Computer Monitor Terms and Definitions

Looking to purchase a new computer monitor? Here’s a few terms you should know before buying:

Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio measures the ratio between a monitors width and height with the width being represented on the left side of the ratio. Monitors were initially released in 4:3 aspect ratios but have since moved to the 16:9 standard also used in televisions. Both 4:3 and 16:10 aspect ratio monitors are available and desirable for certain situations. Other uncommon ratios include cinema, 21:9, 5:4, 1:1, and 6:7.

Brightness

Brightness is measured in candela per square meter (cd/m2) often referred to in units by nits. A monitor with a more nits is often desirable for rooms with a lot of ambient light. If your monitor is too bright by default, then keep in mind that this number is easily adjustable through the front control panel or additional software.

Built-in Speakers

Many monitors today come with built-in speakers which help to free up your desk space. These speakers are generally hidden in the bezel of your monitor. While built-in speakers can be convenient the sound that is emitted from them is generally inferior to that of external speakers.

Connectivity

Common types of connectors for computer monitors include Analog (RGB), DVI, HDMI, and Displayport.

Contrast Ratio 

The difference between a monitor’s deepest black and whitest white.

Dynamic Contrast Ratio

Dynamic contrast ratios can be measured differently by various manufacturers and therefore are easily misrepresented on specification sheets. The dynamic contrast ratio is often the ratio of black that can be produced when using a processor to adjust the lighting in certain situations. We recommend you pay more attention to your monitor’s static contrast ratio.

Input Lag

Input or display lag is the time it takes for a signal to be input into a display and then shown by that display. This measurement is not shown under manufacturer’s specifications. This number is most important to gamers who play FPS or time-sensitive games. As manufacturer’s add additional filters to displays in order to generate a better and more crisp picture this number continues to climb. Some monitors and TVs have gaming modes which ignore certain filters in order to give the display a lower input lag. This time has been measured as high as 68ms.

LCD – LED vs. CCFL Backlights

LCD monitors are based upon “liquid crystal display” technology. As liquid crystal displays cannot emit light directly a backlight is needed for the picture to be displayed. CCFL or cold-cathode fluorescent lamps and LED “light emitting diode” backlights are used for this. Modern LED backlit LCD displays are thinner, use less energy, can produce deeper blacks, and do not emit mercury. While the price differential between LED and CCFL LCD monitors used to be substantial, today it is minimal.

Panel

There are many different types of panels which manufacturers use the most common being TN or “twisted nematic” panels. TN panels, in general, have high response times and are less expensive than other panel types. Other panel types including IPS, AFFS, MVA, PVA, ASV, and PLS are used mainly for specialty professions including photographers, engineers, and graphic designers. Modern IPS-Pro monitors are highly desirable for such professions but come at a much steeper cost than a typical business or consumer monitor.

Pixel

A pixel is represented in dots and squared and represents the smallest point in a display which can be controlled. Each pixel can display a different color and given separate instruction based upon its address.

Pixel Pitch

Also referred to as dot pitch, pixel pitch measures in millimeters the distance from a red, blue, or green dot, to another red, blue, or green dot. The smaller this number (distance) is between these dots the crisper your image will be.

Viewing Angle

Viewing angle is a measurement of color clarity for various angles that you might see your monitor at up to 180 degrees. Higher is better.

Resolution

Resolution is measured in pixels by width and then height. 1920 x 1080p resolution is considered full high definition; however, many IPS displays go beyond this amount of pixels. This allows photo, video, and graphic design professionals to have more to work with.

Response Time

Measured in milliseconds your response time is the time it takes for a pixel to go from black to white and then back again. A fast response time is desirable for gaming or movies as it limits the blur which can sometimes be seen during action sequences.

Size

It’s been proven in various studies that a larger monitor, up to 24 inches, can improve productivity. For monitors larger than 27 inches we recommend you have 2-3 of space between your position and the location of the monitor.

Stand Adjustment

Some computer monitors have a stand which can be adjusted by tilt, swivel, or both. See the manufacturer’s specifications for this number which is represented in degrees. Many modern computer stands can also be removed in order to mount the monitor or kick it back into a book stand position.

Vesa Compliance/Compatibility

When a monitor says that it is VESA compliant or has VESA mount compatibility this simply means that the mounting holes in the back comply with the Video Electronics Standards Association and therefore should work with any number of mounts that you can purchase online. For computer monitors holes are generally 100 x 100, 75 x 75, 200 x 100 and 200 x 200mm.

Warranty 

Computer monitor warranties vary by manufacturer and model number. In general, coverage lasts between 1-3 years and replacement is based upon what is written in the contract. Most manufacturers also vary on their pixel replacement policy.