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29 July 2021

Best computer monitors 2021

Need a new computer monitor for your PC, or a second computer screen to complement your laptop? We reveal the best computer monitors from our tests, plus run through the key things to consider, and how to avoid paying over the odds.
Michael Passingham

A new computer monitor can transform the way you work. Whether you want to upgrade an older model and reduce eye strain, or want to benefit from second screen, choose from our round-up of the best computer screens - including cheap monitors starting at under £100.

For those who usually work on a laptop, connecting it to a full-sized monitor could be more comfortable and easier on the eyes in the long run. Even if you already have a desktop computer with a separate monitor, a second display could improve your productivity, and make it easier to multitask. 

But not all monitors are created equal. We've found some monitors that display seriously underwhelming colours and narrow viewing angles and others that are fiendishly tricky to use.

To help you avoid the duds, we’ve rounded up the best monitors we’ve tested at a variety of prices. And below that, we’ll take you through the key considerations you need to make when choosing a new computer monitor.

Best computer monitors 2021

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  • 75%
    £168.98

    There’s very little not to like about this monitor. Its picture quality is excellent and it has all the features any home office user could want. It’s a bit of a faff to tweak the settings, but it’s a small downside for what is otherwise an excellent-value monitor. It’s an easy Best Buy.

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  • 73%
    £184.00

    Picture quality is good and its various ergonomic features and USB ports mean it’s a great office companion. It’s expensive, though, so consider whether you need the features before buying.

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  • 71%
    £199.00

    An excellent all-rounder, this monitor is a worthy Best Buy and one of the best 27-inch monitors we’ve tested thanks to its good picture quality and versatile features.

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  • 70%
    £99.99

    This is a brilliant monitor for £100 (or less when it's on discount) and easily the cheapest Best Buy we've tested. Picture quality is good and while it's not brimming with features, it does the basics brilliantly.

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Can't see the monitor you want? Use our computer monitor reviews to buy the right model for your budget.

Computer monitor screen sizes

What monitor screen size is right for you will depend on the available space you have and what you'll be using it for.

Generally speaking, to reap the most benefit from a separate screen, most people should be aiming for at least 22 inches. You can get monitors of this size for around £100. 

Anything smaller and, unless you're sitting very close, you're going to end up having to lean in and squint to see what's on the screen. Plus you won't have the space on the screen to have more than one window or program open at a time.

If you have a desk all to yourself, have plenty of room on it, and have a slightly higher budget, consider a 24-inch screen. This is the size you’ll typically find in most modern offices. This is also the size at which you'll typically some useful extras, such as height adjustment and USB ports.

A 27-inch screen can be great if you have a larger desk. But you’ll want to be sitting a fair distance away from it, so you can still see the whole screen in one glance without having to move your head.

If you don’t have a dedicated workspace, you might want to opt for a very small screen that you can pack away at the end of the working day, such as a 15-inch portable one. But keep in mind that it won't be as useful for multitasking as a proper, full-size screen.

You can also get ultra-wide screens. These range from being around a third wider than a standard monitor, to more than twice as wide. They can be good if you want to have several tasks open on the same screen at once, but you often pay a huge amount for the privilege. 

If you have space, an equally effective – and likely cheaper – alternative is simply having two monitors side by side.

Carefully measure your workspace to establish how much space you realistically have, considering height as well as width (if your workspace is in an alcove, for example). Take into account how much room a stand might take up, too. 

When you’ve shortlisted a few monitors, check the specifications online or download the manual, as this should contain information about dimensions and other features.

Use our computer monitor reviews to choose the best for your budget.

How much to spend on a computer monitor

Monitor prices vary, depending on the size and specifications you go for. As a general guide, here's what it would be sensible to pay for three different screen sizes:

  • £100: 21-22-inch monitor 
  • £120: 24-inch monitor
  • £150: 27-inch monitor

These guide prices reflect how much you'll need to pay to get most (and in some cases all) of the recommended specifications we highlight in this article. 

There are cheaper monitors available. However, while paying less will get you a screen that's easier on your bank balance, it will probably lack the image quality you need to make the monitor comfortable to use for long periods. 

How to find a monitor deal

Monitors aren’t typically found on heavy discount, particularly those that are fairly humdrum and designed for the office. Buying direct from a manufacturer, such as Dell, can yield some good discounts if you happen to stop by during a sales period. 

Though make sure you check our computer monitor reviews first, to make sure the model you're interested in is worth your money.

Generally speaking, though, basic office monitors are typically sold for what they’re worth and discounts aren’t particularly forthcoming.

What are the types of monitor ports?

If you buy a monitor that doesn't have the right ports to connect to your PC or laptop, you'll face the frustration of having to either return it or buy an adaptor. A VGA to HDMI adaptor will set you back around £10-15.

Fortunately, there are now a few standard ports you'll find on most models. The most common types on cheaper monitors are HDMI, DVI and VGA (sometimes called D-Sub), while a few also use the DisplayPort standard. These ports largely do the same thing, although: 

  • On more expensive monitors only HDMI and DisplayPort will be able to handle the high resolutions of QHD and UHD 
  • Only HDMI and DisplayPort can deliver an audio signal, so you'll want to use these if you have your headphones or desktop speakers plugged in via your monitor.

Make sure your computer or laptop has at least one compatible port, so you can easily connect the monitor. If you connect using HDMI, bear in mind that some monitors won't come with an HDMI cable, so you'll need to buy one separately if you don't have a spare. A basic HDMI cable shouldn't cost more than £10.

DVI, DisplayPort, VGA and HDMI diagram

Most laptops have HDMI or VGA ports, so should be straightforward to connect. 

