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It’s been over a decade since LCD monitors began outpacing old-fashioned CRT boxes. A lot has changed, but a lot of outdated advice continues to get spread around — to the detriment of consumers like you and me.
While you still need to know the important basics of buying LCD monitors, the finer details just aren’t the same. We have seen leaps in resolution and display technology. Smartphones and tablets have brought touchscreens to the desktop. New research is changing how we use computers.
It’s time to kill these misconceptions.
1) “IPS Rules, Everything Else Sucks”
The most common monitor-buying advice you will hear is that you should buy one with an IPS panel and completely ignore TN displays. There is some truth to that, but don’t follow it blindly.
IPS (In-Plane Switching) and TN (Twisted Nematic) are two types of panel technologies. In general, an IPS panel shows more accurate colors than TN and offers wider viewing angles while TN usually has faster refresh rates and response times.
For professional gamers, TN is often the type of choice. For everyone one, IPS tends to beat TN in a head-to-head comparison. Or at least that’s how the usual advice goes.
But just as an octa-core isn’t always better than a quad-core, IPS isn’t always better than TN. It really depends on the quality of a monitor’s image processors, plus several other factors.
If you compare two monitors of the same price — one with TN and another with IPS — then the IPS one will look better. But if you stack an IPS monitor against a TN monitor that costs twice as much as the IPS, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.
It’s one of the reasons why you shouldn’t buy a cheap IPS monitor. Simply put, an IPS panel with a bad image processor is worse than a TN panel with a great image processor.
If you are choosing between two monitors with the same specifications in terms of connectivity ports and features, and one of them is IPS and the other is TN, then yes, it makes sense to buy the IPS. But don’t just buy an IPS blindly if you can afford a better TN monitor. Read the reviews and make an informed decision.
2) “LED Is Better Than LCD”
This myth just won’t die. We’ve explained the difference between LED and LCD displays in detail, but people keep recommending LED monitors over LCD ones, claiming that they offer better clarity.
Typical LCD monitors use a backlighting technology called CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) whereas LED monitors use LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to backlight LCD displays. Both LED and CCFL are technically LCD monitors, but marketers have differentiated LEDs into their own class.
LED backlighting itself comes in two types: edge-lit and full-array. Full-array is the expensive kind of LED that actually offers all of the benefits of LED display technology. Edge-lit LED, on the other hand, is what most computer monitors use. It offers reductions in energy consumption (compared to standard CCFL monitors), but nothing else.
If energy consumption is an important factor for you, then sure, it makes sense to go for an LED over a standard LCD monitor — but don’t expect to get sharper picture quality, more vivid colors, or anything of that sort.
3) “Sit Arm’s Length From the Screen”
For a long time, ergonomics blogs and guides have recommended that you sit an arm’s length away from the screen, claiming that 20 to 26 inches from the monitor is the ideal distance. Even Apple recommends a distance of 18 to 24 inches.
Forget all of that.
“Recommendations that place a maximum limit on viewing distance to reduce eyestrain all have one thing in common: they have no scientific basis,” writes ergonomics expert Dennis R. Ankrum.
Human beings have something called a resting point of accommodation (RPA), which is the point where the eyes naturally focus when there is no object to focus on. But the RPA changes with age, lighting conditions, and angle of the object.
To come up with a golden rule for monitors is impossible, says Ankrum. While he would recommend a minimum distance of 25 inches, some people just aren’t bothered by closer viewing distances.
Ankrum also notes that distances beyond 35 inches have zero impact on eyestrain, so this applies only to computer monitors and not TVs. You can still rely on our suggested formula to buy the right TV.
4) “Don’t Buy Cheaper/Unknown Brands”
While brands matter quite a bit when buying a TV, that’s not as true when it comes to computer monitors. In fact, you can get some really good monitors from relatively unknown brands.
You may be tempted to pick up an LG or a Dell since those are well-known to you, but before you do that, check out monitors from makers like AOC, Hazro, NEC, and Eizo. These are generally much cheaper than other monitors of similar quality, even those from mid-range brands like Asus and ViewSonic.
The other reason you should look at cheaper brands is because of the confusing warranty claims of monitors. For example, if you bought a Dell or an Asus monitor and found a dead pixel, they won’t replace it. Both Dell and Asus have a policy of requiring five “bad” pixels, which is either a dead pixel or a stuck pixel (which you can try fixing yourself).
Plus, the big brands like Dell apparently don’t honor warranties for monitors smaller than 24 inches and purchased from Amazon. The Internet is full of complaints like this one. What’s the point of paying for a warranty if it has weird loopholes that the manufacturer can use to evade replacements?
That said, Dell, Asus, and ViewSonic do make some of the best monitors around, so if you are picking it up for that reason, that’s fine. But read the reviews by tech experts and other buyers — especially the warranty clauses — and see if there is a cheaper option to consider instead that will offer a comparable experience.
Got any other monitor myths that we missed? Tell us which monitor you use and which one you want to buy next. Let’s talk recommendations in the comments below.