How to Buy a Secondary Monitor (Explained)

How to Buy a Secondary Monitor

No matter how you spend your time on your PC, a secondary monitor can be helpful for everyone. With so many options for monitors to pick up, however, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds.

We’re here to help you navigate this process and make sure you know all of the most important details to nail down.

With that, here’s how to buy a secondary monitor that best fits your needs and the most important things to look out for when making your pick.

How to Buy a Secondary Monitor? (The Simple Answer)

When buying a monitor, there are a number of important factors to consider, ranging from screen size to resolution, panel types, ports, refresh rate, and more. The importance of these details will vary based on your preferences and budget. 

Those looking to really push the limits of performance will want to target larger monitors with the highest resolutions (4K being the gold standard), splurging on an OLED or IPS panel type, targeting 144hz or higher refresh rates, and ensuring there’s a DisplayPort available. 

Those looking to really stretch their budget or limit eye strain will want to target more midrange sizes, more affordable resolution options like 1080p or 1440p, a VA panel type, 60hz refresh rates, and more standard port options.

In the end, secondary monitors for work purposes that largely involve text can skimp on these details. Those looking to optimize media for things like graphic design, video editing, or even video games, however, will really feel the benefits of going the extra mile.

No matter how you intend to use your secondary monitor, you’ll want to make sure you match your primary and secondary monitors across screen size (generally), resolution, refresh rate, and panel type.

Gaming setup_2

The 6 Most Important Things When Buying a Secondary Monitor

Monitor shopping is an exciting time, as it’s an important purchase for even those with limited amounts of screen time. 

When choosing a secondary monitor, you’ll need to consider a number of factors, including size, shape, resolution, button layouts, and more. These will vary in importance based on how you use your PC, but it’s essential to consider them all before making your purchase.

Screen Size

Monitor screen sizes typically range from 20 to 38 inches from corner to corner, sizes that are often categorized as Standard Widescreen, Ultrawide, and Super Ultrawide.

The best screen size for your secondary monitor will, in part, depend on how far you sit away from it, its shape, and if desk space is a concern, you’ll want to choose between these options accordingly. 

In general, larger monitors are preferred for those more concerned with performance, as they are often sharper and offer higher resolutions.

Those more concerned with productivity and long-term use, however, should be mindful of the additional eye strain that comes with their use, especially so for work. Bigger monitors will also typically cost more, so you’ll need to play to your budget accordingly.

In general, 24-inch monitors and above will cover most users’ needs well, but this is an area where upping your budget could go a long way when paired with the right resolution.

While matching the screen size of your monitors is aesthetically pleasing to many, you can also mix and match the size and shape of your monitor or use an inverted stand to further shake things up.

Just beware this can become an eyesore in the end, and your creative mileage may vary.

Resolution

After screen size, the most important thing to consider when purchasing a new monitor is its resolution. 

The resolution of a monitor signifies its pixel count, affecting image quality across the board. This will matter most for those with visually intense jobs like video editors or graphic designers and those looking to use their machine primarily for media. 

In general, those looking for the best image quality will want to consider higher-resolution options like 4K monitors; just keep in mind this is especially taxing on price. 

Other resolutions to consider include 1440p and 1080p monitors, which are no slouches in the modern market and still work well for nearly all uses.

In the end, the resolution of your monitor will also display differently based on your screen size, and the general rule of thumb here is the bigger, the better.

And keep in mind you’ll definitely want to match the resolution of your primary and secondary monitors, as a difference here will be a noticeable nuisance during use.

Gaming setup

Panel Types

Another variable to consider when shopping for secondary monitors is their panel types. Panel types affect responsiveness, brightness, color depth, contrast, and even the viewing angle of a monitor during use. 

The three main panel types are In-Plane Switching (IPS), Twisted Nematic (TN), and Vertical Alignment (VA). Each of these panel types has its own strengths and weaknesses and will also vary in price.

• IPS panels tend to be the most effective choice for graphic design and video editing work, as they offer the most consistent color display. These monitors also tend to land in the midrange of pricing while outperforming the competition in these areas, making them a great option for a range of budgets.

• VA panels may struggle to compete with IPS in many areas, but one place they excel is in the recreation of darker images and shadows via a greater level of contrast. This can come up often for different media like video games, movies, and TV shows, so it could be something to consider based on your use and preferences.

TN panels are great if you’re looking to save as much money as possible. These tend to get lapped by the competition on performance but can save you precious dollars in the end.

For a secondary monitor, make sure to pick up either an IPS or VA panel monitor. TN panels have terrible viewing angles, and the fact that you’re going to be looking at your monitor almost always at an angle should rule them out. Unless you’re on a really tight budget.

Refresh Rates

For those looking to get the most out of their monitor for gaming, picking a higher refresh rate is a must. 

A monitor’s refresh rate is the number of times per second an image can be updated, measured in hertz (Hz), which shows up often in fast-paced gaming genres like FPS games. 

For higher-end GPU and CPUs, a higher refresh rate monitor is necessary to truly keep up, with the top of the market ranging from 360hz to 240hz to 144hz, 120hz, and the more standard 60hz.

High refresh rate monitors will also help out with motion smoothness and are much more comfortable to use for extended sessions on a PC.

When buying a secondary monitor, make sure you go for one that has at least a 120hz, ideally a 144hz+ refresh rate.

Ports

Another detail you won’t want to miss when choosing a secondary monitor is its port options. The most common port options for monitors are HDMI, DisplayPort, Audio, USB-A, USB-B, and USB-C.

In general, those looking to focus on gaming or visually intense work will want their second monitor to have a DisplayPort interface in order to push performance levels.

Those looking to use their machine primarily for other work or general use often won’t see much of a difference here and are better off saving money in the end.

Budget

Of course, the final consideration for choosing a secondary monitor is the budget you have. 

There are many ways to cut costs when choosing a second monitor, and it will come down to your individual needs and preferences to pinpoint where is best to do it.

In general, though, limiting panel types to IPS and below, screen size to around 24 inches, and resolution to at most 1440p will help you stretch your dollar without interfering with general use.

Further, you will often find more cost-effective options on online marketplaces like Amazon and tech haven Newegg than a big-box retailer, so shop accordingly.

Triple monitor gaming setup

Conclusion

In the end, knowing how to choose a secondary monitor comes down to how you’ll end up using it.

Whether you’re looking to game for 12 hours a day, work for 8, or browse for 2, you’ll want to adjust your preferences accordingly across screen size, resolution, panel types, refresh rates, ports, stands, and button layouts.

Much like a mattress, users will spend much more time looking at their monitors than they might realize, and screen time is only going up as we evolve a more remote workforce culture and expand the digital world.

That means ensuring your primary and secondary monitors are not only the right fit for each other but for you is more important than ever.

By doing the right research on the areas we’ve covered, you’ll be able to establish the best secondary monitors at your preferred price point.

And if you’re still looking for some help, we’ve ranked and reviewed some of the best secondary monitors available today here!

About Richard Gamin 237 Articles
My name's Richard and over the years, I have personally built many PCs for myself and my friends. I love gaming, programming, graphics designing and basically anything that has to do with computers and technology. If you ever need a hand with anything, feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to help you out.

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