How To Choose A Home Office Monitor on a Budget

home office monitor setup plants on a desk in the afternoon in san diego california two screen monitors for home office

Published on July 17, 2020

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Your guide to choosing the best computer monitor for your home office on a budget- So here we are. Little office managers of our humble abodes. Trying to set up a space to work and that works for us. If eyes are the window to your soul, then your monitors are the Windows to the soul of your business life. Or perhaps, the Apple of your professional eyes. 

Working tirelessly on laptops can become a bit of a bore and to be fair, most aren’t designed with your health in mind. Whatever tasks you’re trying to accomplish with your screen time, determining your monitor’s main purpose and choosing the best budget monitor for your home office is one of the most important investments you are going to make. 

My Top 3 Budget Picks

1. Acer SB220Q

The Acer SB220Q is an all-around great choice for someone looking to purchase a quality monitor under $100. Its 21.5-inch widescreen IPS display combines a thin design with quality resolution.

Other features include AMD Radeon FreeSync, a 4ms response time, 75Hz refresh rate, and allows for backwards tilt of approximately 15 degrees. It comes with VGA and HDMI ports, making this a great second monitor for your setup.

2. Dell SE2719HR

This 27-inch 1080p LED monitor is a good budget-friendly choice if you’re looking for a monitor that is easy on the eyes. The SE2719HR protects your eyes by minimizing harmful blue light with Dell’s ComfortView feature.

In addition to viewing comfort, this monitor helps reduce eye fatigue thanks to a flicker-free, anti-glare screen. While the base base does allow the monitor to tilt, there really aren’t that many features. The thin bezels of this monitor offer a sleek, modern look that complements any space. 

3. Asus VG245H

The 24-inch Asus VG245H monitor features an ultra-fast 1ms response time and 75Hz refresh rate. Overall, this monitor is impressive and comes with AMD FreeSync technology, wall mount capability, two built-in speakers, and two HDMI ports.

Its ergonomically designed stand lets you find your ideal viewing position with full tilt, swivel, pivot, and height adjustment options. This LED monitor uses Flicker-Free and Low Blue Light technologies. This is a great choice for gamers who shift between work and play.

Dependent on your desired cost range, some key features you should keep in mind when purchasing business monitors are:

  • Refresh Rate
  • Response Time
  • Resolution 
  • Panel Tech
  • Size
  • Ergonomic Design

I’ve researched pretty heavily the various types of monitors and features to purchase on my limited budget without sacrificing quality. When making your own list of key points, they should aid with the nitty gritty of your everyday business tasks while promoting positive health.

The consequences of long hours in front of your screen include effects to eye health. Ocular symptoms of digital eye strain include tearing, tired eyes, blurred vision, general fatigue, burning sensation, redness, and double vision.

Numerous studies also suggest that screen work may be associated with neck and upper extremity symptoms in office works, contributing to musculoskeletal symptoms. 

Before choosing a type of monitor that is best suited for your health and work related needs, you should first ask yourself if you want a single or multiple monitor setup. Requirements for different jobs vary.

A digital marketer is going to need a different type of configuration than a graphic designer. Multiple monitors may increase task efficiency and productivity, but may produce abnormal neck postures for users.

Large widescreen monitors can be equally or more effective than dual screen monitors, with both configurations being more effective than smaller, single screen monitors. 

With many office workers spending their entire day on the computer, the most important technological component is the computer display. As we dive into the various features to choose from on your hunt for the perfect home office monitor setup, keep in mind budget constraints and the type of tasks in which you will be trying to achieve.

Having multiple monitors requires additional specialized hardware- a motherboard with multi-monitor support or a GPU.

A Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is commonly referred to as a graphics card or video card. Every PC uses a GPU to render images, video, and 2D or 3D animations for display. Monitors connect to computers through input ports.

Check the back of your monitor and what do you see? If it has multiple input ports (DVI, VGA, HDMI, or DisplayPort), it should support multiple monitors. 

The motherboard is a printed circuit board that is the backbone of a computer. A motherboard provides connectivity between the hardware components of a computer, like the processor (CPU) memory (RAM), hard drive, and video card Before you buy your monitors, you’ll also want to make sure they have input ports that match your PC’s output ports. 

Refresh Rate: 

Refresh rate is the speed at which the monitor’s image changes. This number of changes per second is measured in hertz (Hz). 

High refresh rate monitors are typically aimed at gamers and FPS (first-person shooter) gaming. Basic computing tasks don’t require a whole lot of power. A typical PC monitor will have an average refresh rate of about 60Hz. 

Higher refresh rates dramatically increase the amount of still images we are shown as something moves across the screen, making clicking and dragging more seamless. Higher refresh rates are more responsive, meaning the screen reacts more quickly, which is a crucial component of gaming.

Outside of gaming, designers and photographs would benefit the most from a refresh rate over 60Hz. Another main advantage for non-gaming productivity, higher refresh rates provide smoother motions in a 3D-rendered environment. 

Response Time: 

Response time is the time it takes your monitor to shift from one color to another, and is generally measured in milliseconds (ms). It is a measure of how quickly a pixel can display a change from black to white, or from one grey level to the next.

Lower response time numbers mean faster transitions and fewer visible image artifacts, or ‘ghosting.’ Monitor ghosting occurs when a display is unable to match or keep up with moving images. This phenomenon is again, mostly important for gamers. Most computer users will not be aware of the response time for their monitor because it doesn’t really matter.

Outside of gaming, graphic designers might benefit from faster response times, but honestly it doesn’t really make much of a difference. Designers benefit much more from choosing monitors that are appropriate size, resolution, and quality of panel. 

