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How Do I Choose the Best Flat Panel Monitor?

By Solomon Lander
Updated May 17, 2024
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Although all flat panel monitors may seem the same except for size, there are significant differences between different panels. Choosing the right one goes beyond just looking at size and resolution. Flat panel monitor models also have different built-in features, brightness, color accuracy and underlying technology. With all of these variables, the best way to choose the right flat panel monitor is to spend some time looking at the image that the monitor produces instead of just shopping online for the least expensive one.

When choosing a flat panel monitor, the first consideration is size. While bigger monitors might seem to be better than smaller ones, the reality is that sitting very close to a large 28-inch screen can be uncomfortable and awkward. Go to a retail store and see which size fits your needs based on the distance you will be sitting from it.

Pay careful attention to the resolution and aspect ratio of a given flat panel monitor. Monitors usually come in one of two shapes, or aspect ratios. Widescreen monitors have the shape of an HDTV screen and are 1.77 times wider than they are tall while traditional monitors have the shape of non-HD television sets and are 1.33 times wider than than they are tall. Within a given shape, monitors can have any of a number of resolutions, and generally speaking, a higher resolution monitor can display a sharper image, although details will be smaller. For example, a 1080p widescreen monitor can display a complete high definition signal which is 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080 pixels tall.

Flat panel monitors come with a large number of features and finishes. Users who want a minimum of desk clutter should look for a monitor with built-in speakers. Some monitors not only have built-in speakers but also have video inputs, tuners, and remote controls, allowing them to serve double duty as television sets. Setups in which the computer sits on the floor can benefit from a monitor with a built-in USB hub, which allow devices to be plugged into an easily accessible place. Although a glossy or matte finish has little to do with the screen behind it, a matte finish will look better in settings with a great deal of competing light while a glossy screen can provide deeper colors if it does not have to contend with glare.

With very few exceptions, the flat screen monitors on the market in late 2011 use liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. Light emitting diode (LED) monitors just use the LED's in lieu of fluorescent lamps to light up the LCD display. LED monitors are typically thinner, longer-lasting and more energy efficient with some improvement in image quality, although some higher-end LED monitors are thicker and more expensive because they use an array of dimmable LED's behind the screen for better image quality and color accuracy. Manufacturers use a number of different technologies, such as in-plane switching (IPS), vertical alignment (VA), and twisted nematic (TN) panels. Although IPS panels are often considered the best, low-cost TN panels have benefits beyond their affordability, which may them more suitable for some users, like gamers, who need a screen that can update its image very quickly.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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