Basic Guide to Understanding Monitor Specifications

Image of two computer screens

Each year brings a new generation of technology that introduces a broad number of innovations. These are tailored to make life easier for users and offer them more possibilities and functionality.

However, the number of specifications that describe monitors aren’t quite as easy to understand as these monitors are made to be used. If you want the display of the future, how do you find this in the technical specifications?

What Types of Displays are There?

There are a few types of displays on the market. These are IPS, LED, LCD, and touchscreen displays.

First, let’s take a look at in-plane switching (IPS) displays. The goal of these monitors is to provide the best color range possible for on-screen images. In addition, the viewing angle is wide, so you won’t see distorted colors when looking at it from some angles.

Light-emitting diode (LED) displays are focused on providing bright colors to users. Additionally, they are more energy-efficient than, for example, LCD models.

Speaking of LCD models, this stands for liquid-crystal display. These are typically the most inexpensive options for monitors but don’t come with the wide viewing angles of IPS displays or quite as bright images of an LED model.

Touchscreen displays are precisely what they sound like. Much like your smartphone or tablet, these displays enable you to control the screen with your finger instead of with a mouse. When you are looking for one of these displays, it is best to look for designs such as edge-to-edge glass to make swiping easy.

Display Size

One of the first things you will see when shopping for a monitor is the display size. Usually measured in inches from corner to corner of the screen.

The important note here is that bigger is not always better. While a gamer or photographer might want a large screen to work on, you might find a 34-inch monitor for your small bedroom desk a little bulky.

Another choice you have is between a traditional or curved monitor. Curved monitors are often more expensive and more expansive than their straight-edged counterparts.


Resolution is another essential feature to consider when you are shopping for a monitor. This gives you the size of the display screen in pixels rather than inches. For example, if a monitor’s resolution is 1920 x 1080, this means that the display is 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall.

Generally, the lower the resolution, the more affordable a monitor is. However, the higher the resolution on a monitor, the better the picture will be. The lowest resolution on an HD monitor is 1366 x 768, and the highest resolutions are usually measured at 4k although 5k displays are starting to appear in the market.

Picture of two computer monitorsContrast Ratio

Another essential thing to consider about the display is the contrast ratio. This is the difference in the light intensity of colors ranging from white (the brightest) to black (the darkest). This is measured in two ways.

The first is active/dynamic ratio which is measured over a period and the second is a static ratio, which captures the measures the brightest and darkest colors at a point in time. The static ratio is what you want to focus on.

Response Time

Response time is concerned with how quickly a monitor can refresh an image. For many computers, under a lot of stress, the response time is lower meaning images get blurrier. However, monitors with a low response time will give you a smooth image consistently.

Response time is especially important if you are looking for a gaming computer. After all, the faster your monitor can display your game smoothly, the less you will be struggling with lag.

Refresh Rates

If response time is how quickly a monitor refreshes images, is the refresh rate just a synonym? Well, no.

Refresh rates refer to how often the monitor updates the image rather than how quickly the refresh itself happens. This is measured in times per second, and the specifications are measured in Hz. So, if the specs read 240 Hz, this means the monitor refreshes the images on it 240 times in a second. Unlike response time, the higher the refresh rate, the better.

Viewing Angle

We noted earlier that IPS displays have wider viewing angles but what exactly does this mean?

Particularly with older computers, you might notice that if you look at a monitor from the wrong angle, you see different, blurred colors. In the monitors of today and tomorrow, though, the focus is on broader viewing angles. The wider the viewing angle, the wider the angle you can look at the screen without noticing any color distortion.

The way that a viewing angle is described in degrees. For example, a monitor might have a 160-degree viewing angle. This means that not only can you see the colors accurately when sitting directly in front of the screen but when you move 80 degrees on either side.


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