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How we test PC monitors: Expert Reviews’ benchmark process explained

how we test monitors, screen with a pink background and a brightness monitor on it

An in-depth guide to Expert Reviews’ PC monitor testing and benchmarks – including how we interpret the results

At Expert Reviews, to find the very best PC monitors we’ve been testing, benchmarking and reviewing screens for over a decade. Every display we test receives the same treatment, helping us deliver definitive, comprehensive verdicts you can trust.

When we receive a monitor for review, we test several key aspects, including the brightness and colour coverage of the display, motion fidelity and the quality of the speaker system, assuming it has one. We also look at any ancillary features it may have, such as a trick lighting system, KVM switch, webcam or USB hub.

How we test monitors: Assessing the display design, build quality and features

When we first take a monitor out of the box, we assess the overall build quality to give us a general impression of how solid, stable and durable it is. We wouldn’t expect to pay a lot of money for a monitor that squeaks and groans whenever it’s repositioned or adjusted, and we’ll mark it down if that’s the case.

We note the number, type and specification of the I/O ports and connections and whether they’re located in sensible places. We also check whether the screen has a gloss or matte finish, the range of adjustability the stand delivers and the quality of the materials used in the monitor’s construction.

A monitor’s looks and style are subjective, but it’s here that we judge how the unit compares to similarly priced rivals and whether its aesthetics and overall feel align with the asking price. This is more important when it comes to gaming monitors, where buyers may want something with a specific aesthetic to match the rest of their gaming kit.

We also examine the quality of the OSD (on-screen display) and the navigation system. Some monitors come with remote controls, some have joystick controls, while cheaper models rely on a row of buttons. The latter can be frustrating if the monitor has an expansive menu system.

Other features we look at are the support for KVM (keyboard, video and mouse), which is the capacity to attach two or more sources and use the same peripherals with each of them. We also look at lighting systems such as Philip’s Ambiglow, which runs an LED array on the back of the monitor in sync with either the display or the speaker system.

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How we test monitors: The display

Every monitor is tested using an X-Rite colorimeter paired with the DisplayCal calibration tool for Windows. Using this method, we receive a breakdown of the overall colour accuracy of the screen we’re testing – demonstrating how well it can reproduce different colours and how many colours it can reproduce – as well as the measured brightness, contrast, white point, gamma and black level.

We also measure display uniformity by measuring each square’s brightness across the screen in a 5 x 5 grid.

If the display settings menu contains multiple display colour modes, such as sRGB, Display P3, DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB, we run these tests for each one and measure the colour accuracy of each. We measure peak brightness in both SDR and HDR modes.

Measuring HDR brightness on the latest OLED and Mini LED displays is a notoriously moveable feast due to the automatic brightness limiters that many monitors are equipped with. These vary peak brightness depending on the size of the bright areas displayed and sometimes cannot be disabled.

To get a good handle on this, we use the VESA DisplayHDR app and take readings from a 100% white full-screen area, a 10% area and a <5% area.

Motion fidelity, or the amount of smearing and ghosting apparent in games, is an important feature of gaming monitors. We use the various Blur Busters web tests to assess this and judge the impact of any overdrive or Motion Blur Reduction features designed to improve animation quality.

Of course, the real test of a monitor’s worth is how it performs under fire, so with gaming monitors we also spend many hours playing a selection of AAA and e-sports titles. In contrast, we use office monitors in place of our usual monitors for office productivity for the duration of the test.

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How we test monitors: The speakers

Using a sound level meter, we measure the maximum volume against a pink noise source at a distance of one metre. We also subjectively assess the speaker system under gaming conditions to judge features like directionality.

We also listen to various types of music, ranging from opera to R&B and everything in between, and play a few movies with top-quality sound design, such as Blade Runner 2049 and Dunkirk.

How do we refine monitor tests?

Testing methodologies must remain stable, allowing us to compare the currently reviewed product with others we’ve reviewed. However, technology changes and our tests must adapt to the times and the arrival of newer technologies such as the aforementioned OLED and Mini LED panels.

We regularly review our testing methodologies and update them as and when necessary. This usually happens when a third-party benchmark we use receives an update, but we’re always looking for new ways to improve our tests in other ways.

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