How to buy a monitor for gaming or working from home

If you're in the market for a monitor, CNET's buying guide will set you on the right

Curated via Twitter from CNET News’s twitter account….

Other things being equal, a display tends to get more expensive as resolution, screen size, refresh rate, brightness and the number and type of features increases.

Screen size labeling is based on the length of the diagonal: That made it easy to compare when almost every screen had the same aspect ratio (the ratio of the number of horizontal pixels to vertical pixels) but wide and ultrawide screens on desktop and newer ratios on laptops (such as 3:2 or 16:10) make it a little more difficult.

What you really want to optimize is pixel density, the number of pixels per inch the screen can display, because that’s what determines how sharp the screen looks (though there are some other factors), as well as how big elements of the interface, such as icons and text, can appear.

What those mean — or should mean — is the monitor has been tuned and calibrated so that the difference between a set of color patches as displayed on the screen is the same within a small margin of error to a set of reference patches within the bounds of a specific color space.

If you remember your geometry and algebra, you can calculate the width and height of the display if you also know the aspect ratio. (Because width/height = aspect ratio and width² + height² = diagonal²! ) The further from 1:1 the aspect ratio is the wider the screen and more of it will be out to the sides, and therefore in your peripheral vision if you’re  close.

For any task in which frame rate (frames per second) matters, refresh rate may be an issue. (That predominantly means gaming, though high-frame-rate video editing or viewing may also be affected. ) 60Hz is the minimum you want for comfort — most monitors support that — and 75Hz is comfortable for most nongaming uses.

For example, the Adobe RGB color space was designed to encompass real-world colors on a display for reproducing in print. sRGB was designed as a lowest-common-denominator standard for colors used by typical consumer monitors viewing the web.

This is the number of times per second (in Hertz, or Hz) the screen can update, and affects motion blur and artifacts like tearing, which occur when the rate at which the graphics card is feeding the display and the display’s refresh rate differ significantly.

Resolution, the number of vertical x horizontal pixels that comprise the image, is inextricable from screen size when you’re choosing a monitor.

When hooking up to a laptop, you need to make sure that you’ve got the right connections: some USB-C or USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports support a feature called alt-display mode, which means you can use a USB-C to HDMI or USB-C to DisplayPort cable (or adapter) to connect to a monitor with those connections.

For instance, if you want a really fast gaming monitor for play and a high-resolution display for work, it’s a lot cheaper to get two than a single one that does both.

Plus, for gamers, having a primary computer display for working and a TV hooked up for gaming may make sense. Want to do that?  Here’s how to use your 4K TV as a monitor.

But larger monitors without a curve at a more common 16:9 aspect ratio would require you to be bobbleheaded because they’d be quite tall: 24 inches (61 cm) high for a 49-inch monitor versus 19 inches (48 cm).

To me, curved monitors are the best way to make a single display wider without forcing you to sit too far back; that’s why they make more sense for a desktop monitor than for a TV.

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