A monitor is among the most important peripherals you’ll purchase for your PC or laptop. You’ll use it every time you sit down at the computer, and unlike other devices, monitors rarely wear out or become entirely obsolete. The monitor you buy today could easily be the monitor you use a decade from now, which is why it's important to find one with all you need.
There are tons of options with a variety of features that can quickly overwhelm you. But don’t worry. We’ve tested dozens of monitors to find the best bang for your buck. Our top pick is Samsung’s 24-inch 390 Series monitor, which also goes by the model name Samsung LC24F390FHNXZA(available at Amazon for $139.99). Unlike most affordable monitors, the C24F390 has great contrast and good color reproduction, traits that help it stand out from the crowd. We’ve also selected several strong alternatives, in case our top pick doesn’t meet your needs.
These are the best computer monitors we tested, ranked in order:
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How We Tested
What Size Computer Monitor Do I Need?
What Resolution Do I Need: 1080p, 4K, or Something Else?
Samsung’s 24-inch 390 Series monitor, is the best computer monitor you can buy in this price range.
The C24F390 wins the nod thanks to its image quality, which clearly beats most monitors in its class. Its advantage comes thanks to the contrast ratio of its Vertical Alignment display panel. This monitor can display deep, inky black levels in scenes where most budget monitors only show a hazy, disappointing gray. Yet it’s also much brighter than competitors we tested in everyday use. You might not notice the C24F390’s advantage when editing a spreadsheet, but it’s obvious in movies and games, which look vibrant and crisp.
Thankfully, the C24F390 doesn’t sacrifice other elements of image quality in the name of contrast. It has a reasonable color gamut, passable color accuracy, and decent image uniformity, tying the competition in each area. It also has 1080p resolution which, on a 24-inch display, looks fairly sharp from a typical viewing distance. The display has a slight curve, which makes it look sleek, but doesn’t change the experience of using it.
There’s only one downside, and that’s the stand. It feels flimsy, only adjusts for tilt, and is too short to be comfortable for most users. The monitor does have a standard VESA mount, so you can add a third-party stand for better ergonomics.
Overall, the C24F390 simply outperforms its peers. If you need an ergonomic stand, we’d still recommend buying this monitor and purchasing a $25 stand to add to it later. The C24F390 will still be a better value than the alternatives, and makes for a value-packed way to brighten up your work station.
Hi! I'm Matthew S. Smith, a technology journalist and hardware reviewer. I started writing about computer hardware 13 years ago. I've worked for numerous publications including PCMag.com, TechHive, Business Insider, Lifewire, Digital Trends and, of course, Reviewed.
I believe that standardized testing matters, and I have something most testers don't: a log of results going back a decade. This unique perspective helps me compare how monitor brands have performed over time. I can confidently say the top pick on this list outperforms the best monitors available 10 years ago.
Lee Neikirk is the Editor for Reviewed's Home Theater vertical, and also contributed to this guide. He has a strong background in display evaluation and is an ISF-certified calibrator who has been honing Reviewed's screen-testing methodology since 2012.
Image quality is our top priority when testing a monitor. A display should have a strong contrast ratio, decent color gamut and accuracy, good image uniformity, and high enough brightness to appear vivid in a typical home office.
We’re more lenient when testing monitors in this price range than we’d otherwise be, as displays in this class simply can’t deliver the near-perfect color or crystal-clear sharpness found on expensive alternatives aimed at niche use cases or gaming. Still, we think a budget monitor should be enjoyable to use across a broad range of tasks, from Word documents to Netflix movies.
Our testing was conducted with Datacolor’s SpyderX Elite. This consumer calibration tool offers many detailed tests that gauge how a monitor performs against industry standards, such as the AdobeRGB color gamut. If that means nothing to you, don’t worry. Just know we’ve performed instrumented, objective testing to go along with real-world tests so we can rank monitor performance with confidence.
We’ve also put these monitors through their paces with at least several days of hands-on testing for productivity, gaming, and web browsing. This step makes us confident these monitors don’t have hidden flaws that will annoy or disappoint you down the line.
What Size Computer Monitor Do I Need?
24 inches: You'll see 24-inch computer monitors most often and, with a few rare expectations, this is the smallest size you'll find. A 24-inch monitor is the perfect size for a typical home office. Larger monitors look more impressive but, if you’re sitting two and a half or three feet away, their extra screen real estate will often end up in your peripheral vision.
27 inches: A 27-inch monitor is the most common next step up, and the largest size that makes sense for most people. Upgrading to a 27-inch monitor won’t make you more productive, but it can make for a more immersive and impressive experience. A 27-inch monitor is also wise if you sit more than three feet away from your monitor.
32 inches: Especially popular as gaming peripherals, a 32-inch monitor is too large for most users. It will dominate your desk and leave much of the screen outside your focus. A 32-inch monitor can make sense if you have a small living space and intend to use the monitor as a TV alternative. However, we can’t currently recommend any 32-inch display in the budget category.
What Resolution Do I Need: 1080p, 4K, or Something Else?
