So much of your work happens with your eyes. Your workspace may have a powerhouse PC with a ton of storage, an excellent keyboard and mouse, and even a comfy chair, but if your monitor isn’t the right fit for what you do, your productivity will suffer.
For a better display that lets you get more done, you want a model that offers the specific features you need, at the right size, resolution, and cost. And if you’re an IT professional tasked with buying a host of monitors for your business, basic functions and price are what matter most. You’ll also have to determine what size panel works best for each employee, which features will help enhance productivity, and what kind of warranty you need. In this guide, we’ll show you what to look for when shopping for a desktop monitor for work.
How Much Should You Spend?
Most businesses operate within a strict capital budget, so it’s important to spend your money wisely. A basic 24-inch monitor can cost anywhere from $90 to $175. If you require more screen real estate, a basic 27-inch panel will run you anywhere from $120 to $200.
If you want to replace a dual-monitor setup with a single display, consider going with an ultra-wide model. For around $225, you can get a 29-inch ultra-wide panel that lets you easily view multiple windows using multiple input sources without having to sacrifice a lot of desktop space; a 34-inch ultra-wide will generally set you back at least $300. For those who have the room (and cash) to spare, 43-inch ultra-wide business models start at about $750, while gigantic, sprawling 49-inch models start at around $1,000. Bear in mind that displaying multiple video sources onscreen at the same time is not a given; you have to look for that feature if you need it.
As always, be prepared to spend more for monitors with high-end, high-resolution panels and features such as height-adjustable and pivoting stands, or picture-in-picture functionality. For example, a high-end, 27-inch Wide Quad High-Definition (WQHD) monitor will cost you upward of $300, while 34-inch Ultra High-Definition (UHD) or 4K displays with all the bells and whistles start at about $400. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend big bucks for a sizable midrange UHD monitor; plenty of 27-inch models can be had for around $250 if you shop wisely. And it’s very likely that you can get by with a native resolution much lower than UHD. (More on that in a moment.)
While it’s always nice to work with a big screen, it’s not always practical or cost-effective, depending on your budget and available workspace. A 24-inch widescreen (the smallest size of desktop monitor we cover, or recommend), starting at about $100, is a good fit for users who need to have more than one window open at any given time but have limited space. If there’s room (and budget), a 27-inch screen (starting at about $140) is even better for multitasking, while a 34-inch ultra-wide panel ($500 and up) is a space-saving alternative to a dual-monitor setup.
The most common monitor panel technologies relevant for business use are in-plane switching (IPS), vertical alignment (VA), and twisted nematic (TN). IPS excels at accurate color and grayscale performance and delivers wide viewing angles, while VA is known for exceptional contrast. Though they are occasionally used on business models, TN panels are better known for their gaming-friendly attributes: high refresh rates, and fast response times. TN panels used to be, on the whole, the least expensive to produce of the three, but now that they’re closer in price, TN panels for business use have largely been superseded by VA and (especially) IPS ones.
Other less-common panel technologies include patterned vertical alignment (PVA), multi-domain vertical alignment (MVA), indium-gallium zinc oxide (IGZO), and the emerging technologies of full area local dimming (FALD) and microLED. The latter two promise exceptional color accuracy and high contrast ratios through their ability to control small groups of LEDs at the back of the panel. Last, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, which has been used in TVs, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and most recently, laptops, is slowly entering the monitor arena. OLED panels provide excellent contrast and color coverage, but their price has been an obstacle for them to take hold in the market. Although you’ll spot OLED screens as an option in a handful of pricey business laptops, they’re not really a factor in stand-alone business monitor panels (yet). FALD, microLED, and OLED will only matter to serious graphics pros and video makers.
See How We Test Monitors
Resolving Your Resolution
These days, nearly every monitor is capable of displaying content in high definition—specifically, what’s known as full HD or 1080p resolution, meaning 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. (You may find some aging, dirt-cheap displays that peak at 1,366 by 768 pixels or 1,440 by 720 pixels; shun them.)
