PC monitor reviews: Features explained

How they work

Monitors work by receiving a signal from your computer, which is translated into an on screen picture.

The signal received is analogue or digital. Bulky CRT monitors need an analogue signal. Most of the monitors in our test can use both analogue and digital signals.

Screen size

two guys playing computer games

The viewing angle is important if more than one person wants to see the screen

Screen size is calculated by measuring diagonally from one corner of the screen to the other. An LCD monitor usually has a bigger viewing screen than a CRT monitor as a CRT's measurement often includes the case.

Widescreen

If you're a film buff who plans to use your computer to watch DVDs or create widescreen video, a widescreen monitor will enable you to watch your films in all their glory. They're fine for everyday work. too.

However, the aspect ratio of widescreen films is usually 16:9, whereas the screen ratio of the monitors on test is 16:10 – a similar ratio but not exactly the same. It means that when you watch a film that’s in widescreen, you'll get a narrow black bar at the top and bottom of the screen. 

Viewing angle

Usually one person at a time watches a monitor and that person sits in front of it. This means that the viewing angle – the angle at which picture quality decreases – isn't as important for a monitor.

But if you plan to use your monitor to watch TV and films or play games with others, you need to consider whether those sitting either side of you can enjoy what’s on screen.  Alternatively, you may want a narrow viewing angle to stop people prying into what you are doing.

Although if you're in the habit of getting up and moving around the room while watching your screen, you'll notice a decrease in picture quality, as dark and bright parts of the picture will look similar. We've pulled out the ratings for the viewing angle of each monitor in the test.

Adjusting the settings

If you're going to watch films or edit images and video, you’ll want a perfect picture. This means you’ll need to be able to adjust the monitor’s settings easily. Ideally, monitors should give immediate access to key functions such as contrast and brightness.

Extra features

usb port close-up

Built-in USB ports

You wouldn't expect an LCD monitor to come with many extras, but think again. Some manufacturers are throwing in extra features to persuade customers to buy their products.

USB ports

Some monitors come with built-in USB ports or a USB hub. These can come in handy if you use a lot of USB devices, such as a USB flash drive or a digital camera, as it frees up your PC's own ports.

PCMonitor-with-Speakers

Built-in speakers offer poor sound

This is useful if your computer's USB ports are at the back of the machine, as you won't have to crawl under your desk to access them.

Speakers

Built-in speakers are another common addition. But if you're pernickety about listening to music or film sound effects, it's worth investing in separate speakers.

HD Connections

Some monitors come with connections for viewing in high definition (HD), for use with other HD equipment and media to provide enhanced picture quality.