Budget shoppers only need to think about 1080p resolution. Quality monitors with a higher resolution aren’t available in this price range. You should beware of monitors that offer a resolution below 1080p, which can still be found on the market, but every monitor we recommend here is 1080p.
The Three LCD Panel Types: IPS, TN, and VA
A monitor’s LCD panel sits between the glass or plastic on its surface and the LED backlights at the rear. The panel is largely responsible for the image quality of a monitor. There are three distinct technologies common in the budget market.
IPS: Short for "in-plane switching," IPS panels tend to be bright, with good color and subdued ghosting behind fast-moving objects. However, IPS struggles to show deep black levels, which is a problem in movies and games. These panels are extremely common and good for general use.
TN: This means "twisted nematic." These are the cheapest panels and generally perform poorly in color, contrast, and viewing angles. However, they have fast response times and still reign as the go-to option for affordable, high-refresh gaming monitors.
VA: This means "vertical alignment." This panel technology has far superior contrast than IPS or TN, and its color performance isn’t bad, either. A good VA panel can also be very bright. VA panels have poor viewing angles compared to IPS, but this problem is less noticeable on a monitor, since you’ll usually sit directly in front of it.
The HP VH240a stands out as the most flexible monitor of the options we tested for this roundup. Its claim to fame is its highly adjustable stand/tilt options. It's one of the only monitors in this price range that offers a combination of panel tilting, adjustable height, and portrait rotation. This means you can easily find a comfortable viewing position, which is important if you work from home.
You're also getting a 24-inch screen, an IPS panel, 1080p resolution, and pretty respectable response times (5ms) for an IPS-equipped LCD monitor. Overall, this gives the VH240a widespread appeal, and the display works well in most situations.
The monitor’s major flaw is one it shares with other affordable IPS monitors: contrast ratio. This monitor can’t display deep black levels, yet isn’t all that bright either, so it struggles to deliver a sense of depth in movies and games. If you need a good monitor for work, however, the HP VH240a is an excellent choice.
Acer’s XFA240 is a rare affordable gaming monitor that’s worthy of that title. It’s a 24-inch, 1080p display with a 144 Hz refresh rate. It’s compatible with both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, which ensures smooth gameplay no matter the brand of video card you own.
The XFA240 is also well built for the price. It feels sturdy and includes a stand that has height, pivot, tilt, and swivel adjustment. Most gamers will have no need to buy a third-party stand or monitor arm.
It’s not all good news. This monitor achieves its high refresh rate at a low price by using a TN panel and, frankly, it shows. The monitor’s contrast ratio, color gamut, and color accuracy are just OK. It also has very poor viewing angles, which can be distracting when viewed even slightly off-axis.
Still, the Acer XFA240 is superior to the other budget gaming monitors we've tested, many of which have only a 60 Hz or 75 Hz refresh rate. This is the best budget monitor for hardcore gamers.
The BenQ GW2780 is a budget 27-inch monitor that we recommend primarily because of its price for the size. Your choice of monitor slims if you want a 27-inch screen, but the GW2780 is no more expensive than most 24-inch monitors on this list.
Its image quality is extremely similar to the HP VH240a, which is good news for most owners. The BenQ GW2780 has a decent color gamut, reasonable color accuracy, and is bright enough for most rooms. The monitor’s 1080p resolution doesn’t look as sharp as it would on a 24-inch monitor, but that’s a compromise you’ll have to accept on this budget.
Unlike the smaller HP VH240a, the BenQ GW2780’s stand only adjusts for tilt. The monitor is VESA compatible, however, meaning it can be mounted on a variety of third-party stands, and it’s so inexpensive that it remains good value even if you budget a bit extra for that purpose. Also, because this BenQ has a larger 27-inch screen, the included stand sits the monitor at a usable height for most people under six feet tall.
Still, value is what gives this monitor the nod. The BenQ GW2780 is extremely inexpensive, and cuts few corners to reach its affordable price.
This monitor from HP is teeming with value. Having stripped away almost all unnecessary extras, this small monitor boasts a high-quality IPS panel and 1080p resolution, which is an ample pixel density for its 22-inch screen.
While it's on the small side, 22 inches is a big step up from most laptop screens. Its crisp IPS panel and space-saving stand give it wide appeal for writing, coding, or browsing the web. Standing in as an upgrade from your laptop screen is likely where this generalist HP monitor will shine the brightest.
It's not the best choice for gaming with a native 60 Hz refresh rate. Also, this monitor’s stand only adjusts for tilt, and it’s not compatible with third-party stands.
This is the least expensive monitor we recommend, significantly undercutting our top pick, Samsung’s C24F390. We think the Samsung is well worth its price but, if you absolutely must keep your budget to a minimum, this HP will do the trick.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
Matthew S. Smith is a veteran tech journalist and general-purpose PC hardware nerd. Formerly the Lead Editor of Reviews at Digital Trends, he has over a decade of experience covering PC hardware. Matt often flies the virtual skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator and is on a quest to grow the perfect heirloom tomato.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.