Best monitor 2017: Buying a computer screen can be hard, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. In this guide and round-up, we’ll explain the jargon of monitors, tell you what to look out for and round-up our current favourites.
How we test:
For our reviews we use a combination of our own intuition and experience along with more quantitative tools. These include the X-Rite i1 Display Pro for getting brightness, contrast and accuracy figures. We also use this tool to calibrate screens to see what they’re capable of at their absolute best. We also use a Leo Bodnar input lag tester to see how suitable each panel is for gaming.
Monitor Buying Guide – Jargon Buster
Brightness (luminance) – This is simple enough, but it’s worth knowing that brightness is measured in ‘nits’. Many monitors boast a maximum brightness of 300 nits or more, but it’s normally recommended to use a monitor at about half that much to avoid eye strain.
Black level – This is also measured in nits, but refers to how ‘black’ a monitor can appear. The lower the number, normally around 0.5 nits or less, the better. A low black level is particularly important for enjoying high definition films and TV.
Contrast ratio – This is the difference between the darkest and brightest peak of a monitor and is expressed as a ratio. A contrast ratio of 1,000:1 is considered good, but the higher the better. Anything less than 800:1 is average.
Input lag – This is something that mainly impacts gamers as it’s the difference in time between you moving your mouse and the action appearing on screen. We test this on all monitors, but it’s only a concern if you play fast games like first person shooters.
Resolution – What’s the difference between Full HD, Quad HD and 4K?
Resolution is one of the most important things to consider. It refers to how many pixels make up the screen. For example, a Full HD monitor – which is the same resolution as most TVs – will have 1,920 horizontal lines of pixels and 1,080 vertical lines.
The higher the resolution the sharper your monitor will appear. A higher resolution also means you can fit more on a single screen, so you can view windows side-by-side at the same time.
Just remember that the bigger the screen the less sharp it will appear, so it’s better to have a higher resolution on larger screens of 27-inches and above.
There are three common monitor resolutions:
Full HD – 1,920 x 1,080 – Best for 24-inch monitors and below
Quad HD – 2,560 x 1,440 – Best for 27-inch monitors and below
4K / Ultra HD – 3,840 x 2,160 – Best for 27-inch monitors and above
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We have lots of extra information on monitor technology and how to choose what’s best for you. If you’re looking for a gaming screen, check out our guide to refresh rates. Want to know more about how colour coverage is measured, check our guide to colour spaces. Finally, if you’re curious about the differences between IPS, VA and TN screen panels, take a look at our screen technology explainer.
Big-screen 4K: Philips BDM4037UW
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- 40-inch 3840 x 2160 VA panel
- 4000:1 contrast
- High colour coverage
- Review price: £600
Philips is known for its quality TVs and Ambilight tech, but its monitor brand (a completely separate business, licenced to another company) is looking to get in on the action with the TV-sized BDM4037UW.
Standing at a mighty impressive 40 inches with a slight curve, this is the ultimate TV replacement for those who want big-screen computing with a side of 4K video streaming.
Covering almost 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and 85% of the Adobe RGB gamut, this is a high-quality panel that has no huge weaknesses. Our only real complaint is that its actual colour accuracy isn’t as good as IPS panels, which leads to some bright colours looking a bit overcooked.
If you’re going to be using this screen for console gaming, you’ll be pleased with the 12.5ms response time, which is faster than the vast majority of TVs. For mouse + keyboard PC gamers, that will feel a bit lethargic; this isn’t a panel for twitchy eSports games.
Budget for headphones or speakers, too, as the built in speakers here are very poor. Otherwise, this is one of the best big monitors you can buy.