The Complete Guide to Buying a Computer Monitor

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The Complete Guide to Buying a Computer Monitor

The computer monitor is not so simple anymore, with current state-of-the-art technology putting 3D engineering, sensors, and touch screen options in consumers' hands. While some people's hearts go pitter-patter over such technology, a number are not easily impressed and merely want to repair or replace their faulty monitor or upgrade to a better one up to their task. Then, there is the trending crowd that wants to get on the 'two monitors are better than one' boat.

Whatever their reason, astute shoppers should research extensively in PC forums, on manufacturer websites, and with visits to the local electronics store before looking for monitors in brick and mortar and online stores. After all, familiarity brings wisdom and chases away bewilderment, especially with the myriad monitor display technologies, designs, and sizes everywhere. Knowing what constitutes a good quality computer monitor, their characteristic features, and how to shop for one that matches with one's personal needs, as well as buying tips for shopping for computer monitors on eBay , prepares the buyer to make a wise, informed purchase.

The Need for a Computer Monitor

A computer monitor is a visual output device that displays computer-generated images, and consists of a display panel, an enclosure frame, and an electronic circuit that links it to the CPU. Without monitors to act as the interface and to give instant feedback, users would not be able to see their work or interact with the computer sufficiently to read emails, watch films, edit photos, or play games. Most activities across all industries would crawl along at a snail's pace since computers are such integral parts of people's lives.

Types of Computer Monitors

Computer monitors are categorised according to their type of display technology. The four types of monitors are Cathode Ray Tube (CRT), Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED), and Plasma technology. Each type of display technology has specific features that make it just right for specific functions.


While some might sniff and call it a relic because it looks like a traditional TV set, the CRT is the monitor of choice for graphic artists and hardcore gamers. They extol its dependability, colour fidelity, high contrast ratio, and no ghosting from the excellent response time. This crowd happily puts up with the CRT monitor's bulky weight, glass screen, and high power consumption for the reward of unlimited viewing angles and better images in deep, rich tones. Unfortunately, the monitors are a hazard to maintain and repair, and computer users risk straining their eyes with flicker from monitors with low refresh rates.


This type of computer monitor stands for Liquid Crystal Display and is more recent than the CRT. This monitor is a popular choice for many consumers because it is lightweight and flat, takes up little space, and does not use as much electricity as the older technology. There is minimal to no flicker with this monitor, but the slow response time causes ghosting or smearing and the viewing angle is rather limited. While more cost-effective than CRTs, LCD monitors lose contrast in very hot surroundings, stop working in very cold surroundings, and have a pitiful display in direct sunlight.


The most innovative display technology is the Organic Light Emitting Diode, which is a layer of organic material that emits light in response to an electric current. This monitor is extremely lightweight, thinner than the LCD; it works well without a backlight, offering wider viewing angles and the highest contrast ratio of all display technologies. The images produced are sharp with no ghosting because of the super-fast response time. Unfortunately, the organic material used decays after some time, while water and UV light cause serious damage. This technology is also difficult to manufacture and thus costs more than any other.


Plasma monitors produce images with brilliant colour because of their high contrast ratio, fast response time and no ghosting. The technology uses gas discharge across millions of cells between two glass panels to form images with minimal distortion. Unfortunately, their glass screen causes reflections and eyestrain due to glare as with the CRTs. Their high-energy consumption makes them less popular too, though they have wider viewing angles than the LCDs with a deep, natural looking black colour. Plasma monitors are ideal for entertainment because of their sharp images, colour saturation, and large screen sizes.

The following is a table that compares the different types of monitor display technologies, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Type of Display Technology





Uses analogue vacuum tube, looks like old TV sets

True colours, excellent response time, unlimited viewing angles, better images, high contrast ratios, no ghosting

Bulky, heavy, high power consumption, flickers with low refresh rates, a hazard to repair


Flat screen panel, uses crystal display with a backlight

Lightweight, flat shaped, space saving, lower power consumption than CRTs, no flicker, cost effective

Limited viewing angle, ghosting, easily affected by temperature extremes, poor display in sunlight


Flat screen panel, svelte, uses film of organic material, emits light in response to current

Thinner than LCD monitors, lightweight, wider viewing angles than LCD, highest contrast ratio, sharp images, no ghosting, high response time

Currently costly, easily damaged by water and extensive UV light, organic material used rots after some time


Flat panel, big screen, uses millions of gas cells between two glass panels

High contrast ratio, fast response time, no ghosting, wide viewing angle, minimal distortion, deep black

Glass screen causes eye strain, high energy consumption, heavy

The features, advantages, and disadvantages outlined above mean that consumers should choose a computer monitor that is best suited to their needs to avoid disappointment. Graphic artists require better colour fidelity, while film buffs can settle for the Plasma or LCD technology that offers clear displays.

Features to Look for When Buying a Computer Monitor

Before shopping for a computer monitor, one must consider what they want the monitor for, because their requirements affect their choice of features, from maximum resolution to screen size, aspect ratio, refresh rate, and response time. While heavy users running concurrent programmes would like a high-performance monitor, others, like the occasional e-mailer, do not really need that much power. Brands that offer after-sales support and warranties go a long way towards increasing consumer confidence in their monitors.

Maximum Resolution

Maximum resolution refers to the highest number of tiny coloured dots or pixels that a monitor's screen can show, or in non-technical language, how much information one can fit on the screen. A higher resolution is preferable most times because of sharper pictures and more room to multitask, though one would need to buy or upgrade to an adequate graphics card that meets this demand with ease. The most popular resolution is the 1920x1080 because it offers a balance between more space and picture quality. With state-of-the-art engineering, maximum resolution has increased over time and has currently glanced at 2880x1800 for extreme definition.