For basic office use, 1080p resolution should suffice, in a monitor up to 27 inches in panel size. You can also find roomy 32-inch-class monitors with 1080p native resolution, and they are perfectly fine for everyday use, though 1080p may look a tad coarse at that screen size to discriminating eyes.
Users who work with detailed images or large spreadsheets may want to go with a WQHD monitor, which offers 2,560-by-1,440-pixel resolution, typically at a diagonal screen measurement of 27 to 32 inches. Some ultra-wide variants of this resolution go up to 49 inches in size with 5,120-by-1,440-pixel resolution, which is great for multitaskers, who can keep several windows open onscreen, side by side, at once, or stretch a spreadsheet out. Ultra-wide models are a good alternative to a multi-monitor array. UHD, also known as 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels), is a boon to graphic designers and photographers. UHD monitors are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 24 inches up.
Ergonomics, Ports, and Extras
As is usually the case with features, the more you get, the more you’ll pay. A display with a highly adjustable ergonomic stand—one that not only lets you adjust tilt, height, and swivel but pivots between landscape and portrait orientation—will cost a good deal more than a display that has only a tilt adjustment.
The same goes for ports. You might still see the rare DVI or VGA port, but your monitor should connect to your PC via an HDMI cable or a DisplayPort cable. A growing number of monitors add USB Type-C ports with DisplayPort functionality. Some monitors have USB hubs that let you plug USB thumb drives or other devices into more convenient ports on the monitor instead of reaching around the back of your PC; such a display will have both a USB upstream port (for connecting the monitor and computer) and one or more USB downstream ports (for thumb drives and other peripherals). On USB Type-C-capable monitors, sometimes that same connection can act as the video signal carrier and the data conduit, and often can supply power to run or charge your computer as well. You’ll want to look at the specs or product description carefully for details on that.
If you spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a screen, you may want to consider a model that offers a “low blue light” setting that can help reduce eyestrain and fatigue. If you require accurate colors, look for a monitor with an extensive menu of image settings and color palettes. We test each business monitor in three color spaces: sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3. sRGB is the de facto color standard for web-based photos and numerous other purposes, and is the most generally useful and applicable of the three. Adobe RGB has a much wider color gamut than sRGB, but is mostly used for select graphic arts purposes such as print photography. Last, DCI-P3 is a color space designed for cinema video and is used mostly by videographers and filmmakers. Some high-end models come with a color calibration tool, but several third-party solutions are available as well. For ordinary productivity work, that’s not needed.
Built-in speakers can reclaim valuable desktop workspace, but they’re typically underpowered and tinny-sounding. If your management doesn’t want employees listening to music in open air at their desks, look for a monitor without embedded speakers. The same goes for built-in webcams, which are much less common; they can be useful for videoconferencing, but you’ll want to be sure you need them before springing for the extra cost.
If you plan on using wall-mounting kits or articulating arms to conserve desk space, make sure the monitors are equipped with VESA-compliant mounting brackets or holes. Last, look for at least a three-year warranty that covers parts, labor, and backlighting.
Ready for Our Recommendations?
To get you started, we’ve listed some of our top-rated business monitors in a variety of sizes and price points. Also, be sure to check out our overall monitor favorites for a wider selection that includes entertainment panels and our subselection of portable monitors if you need a small panel you can take on the go.
Pros: Strong performance. Energy efficient. Fully adjustable stand. Lots of I/O ports. ControlSync management technology.
Cons: Tinny speakers. Stiff stand.
Bottom Line: The 24-inch NEC MultiSync EX241UN-BK is a well-equipped business monitor that offers some handy IT-friendly features and delivers excellent color and grayscale performance.
Pros: Excellent color accuracy. Software calibration tools. Ultra-wide screen with 100Hz refresh rate, 1900R curvature, and HDR support.
Cons: Does not cover the full Adobe RGB color space.
