’s where things get a little bit technical, but don’t worry, we’re going to break it down in plain English – as always.

At the heart of any business monitor is the physical screen itself, also known as the panel. But there’s not just one type of panel – there are at least three that you’re likely to come across when searching for a new monitor. They’re also not equal, in the sense that each type of monitor panel will offer different benefits and drawbacks. None of them are ‘perfect’, so to speak, but you should be able to decide based on personal preference which balance you’d like to strike.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the three panel types you’re likely to find: TN, IPS, and VA.

TN (Twisted Nematic) might sound like the name of a Finnish heavy metal band, but the TN panel is one of the longest-serving of all flat-panel displays. TNs are a solid all-round performer when it comes to image quality, as well as delivering the lowest response and high refresh rates (more on these later). TN panels also tend to be more affordable than other options. The downside of the TN is that it offers poorer viewing angles than its counterparts, and a lower contrast ratio, so colours can look washed-out.

IPS (In Plane Switching) monitors are a newer entry to the market and quickly becoming popular thanks to their excellent colour reproduction. IPS panels are often used in modern smartphones to create that visual brilliance, and support wider colour gamuts (again, we’ll look at this more closely later, but it essentially means more colours). The downside of IPS is that the backlight often produces what’s known as “IPS glow” on darker scenes, meaning the black levels can be poorer than the alternatives.

VA (Vertical Alignment) monitors are the most recent addition to the monitor panel technology line-up. VA panels effectively strike a balance between TN and IPS, delivering decent colour reproduction, viewing angles, and contrast. The downside of VA is that it’s not yet very common among monitor manufacturers, so can be more expensive, and it can have motion blur or “ghosting” issues at higher screen refresh rates.

Before we move on to the next section, a quick word about backlight technology.

As you’re researching your next business monitor, you’ll most likely come across two types of monitor: LCD or LED. These have nothing to do with the panel itself, but instead the lighting technology, and are essentially two ways of saying the same thing. All monitors, TN, IPS, or VA, use LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology to create the image on screen, and the LED (Light Emitting Diode) is the technology which creates the light so you can see it.

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is another type of high-end panel, but it’s very uncommon in business monitors, so we’ll leave that for another article.

Part IV: Adjustability and Ergonomics

How much time do you spend on front of your monitor each week? For many of us, it’s at least 40 hours — or, very likely, much more.

When you’re spending so much of your time looking at a screen, you’ll want to be sure you’re not putting your physical health at risk. That means your posture matters, and a good posture when sitting at a desk relies on the monitor being adjustable enough.

It’s with this that we hit upon our next key consideration: adjustability and ergonomics.

A good business monitor should be able to adjust in two essential ways:

  • The monitor must be height adjustable. This means you’re able to raise or lower the monitor, usually using a bracket on the rear of the unit or on the stand itself.
  • The monitor must have the ability to tilt. This will give you more fine-grain control of exactly where your screen is positioned compared to your eye-line.

The combination of height and tilt adjustment will ensure you’re not being forced to bend your neck or back in ways which could be damaging in the long term. Likewise, this level of adjustability helps you ensure your back is straight and arms are comfortable for typing and using the mouse. This is all basic ergonomics, but it’s a vital consideration, especially if you’re something of a workaholic.

Still can’t find a comfortable position for working even with height and tilt adjustments? Then you might want to consider a monitor support arm which can be connected using a VESA mount. Most monitors today include VESA compatibility, which is a specific pattern of fixings on the back of the monitor which you can use to mount the monitor to enable a new world of adjustability. Monitor arms with VESA mounts can be positioned far more precisely than just height and tilt options, and could even be used to create a “stand-up” desk setup or a vertical setup with your monitor in the portrait orientation.

Whatever you choose, thinking about how you’ll interact with your monitor from an ergonomic standpoint is important before you buy. Because, believe us, waiting until afterwards is usually the more painful way to do it.

Part V: Ports and Connectivity

There’s nothing worse than picking out a brand new monitor, eagerly awaiting its arrival, unboxing it, then realising that it’s not compatible with your computer.

The most common cause of incompatibility with computer monitors is the ports and connections required to hook up the unit. Thankfully, most of these have been standardised across the board with modern monitors, so there’s no need to spend hours Googling to find out what that little blue monitor plug does.

(It’s VGA, by the way, but they’re not really used anymore — so no need to worry).

Here are the most common ports and connections you need to know about when buying a monitor in 2021:

  • HDMI 2.0 / 2.1 is a video and audio connection which you’ll find on most monitors and televisions. It’s a good all-rounder for most computer uses and will support most resolutions, including the most popular choice, 1080p.
  • DisplayPort (DP) also carries audio and video from the computer to the screen, but it generally has broader support for resolutions and refresh rates. So, for example, if you’re looking for 120Hz at 4K resolution, you’ll need DisplayPort.
  • DVI-D, or Digital Visual Interface, is a slightly older format which only carries video signals. Because it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, dual-link DVI only supports resolutions up to 2560 x 1600.

