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{ Coding } Choosing the Best Monitor for Programming (2021)

What to look for in a monitor for coding and software development and how to find the best one for your setup.

Programming Setup Jannis Brandt / Unsplash

Last Updated: October 15, 2021

Written by Brandon Jones

There are many types of monitors out there, so we will try to help with choosing the best one for your programming workspace. This guide goes over the size, resolution, response time, refresh rate, panel types, and screen curvature.

We also include our recommended monitors for programming below to make a more knowledgeable and straightforward purchase.

Size of Monitors

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The best monitor size for your programming setup depends on how far you'll be sitting from your monitor and which resolution you want.

If you want to sit farther away from the monitor, you'll probably want to get a larger one so that you can see all of the details.

Smaller monitors have the advantage of fitting more of your code and other windows into your field of view without having to move your eyes as much.

Larger monitors can allow you to have more windows and apps on the screen overall if you get one with a higher resolution.

In the chart below, you can see the optimal resolution for each size of monitor.

Any resolution higher than the optimal resolution listed below might look a little crisper but probably would not be that noticeable. For this reason, it likely wouldn't be worth the extra added cost.

For example, you'll have the best experience if you get a 27-inch monitor with a 1440p or 4K resolution. Verify that your computer is capable of handling the higher resolution.

Monitor Sizing
Monitor SizeOptimal Resolution
24 inch 1080p / 1440p
27 inch 1440p / 4K
32 inch 1440p / 4K
42+ inch 4K

Resolutions of Monitors

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Choosing a monitor can also depend on how much detail you want to be displayed and the clarity of what's on your screen, like user interface elements and text quality.

The clarity is based on the resolution, but a bigger screen allows you to see it at a more comfortable size. For coding on a 27-inch monitor, a 1440p picture will look a lot more crisp compared to 1080p.

Usage

You may plan to also use your monitor for computer apps, such as browsing websites or multitasking (having multiple windows open side-by-side).

The advantage to using a high-resolution monitor for programming is that you can fit more apps and windows onto the screen at once. Higher resolutions can help with multitasking and allow you to view your code editor at a wider width.

If you don't scale the UI on your operating system, text and buttons will be smaller at high resolutions.

However, newer operating systems let you scale the UI, which means that everything can be the same size as on a low-resolution monitor but have greater detail.

Monitor Resolution Comparison Monitor Resolution Comparison Brandon Jones / TechReviewer

Panel Types for Monitors

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The display panels inside monitors can use a variety of different technologies. Common LCD panel types include TN, VA, and IPS. Non-LCD panel types include OLED.

Note that LED and QLED are types of backlight technologies and are used in combination with TN, VA, and IPS panels.

Below is a comparison of the different monitor panel types. Overall, IPS panels are our personal favorite because they provide the best features for the price.

We also include OLED TVs since they can be used as monitors due to their excellent motion handling, colors, and contrast.

Monitor Panel Types
TNVAIPSOLED
Response Time Excellent Good Very Good Excellent
Refresh Rate Excellent Excellent Very Good Excellent
Viewing Angle Okay Very Good Excellent Excellent
Color Okay Good Excellent Excellent
Contrast Good Very Good Good Excellent
Price $ $$ $$$ $$$$$

See my recommended monitors for programming below.

Refresh Rates for Monitors

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Refresh rates determine how well a monitor can handle motion — the higher the refresh rate, the better. You may not think a higher refresh rate is needed for programming, but it can improve the overall experience. Scrolling through your code will look a lot more smooth, which can enhance your work speed. You won't notice a difference in refresh rates while there's no motion on the screen.

Monitors can have a refresh rate ranging from 60 to 360 Hz.

Refresh rate is the number of times a display can redraw the screen. Refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz), which is defined as one cycle per second. For example, a refresh rate of 60 Hz means that the screen will redraw 60 times each second.

A good refresh rate is around 120 Hz to 165 Hz or above. Refresh rates in this range will reduce motion blur and make animations smoother.

Response Times for Monitors

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Response time also determines how well a monitor can handle motion — the lower the response time, the better. A lower response time can improve the smoothness and clarity of text while scrolling through files.

Response time is the time it takes a display to change from one color to another. The timing of this is usually determined by going back and forth between white and black. The timing is measured in milliseconds, with lower being better.

If your monitor has a higher response time, you'll notice more ghosting. When ghosting occurs, it looks like the colors or text are blurring together whenever there's quick movement on the screen.

Try to get a monitor with a 1 ms response time for best results. Monitors with a slightly higher response time (e.g., 5 ms) can still make for a great programming monitor if you don't mind some minor ghosting.

Some monitors are not capable of both being set to their highest refresh rate and achieving their fastest response time. Check the monitor specs to determine what it supports.