Bottom Line: The curved, ultra-wide Asus ProArt PA34VC is a good choice as a monitor for creative professionals. It also touts gaming features such as a 100Hz refresh rate and support for AMD’s FreeSync adaptive-sync technology.
Pros: Supports easy daisy-chaining of a second monitor. Wide selection of ports. USB-C port can charge devices including laptops. Height, tilt, swivel, and pivot adjustment. QHD (1440p) resolution. Good color accuracy for business use.
Cons: A bit pricey. Lacks built-in speakers.
Bottom Line: The Dell 27 USB-C Monitor (P2720DC) offers a broad port selection, a range of ergonomic features, and bright, realistic-looking colors. Its practically automatic daisy-chaining to a second display is a bonus.
Pros: USB-C port can charge devices, including laptops. QHD (ultra-high-definition) resolution. Good color accuracy and wide color gamut. Very bright HDR image. AMD FreeSync support. Smooth gameplay.
Cons: Stand only supports tilt adjustment. Tiny, awkward control buttons.
Bottom Line: The Dell 27 USB-C Ultrathin Monitor (S2719DC) is a good entertainment panel for video-watching or gaming, with a bright HDR image, accurate color, and a USB-C port that can charge a laptop and/or stream video or data from a computer.
Pros: On-point image quality for photos and videos. Spot-on sRGB color coverage. QHD (ultra-high-definition) resolution. Mini joystick controller. Support for AMD FreeSync.
Cons: Meager one-year warranty. Lacks height or swivel adjustment. No built-in speakers. Lacks HDR support.
Bottom Line: An all-purpose monitor for home use, HP’s Pavilion 32 QHD 32-Inch Display provides good, accurate color for video watching and photo viewing.
Pros: Compact and very lightweight. Bright for a portable monitor. Good color fidelity. Wide range of tilt angles. Includes protective sleeve.
Cons: USB connectivity only. Limited OSD controls.
Bottom Line: Thanks to its easy portability, high-quality panel, and USB-C connectivity, Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 is a winning choice as a portable monitor for business or personal use.
Pros: Immense ultra-wide screen with 5K horizontal resolution. Bright image. Good color fidelity. Supports HDR. USB-C power delivery. Built-in KVM switch.
Cons: On the pricey side. Buttons, instead of joystick, for OSD control.
Bottom Line: The Philips Brilliance 499P9H offers a winning combination of a gigantic, ultra-wide curved screen-shining with a bright, vivid image-and extras like a Windows Hello-compatible webcam and a built-in KVM switch.
Pros: Super-high pixel density. Lofty brightness ceiling. Seamless integration with macOS. USB-C port can charge devices, including laptops. Good color accuracy. Decent built-in speakers.
Cons: On the pricey side. Aesthetic doesn’t quite sync with current Macs. Limited port selection. Meager warranty. Functions may be limited with Windows PCs.
Bottom Line: LG’s UltraFine 4K Display (24MD4KL-B) is a pin-sharp, if pricey, pick as a Mac-friendly monitor, designed to pair with an Apple desktop or laptop equipped with Thunderbolt 3.
Pros: Ultra-wide, curved screen. Good for multitasking or a multi-monitor setup. Renders both photos and video well. Spot-on color for sRGB.
Cons: Meager one-year warranty. Lacks height or swivel adjustment. No built-in speakers. Lacks HDR support.
Bottom Line: The HP 34f 34-Inch Curved Display is a spacious, ultra-wide monitor that’s best for video watching, processing photos for the web, and multitasking.
Pros: IPS screen. Supports height, tilt, swivel, and pivot adjustment. Minuscule bezels increase screen area. Labeled OSD touch controls.
Cons: Relatively modest resolution, given the panel size. Lacks USB-C port.
Bottom Line: Despite a modest native resolution, NEC’s business-focused MultiSync EA271F-BK checks a bunch of boxes we like: ultra-thin bezels, high color accuracy, and a wide range of ergonomic controls.