Screen Size

Ever since computers took on the mantle of entertainment, screen size has become a big issue. With the evolution in computer monitors, 22-inch screen sizes are now standard, edging out the traditional 17-inch square, though current hot favourites go up to 27 inches and 30 inches. The larger the screen, the more versatile it is because of larger viewing angles, better designs and quality, and greater choice with video inputs. Shoppers should always think of their desk space when buying a large screen unless they buy arms and wall mounts as well. Screen size is the diagonal measure across the monitor from one corner to the other.

Aspect Ratio

A monitor's aspect ratio is the relationship between its width and height and affects how it displays images and videos on the screen. Old models have the 4:3 ratios, while modern ones have the 16:9 ratios; both, however, are common with computer users. The 4:3 is not suitable for widescreen formats and the 16:9 and 16:10 ratios are slowly replacing it, as they are ideal for great pictures, games, and displaying multiple windows side by side. While aspect ratio is about how the image sits on the monitor's screen, it does affect the screen's resolution.

Response Time

Gamers always check a monitor's response time and use this to determine whether it is good enough for their needs, because video games need high performance and responsiveness from monitors to run well. Response time, also known as latency, is the speed at which a pixel on the screen goes from white to black and white again, and thus measures the transition speed of video images. Slow response times, usually above 12 ms, cause ghosting, twinning, or smearing of images, and digital noise. A 5-ms response time is ideal for viewing DVDs or gaming on the computer.

Refresh Rate

Refresh rate is measured in Hertz and is defined as the number of times the monitor's display can refresh or update in a second, sometimes referred to as frequency. Higher or faster refresh rates are ideal as they make movement on the screen more fluid, like scrolling down a page, while low refresh rates cause screen flickers, headaches, and eyestrain. Standard refresh rates are at 60 Hz although many newer models go up to 120 Hz. While computer users can easily adjust the screen refresh rate on their computers, the monitor and graphics card set a maximum value. Thus, shoppers should opt for the monitor with a high refresh rate.

Other Considerations When Buying a Computer Monitor

While the above features help a shopper to come up with the type of computer monitor ideal for them, other considerations affect their ultimate choice. The three most important concerns are the consumer's budget, the condition of the monitor they want to purchase, and the degree of comfort and maintenance they require.


Anyone who intends to shop for a computer monitor should set up a realistic budget before starting out: one that is well within their means but enough for them to be satisfied with their purchase, and is sensible regarding prevailing monitor prices. Budgets, whether high or low, do not affect the quality of computer monitors that consumers buy, but give them a fixed range of prices within which to shop and eliminate distracting choices beyond this range. A budget also lets one focus on features they consider important for their needs and thus, they put aside any unimportant extras if their budget does not allow it.


Computer monitors sell in a variety of conditions from new, to manufacturer refurbished, seller refurbished, used, and for spare parts. A new condition means that the monitor is untouched, in its original packaging from the manufacturer, while a refurbished monitor is one that either the seller or the manufacturer provides with a new lease on life by replacing the faulty parts. Monitors in used condition have had previous owners; if in good working condition, they offer a cost-effective option for many to go Green and do their part for the environment. Condition is not indicative of quality as a shrewd buyer can easily purchase a used computer monitor in excellent working condition at a bargain price, while another might buy a new one of dubious quality that does not last as long.

Ergonomic Comfort

Modern computer monitors arrive with a host of ergonomic options for maximum comfort, like the swivel, rotate, and tilt features or the telescopic up and down motion instead of the standard back and forth movement that most consumers know about. Some controls such as brightness and contrast are convenient and within easy reach at the monitor's front. Many monitors have arm and wall mounting options, which open up a completely new dimension for displaying photos and videos while saving desk space. The monitors of the near future have high-tech sensors that make users sit up straighter and remind them to take breaks when needed.

How to Buy a Computer Monitor on eBay

Shopping on eBay proffers a horde of monitors for you in varying designs, features, quality, and functionality for every computer, budget, and need. The buying process is straightforward and easy. You can start with a keyword search for 'computer monitor' on the home page or browse through the categories if you have time. Because eBay is a worldwide market, the results are often in the hundreds; however, you can easily shrink this down to a more manageable number with the filters available. For example, with the 'Location' filter, you can choose between 'UK only', 'European Union', 'Worldwide', or just 'on eBay UK'.

Always read the monitor descriptions and peek at the photos, even those in new condition. Try to choose through listings from top-rated sellers with their implicit guarantee of excellent service and fast shipping. Such sellers might ship it free too, or charge one fee for combined shipping. So if you also need a mouse, webcam, TV tuner, USB hubs, or speakers for your computer, grab such offers, then wait for your items to arrive. Do not forget to leave feedback on the seller and add them to your favourites if you are 100 per cent satisfied with the entire experience.


It is not just a marketing gimmick: working using two computer monitors does improve a person's productivity by up to 30 per cent. However, the type of monitor a consumer buys depends on their individual needs: for example, a person who uses a computer for office applications and accounting has different requirements from a monitor when compared to another who games heavily or yet another who is never offline with intensive multimedia use. The most important features every consumer should go over include the aspect ratio, screen size, response time, maximum resolution, and refresh rate. While these are sufficient to come up with an idea of what works for a shopper, their budget, comfort needs, and the condition of the monitor also affect their ultimate choice.

When buying the computer monitor, online or in brick and mortar stores, shoppers should look for one that offers good value for their money, like the many bargains available on eBay.

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