Buying a New Monitor Is the Best PC Upgrade Right Now

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If you’re looking for one of the best graphics cards or best CPUs, particularly Nvidia’s new RTX 3000 series cards or the Radeon 6000 series and Ryzen 5000 series from AMD, this black friday deals season might really suck. These new chips are harder to come by than hand sanitizer was last March, making this a bad time to build a premium gaming PC , and the stock shortages could persist well into 2021.

But you don’t have to sit on your hands during this holiday season and wait several months to upgrade your tech life in a big way. You can take advantage of some of the best black Friday monitor deals and change the part of your system that you’ll notice the most.

Even as we swap out components on our desktops or move from one PC to another, many of us have been using the same monitors for years. Just a few weeks ago, I upgraded from a pair of Dell U2412M monitors that I had been using since 2011. 

That’s nine years, an eternity in the PC industry. When I first bought these screens, the hottest new processor line was Intel’s “second generation Core” Sandy Bridge CPUs and most people still didn’t use SSDs, which were very expensive. The top-of-the-line graphics card was an Nvidia GTX 590 and there were no such things as FreeSync or G-Sync. The Dell monitors’ resolution of 1920 x 1200 seemed really generous and the 24-inch panel was huge in a world where many people were still buying 20-inch screens. 

Fast forward to 2020 and you can now buy a colorful 4K, 28-inch display for less than $300, a 1080p gaming monitor for less than $200 or a 2K, 32-incher for under $400. You can even find 4K, high-refresh screens at relatively-reasonable prices. Even a relatively low-end monitor from 2020 will probably be an improvement over your ancient daily driver. 

Why You Need a New Monitor 

Before you go monitor shopping, consider the purpose of your new screen. There are four primary reasons why you’d need or want a new screen:

  • Better gaming experience: If you play PC games at all and have discrete graphics, you’ll benefit a great deal from getting a monitor with a refresh rate that’s at least 144 Hz. That will allow you to play games at up to 144 frames per second, while actually seeing every one of those frames. That leads to a much smoother experience overall than 60 Hz displays, and will help you respond more quickly to fast-moving enemies on your screen. A new gaming monitor might also provide you with a bigger panel, higher resolution or better color quality than you have today. 
  • Improve your productivity: A larger, higher-resolution monitor will give you more screen real estate to get work done. That means more columns in your spreadsheet and more lines of text visible without scrolling. You can also comfortably stack two or even three windows next to each other. 
  • A second, third or fourth display: While having lots of windows open on the same screen is great, sometimes it’s best to compartmentalize and run different apps on different displays. For example, what if you’re a streamer and you want to play games on your high-refresh-rate monitor and then manage the streaming software on a second screen. If you already have two screens, there’s still room for improvement . . . if you have enough desk space or a good monitor stand. I’m writing this from my home computer, which now has four monitors. Most modern graphics cards have three or four video-out ports, making quad-screen setup easy. 
  • First monitor for a laptop: Perhaps you’ve been using a laptop and want a larger screen for your desk. Now is a great time to take the plunge -- especially if you’re working from home. And, if you actually bought or built a brand new PC and don’t have a monitor to pair with it, you obviously will need one. 

Since I don’t do a lot of PC gaming, the second and third reasons appealed to me most. I wanted to move up to 4K resolution so I could fit more on the screen at once, along with sharper text and images. And, since they still work well, I wanted to pair my two old monitors with two new ones for a quad-screen setup.

In the end, I bought a pair of 28-inch Lenovo 4K monitors, the ThinkVision S28u-10 and Lenovo L28u-30. If you’re buying monitors to use in a pair, you should definitely get two of the same model and -- though it doesn’t look like it -- I did, because Lenovo sells the same screen (with just a different logo and different-looking OSD) under two different names. 

These two Lenovo 4K screens cost me around $270 each ($264 and $269 on different weeks) on sale and they have changed the way I work. I bought a quad-monitor stand for $55 on Amazon and now I can keep my email, Slack client, and even a live feed from Google Analytics persistent on my top screens while I use the bottom ones for editing documents, cropping photos, coding and testing out the code I’ve written. And between the two 28-inch monitors, I can easily fit four windows of work. 

My new monitors also deliver far richer colors and more detailed pictures than the old ones. So even watching movies or staring wistfully at the international photos on the Windows 10 lock screen is a pleasure.

The Opportunity 

Unlike GPUs which often have inflated prices even on older models, there are some awesome sales on monitors of all types right now. The absolute best of the best include the Dell S3220DGF, which tops our best gaming monitors list and is $120 off and the Lenovo L28u-10 that I bought recently, which is now $249, $20 less than I paid for it.

We’re tracking all the top monitor deals on our best Black Friday monitor deals page. If you’re looking for savings on other gear, check our list of best Black Friday tech deals overall. 

Note: As with all of our op-eds, the opinions expressed here belong to the writer alone and not Tom's Hardware as a team.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
  • Gurg
    I upgraded my 28" 4k 60hz AOC purchased 6 years ago to this Samsung 32" 4k 60hz for $269. Really like having the larger picture and quality is really good!
  • docbones69
    I would love to, but monitors are also still slow in their upgrade cycle. The selection is very poor. Trying to find a 4k IPS HDR 600 32" or larger monitor is hard. Ones that are out dont yet have hdmi 2.1 and / or are very expensive.
  • thepersonwithaface45
    No! Do not buy a new monitor right now!!
    New ones are on the horizon, this is literally the worst time to buy a monitor
  • veldrane2
    It is definetly a horrible time to buy a monitor. If you buy one you'll be stuck on lower rez or lower refresh or smaller size, and not just by a little, by heaps and bounds.

    We've been stuck on 27 inchers or without any decent HBR3 capabilities for a really long time, as monitors seem to evolve a lot slower then other hardware.

    Pesonally I have been on 27", 2k wide for better part of the decade already and would really like to make the jump to something like 30-35", 4k, 120-144 Hz and can't. There is literally nothing for me to upgrade to.

    Better to wait well until next year, maybe by the time the new monitors come out the rtx 3xxx series and the rx 6xxx series cards along with the CPUs and some decent mobo revisions, if not models, will be available.

    The monitor manufacturers have completely dropped the ball on 4k hardware, even moreso then GPU manufacturers with their availability woes.
  • samopa
    When the mainstream GPU (not the top dog) could do 4K@240Hz at max/ultra setting with ease then the monitor manufacturer will catch up. If the lion's share of GPU only could do 1080p@120Hz at max/ultra setting, then they won't be bothered.
  • Co BIY
    I agree with this article! A bigger better (bigger) monitor is a great improvement and easily the biggest bang for the buck for your computer experience.

    That assumes you are running an SSD for your OS drive. If not get an SSD first and then a monitor.