For the unaware, buying a monitor for your PC or laptop dock feels like it should be fairly straightforward, but there's a whole world of different optimizations out there to suit various requirements. Forget just thinking about screen size, you also have resolution, refresh rate, and other important features to consider, all of which make your hardware better suited for anything from video editing and graphic designs to competitive gaming environments.
But what if you use the same setup for several tasks? Using multiple monitors have many benefits including being able to optimize your hardware for different roles that have vastly different requirements to achieve the best results.
There's no reason you need to stop at two either. Many people find that it's hard to go back to using a single display after they've added an additional one to their office or gaming setup, with some folks adding up to three or even four monitors for an extra boost. This should only be considered if you have the space and a suitable monitor arm to support them of course, but freeing yourself from the need to minimize your game or switch between different windows to get a task done will often convert those who hadn't previously considered expanding their screens.
It can be expensive to purchase a second (or even third) monitor, which is why Black Friday is one of the best times of the year to buy one. Where we anticipate that things like the best graphics cards and in-demand laptops like the 14-inch MacBook Pro will be scarce this year thanks to the ongoing silicon shortage, and therefore unlikely to be on offer, you can instead upgrade the rest of your current setup so that when the time finally does come to upgrade, your accessories and peripherals will be as powerful as your new system.
A boost to productivity
Additional monitors can be a huge boost to productivity, allowing you to see multiple open projects at once. This can make even mundane tasks like copy and paste easier as you won't be losing time constantly switching between different windows and readjusting your eyes, especially if you deal with spreadsheets.
A second monitor doesn't have to be fancy – its ultimate purpose is to give you twice as much to look at after all, and if you don't need it to be doing something that requires specialized features then feel free to go cheap and cheerful. You may want to make sure that the dimensions match your current display to better match on the desk, plus it will make it easier to seamlessly link the two together.
We'll put a few suggestions of displays to look out for in the Black Friday sale, but as we're already seeing some early announcements we've also started to collect all of the current Black Friday monitor deals that have caught our eye in one place to make things easier for you.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
BenQ offers some of the most affordable monitors on the market that don't compromise quality for price. This jack-of-all-trades is perfect for a home office where you just need an additional display for emails, spreadsheets and homework.
It has some standout features including flicker reduction (PWM technology) and a low blue light mode which may help with headaches and sleeping disorders. The stand design gives it a more expensive feel and its three ports (including two HDMI ones) are worthy of a mention, as is the two-year warranty and the VESA wall mounting option.
Do you need a 4K display?
A basic screen will do the job for most people, but creative types might need something beefier. 4K monitors are far more common these days than they used to be, offering a higher resolution to edit video footage or creative digital artwork and designs. There are other things to consider too, such as 'nits', which are a unit of measurement for how bright the display can get (the larger the number, the brighter the display) which can help keep the screen vivid in brightly lit environments.
Color gamut is also especially important, and things can get a tad confusing. Adobe RGB and sRGB are both different ways to measure something called color space, which is the range of colors available on the device. This is commonly seen in things like digital cameras too, with RGB standing for Red Green Blue, the primary colors that make almost every other color when combined in different ways.
As Adobe RGB is about 35% larger than sRGB, this is usually seen as a more desirable metric, but a display with near 100% of either is good, and any Adobe RGB photographs will be converted to sRGB is published online without conversion anyway. These are important factors to consider if you're starting out with photography and photo editing.
Having two displays means you can enjoy the full-color spectrum and resolution of your images on one screen, while checking what most people will see on a standard desktop on the other.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The BenQ SW321C PhotoVue is another affordable monitor, by comparison to typically expensive displays for photo editing at any rate. This 32-inch 4K photo monitor is up a step or two in terms of both performance and usability, featuring an incredibly wide color gamut of 99% of the Adobe RGB color space.
This is an increasingly popular combination of display size and resolution, with the pixel density of 137 balancing enhanced detailing with comfortable viewing characteristics. From the physical build quality to the display performance, it qualifies as a pro-level reference monitor on every level, except one… it’s still affordably priced. This means that if you can snag one in the Black Friday sales, you're just making further savings on the cost of a professional quality product.
Improve your gaming experience
PC gamers will especially benefit from having additional displays, as many gaming monitors are optimized differently depending on the type of games you like to play. People who like first-person shooters and battle royale titles (genres that benefit from a high-refresh rate) might also enjoy playing beautiful open-world RPGs or action-adventure games that look better in 4K, or even 8K is you have the cash and the hardware to run such a resolution.
As someone that owns an aging 27-inch 4K gaming monitor, I often feel restricted by its 60Hz refresh rate, which means even if my graphics card is running a game like Valorant at 180FPS (frames-per-second), I'm only actually seeing 60. It's a fantastic monitor for thematic games like Horizon: Zero Dawn or The Witcher 3, but those extra frames could be the difference between a loss and a win for professionals and eSports players who are used to 240Hz screens.
Displays with higher refresh rates are typically a lower resolution as optimizing both can be very demanding. Most gamers do find that 1080p is just fine for what they need, but a comfortable middle ground of 1440p (sometimes dubbed '2K') is also becoming more popular, offering the best of both worlds.
You can also see features like AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, display technologies that synchronize a user’s display to a device’s graphics card output, leading to smoother performance and reduced tearing.
Streamers on sites like Twitch and YouTube also find that having additional displays gives them better control over their content, with one typically used for the broadcast content and another used to display the audience chat and stream controls.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you’re looking for the ultimate gaming monitor, the LG UltraGear 38GN950 is certainly the one to beat, with a 144Hz refresh rate that can be easily overclocked to 160Hz, 1ms response time, spectacular image quality, and many other gaming features like G-Sync, an ultra-wide aspect ratio and DisplayHDR 600.
It's also an ultrawide, giving you the screen real-estate of two new displays, which means you could mount your old display on the top to act as a media center or Twitch chat.
If you can't wait till the Black Friday sales then we've also compiled a list of the best live monitor deals currently available in your region. Whether you check them out now or wait till the big day itself, consider the benefits of having an additional display and buy the right product for your needs. No sense dropping cash on an 8K display if you only need to work on some spreadsheets afterall.
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Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.