Looking for a monitor on a tight budget? These are the sub-£250 monitors that we’d recommend
Not too long ago, even the best budget monitors had a bad image; they were renowned for poor colour accuracy, wobbly non-adjustable stands and hideous-looking designs. Times have changed, however, as you can now buy a quality panel that oozes a premium look for under £200.
The trouble is, there are hundreds of products all claiming to be the best budget monitor for you. We can’t stress enough how important it is to pick the right monitor, even at this end of the price spectrum: choose poorly and you’ll be stuck with a screen that will irritate your eyes, test your patience and fail on you within months of the purchase.
To help you make an informed decision, our buying guide explains what you need to look out for before you splash out. Scroll past and you’ll find a list of our favourite budget monitors. If you’re an avid gamer, however, you’ll want to read our separate article on how to pick the best budget gaming monitor – gamers have a very different set of priorities.
How to choose the best budget monitor
What monitor size and resolution should I choose?
A small budget no longer limits you to a small monitor. You’ll now find plenty of options between 22in and 27in – and a few even push past the 30in mark.
There’s more than just panel size to think about, though – resolution is a key factor. For instance, while a 22in monitor with a Full HD resolution monitor will look pin-sharp, a 27in monitor with the same resolution will look softer and more pixellated due to the lower number of pixels per inch (PPI). To put that in numbers: a 22in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) monitor equates to 100ppi, while a 32in Full HD panel is only 69ppi – 30% less. We’d suggest sticking to 90ppi or above: a 24in Full HD monitor hits the sweet spot and similarly a 27in-32in 1440p (2,560 x 1,440) panel looks glorious, too. You can easily calculate the PPI with the help of a calculator or through this website.
One word of caution, though. Some older (read: rather elderly) computers with integrated graphics may not support higher-resolution panels. If your computer is a bit long in the tooth, then it may be wise to stick to Full HD. At the very least check we’d check the maximum resolution supported by your PC or laptop.
Which type of panel is best?
There are three main types of LCD screens, with each having its own characteristics. Twisted Nematic (TN) are the cheapest type of panel technology. This sacrifices some colour accuracy and contrast, but has the benefit of being very cheap – and it’s also more responsive for gamers.
Vertical alignment panels (VA, AVA and MVA) have wide viewing angles and very high contrast levels, although they don’t always have the greatest colour accuracy.
Finally, IPS/PLS screens generally have the best colour accuracy and viewing angles, but are also the most expensive, although the price gap between IPS/PLS, VA and TN has narrowed in recent years.
Which other features should you consider?
Display inputs: Most have an HDMI input, while others still rely on VGA (D-Sub) and DVI-D inputs. You might even find DisplayPort takes centre stage on the pricier models.
An adjustable stand: Having an adjustable stand will you give you much more flexibility – and you won’t need to stuff books or magazines underneath to raise it to a comfortable height. It’s not uncommon to find a budget monitor with tilt and height adjustment. It’s not impossible to find one that can swivel and rotate, too, even if it is more of a rarity.
Low-profile bezels: Budget monitors are more elegant than ever before; some sport a three-sided borderless design, which makes them take up less space on your desk.
Built-in extras: Some budget monitors have built-in USB hubs and speakers. The former are genuinely useful, but bear in mind that the latter are almost always terrible. Most are easily bettered by a cheap pair of dedicated PC speakers.
Reduced blue light mode: Some monitors now offer a reduced blue light mode, which is normally marketed as being in the interests of eye-health. This is a feature which has become more commonplace in recent years, in response to the fears that visible blue light emitted by monitors can cause long-term damage to the eye, and can cause issues such as eye strain and headaches. However, according to the UK Association of Optometrists, there are no peer-reviewed science journals to support this – we wouldn’t factor in as part of your buying decision.
The best budget monitors to buy
1. AOC Q3279VWFD8: The best budget monitor
Price: £210 | Buy now from Amazon
With its glorious 1440p IPS panel, AOC’s 31.5in monitor is our favourite budget monitor. It has excellent colour accuracy and also runs at a maximum refresh rate of 75Hz – gamers will find it a noticeable improvement over lesser 60Hz panels.
It might not have an adjustable stand or low-profile bezels, but you’re paying for a supremely affordable large-sized IPS panel that excels in both movies and games. If you’re looking for a big monitor and your graphics cards can handle a 1440p resolution, there’s no other monitor under £200 that surpasses it.
Read our full AOC Q3279VWFD8 review for details
Key specs – Screen size: 31.5in; Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort; Refresh rate: 75Hz
AOC Q3279VWFD8 – 32 Inch QHD Monitor, 75Hz, 5ms, IPS, AMD FreeSync, Flicker Free (2560×1440 @ 75Hz, 250cd/m², HDMI/DP/VGA/DVI-D)
£219.97 Buy now
2. BenQ GW2280: The best small budget monitor
Price: £102 | Buy now from Amazon
This small-sized monitor from BenQ is ideal for those on a tiny budget. The 21.5in VA-based panel boasts a great contrast ratio and has good viewing angles, too. Despite having a slightly wobbly plastic stand that’s limited to tilt adjustment, its three-sided borderless design is extremely attractive.
