Buying the right monitor is very simple if you know exactly what you want and what your primary use will be. Walking into a shop and asking the guy at the counter what's good spells disaster, especially when shopping for computer components. More often than not you'll end up with some mediocre product that the shop guy has been trying to get rid off from his inventory. Many people don't pay much attention to the type of monitor they buy, the only thing they concentrate on is the size, which in a way is a good place to start, but you can't just leave it there. You need to dig a bit deeper.
Instead of just explaining what the specifications mean, we will create different categories depending on different usage patterns and highlight the things you should keep an eye out for and things you should ignore. In fact, there are a couple of specifications that can be overlooked for any category like Dynamic Contrast ratio. This is one specification that manufactures love to increase exponentially with every new model they release, but in reality it doesn't mean anything.
As a matter of fact, DC would more often than not ruin the image rather than improve it. Imagine you're watching a movie and there's a night scene playing, with DC the entire screen will darken so much that you can barely see anything. Also, the transition from dark to bright is mostly never smooth or natural which looks odd and would give you a headache. The second one is response time. There was a time when monitors used to have high response time and checking this was crucial, especially for gaming and movies. Nowadays, almost any monitor you buy whether 4K or 40K will have a response time of under 8ms, which is ideally considered the sweet spot for ghost-free videos.
For an average user who buys a PC for internet surfing, a little office work and basic multimedia like watching a movie, etc., any monitor that fits your budget and space in your home would do. A 19" widescreen monitor would be nice for games and movies. If you do a lot of video chatting then it would be a good idea to get a monitor with a built in webcam, as it's neater than having cables running all over the place. Unfortunately, there aren't any monitors with this feature under 23" screen size. One really good monitor is the Dell SP2309W that has a 2.0MP camera as well as a USB hub making it easier to connect devices like pen drives.
If you find yourself short on space then look for monitors with in-built speakers. They will not have the same quality compared to even the cheapest dedicated speakers, but for very casual music listening, watching YouTube videos and GTalk alerts, it will suffice.
When it comes to gaming, the larger the monitor the better the experience. First person shooters, arcade racing games and strategy (RTS) games offer better immersion when played on a large screen. When buying a monitor for gaming, first check your system to see what kind of resolution it can handle. If you have a decent gaming rig or you know you will be upgrading in the future then go for a Full HD panel. If not, you should be ideally looking at a 20-incher as it strikes a good balance between size and resolution. It's big enough to enjoy a good FPS and has a resolution (usually 1600x900) higher than a 19-incher, so the pixels are more closely packed giving you a sharper and better image. Dell has a good 20-incher called the S2009W for around Rs.6,500.
Many people want to buy consoles but don't have a good LCD TV, since they may have a decent CRT at home. In that case look for a HDMI port in the monitor as you can plug in your consoles to it. These monitors also usually have an audio-out jack, so you can connect it to speakers. Good 22-inchers include the BenQ G2220HD and Samsung B2230 that are worth looking at.
If you watch a lot of movies then it should be obvious that a full HD monitor is the way to go. Companies like Dell offer glossy screens on some of their monitors, which actually make the image pop a little and also in some ways makes the picture more vibrant. Beware of reflections though, if you have a window or a light source behind you then it can be very annoying.
Another good feature would be better viewing angles. If you often have friends over or even family members watching, the person sitting on the extreme left or right would normally see distorted colors if the monitor has a small viewing angle. Sadly the cheaper ones all come with TN panel, so the viewing angles will never be as good as IPS panels. Dell's recently launched U2311H, a full HD IPS panel monitor that sells for a very attractive price of Rs. 13,500.
This may include graphic designers, video editors, etc., who require a lot of screen real estate but at the same time a good quality panel that's able to reproduce accurate color. For this, you need nothing less than an IPS panel. The only way to know this is to check the manufacturers' website, as it's not always mentioned on the box. Here's the thing, if the site description does not mention anything about the panel then take it for granted that it's a TN, which is a cheaper panel and does not offer accurate colors for this segment. The cheapest IPS panel can be found in the Dell U2311H.
If you are into designing then you'll need a lot of flexibility with the monitor. The high end IPS panels come with height adjustment and portrait mode so you can adjust the monitor exactly the way you want to.
For those who are afraid to buy a large monitor because of the amount of power it consumes should be looking at LED backlit monitors. These sell for a slight premium but consume half the power of similarly sized CCFL backlit monitor and the brightness and contrast is a lot better. BenQ and Viewsonic were some of the early adopters of this and offered good performance, but the design and overall aesthetics weren't great.
Samsung has recently launched the PX2370 LED monitor and we can't wait to test it. It offers superior aesthetics and its performance ought to be good since it is, well, a Samsung after all.
We cannot stress it enough that make sure you do your homework before you go out shopping. This way you'll be completely satisfied with your purchase as you know you've made the right choice.