Curved or Flat Monitor for Programming?

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Deciding to buy a curved or flat monitor for programming is mainly a personal preference. Curved monitors can help with seeing the edges of the screen better, but overall it won't affect your usage that much.

With a curved monitor, the distance between your eyes and the monitor is more consistent across the entire width of the monitor. Additionally, the viewing angle is also more consistent across the whole width of the monitor. These two factors can result in a more immersive experience.

  • Curved monitors are usually recommended for 27 inches or more.
  • If you are going to sit far away from the monitor, a flat monitor will be your best option.
  • On the other hand, if you will be using a wide monitor up close, a curved monitor may provide the best programming experience.
  • Despite the benefits of a curved monitor, many programmers still prefer two separate monitors or one that can rotate.

Rotating Portrait Monitor for Programming?

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Some monitors allow you to rotate the monitor vertically in portrait orientation in addition to a landscape orientation. Portrait orientation allows for viewing more lines of code so that you can skim through it more quickly. It may take some time to get used to, but having the extra vertical space can be helpful for longer files or even web browsing.

  • For most cases, an extra landscape monitor to go along with a portrait monitor is best.
  • If a monitor doesn't support rotating to portrait orientation out of the box, you can use a desk or wall mount to do so (if the monitor supports mounting).
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HP VH240a (23.8 Inch)

  • 23.8 inch | 1080p | 60 Hz | 5 ms | Rotatable | IPS Panel

  • This monitor is a great entry-level monitor that supports portrait orientation out of the box.

  • The IPS panel provides great picture quality.

  • HP 23.8 Inch 1080p IPS LED Monitor (VH240a) on Amazon (affiliate link).

    HP 23.8 Inch 1080p IPS LED Monitor (VH240a)

ASUS TUF Gaming (27 Inch)

  • 27 inch | 1440p | 165 Hz | 1 ms | HDR10 | IPS Panel

  • Fast refresh rates reduce motion blur and make animations smoother.

  • 1 ms response times prevent ghosting during quick movements.

  • The IPS panel provides excellent picture quality.

  • Supports:

    • VESA mounting
    • HDR10 (when used with HDR content, allows for darker darks and brighter brights)
  • ASUS TUF Gaming 27 inch 2K HDR Gaming Monitor (VG27AQ) on Amazon (affiliate link).

    ASUS TUF Gaming 27 inch 2K HDR Gaming Monitor (VG27AQ)

ASUS ProArt PA278QV (27 Inch)

  • 27 inch | 1440p | 75 Hz | 5 ms | Rotatable | IPS Panel

  • The IPS panel provides excellent picture quality.

  • Factory calibrated and color accurate; 100% sRGB and 100% Rec. 709 color gamut.

  • Supports:

    • Portrait orientation
    • VESA mounting
  • ASUS ProArt Display PA278QV 27 inch 1440p Monitor on Amazon (affiliate link).

    ASUS ProArt Display PA278QV 27 inch 1440p Monitor

Samsung Odyssey G7 (32 Inch)

  • 32 inch | 1440p | 240 Hz | 1 ms | HDR10 | VA Panel | Curved

  • 1 ms response times prevent ghosting during quick movements.

  • Fast refresh rates reduce motion blur and make animations smoother.

  • The VA panel provides very good picture contrast.

  • HDR10, when used with HDR game content, allows for darker darks and brighter brights.

  • Supports VESA mounting.

  • SAMSUNG Odyssey G7 Series 32 Inch 1440p Gaming Monitor (LC32G75TQSNXZA) on Amazon (affiliate link).

    SAMSUNG Odyssey G7 32-Inch 1440p Gaming Monitor on Amazon

LG C1 OLED (48-83 Inch)

  • 48-83 inch | 2160p (4K) | 120 Hz | 1 ms | OLED

  • While this isn't specifically a monitor, you can use it as one!

  • This is an exceptional TV for any use, whether for movies, games, sports, or as a PC monitor.

  • Fast refresh rates reduce motion blur and make animations smoother.

  • This TV has wide viewing angles, perfect for many people watching TV together (like most OLED TVs).

  • It has an extreme contrast ratio capable of producing pitch-black scenes without suffering from blooming.

  • A negative to this TV is that it might not be bright enough for bright/sunny rooms, which is common among most OLED TVs.

  • This has the fastest response time for smooth fast-moving content, great for games or sports.

  • The LG C1 OLED also supports very low input lag and variable refresh rate, both of which are also needed for gaming.

  • It's superb for HDR content due to its extreme contrast ratio and wide color gamut.

  • Check the latest price of the LG C1 OLED on Amazon (affiliate link).

    LG C1 OLED