If you’re looking for something slightly bigger, consider its sibling, the GW2480, instead. It has a 24in IPS panel that runs up to Full HD and can be found for just £95.
Key specs – Screen size: 21.5in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: VA; Video inputs: VGA, 2x HDMI; Refresh rate: 60Hz
BenQ GW2280 22 Inch 1080p Eye Care LED Monitor, Anti-Glare, Dual HDMI, B.I. Sensor for Home Office – Black
£102.36 Buy now
3. Philips 242B1: The best budget monitor with a webcam
Price: £208 | Buy now from Amazon
If you only have limited space on your desk but still yearn for features and versatility, take a long hard look at the Philips 242B1. It even packs a two-megapixel infrared camera – which can be tucked away when not needed – that works with Windows Hello for quick and easy logins. Don’t expect iPhone-level image quality, though; it’s passable for Skype, but that’s it.
Despite the 242B1’s competitive price, you’ll also benefit from a four-port USB 3 hub, 90° pivot, 150mm of height adjustment and all the inputs most people need: DVI, VGA, DisplayPort and HDMI. It’s only a shame that Philips doesn’t include USB-C.
Nevertheless, the Philips 242B1 is still a great choice thanks to a high-quality IPS panel. At its sRGB settings, it defaults to a peak brightness of 268cd/m², but you can switch to other presets (or create your own) using the excellent OSD. In truth, there’s little need to do so, with an exemplary set of results across the board; note the 6452K colour temperature in particular.
There’s even gaming capability thanks to 4ms grey-to-grey response times and a non-branded adaptive sync setting, making this a great “all-rounder” alternative to the cheaper Iiyama XUB2492HSU-B1.
Key specs – Screen size: 23.8in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, DVI; Refresh rate: 60Hz
Philips 242B1-24 Inch FHD Monitor, 75Hz, 4ms, IPS, AdaptiveSync, Height Adjust, Speakers, USB Hub (1920 x 1080, 250 cd/m², HDMI/VGA/DP/USB-C)
£210.38 Buy now
4. BenQ GL2780: The best large budget monitor
Price: £161 | Buy now from Amazon
BenQ features on this list more than once, and for good reason. The GL2780 is a sturdy 27in TN panel that ticks every crucial box without breaching the £200 mark. Performance is relatively impressive across the board, with solid image quality bolstered by good colour accuracy and contrast; it might not be the sharpest monitor resolution-wise, but you’ll struggle to find any real problems with the panel.
Better yet, the GL2780 is brimming with features. It has HDMI, DVI-D, D-SUB and DisplayPort ports; an automatic brightness mode; and blue light reduction functions to prevent eye strain. And with a 75Hz refresh rate, it’s no slouch in the gaming department either.
Key specs – Screen size: 27in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: TN; Video inputs: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DVI-D; Speakers: Yes; Refresh rate: 75Hz
£160.98 Buy now
5. AOC I1601FWUX: The best budget portable monitor
Price: £173 | Buy now from BT Shop
The AOC I1601FWUX is not your average monitor. Aimed at those who are looking for a portable setup, the AOC can be used anywhere on-the-go. Powered with a single USB-C input, you can use it as your primary or, better still, an extended display – making it an excellent choice for presentations and board meetings.
Its IPS display is visually good, but, with a limited brightness of around 220cd/m², it’s rather dull in bright environments. Regardless, the monitor adds a welcome dash of flexibility to any mobile setup, and the bundled flip-cover (somewhat reminiscent of the Apple iPad) means you can prop up the monitor anywhere.
Key specs – Screen size: 15.6in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: USB-C; Refresh rate: 60Hz
AOC i1601Fwux – 16 inch FHD USB-C Powered Portable Monitor, Smart Cover, Auto Pivot, Low Blue mode, USB-C connectivity 1920 x 1080 FHD
£159.99 Buy now
AOC I1601FWUX 15.6″ USB-C powered portable monitor, extremely slim, Full HD 1920×1080 IPS, SmartCover, AutoPivot (for devices w/ USB-C DP Alt Mode only)
$179.99 Buy now
6. Iiyama XUB2492HSU-B1: The best budget IPS monitor
Price: £129 | Buy now from Amazon
The XUB2492HSU-B1 is an impressive IPS monitor that features a fully adjustable stand, a three-sided borderless design, all the right inputs and, most importantly, a colour-accurate display.
This Iiyama monitor is essentially a cheaper and less accomplished alternative to the Philips 242B1 above. It has fantastic viewing angles, a good contrast ratio and accurate colours, which makes it a perfect monitor for working or watching movies.
Key specs – Screen size: 23.8in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA; Refresh rate: 60Hz
iiyama XUB2492HSU-B1 24″ IPS LCD with Slim Bezel, 4ms, Full HD 1920×1080, 250 cd/m² Brightness, 1x HDMI,1 x DisplayPort,1 x VGA, 2 x USB, 2 x 2W Speakers, Height Adjustable Stand , Black
£231.43 Buy now
Iiyama Ultra Slim Line, 24,1920×1080 13cm height Adj. Stand, XUB2492HSU-B1 (13cm height Adj. Stand, IPS-panel, Pivot, Speakers, VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, 5ms, TCO6)
$395.00 Buy now