Upgrading your computer's hardware isn't the only way to get that new machine experience. A new monitor can go a long way towards making your computer more fun to use and more functional. Here are five of the best to choose from, based on reader nominations.
Title photo by William Hook
We've quoted indicative pricing for each monitor, but it definitely pays to shop around. Pay special attention to shipping prices -- display shipping costs can be significant.
Dell's flagship 30" U3011 display is a gorgeous IPS panel that leads Dell's UltraSharp performance line of monitors. It sports a 2560 by 1600 16:10 display, and comes packed with inputs. A lineup of 2 HDMI, 2 DVI-D (with HDCP), 1 DisplayPort, 1 VGA port plus component connectors makes it ideal for use with multiple devices. It also packs a USB hub and a 7-in-1 card reader mounted on the side. At the regular price of $1699 it's a pricey panel, but at the time of writing Dell is offering it for $50 off. Dell regularly runs sales and distributes coupons for its products, so search carefully if this is on your wishlist.
Yamakasi Catleap (around $400)
The Catleap range (from Korean company Yamakasi) excited monitor enthusiasts because it uses the same LG IPS panels deployed by Apple in its 27" iMac models but costs far less than most rivals. Yamakasi's displays don't come with bells and whistles, but they do come with stellar panels. The Catleap is a 2560 by 1440 16:9 display, and includes a single DVI-D (with HDCP) input (Some models have a VGA input as well.) It's not available through traditional retail channels, but it is available easily via eBay. Buyers who have made the switch generally sing their praises loudly. Other Korean models to look out for include the Achieva Shimian 27" and the Auria EQ276W 27". Both use similar panels and come at bargain prices.
Apple's 27" Thunderbolt Display is a stellar TFT panel, boasting a 2560 by 1440 16:9 LED backlit display with excellent colours and calibration, a built-in FaceTime camera, and plenty of built-in ports (audio inputs and built-in speakers, Firewire 800, Thunderbolt, and 3 USB ports). The Thunderbolt port can also be daisy-chained to other Thunderbolt devices such as external hard drives and NAS enclosures. The display is clearly designed for use with Mac OS desktops and laptops, and even has a built-in MagSafe charging port to keep your laptop juiced up. The limiting factors? It's not cheap, and it's only fully compatible with Thunderbolt-enabled Mac desktops and laptops.
The 24" Dell U2410 is a great IPS display for people looking for an extra screen but not needing a massive display. It sports a 1920 by 1200 16:10 display, and comes with a wealth of inputs for connecting multiple devices, including a DVI-D (with HDCP) input, a VGA input, a DisplayPort input, as well as component and composite inputs. It also has the UltraSharp line's trademark USB hub and card reader mounted into the side. It retails for $699, but Dell's display line is often on sale, so with some research you should be able to do better before pulling the trigger.
ASUS PB278Q 27-Inch Display ($689)
Even though the PB278Q is ASUS's flagship 27" panel, it's priced very competitively compared to most rivals (shop around and you'll easily get it for $50 or more off the listed price). It's a 2560 by 1440 16:9 PLS (a Samsung-developed update on IPS) display using Samsung glass. It has a pair of built-in speakers, and sports a dual-link DVI (with HDCP) input, a VGA input, a DisplayPort input, and an HDMI input, along with a pair of audio ports (headphone/microphone.) The display is a bit spartan in design, and less flashy than some other models, but it gets the job done. Overall, it's an affordable and highly functional 27" display.
This week's honorable mention goes out to Dell UltraSharp U2711 27" Display, which sells at $899 retail and sits nicely between the U2410 and the U3011, for people who want a 27" panel. It's a 2560 by 1440 IPS display that comes packed with inputs and a USB hub and card reader. Here's a secret: it also uses the same glass panels (a slightly later model, the LM270WQ2 compared to the LM270WQ1) that are used in the Korean displays we mentioned earlier.
Want to make the case for your own favourite monitor? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.