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Buying guide: The best computer display

James Galbraith | Aug. 6, 2014
There's a lot to consider when purchasing a new display: size, resolution, performance, and of course, price. If you're in the market to buy a new display for your computer, we're here to help you decipher the specifications and let you know what features to look for and what you can ignore.

LED backlight: More environmentally friendly than the CCFLs that once dominated the LCD backlight industry, LEDs use less harmful materials, reducing the amount of mercury and other hazardous chemicals that find their way into landfills once a display's useful life has ended. LEDs also require less to time to warm up to a stable brightness than CCFLs.

Ergonomics: Clean, modern designs, slim bezels and ultra thin displays are great. But nothing mars that clean look more than a handful of putty-colored risers stuffed under your display to raise it to an ergonomically comfortable height.

If you're like me, you'll appreciate a display with a flexible, highly adjustable stand that can tilt forward and back, swivel side to side, and raise and lower a few inches to adapt to your needs. Some monitors can pivot from traditional landscape orientation into portrait mode. This can be helpful, depending on the type of work you do — for example, this guide is much longer than it is wide, so switching my display to portrait mode would allow me to see more of it at once.

Audio: Do you want a monitor with built-in speakers? An external set will most likely sound better, but having them integrated into the display can be convenient and helps reduce desktop clutter.

Some displays skip the integrated speakers, but offer audio in and out ports for headphone use. This can be helpful, especially when using a tower computer that sits under your desk. Having the headphone cable elevated can help you keep it out of the way from your keyboard and stretched beneath your desk.

Our top recommendations

The HP Z Display Z27i ($769) is a 27-inch professional desktop monitor with 2560 by 1440 native resolution. It features a high-quality IPS screen, LED backlighting, and an anti-glare that many people — including myself — find desirable. Read our full review.

The 27-inch IPS-Glass Panel Pro LED Monitor ($483) isn't the first Monoprice IPS monitor that I've looked at, but it's the first that doesn't feel like a compromise between price and features. Read our full review.

For owners of the 2011 MacBook Air, the Thunderbolt Display ($999) is a fantastic way to get iMac-like features while still being able to walk away with one of the lightest laptops available. Read our full review.


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