I’ve got another gear guide for you – this time for monitors. Monitors are important, especially if you’re staring at it for 8+ hours a day, and they are not all created equal. Here’s you should look for when purchasing a new monitor:
1. Screen Size
I’ll preface this by saying screen size is more of a preference, but there are some factors to be aware of. I’m also going to make a couple of assumptions off the bat:
1. You’re at a desk and sitting / standing about 2 feet away from your monitor.
2. Your monitor is 1080p (rather than 2k or 4k). The vast majority of monitors are 1080p, which is ‘Full HD’. I think the higher resolution is overkill for what architects need.
Most standard computer monitors are in the range of 21″ to 27″ (measured diagonally). An important thing to remember is that the number of pixels will not change, but the size of the pixels will. So a 27″ monitor will have larger pixels than a 21″ monitor. That means that if you go with a 27″ monitor, the text will start to look a little fuzzier than it will with a 21″ monitor.
Personally, I think the 24″ or 25″ monitor is the sweet spot. It gives you a large enough screen, but the pixels are still sharp enough where you won’t notice any fuzziness in your everyday use.
I have a 27″ monitor that I mostly use for gaming, which it’s awesome for. It’s also my main screen, and I’m typing this on it. If I really concentrate on the text, it looks slightly fuzzy. I’m very picky about resolution and how things look on my screen, and I have no issues with this size. I wouldn’t go any larger though.
Side note: I have started working from home (due to COVID-19) and I’ve been using this monitor as my main work monitor. At first when using it with Revit, everything looked really fuzzy and just bad all around. I found that if you go into your display settings for Windows and click the checkbox to make it your main screen, the resolution was way better. I’m not really sure why that is, but if you’re having that same issue give it a try and I’m guessing it will help!
Adjustment can be an overlooked aspect of monitors. It has more to do with the stand than the monitor itself, but it can be an important factor. After all, if you are constantly looking up or down at your monitor and have no way to adjust it, that can really affect your posture.
There’s a few ways that the monitors / stands can adjust:
1. Tilt – Moving the angle of the monitor to point either higher or lower.
2. Swivel – Twisting the monitor left and right.
3. Height – Adjusting how high or low the monitor sits on the desk.
Before you buy a monitor, just be aware of the different adjustments that are offered. I have two monitors at my home office with varying degrees of adjustment. My main monitor has height and tilt adjustment, while my secondary monitor only has tilt adjustment. I make do with both and don’t really have any complaints, but I must say having the additional height adjustment on my main monitor is super nice.
If you find a monitor that you really like, but it doesn’t have all the adjustments you are looking for, that’s not necessarily a deal breaker. There’s a lot of monitor arms that you can buy that have any and every adjustment imaginable. You can raise and lower it as much as you want and tilt it any which way. There’s also many that can hold two or even three monitors on the arm. It can also be a great way to make a little more space on your desk since you can eliminate the monitor stands.
Just make sure that if you’re going the monitor arm route that it will work with your desk and setup, and the connection type is compatible with your monitor. I think almost all monitor arms require a VESA mount, so double check that the monitor you’re buying is VESA compatible.
3. Type of Display Panels
Display panel types can get pretty complicated, but there’s only three main types. They all have their pros and cons depending on what you’ll use them for. Since this is an architecture blog, our uses shouldn’t vary by a whole lot. I’ll try to keep this simple, and then let you dive down the rabbit hole if you’d like.
The complicated part comes from all the different factors that come into play and which ones are more important than the other. I’ll list the factors and what they mean, but won’t get into too much detail. There’s plenty of other blogs and websites that you can go to that explain things better than I can, like this blog from Techspot.
Here’s a list of the main factors:
1. Viewing Angle – how good the screen looks the more off center you are from it.
2. Color – how good the color reproduction and accuracy is.
3. Brightness / Contrast – how bright the screen can get and how black the blacks can get and how white the whites can get
4. Refresh Rates – how quickly your screen can change frames – popular rates are 60Hz, 75Hz, 144Hz and, 240Hz
5. Response Times – how long it takes for the new frame to appear
We’re mostly going to worry about the first three. Refresh rates and response times are most concerning to gamers, where they need as little lag as possible for their games. Luckily, those can be some of the most expensive factors.
For architects the biggest concern is color reproduction. It’s super important that we have accurate colors for renderings, photographs, marketing materials, etc.
Up next is the viewing angle. Having a wide viewing angle means that you can have your monitors angled and tilted any which way and it won’t affect the color reproduction. It’s good to ensure that no matter what angle the monitor is viewed at, the color representation won’t be affected.
Lastly is brightness / contrast. I don’t think I’ve ever really decided a monitor based on its brightness, but just know that it can’t hurt to have a nice bright screen. You can always turn the brightness down if needed. Contrast is a little more important, but probably isn’t a make or break factor.
Now that we’ve got an understanding of the factors, here is a list of the types of panels and what they are good and bad at.
1. TN – Twisted Nematic – worst color accuracy, but fastest response times and refresh rates. Best for gamers.
2. VA – Vertical Alignment – average, in the middle panel. Slower than TN, but better color accuracy. Faster than IPS panels, but worse color reproduction. Good overall compromise panel.
3. IPS – In-Plane Switching – best color accuracy, but slowest. Best for media / designers.
The clear winner for architects is an IPS monitor. It will have the best color reproduction with the best viewing angles. They are a little bit weaker when it comes to gaming because the refresh rates and response times aren’t as good, but as architects, those factors aren’t nearly as important to us. The contrast ratio also can be a little lacking, but that’s probably the one trade off you might notice and have to live with.
Prices are always coming down, and IPS monitors may be a bit more expensive than a VA or TN panel, but the few extra bucks will be well worth it.
The last thing we’ll go through are the features. I think for what architects need them for, we can get pretty basic and not feel like we’re missing a whole lot.
Here’s some features that are available:
1. Display inputs (HDMI, VGA, Display Port)
2. Built-In Speakers
3. USB Input
4. VESA Mount Capability (allows you to connect to monitor arm)
5. Headphone Jack
6. Blue Light Filtering (filters out blue light and is easier on eyes. It’s probably called something different based on what brand you buy)
Like most things, features are based on your needs and preferences, but here’s how I’d break down the list:
(1) HDMI input
Very Strongly Encouraged
VESA Mount capability
If you plan on only ever using the stand that came with it, you probably won’t need VESA capability. But, I would still highly encourage you to buy a monitor that has this in case you ever end up getting monitor arms or want to get a sit/stand desk attachment (like we just did in our office)
Nice To Have
Blue Light Filtering
More Inputs – maybe an additional HDMI or Display Port
I know things can get confusing when it comes to monitors, but don’t panic! There’s a lot of very good monitors out there with lots of slight differences. Stick with one of the trusted brands and you should be fine!
Here’s a couple of monitors that I would recommend:
1. HP VH240a – Buy it here on Amazon
2. HP 25er – Buy it here on Amazon
3. Asus MX259H – Buy it here on Amazon
4. LG Ultragear – Buy it here at Best Buy (A bit of overkill for architecture, but I use this as a gaming monitor and love it)
As always, thanks for following along. If you have any questions or comments about my Gear Guide: Monitors, feel free to let me know in the comments below!
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