These days, you can choose a pricey gaming monitor or a cheaper one dedicated for non-gaming use. Important specs differ, depending on usage. Choosing the wrong specs for your needs will deliver lackluster, eye-straining results. This article breaks down essential computer monitor specifications for non-gamers. That includes content creators, office workers, and general computer users.
The key when buying a computer monitor is to choose a model with features that optimize your style of work. That can be difficult since there are so many specs to consider. For instance, should you buy a screen with 4K, 1440p, 1080p, or HD resolution? What’s the difference?
Are refresh rates important for your needs? How about response times? Are flicker-free, G-Sync, or low blue light features important? What do non-gamers need that gamers don’t?
Computer monitor buying parameters
This section breaks down broad concepts for non-gamers shopping for a new monitor. In broad terms, gamers should look for fast refresh rates and low response times. Professional designers should prioritize color accuracy. General-purpose users have less specific needs, with a few options to consider.
Resolution relates to screen size
The higher the monitor resolution, the better the quality of the picture. The resolution tells you how many pixels a monitor can display in a width x height format.
Pixel density and monitor size are also important factors. A standard 1920×1080 resolution delivers a pixel density of 92 PPI on a 24″ screen. Windows 10 works best at a pixel density of 90-110 pixels per inch (ppi).
With a 24″ 1080p monitor delivering 92 PPI, you should sit around 37″ away from the screen for an optimal view. From there, your eyes won’t be able to distinguish pixels on the monitor.
In contrast, a 27″screen at the same resolution will deliver 82 PPI. That results in larger, grainy, more pixelated graphics.
For office or production purposes, a 24″ monitor with an FHD resolution of 1920 x 1080 is ideal. If you want to go larger, consider a 27″ with a resolution of 2560×1440. That is informally called “2K resolution” and more accurately called Quad HD. Quad HD delivers 109 PPI on a 27″ screen. In total, three options deliver a reasonable PPI for general use (credit to displayninja.com):
|Monitor size||Resolution||Pixel density||Optimal viewing distance|
Higher resolutions need a better GPU
The more pixels your monitor has, the more processing power your graphics card needs. 4K images look amazing but demand a GPU that can drive 8.3 million pixels per frame.
In short, a high-resolution monitor will become a hindrance, unless you have a high-end GPU.
Refresh rates and response times irrelevant
Response time is a gamer-centric spec. Shorter is better. This spec tells you how long a monitor takes to change individual pixels from black shades to white. Longer response times cause motion blur when gaming. A cheap gaming monitor will offer a 5ms response time. A high-end model will usually offer a 0.5ms response time.
The refresh rate defines the frequency that the monitor updates with new information per second. That measures in hertz (Hz). Bigger numbers deliver smoother, less choppy images. For gamers, the minimum on a screen should be 75 Hz. Most mid-tier gaming monitors these days offer at least 144 Hz. For non-gamers, a standard refresh rate of 60 Hz works fine.
IPS and VA panels are best
Computer monitors come with a choice of three panel types:
- TN panel monitors: these are the cheapest. They offer decent response times. However, when viewing from a side angle, images look distorted.
- IPS panel monitors: these have the fastest response times. They also provide better viewing angles and better color accuracy.
- VA panel monitors: these have longer response times and show worse wide-viewing angles than IPS screens. On the flipside, VA panels offer the highest contrast ratios, usually over 3000: 1. High contrast ration screens deliver the best contrast with rich blacks and high-quality greyscale performance.
TN panels are the cheapest. VA panels offer better contrast and the sharpest images. VA contrast ratios range from 3000:1 to 6000:1; IPS screens usually have a 1000:1 ratio. In a dark environment, blacks will appear gray on IPS monitors. That makes VA screens a better choice for living room TV screens.
At a PC workstation, VA panels deliver sharper images, but lower refresh rates and slower response times.
IPS screens are the most popular option. IPD (In-Plane Switching) monitors use liquid crystals aligned in parallel to produce colors. Liquid crystals can shift horizontally. As a result, whether you are in front of the screen or at the side, you will always see a sharp, clear image.
Key specs for general-use monitors
Here are some essential specs to consider when shopping for a non-gaming workstation monitor:
Choose an IPS or VA panel
To test the difference, place an IPS and VA monitor side-by-side, with the same brightness and calibration. The VA screen will stand out as having the best image quality every time.
For non-gaming full-timers, contrast, color accuracy, refresh rates, and resolution are key factors to consider. If ultra-sharp images are a priority, consider a VA panel screen with at least a 75 Hz refresh rate. Otherwise, choose an IPS panel screen.
Flicker-free is better for full-time use
Flicker-free monitors are ideal for full-time computer users. Over long periods, a screen that flickers can cause eye strain and headaches.
Cheaper monitors use LED backlighting to enhance image clarity, contrast, and definition. LED backlighting emits blue light waves. Those that radiate at a brighter intensity than natural light. Our eyes are not equipped to protect against intense blue light. Over long computing sessions, prolonged exposure can damage your lenses and retinas.
LED-backlit monitors also flicker through pulse-width modulation (PWM) at lower brightness levels. At brightness 20% lower than the default, PWM will flicker the backlight “on” and “off” at a steady frequency. That flicker causes the pupils to rapidly move from larger to smaller. Over time, that can lead to problems like eye strain and eye fatigue.
Some brands address this with flicker-free technology. For instance, ViewSonic screens use integrated DC modulation LED backlights. Those maintain a constant stream of light to eliminate flicker.
Designers may need certified color accuracy
For designers, precise color control is a must. Monitors vendor-certified as color accurate cost more. However, they deliver very accurate results out of the box. Look for a DeltaE (dE) value of 2 or lower.
Beyond color accuracy, calibration options are useful. Those usually come via on-screen display (OSD) controls or software. Options should let you choose color gamuts, color temperatures, and gamma curves.
Look for sRGB and Adobe RGB standards, plus color temperatures ranging from 5,000 to 7,500K. Gamma presets should be between 1.8 to 2.4. For TV production, look for a monitor that supports the BT.1886 gamma standard.
Best monitors for non-gamer pros
The last thing to do is put these specs together. We do so by building an optimal triple-monitor setup. It uses a 24″ VA panel as the main screen, with a supplemental 21.5″ IPS panel. The system uses a Lenovo Legion 5 as the computing power and also as the third screen in the setup.
Check out the best VA panel and IPS panels to use in such a setup. As well, learn what accessories you need to give your setup an ergonomic edge.