However, if your laptop is very new and very thin, it may only have small USB-C ports - similar to those on a phone charger. You'll need a USB-C to VGA or HDMI adaptor to connect one of these to a monitor.

How to connect two monitors to a laptop or PC

Provided you have the room on your workspace, you could connect to a second external monitor. For desktop PCs this is usually fairly straightforward, as many come with multiple display outputs. For laptops this can be a bit trickier, as they might only have one display output to begin with. 

In these cases, you can often buy a USB docking station that connects over one USB cable and does the work to create two video signals to send to two external monitors. However, these are expensive, often costing in excess of £100. 

Keep in mind that you can always keep your laptop open when using an external monitor, thereby giving you two screens.

Can I use a TV as a monitor?

Yes, although there is something to bear in mind. Often TVs have a fairly significant delay between your inputs and the result appearing on screen. 

This is usually fine if you’re just typing or even watching videos on the TV. But if you’re doing proper multi-tasking work and using a mouse, you will immediately notice the lag between your mouse movements and them appearing on the screen. 

There is no real way to solve this completely, although one thing you can do is activate the ‘game mode’ on your TV. This reduces the amount of image processing your TV does and should reduce the delay between your inputs and them showing on the screen. 

However, as this solution doesn’t entirely solve the problem, we’d recommend using your TV as a second screen if you’re only really using it to watch videos, since anything else will be something of a challenge.

Need a new TV? Our tough lab tests reveal the best for your budget - see our television reviews

Screen resolution – does it matter?

Resolution means the number of dots – known as pixels – that produce the image on your screen. The more dots, the sharper and clearer the image. 

As a minimum, opt for a monitor with Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), otherwise known as 1080p. 

Anything less than this (usually 1,600 x 900 or 'HD' 1,366 x 768) not only risks a fuzzy or pixelated screen, but may be a sign of generally poor display quality. Manufacturers typically don't prioritise great colours and viewing angles if they've skimped on the resolution.

As screen size increases, resolution becomes even more important. If you want a larger screen (27 inches or more), it makes sense to consider something with a higher resolution than Full HD. 

There are two options:

1. QHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels), also known as 1440p or 'Quad HD'

QHD screens are a middle ground between Full HD and the 4K resolutions more commonly associated with TVs. Opting for this resolution on larger screens will mean everything looks smoother and more defined.

2. UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels), also known as 4K, Ultra HD or 2160p

UHD takes things up another notch, although most people won't really need it. It's often popular with gamers; you'll need some powerful hardware to make best use of it, as pushing this many pixels around can put a strain on your graphics card.

Extra computer monitor features

These handy features will add to the overall cost, but are worth looking out for as they will make your monitor easier to use and more comfortable to work with:

  • Adjustable stand: This can help you set up your monitor at the perfect height without having to stack it on top of a pile of recipe books to get comfy.
  • USB hub: Useful if you have lots of desk accessories, such as a mouse, keyboard and USB phone charging cable, and your laptop doesn't have enough USB ports for them all. A monitor with a built-in USB hub means you can connect them all to the monitor instead. Doing this also means you can take your laptop to the sofa, or out and about, and only have to unplug a couple of cables instead of four or five.
  • Portrait mode: If you work with computer code, you might find a screen in vertical orientation is better for your needs. Some monitors allow you to turn them 90 degrees to get the perfect angle.
  • Portability: If you don't have a dedicated desk, opt for a small monitor that has a built-in stand and a case. This means you can work at the dining table, and swiftly transition it back ready for dinner time by picking up the monitor and putting it away. These devices are usually powered over USB via a cable connecting the monitor to your laptop, so there's no need to plug the monitor into the mains

Choosing a gaming monitor

If you’re buying a monitor that will also – or primarily – be used for gaming, your choices will be slightly different. 

Essentially, what turns a general monitor into a gaming monitor is the refresh rate, which is number of times per second that the image on screen updates, measured in Hertz (Hz). 

A standard office monitor updates 60 times per second (60Hz), which is fine for working on documents, spreadsheets and the like. 

However, gamers playing fast-paced games often feel the need for a faster refresh rate, as it allows you to see new details that crucial split-second more quickly – such as an opponent sneaking up on you or ducking out from behind a crate.

A typical gaming monitor will refresh at 144Hz, with others going as high as 240Hz. You generally pay more when you pick a monitor with a faster refresh rate, but if the games you play benefit from lightning-quick reactions, you might think it’s worth it.

Beyond that, it’s important to pick a monitor with a resolution that your computer's graphics card can handle. If you buy an Ultra HD monitor but only have a modest graphics card, your games will run slowly and stutter if you try to play them at the full Ultra HD resolution. The bigger the image your computer has to generate when gaming, the better your graphics card needs to be. 


Need a new laptop or desktop PC? Use the results of our independent tests to pick the right model for your needs: laptop reviews | desktop PC reviews


How much power does a computer monitor use?

Not a lot, actually. If you use your monitor for eight hours a day, five days a week it’ll add between £6 and £8 to your annual electricity bill. 

When they aren’t in use, all monitors go into a very low-power standby mode if they don’t detect any inputs. It's still worth turning it off, though, as there's no sense in wasting energy, even if it is only a very small amount.

Can computer monitors be recycled?

There are various companies and charities that will take away old, unwanted monitors for free. In addition, your local council recycling centre may also accept old electronics.

However, if your screen is still working, you could consider repurposing it. Consider the following:

  • Make yourself a mini kitchen TV by plugging in one of the best TV streaming boxes, or Chromecast and some speakers
  • Connect it to a tablet and run it as a home assistant with all the details of your calendar or the day’s weather
  • Donate it to a local school or computing charity for further use.

Ready to choose the perfect monitor for your study? Head to our computer monitor reviews to see all the models we've tested.