These three are the common audiovisual connections you’ll find on monitors, but you might also want to think about peripherals:

  • USB Type-C is fast becoming the must-have connection for monitors, computers, laptops, and plenty of other tech too. USB-C is able to carry audio, video, power (for charging), and data, so it’s an incredibly versatile bit of tech. That’s probably why it’s being included on many newer monitors. If you’re looking for future-proofing, USB-C might be the way to go.
  • USB 2.0 / 3.0 might be a few years (or decades) old at this point, but it’s still got it where it counts. Millions of devices all over the world – including every USB stick you have in that drawer at home – still support USB for both charging and data transfer. Even if Apple might not agree, a monitor with a couple of USB supports will remain useful for years to come.
  • Thunderbolt is an odd one, because the standard has changed a couple of times over the years. Primarily a Mac-based port, Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use the same connection as a mini-DisplayPort (miniDP), whereas Thunderbolt 3 uses the same connection as USB-C. Oddly, these connections are not all compatible with one another. In short, Thunderbolt isn’t for the faint of heart.
  • Headphone jack. While we’re on the topic of Apple, we couldn’t let this one slide. If you use headphones a lot, or you want an easy way to hook up some speakers, choosing a monitor with a headphone jack is the best way to achieve both. Foregoing the headphone jack might feel courageous, but it’s not always the most practical option – especially if, like many modern options, your monitor doesn’t have built-in speakers.

Part VI: Optional Features for Advanced Users

Before we wrap things up for this monitor buyer’s guide, we’d like to spend a few moments looking at some of the more advanced features you’ll find in monitors today.

This stuff will only really apply if you work in visual design industries or otherwise need absolute accuracy in your monitors. That said, if you’re interested in some of the most cutting-edge monitor technologies, we’ll go through a few of these below — and they might just pique your interest.

  • Response time refers to how quickly your monitor reacts to the commands you give to it. For example, when move the mouse with your hand, how quickly does the cursor move on screen? This is usually measured in milliseconds, and anything under 10ms will be more than adequate for business use – though some TN panels will deliver as fast as 1ms response times.
  • Refresh rate is all about how frequently your monitor updates the image on the screen. Just like a movie reel, your computer is delivering still images at a rapid rate to create the movement you see. Most business monitors use the 60Hz refresh rate (i.e. the image updates 60 times per second), though some higher end or gaming monitors boast refresh rates of 144Hz or even higher. In practical terms, however, anything over 60Hz will be overkill for a business user.
  • Colour gamut refers to the palette of colours which your monitor is able to reproduce. Most standard monitors use the “sRGB” colour gamut, so anything between 95% and 100% coverage is going to be a solid performer for colour accuracy. Higher end monitors may also support Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), such as DCI-P3, which is used for content with expanded colour range, like HDR.
  • HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a newer technology which is slowly making its way from televisions to monitors. It primarily refers to how bright a monitor can get at any one time, and it’s measured in “nits”. We go into too much detail, except to say that, for business use, HDR is practically unnecessary. Even graphic designers are unlikely to need HDR, and it’s most commonly seen in the realm of movies and video games. So unless you need to kick back with a movie at lunch time, you can safely ignore HDR on your search for a business monitor.

Our recommendations for a business monitor in 2021

Now that you’re a veritable expert on PC monitors for business, you should be all set to start your search for your next monitor.

If you’re still a little unsure of exactly what you should be looking for, don’t worry. We’ve put together a list of what we see as the best option for most business users in 2021. Of course, if you do any specialised design work or similar, you’ll want something different – but for most businesses working with email, browsers, and video calls, look for the following:

  • Form factor: 23- or 24-inch screen size, or a two-monitor multi-screen setup for high-productivity.
  • Display resolution: 1080p screen resolution
  • Panel Type: TN or IPS
  • Adjustability: Tilt and height adjustment
  • Ports: DisplayPort or HDMI
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Response time: 5ms or less

No time to pick and choose? Talk to Get Support

If there’s one thing that’s clear from this buyer’s guide, it’s that buying a monitor for your business is far from simple.

If you simply don’t have time to spend online comparing monitors to find the best fit for your company, don’t worry – Get Support is here to help.

As part of our IT support agreements, we work closely with our clients to deliver a fully costed IT hardware plan, including detailed recommendations of items like PC monitors. We can even deal with the logistics of having them delivered and installed – it’s all part of the service.

To learn more about how Get Support could simplify your IT support and save you time and money, call our friendly team today on 01865 59 4000 or just fill in the form below.

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