If you haven’t treated yourself to a new monitor in a while, then now is the perfect time to do so. Great image quality is available at affordable prices, while monitors are slimmer and lighter than ever before. Here we’ve picked a few impressive displays, all of which are available for under £200. They offer a variety of features to suit every need whether you’re working on spreadsheets, gaming or looking for an all-round multimedia experience. Also see: Best displays | Best gaming monitor 2016.
Best budget displays 2016: Design and ergonomics
All the displays reviewed here are roughly the same size, with most measuring 24in along the diagonal. Other sizes are, of course, available, so you can adjust your purchase to suit both your pocket and the size of your desk. Also see: All display reviews
With the size nailed down, you’ll then need to think about what you really want from your monitor. It may be that all you care about is looks. Thankfully, most modern displays are a great deal better looking than older models, with a greater design emphasis on lifestyle and fitting in with your home décor. In many cases, that thick surrounding bezel has been removed in favour of a tidy, nearly frameless design and modern backlight technology allows for much slimmer, neater displays. This is also handy if you want a multi-monitor setup, where the gaps between the displays will be as thin as possible. Some models, such as those reviewed here from Asus and Philips are available in different colours, which can make a dramatic difference to the look of your worktop.
Being budget displays, all of the monitors in this group feature basic tilting stands, although the degree of tilt available does vary. You’ll also have to often do without expensive options such as USB hubs or card readers.
Best budget displays 2016: Image quality and panel technologies
More important to many is the performance of the display itself, and perhaps the biggest deciding factor here will be your choice of panel technology – and it boils down to twisted-nematic (TN) panels versus everything else.
A TN panel costs less to make and can produce some decent performance results in terms of contrast ratio and the super-fast response times craved by serious gamers. They are, however, let down by restricted viewing angles, which means the brightness and colour of the picture can appear to shift if not viewed straight on. Any movement of your head is likely to make this apparent. All the non-TN panels in this round-up use in-plane switching (IPS) or Plane-line switching (PLS) panels, which typically offer a vastly superior viewing experience and are better suited for general-purpose use. An IPS/PLS screen is often favoured by photo- or video-editors, as they offer better colour accuracy. Also see: Best screens & monitors for Mac
Best budget displays 2016: Inputs
The monitors reviewed here all offer at least two inputs, and this will determine what sort of equipment you can hook up to your monitor. Most of them support the ageing VGA connector, which should be avoided if at all possible, and supplement it with a digital input, such as DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.
Multiple inputs allow you to connect more than one device at a time and switch between them using the monitor’s control buttons – you may want to connect your laptop and a gaming console or a Blu-ray player without having to unplug cables each time.
The most useful connector on monitors of this type is either DisplayPort or HDMI, as they combine digital picture information with digital audio – allowing you to connect up both sound and vision with a single cable. DisplayPort is becoming more common on both Macs and Windows PCs, although you’re less likely to find such a connector on home AV equipment.
The DVI connector provides a high-quality digital video input, but doesn’t carry sound. With the right cables and adaptors, all three digital connectors can be used interchangeably in most cases, at least for video. If you have an Android phone or tablet, look for an HDMI port with MHL support, which allows you to hook it up to your big screen while simultaneously charging the device.
Best budget displays 2016: Audio
For casual listening and system alerts, it can be useful to have built-in speakers. Don’t expect good sound quality, though. More useful is a headphone socket that will allow you to listen to sound coming in via the HDMI or DisplayPort inputs.
Best budget displays 2016: Resolution
All the monitors in this group test offer the standard ‘full-HD’ resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, which offers a good balance of detail and readability at this size, while delivering the maximum image detail from HD sources such as Blu-ray discs. This 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio is better suited to watching film and television, but 16:10 and 4:3 designed for PC use are harder to find today.
Best budget displays 2016: How we test
We evaluate monitor performance using a combination of objective measurements and subjective assessments.
We use a Datacolor Spyder5Elite (older reviews were tested through the Spyder 4) calibrator to set up and test each monitor. This device measures the brightness of the display as well as the accuracy of the colours reproduced.
By viewing a variety of test material, we can determine such factors as the sharpness of text and the natural appearance of skin tones. We also look for undesirable features such as “banding” in areas which should appear smoothly shaded and missing or stuck pixels. We also check for any ghosting of moving images, check for any noticeable input lag and try to evaluate the real-world response time which particularly applies if you're a gamer.
Next, we take a look at the build quality and ergonomics of each display. Checking the adjustability of the stand, accessibility of controls and connectors and the ease of use of the on-screen-display (OSD) menu system. If there are speakers included we’ll also give them a listen.
Best budget displays 2016: Conclusion
The monitors here have a range of prices and features to suit everyone. Although there’s a big difference in quality between the TN displays and those featuring IPS/PLS panels, all of them offer quality good enough for general use. It might come as a surprise to some, but we found the IPS/PLS panels to really stand out in their colour reproduction and accuracy. However, there were a few TN panels, such as the one found in the BenQ RL2460HT which left us extremely impressed by its all-round screen performance and design.