Screen Resolution:

The image you see on your computer screen is built up from thousands to millions of pixels and creates an image by changing the colors of these small-scale elements. Screen resolution is the number of pixels that a screen can show both horizontally and vertically. 

If you’re purchasing a monitor for your desk and doing basic web and office tasks, you should always choose a resolution of at least 1920X1080 pixels, or 1080p for short. This resolution type takes advantage of the full range of HD’s capabilities. A 4K (3840X2160) display has four times as many pixels as 1080p. 

The benefit of Ultra HD is space, allowing for less time devoted to window management. You’ll have more room for multiple tabs and applications. Most 4K monitors are 27 inches or larger, so having adequate desk space is a must. If you are limited on desk space, you might want to invest in a VESA mount.

If you’re just looking for more screen real estate and are on a budget, a second monitor might be better suited for you. Graphic designers and web developers viewing and editing pictures or videos would benefit the most from higher resolution screens. If your work involves multi-tasking, or you need a high level of visual clarity, you might also benefit from 4K monitors. 

Panel Tech: 

LCD vs. LED

You have probably heard the terms LCD and LED thrown around to describe product options. Choosing  between Liquid-Crystal Display (LCD) and Light-Emitting Diode (LED) monitors depends on your end-goal and budget. Both types of displays use liquid crystals to help create an image. Technically, LED displays fall under the category of LCD. The only difference is that LED monitors utilize backlighting. They deliver brighter image quality and consume less power than LCD screens. 

LED monitors boast thinner designs and less pollution issues (LCD includes mercury), but they have a higher initial price point.

For professional usage, the best LCD panel technologies to choose from include IPS, VA, and TN. 

Twisted-Nematic (TN)

TN monitors have the highest refresh rates and fastest response times, but are the cheapest due to their poorer image quality. They are one of the oldest display technologies, and are best for use as gaming PCs. 

In-Plane Switching (IPS)

IPS monitors provide better viewing angles and picture quality. IPS panels possess better color accuracy and consistency, with infinitely better visuals than TN and VA panels. They are great for graphic design artists, cinematographers, and professional use. 

Vertical-Alignment (VA)

VA monitors have the best contrast and image depth out of all three panel types. VA panels typically have better viewing angles than TN panels, but generally not as much as IPS. They also deliver the longest response times, which makes them better devices for general use for office work applications.

Size:

When deciding what size monitor to purchase, viewing distance and quality are important factors. The ideal viewing distance is between 20 and 40 inches, or about arm’s length away. The further you sit away, the less the resolution matters.

At the end of the day, choosing a size for your monitor boils down to personal preference, and most users will be content with a screen size of about 20 to 25 inches. 

A curved monitor provides more immersive visuals and a wider field of view. Since a curved screen directs light from all angles toward the user’s eye, choosing this type of monitor may decrease ocular exertion as well. 

Ergonomic Design: 

While there are many products that boost healthy work practices, ergonomic monitors help users avoid the discomforts caused by eye strain and poor posture.

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides safety standards for monitor setup that are critical for your well-being. 

  1. Distance: Generally, the preferred viewing distance is between 20 and 40 inches from the eye to the front surface of the computer screen 
  2. Height: The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level. The center of the computer monitor should normally be located 15 to 20 degrees below horizontal eye level 
  3. Tilt: Lower the monitor so you can maintain appropriate neck postures. Tilt the monitor so it is perpendicular to your line of sight, no more than 10 to 20 degrees
  4. Viewing Time: Rest your eyes periodically and alternate duties with other non-computer tasks.

A curved monitor provides more immersive visuals and a wider field of view. Since a curved screen directs light from all angles toward the user’s eye, choosing this type of monitor may decrease ocular exertion as well. 

Aside from monitor type, taking rests and breaks from staring at your monitor, there are several features to choose from that help with the hazards of monitor viewing. 

Blue Light Technology

If you spend a lot of time in front of your screen, you’re probably worried about your ocular health. One important method monitors have adapted for preventing negative impacts on your eyesight is Low Blue Light (LBL) technology. 

Display screens of computers, laptops, smartphones, and other digital devices emit significant amounts of blue light. The discomfort that people face from looking at these screens is called digital eye strain. Prolonged digital viewing leads to harmful effects for our eyes, from dryness to macular degeneration. 

Displays with LBL technology filters out some of the harmful blue lights that cause eye strain. In addition to an LBL feature, you could also look for Flicker-free monitors and anti-glare features. 

Flicker-free monitors, also known as Flicker-less and Anti-flicker, do not use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to reduce a monitor’s brightness setting. Most monitors today all come with this setting, and it is just another way of easing eye tension and headaches that result from prolonged viewing. 

Glossy vs. Matte

When you purchase a monitor or laptop, you have the option of choosing between a glossy screen or matte coating.

Matte screens have the aforementioned ‘anti-glare’ feature, making them better at preventing reflections from areas of strong direct or ambient light, such as sunlight. Another advantage of matte displays is that they show less dirt, dust, and grease. If you’re using your monitor in controlled environments, such as well-lit rooms and indoors, a glossy screen is better suited for you. 

Glossy displays offer better picture quality and provide more vivid color and contrast. Glossy screens generally have greater aesthetic appeal and deliver a cleaner image without hazing or graininess. Glossy screens should be used in rooms where you have total, or near total, control of the lighting because these screens have the potential to increase eye strain. 

Choosing between the two comes down to personal preference, and some manufacturers offer a compromise between them- a surface type called ‘semi-glossy’ that you can look out for.  

If you’re working with a tight budget and trying to build a productive workspace, the laundry list of frills and features isn’t all that important. Make sure you choose a monitor that promotes healthy posture, and one that has the right resolution and speed to fit your needs.

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