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.
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.