If you want to go down the TN route and you're a serious gamer the AOC G2460VQ6 and ViewSonic VX2457-mhd offer great all-round capabilities at a cheaper price over the BenQ RL2460HT. If you're more of a hardcore gamer and want a budget panel which can offer a cool 144Hz refresh rate, the Acer Predator GN246HLBbid is a worthy option, but does lack colour accuracy and depth.
In our comparison there were a few IPS/PLS panels which stood out due to their colour reproduction and viewing angles, notably the Philips 246E7QDSW which has a beautifully designed stand and white-coloured design, making it look elegant in a home or work environment.
There are also some of us that like to run multi-monitor display setups and this is where the Asus VN247H shines through its low-profile bezel design.
Best budget displays 2016 UK
Note: All ratings are based on their respective review dates
- Reviewed on: 4 April 14
- RRP: £145 inc VAT
The VX2542mh performs well for a TN monitor and offers flexible input options, including HDMI, along with built-in speakers. However, at £145 it's hard to justify the price in the face of excellent less expensive options.
Read our ViewSonic VX2452mh review.
12. Asus VX239H-W
- Reviewed on: 1 April 14
- RRP: £170 inc VAT
The striking white finish of the Asus VX239H-W may appeal to many, especially if you'd like to use it in a kitchen or against a white wall. Its slim casing is solidly constructed and offers unique touch-sensitive controls. Image quality is among the best on offer, but the price is rather high for its performance.
Read our Asus VX239H-W review.
11. BenQ GL2450
- Reviewed on: 2 April 14
- RRP: £105 inc VAT
The BenQ GL2450 features a cheap TN panel with restricted viewing angles and offers no audio support. However it has a large screen size, a fast response time, solid build-quality and excellent value for money if all you need is a basic display.
Read our BenQ GL2450 review.
10. BenQ EW2740L
- Reviewed on: 11 July 14
- RRP: £210 inc. VAT
While the BenQ EW2740L isn't priced or pitched as a top-end monitor, for the budget price its performance is remarkably good. If your requirements are more stringent the figures represent something of a mixed bag. Photographers will be drawn by the good gamut and the colour accuracy and, while the contrast ratio could be better, this should fit the bill for less demanding users. Meanwhile, the response time is rather poor for serious gamers. If you're just looking for a 27in monitor for general-purpose use, you could do a lot worse.
Read our BenQ EW2740L review.
- Reviewed on: 24 March 14
- RRP: £200 inc VAT
The NEC MultiSync E243WMi could prove ideal as a high-quality monitor you can run all day without adding to your electric bills. The display is neat and accurate, well-built and functional.
Read our NEC MultiSync E243WMi review.
- Reviewed on: 3 April 14
- RRP: £140 inc VAT
The Philips 235E5 is a promising monitor let down by poor contrast performance. Otherwise, it's a very smart-looking display with excellent colour reproduction and great connectivity options made available at a very competitive price.
Read our Philips 234E5 review.
7. AOC i2369Vm
- Reviewed on: 2 April 14
- RRP: £130 inc VAT
The AOC i2369Vm is an excellent entry-level 23in monitor. It's well built, offers a sleek frameless design and delivers superb picture quality straight out of the box which can't be matched by any other display in this group test. It also offers the widest range of inputs and comes with a decent warranty
Read our AOC i2369Vm review.
6. Asus VN247H
- Reviewed on: 23 March 16
- RRP: £139.10 inc VAT
The Asus VN247H is a monitor which can handle games with ease and has a fantastic thin-bezel design that's good for a multi-monitor setup. However, its colour accuracy and stand do count against it.
Read our Asus VN247H review.
- Reviewed on: 4 March 16
- RRP: £164.89 inc VAT
The Philips 246E7QDSW is aimed at anyone wanting an image with accurate colours, and it does a decent job. It's also well designed and is aesthetically pleasing to look at. And while it isn't designed with gamers in mind, other monitors offer similar colour accuracy with faster response times - if not the wide viewing angles of the 246E7QDSW.
Read our Philips 246E7QDSW review.
- Reviewed on: 2 March 16
- RRP: £199.98 inc VAT
The GN246HLBbid may have a fast refresh rate, but the relatively high price, unimpressive colour accuracy and limited viewing angles mean it isn't great value.
Read our Acer GN246HLBbid review.
- Reviewed on: 1 March 16
- RRP: £139.00 inc VAT
The VX2457-mhd can handle games with ease, especially if you have an AMD-enabled FreeSync graphics card. We were pleasantly surprised by its good colour accuracy, but viewing angles aren't great. However, the low price goes some way to making up for this.
Read our ViewSonic VX2457-mhd review.
2. AOC G2460VQ6
- Reviewed on: 3 March 16
- RRP: £122.18 inc VAT
The AOC G2460VQ6 is a great budget gaming monitor, which is mainly aimed at those with AMD cards. We were also impressed by the image quality at this price, and its styling setd it apart from other budget monitors.
Read our AOC G2460VQ6 review.
- Reviewed on: 1 March 16
- RRP: £168.11 inc VAT
The BenQ RL2460HT is great gaming monitor which also doubles as a fantastic monitor for editing photos or videos, since it has good gamut and accurate colour reproduction. The HDMI output makes it a great choice for those who take gaming seriously and want to record their exploits.
Read our BenQ RL2460HT review.