If you’ve been in this for a while, now may be a good time to consider upgrading to a professional monitor. In the end, a better monitor will get you more accurate results, a more convenient workflow, and less eye fatigue. But, like any piece of pro gear, diving into all the features and buzzwords of a pro monitor can be pretty confusing. We asked Kevin Cheng, the marketing director of ViewSonic UK, what we should look for in a pro monitor. And we are here to bring some order into this area.
The standard size for pro monitors
While monitors come in many shapes and sizes, the standard size for a monitor is 27 inches. (ok, only different sizes, they are all rectangular). While there are other sizes (and, to an extent, other shapes and aspect ratios), we will mainly look at monitors of 27 inches.
If you need more display real estate, you may want to look at larger curved monitors or simply mount two monitors side by side.
You will probably not be surprised that resolution plays a big part in monitors. Obviously, the more resolution you have, the more details you will be able to separate. Kevin recommends not going below 2K (also called QHD), which is 2560 x 1440 pixels. With most brands today, this is almost a standard, at least with decent monitors.
If you need to be able to separate more details, you can go 4K. I was keen to learn that the prime target for the higher resolution is not videographers but photographers and designers who need to distinguish high level of details.
The chart below shows you the range of most standard resolutions. Again, most decent monitors will not go lower than QHD.
Simply put, the refresh rate is the number of images a monitor can show in one second. This number is usually 30Hz (images per second) for older monitors, but modern monitors generally start at 60Hz.
There is a direct connection between the smoothness of a video and the refresh rate. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the motion. Low refresh rates will “smear” the video or cause ghosting – seeing two images “overlay” on top of each other. If you are working mainly with photos, this value has little significance for you. If you are editing videos or motion graphics, you want something above 100Hz.
[as an aside, this is a critical factor for gaming, and gaming monitors typically start at 120Hz. Just ask any gamer who got killed one time too many on Fortnite, Counterstrike, or overwatch]
Color space and accuracy
You know how when you look at a black-and-white photo, some data is missing? Well, all the colors are missing :) Colorspace is an extension of that concept. Different color spaces can show different amounts of colors. A monitor with a wide color space will show more colors than a narrow one.
This chart shows some of the standard color spaces. The bigger the triangle, the more colors you can show in a color space.
For most people, the RGB color space could be sufficient. But if you need more color accuracy, there are wider spaces. You’d want a monitor that is at least AdobeRGB or 98%+ of DCI-P3 for creatives. There is a lot to unpack here, and I recommend Studio Binder’s excellent primer on the topic.
The other aspect of color rendition is color accuracy. For this, you would want to calibrate your monitor every once in a while. Keeping a calibrated monitor is the way to get consistent results between several monitors, printers, and projectors. The better calibrated your monitor is, the more it will look like other calibrated monitors.
There are commercial solutions for monitor calibration, like Calibrite’s ColorChecker or DataColor’s Spyderx. Those ensure that what you see on your monitor matches your printer and your clients’ monitors. Some monitors even have built-in color calibration.
Interestingly, Kevin says that most monitors today are bright enough. It is more about hiding the ambient light from hitting the screen. If you are getting a professional-grade monitor AND you will use it in an area with lots of ambient light, make sure to get a monitor hood. On the flip side, if you are working in a very controlled environment, like an editing room, it’s nice that the monitor back emits some atmosphere light.
Pro monitor for video editing
For video editing, Kevin recommends the ViewSonic ColorPro 2776. It is a 27″ monitor with 2K/QHD resolution. This is usually enough space and resolution for the main video editing screen. What makes this monitor specifically suited for video is the high refresh rate. The ColorPro 2776 refreshes at 165Hz, which should provide a very smooth motion.
In terms of color space, it covers the full AdoveRGB (and 98% of DCI-P3) and is panton certified. This is enough for most (if not all) video needs.
Some of the features we highlighted above are also built into this monitor. The most prominent one is the ColorPro Sense wheel. This is a mouse-like device that calibrates the screen. But it also serves as a control device for various editing software. (Back in November, it only supported DaVinci Resolve, but Kevin said they are bringing it to Adobe Premiere Pro as well).
Pro monitor for photo editing
For editing stills, Kevin recommends the ViewSonic ColorPro 2786-4K. It shares many of the features with its Video “brother”, but it is more suitable for photo editing as it sports a 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 at 60 Hz). The refresh rate is a bit lower, but this has no impact on photo editing.
Just like the 2776, the monitor comes with a magnetic hood to block ambiance light and a backlight LED to generate a comfortable glow. If you are buying this monitor for stills, you would be happy to know that the ColorPro Sense wheel already supports Adobe Photoshop.
Full Disclosure – the writer was a guest at the ViewSonic ColorPro Award ceremony.