This page last updated: March 2018
There’s no need to spend more than you can afford
The top-of-the-range professional monitors are amazing quality, with a price tag to match. I’d love to own a huge Eizo ColorEdge monitor, but it’s hard to justify all those thousands of dollars, you know?
If you are lucky enough to have plenty of money, you should head straight for the Eizo and NEC websites. These two brands are widely regarded as the best available.
Most of us have to settle for a monitor that suits our needs, at a price we can afford. Fortunately, this is quite easy – there are more good screens, cheaper, on the market every day. The trouble is, you have to interpret and ignore a lot of marketing hype when looking at specifications.
Budget constraints – Size versus quality
If you have a budget in mind, whether it’s $200 or $1200, you’ll invariably face a choice: big monitor of average quality, or smaller monitor of better quality.
I would encourage you to choose the latter. Better to have a smaller monitor which produces good results, than a magnificent big monitor which shows different colors every time you move your head.
In my office, I have two small screens – one good expensive one, and a regular cheap one beside it. I edit on the good one, and have my panels and windows and stuff on the cheap one. This way, I have lots of screen space, without undue expense. This might be something for you to consider too.
Anyway, let’s talk about specs …
Panel type: IPS
Commonly, there are two broad types of screens – TN and IPS (“Twisted Nematic” and “In-Plane Switching”.)
TN panels are the common kind – the ones that most people have in their homes and offices. They’re cheap, and shiny, and not very good for digital imaging, because of their poor viewing angles. They look lighter or darker depending on where your head is. This makes photographic work a bit difficult and frustrating.
IPS screens are the bee’s knees. Their viewing angles are fantastic, and their color reproduction is almost always better.
For a while, IPS panels were rare and expensive, but in the last few years many manufacturers have joined the IPS market, and there are some excellent monitors available at great prices. Yes, they’re more expensive than TNs, but that gap is closing, and they’re certainly worth it. There is really no excuse for an imaging enthusiast not to have an IPS screen nowadays.
At this stage, it’s not common to be able to buy an IPS screen off the shelf of your local computer store, so you’ll probably need to go online. There won’t be any ambiguity – if it’s an IPS screen, it will proudly say so in the specs, or even in the title.
Gloss vs Matte
If at all possible, you should buy a matte screen. Shiny gloss screens look sexy, but the reflections will drive you crazy.
It might not be called “matte”. It might be called “non-reflective” or “anti-glare” or something like that.
Sadly, I’ve found that this simple piece of information can be darned hard to find. Sometimes you have to search the product reviews very diligently to discover whether a screen is glossy or matte.
Sometimes I’m asked “Should I buy an LCD or an LED screen?”
This is a simple misunderstanding. You see, LED screens are LCD screens. All LCD screens are illuminated by lights behind them – the older ones had flourescent lights, while most newer ones have LEDs back there.
So, if somebody tells you they have an LED screen, what they actually mean is that they have an LED LCD screen. I hope I’ve explained that ok.
Nowadays, almost all new LCD screens are the LED type.
As you go up in the price range, you’ll find some wide-gamut monitors. This means that they are capable of showing more vivid colors than the average monitor.
If you’re comparing two monitors that are the same size, and seem to be the same specs, and you can’t figure out why they’re quite different in price, check the gamut. The more expensive one will probably boast “Adobe RGB gamut”, or “110% gamut”, or words to that effect.
If you can afford one of these, go for it! But I encourage you to read this article so you’re fully aware of the considerations.
Pixels are getting smaller and smaller and smaller. It’s only a few years since a 19″ screen used to be 1024 or 1280 pixels across; now they’re up to 1920, or even more. You’ll see terms like “4K” and “5K” proudly advertised.
The first impression might be that more pixels must be better, but gee, is it just me or is text getting much harder to read now? It’s so darn tiny. Call me old, but I don’t mind bigger pixels. And in my line of work, it’s really important for me to be able to see pixels, you know?
Anyway, it’s up to you. Just something to consider, that’s all. Higher resolution might not necessarily be better.
Reminder: The importance of calibration
No matter what monitor you get, it’s likely to be too bright and too blue when you first turn it on.
If you are serious enough about your images to be reading this article, you’re surely serious enough to get your monitor calibrated. You’ll find general information about monitor calibration here, and buying tips here.
If you have a screen which is LED, or wide-gamut, or both, make doubly sure you have a calibrator which is compatible with it. Any new calibrators should be ok, but if you are buying a second hand device, check carefully to make sure it suits your monitor.
Some suggested models
If you’ve read this far down the page, you should be armed with enough information to shop intelligently for your next screen.
On my other Recommendations pages (especially Calibrators and Software) I am able to confidently and specifically recommend items for you to purchase, because I own those items myself. I know them.
On this page, I cannot boast such intimacy, I’m afraid. I can’t afford to buy and try every monitor out there, of course. All I can do is exactly the same as you – search, research, look at specs, and read reviews.
Below are some suitable screens available on Amazon at the moment. I’ve chosen only the ones that have IPS panels, and non-glossy surfaces. Please understand that I provide these links as a mere cross-section of the IPS marketplace, to give you a taste of sizes and prices. This is not a comprehensive list by any means.
Important disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate. Therefore, many links in this section are to Amazon pages. While I am immensely grateful to anyone who purchases via my links, I urge you not to abandon normal shopping prudence. If you find an item cheaper elsewhere, definitely go for it.
|Up to 22″|
|Up to 24″|
|ViewSonic VA2359 – 23inch||~US$125|
|Asus VS239H-P – 23inch||~US$130|
|Acer Business – 24inch||~US$150|
|Asus PB238Q – 24inch||~US$210|
|Dell UltraSharp U2414H – 24inch||~US$210|
|Dell UltraSharp U2412M – 24inch||~US$230|
|Eizo FlexScan EV2450 – 24inch||~US$400|
|Eizo ColorEdge CG2420 – 24inch||~US$1500|
|Dell UltraSharp U2913HM – 27inch||~US$540|
|Dell UltraSharp U2713H – 27inch – wide gamut||~US$700|
|Asus VX279Q – 27inch||~US$850|
|Asus PA329Q – 32inch – wide gamut||~US$1200|
|Eizo FlexScan – 31.5inch||~US$1890|
|Eizo ColorEdge CG277 – 27inch – wide gamut||~US$2450|