Even with the most powerful processor, a cutting edge graphics card and a range of HD media to enjoy, if your PC's monitor isn't up to the job then you're going to miss out.
When it comes to buying a monitor, there are many more features to consider than just the number of pixels. Muddying the waters further, many manufacturers see fit to boast about relatively unimportant specifications that serve only to let the marketing department put a big number on the box.
The biggest culprit here is dynamic contrast ratio. While the normal contrast ratio of a monitor is very important when determining the potential image quality - especially when it comes to the dark blacks and bright whites - the contrast ratio of most monitors will be 1,000:1. Dynamic contrast ratios, on the other hand, are usually much higher and can range from around 5,000:1 to 10,000:1 and higher.
There's no industry standard way of testing dynamic contrast ratio and extremely high numbers can only result in tiny improvements in performance that won't be noticeable under normal viewing conditions.
We've cut through all the marketing to look at the performance of these monitors where it really matters. When it comes to watching media, the most important specifications here are colour reproduction, response time and overall image performance. There are many monitors on the market that excel in some areas but are disappointing in others, which makes it easy to end up with a display that's not the best choice for your needs.
We're looking for the best media-playing monitor on the market today, paying attention to the figures that really make a difference. Here are the monitors we tested.
Dell U2412M - £310
Eizo Foris FS2332 - £345
Asus ML249H - £200
AOC i2353FH - £155
Iiyama Prolite B2712HDS - £268
Hazro HZ27WC - £549
BenQ EW24300 - £186
ViewSonic VX2753mh-LED - £250
This might look like a P2411H Professional series monitor, but there's one important difference: it's an IPS screen, not a TN.
Screen type is the single biggest deciding factor in your screen's image quality. In IPS screens, crystals are kept parallel in a lateral electric field, whereas in TN panels they untwist as voltage is applied, and their alignment alters as they drift from the anchored electrode. This hinders the flow of bulb light, and the contrast and colour representation as you look at the screen from wider angles than head-on.
TN panels are cheaper to produce because they need half as many transistors per pixel. They also produce much quicker response times.
Read our full Dell U2412M review
Eizo Foris FS2332
With two HDMI inputs nestled among the more standard DVI and VGA sockets, plus built-in speakers and a remote control, this monitor is clearly designed to double as a television. As a result, it doesn't look quite as glamorous as dedicated LED monitors.
The infrared port for the remote control and built-in speakers makes it a rather bulky and ugly device - at least on the outside. Thankfully, the hardware powering this panel suffers none of the compromises that plagued earlier monitor/HDTV hybrids.
The Eizo Foris FS2332 uses an IPS panel rather than the more popular TN display found in most LCD monitors.
Read our full Eizo Foris FS2332 review
Are the glory days of monitors finally upon us? Looking at the displays in this group test, it seems so, but the problem with glory days is that standards are so high across the board, it's easy to miss out on the very best devices.
Asus' ML249H monitor might not be aiming quite that high, but it certainly wants to beat the competition. With a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and a contrast ratio of 3,000:1, it goes toe-to-toe with other manufacturer's screens at the £200 price point.
It also boasts an impressive 178-degree viewing angle horizontally and vertically thanks to the VA panel, although this is offset by a slightly longer response time. The screen itself produces the excellent picture quality and accurate colour representation we've come to expect from mainstream monitors outside the designers' realm.
Read our full Asus ML249H review
There's no denying that the AOC i2353FH is a fine looking monitor. Its easily one of the thinnest desktop displays we've ever reviewed at just 9.2mm deep, not including the base. The brushed aluminium design works well and the lower case 'i' in the name hints at AOC taking Apple's design ethics as inspiration.
There are no buttons - just touch keys on the base. This is a rare case of design working against functionality, because the touch keys aren't as quick or responsive as standard buttons. The base of the monitor looks good, but it doesn't let you swivel the display.
If you want a great looking monitor you might be happy to overlook this, but it does make positioning the screen more difficult.
Read our full AOC i2353FH review