by Harry Guinness on
If you’ve any interest in writing nicely then a $1 ballpoint won’t cut it, you need to look at a fountain pen.
So you’d like to get a monitor for your laptop, or perhaps expand your desktop to two. But monitors don’t come cheap…actually, they do! Here are the best frugal options on the market.
There are plenty of options out there if all you care about is a low price, but we’ve selected the best penny-pinching models for broad categories based on features and reliability. The Dell monitor we’ve chosen for most users is a nice upgrade for normal office work and video or a multi-monitor array, and we’ve also made selections for users who want a much bigger primary screen, a monitor specifically tuned for gaming, or a massive workspace expansion with 4K resolution.
Dell makes some great and reliable displays at reasonable prices—despite the company’s reputation for so-so computer hardware, they should always be near the top of your list if you’re shopping for a new monitor. The E2318Hx is the latest model in the company’s E series, which uses inexpensive panels without any frills to deliver the best value. This one uses a 23-inch screen with a full 1920×1080 HD resolution and the industry standard 60Hz refresh rate.
While it omits extras like USB ports or speakers, it uses an IPS panel instead of TN for more accurate colors, and it comes with a standard VESA mount if you want to use it with a multi-monitor stand. The only wrinkle in the design is that it comes with the latest DisplayPort input paired with a the much older VGA port. You’ll need an inexpensive adapter if you want to use HDMI or DVI.
If you’re specifically looking for much more real estate with your monitor upgrade, these 32-inch options will serve you well. Both of them offer huge, color-accurate IPS panels at bargain prices. The LG 32MP58HQ-P should be your pick if you want a larger screen for video or you want text to be larger, thanks to its standard 1080p resolution. That’s a low dots-per-inch value for this size, but it’s a good choice if your eyesight is poor and you struggle to read on smaller screens or laptops. It includes VESA mounting capability and both HDMI and VGA ports for easy connections. Note that the power adapter is external, so you’ll have a little less room behind your desk. Even so, it’s a fantastic value at under $200.
Those who want both a bigger screen and more pixel area to work with should opt for the Acer EB321HQU, a modest upgrade at $250. This model keeps the IPS panel but bumps the resolution up to 2560×1440, an increase of around 75% in pixel space. It’s also a little easier to work with thanks to DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort inputs and a power supply that’s integrated into the display itself. For a budget monitor it’s surprisingly good-looking, and it has a slightly boosted 75Hz refresh rate.
Gamers looking for that extra edge in their PC titles want one thing out of their displays above all else: speed. And with a 144hz refresh rate and a lightning-fast one millisecond response time, the Acer XFA240 delivers. Its 24-inch size won’t blow you away, but games will look fantastic on its speedy VA panel as it refreshes as fast as your graphics card can handle. The standard 1080p resolution is actually a blessing there: even mid-range cards shouldn’t be overwhelmed on medium or high game graphics settings.
The display is compatible with AMD’s FreeSync anti-tear technology (NVIDIA’s proprietary G-SYNC requires a much more expensive screen) and it’s equipped with a VESA mount if you’re looking to create a multi-display setup on the cheap. DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI ports are included, and it also comes with a pair of low-power 2-watt speakers integrated into the body. That’s not much in terms of audio, but it could be handy if you usually use a headset and you’d like something more comfy for basic web browsing tasks.
Previously 4K resolution was out of reach for those on a budget, but more affordable options have come to the market as of late. The Asus VP28UQG is the best example, combining a massive 3840×2160 resolution and a big 28-inch screen for less than $300. Asus bills this as a gaming model, so it uses a less expensive TN screen panel with a faster one millisecond response time, and the 60Hz refresh rate can be enhanced with FreeSync if you use an AMD graphics card. And you’ll need a decent one to push all those pixels, using a DisplayPort cable or an HDMI 2.0 cable (both included in the box) at the least.
The screen can accept VESA mounts and has a few extra settings for gamers, but otherwise keeps the features light with no extra USB ports or speakers. But if you’re looking to take advantage of 4K video or boost productivity with a huge workspace, this is the monitor to get.
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