You don’t need to know anything about tech to understand the benefits of a dedicated monitor when your primary computer is a laptop. It can help you visually divide your work so your screen doesn’t turn into a cluttered mess of windows, tabs, and videos that’ll give you flashbacks to Myspace and the early aughts. (It’s also nice if you want to keep something like your email, Slack, or Spotify always visible.)
One thing that should reassure you when you’re looking for a new monitor is that you don’t necessarily need top-of-the-line visuals. Sam Byford, an editor at the Verge, says most people can ignore refresh rates. “That isn’t really relevant for someone just wanting something basic for working at home,” he says. If you’re editing photos or videos, or just want the best colors you can get, Byford recommends finding a monitor with an IPS, or in-plane-switching, panel, which will give you a clearer image and improve response time. If sound isn’t that important to you, you can often save money by finding a monitor without speakers. The ones in your laptop are plenty when it comes to alert sounds and the occasional video — or you can always connect to headphones or dedicated speakers.
For most of us, a dedicated monitor is simply about expanding visual real estate. You want something practical and reasonably priced that will give you the freedom to chuck windows over to another screen when you don’t need them, and then drag them back over when you do. The first thing to look for is compatibility with your computer. Alvin Lee, IT administrator lead at New York Magazine (and the person responsible for picking all of the tech equipment we use at the Strategist), says “connectivity and compatibility” were among his main criteria in buying monitors for our office. He also points out that if you find a monitor that you like but it doesn’t have adjustable height, you can still get it. Just grab a couple of books and prop it up yourself.
Below are the nine best monitors to improve your WFH setup, as recommended by Byford, Lee, and seven other tech experts.
Best overall monitor
Lee chose this monitor for the New York offices because he needed something that would easily connect to all of the different machines people use, whether they’re MacBooks, iMacs, or Windows laptops. This 21.5-inch size should be more than enough for most WFH setups, Byford says, especially if you’re looking to save money and stick with an HD monitor. “Resolution is a function of size,” he says, which means a bigger monitor with the same resolution is using the same number of pixels to fill a larger amount of space, leaving you with a blocky, less-crisp image. As an added bonus, this monitor tilts, swivels, and rotates to help you find the perfect placement.
Best 4K monitor
Two of our experts mentioned this monitor as the best 4K option, and Steven Acevedo, a buyer at Adorama, says, “We recommend LG monitors because they’re a go-to brand for photographers, filmmakers, gamers, and any other type of content creator due to their high resolution and vivid color displays.” Tyler Stalman, a photographer and tech podcaster, loves the LG UltraFine series. “They have good color accuracy out of the box, great pixel density and sharpness, and are the best match for pairing with a Mac,” he says. Byford likes this monitor for its simplicity. “It’s a little undersized and the design is boring, but the panel quality is excellent and it works more seamlessly with macOS than any other monitor,” he says. And since it works with USB-C, it also charges your laptop as you use it, giving you one less cord to keep behind your desk.
Best 5K monitor
“If you’re into drawing, graphic/game design, or trading, this is the choice for you,” says Alan Zilberman of Laptop MD. This 5K screen has a 5120 x 2880 resolution compared to 4K’s 3840 x 2160. That gives you more detailed and vibrant images, making it useful for serious visual creatives dealing with layouts and images. Andy To, a video director and creative director with over 168,000 followers on Youtube and Instagram, bought this monitor because he considers it to be future proof. “A lot of my creative work gets done onscreen — which is true for almost all of us nowadays. So having that 27 inches of real estate is definitely very beneficial.” The LG 5K also has an IPS panel, USB-C compatibility, and a 60Hz refresh rate, plus speakers and a built-in camera. To says one of the deciding factors for buying the LG 5K was compatibly with the Mac. There’s no need for extra software or fussy calibrations, he says. “Just plug and play.”
Best midrange monitor
Zilberman also recommends this monitor, which has USB-C charging capability, along with an HDMI connection. The P2720DC strikes a good balance between price and performance, he says. You get 1440p resolution, also called Quad HD. That’s halfway between HD and 4K, so the larger screen size won’t mean a loss in clarity.
Best ergonomic monitor
The 27-inch display also has Quad HD resolution. One of its biggest selling points is its stand, which you can extend, swivel, tilt and even pivot for a taller portrait view. (Maybe you’re a coder or just someone who likes to look at pictures of their very tall friends.) “The built-in ergonomics of the stand allow an incredible amount of flexibility and monitor adjustment. It’s an all-star monitor that provides optimal workflow,” Acevedo says. And it’s “perfect for day-to-day working conditions or working from home.”
Most reliable monitor
“I’ve been very happy with the Dell U2415 for many years. It’s a middle-of-the-road, affordable display with decent, but not 4K resolution,” says Tony Larson, an IT professional. The 1080p widescreen anti-glare display has a full range of HDMI and USB ports, so you should be able to find a connection that works with your laptop. Like a lot of new laptops, it also has almost no bezel, which looks sleek and makes the screen feel even larger. “We purchase a lot of higher-end photography and photo-editing displays for work,” Larson says, but this is still the monitor he chooses to use at home.
Best monitors for spreadsheets
A majority of monitors are 16:9, the same widescreen ratio as most TVs. But 16:10 monitors like this one are a little more square, which some users find to be a little less cramped. “The 16:10 aspect ratio gives you that extra height that you sometimes need when looking at documents, spreadsheets or websites,” says Miguel Melendez, a PC expert at B&H Photo Video. He’s a fan of the B247W as a budget pick. It has 1080p HD resolution and uses IPS technology for quick response times and a clearer image from different viewing angles. It also tilts and swivels.
Melendez also recommends the 16:10 Dell U2412M. Along with the tilt and swivel capabilities of the Acer, it can raise as much as 4.5 inches.
Best gaming monitor
“I’ve been using this as my main monitor for about two years now,” says Alexander “Alexotos” Medeot, a mechanical-keyboard builder and Twitch streamer with close to 12,000 followers. “I use the monitor for gaming while I’m off-stream. The best thing about this display for my streams is that it’s 4K.” Unlike lower-resolution screens, 4K can handle the extra visual real estate without feeling choppy. The most common refresh rate is 60Hz, and it’s fine for most people, but if you’re into gaming or video editing, you’ll want something that’s at leasts 120Hz. The Acer Predator is 144Hz. “The overall effect is that the system feels a lot more responsive,” says Miguel Melendez, a PC expert at B&H Photo Video. Streamers often juggle between multiple videos, programs and chats so having extra room on a screen that doesn’t feel sluggish is crucial.