computer-monitors

Monitoring the lowest cost screens for your desktop

Sep. 12, 2012 at 11:27 AM ET

The Asus VS229H-P stands out as an excellent value.

When people obsess over a high-definition flat-screen, they’re typically talking about a TV mounted on a man-cave wall, not a computer monitor sitting on a desk. Most consumers probably acquire a monitor as part of a package deal when they buy a desktop PC and don’t give it much thought. If you’re looking to replace your current monitor, however, or add an external display to your laptop, stand-alone options range from about $100 to more than $1,000. A good all-purpose monitor can be had for less than $200.

Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable computer monitors.

  • The Asus VS229H-P (starting at $153) uses technology known as IPS, or in-plane switching, which until recently graced only expensive displays (more on that later). In reviews experts rave about the intense colors and deep black levels, declaring this 21.5-inch monitor one of the best in its class. It can connect to electronic devices in any one of three ways: DVI-D, D-sub (VGA), or HDMI. (Where to buy)
  • The Acer S230HL Abii (starting at $170) is the most expensive monitor on our list but also the largest, at 23 inches. Experts and consumers alike appreciate the size and picture quality. While the lack of a commonly used DVI-D input puzzles reviewers, this display does include not just one but two HDMI ports, so you can connect devices such as a Blu-ray player or game console in addition to a PC. (Where to buy)
  • The HP 2011xi (starting at $150) is a relative newcomer that boasts IPS technology. With resolution of 1600 x 900 and no HDMI port, it’s not especially suited to Blu-ray video or high-definition gaming. But reviews say the 20-inch display delivers vibrant colors and precise grayscale. (Where to buy)
  • The Dell S2230MX (starting at $140) likewise lacks an HDMI port but otherwise offers everything you’d expect from a budget monitor at an impressively low price. The 21.5-inch display earns kudos for its design and generally solid performance. (Where to buy)

These are widescreen monitors with the same 16:9 aspect ratio as a widescreen TV. With the exception of the HP 2011xi, they offer native resolution of 1920 x 1080, which means they’re capable of playing back Blu-ray movies at 1080p.

IPS displays promise wider viewing angles and more accurate colors than the TN (twisted nematic) technology on most budget monitors. The primary tradeoff is a slower response time, which can create a “ghosting” effect that blurs fast-moving video. Watch out for this if you’re considering a low-cost IPS display, as the technology available at this price point is a cheaper version of what you’d find in a more expensive monitor.

Manufacturers measure response time by clocking how long it takes a pixel to shift from one shade of gray to another (you might see this listed as GtG). Response times for the monitors on the list above range from 2 milliseconds on the Dell S2230MX, which employs TN technology, to 7 milliseconds on the HP 2011xi, an IPS display. None appears to suffer from much distortion, regardless of response time. Even where experts detect a bit of ghosting, consumers don’t seem to notice.

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