Published Jun 30, 2022 7:00 AM
Programming and living behind a screen are basically synonymous, so for high-quality coding and study you deserve comfort and an optimized monitor is a great place to start. While the stereotype of the hacking coder, slouched into a chair, wearing a hoodie, and blasting their eyes with a bright screen in a dark room is fun to think about, the result will only be a horrible experience.
Instead, if you’re a real coder of today, you probably realize that you have a long, steady career ahead of you. Increased comfort and feeling good on the job will lead to a fruitful workday and a clear head, ready to innovate. With work from home not going anywhere soon, especially in the knowledge work sector, it is falling more and more on the shoulders of the worker to get their own computer equipment. As a result, we invite you to consider upgrading your life with one of our best monitors for programming picks.
How we selected the best monitors for programming
Staring at screens, typing out notes, and looking through comparison tables is something both the writer and the programmer handle on a daily basis, so personal experience helped guide this guide. Discussing the matter of picking a monitor with software engineers themselves helps too, of course, with key concerns including size and resolution. I also looked at user impressions, their concerns, and what critics see as coming trends, such as more working from home; for these reasons, I adjusted toward results that prioritize comfort and eye health after long-term usage.
Ultimately, good monitors for programming are good monitors for computing. Expect to see some overlap in how programming monitors are evaluated with other categories of monitor, such as gaming monitors and trading monitors, etc. The key differences, such as being used for work activities with less chances of a break, are going to be where we put in a significant portion of our comparison efforts, but a good monitor will always be a good monitor.
Things to consider before buying monitors for programming
Getting monitors for programming, much like getting monitors for home offices, can be tricky because you’ll want the monitor to be good for other purposes, too. Luckily, many of the factors that translate to being one of the best monitors for programming, also make for great general monitors. For example, programmers are likely to care a lot about size but people watching Netflix aren’t complaining about monitors being too big. We’ll examine all of the big factors in this sort of multimodal way, including resolution and comfort.
This one is relatively straightforward. In almost every case, bigger is better. The ability to have multiple windows open at the same time and look at things side-by-side cannot be overstated. Moving your head from one monitor to another can make direct comparisons tricky, whereas having everything ready at a glance will help keep you in a happy programming flow state.
While there are some people that might look at a very large screen and feel overwhelmed, it is easy to make your windows smaller and focus on what is important. You cannot do this the other way around—making windows larger than the screen to be more comfortable. Getting something a tad bigger than you’re used to will likely go fine, you’ll get acclimated to the larger size, but going too small will trap you in.
So, when might it be bad to have a larger monitor? When the monitor is so big that it pushes out your other monitors. Sure, the advantages of side-by-side comparison given by a large monitor are important, but that doesn’t mean that having the ability to throw something up in full screen on another monitor is less important. Finding balance and what works appropriately with your given desk space is critical.
In the world of movies, we always seem to see blocky, pixelated coding text. The real world won’t have it. Resolution is the most important factor for getting a crisp, easy to look at picture out of your monitor. The higher the resolution, the more pixels you’ll see in a given patch of monitor space.
Resolution is defined by both numbers and letters, which can be somewhat confusing. The numbers give a reading of the pixels shown, horizontally and vertically. For example, a resolution of 1920 x 1080 shows 1920 pixels from right to left and 1080 pixels from top to bottom. Resolution numbers are often abbreviated to just show the vertical number—1920 x 1080 is known in this system as 1080p.
Letter abbreviations are also commonly used. Some of the most common abbreviations are as follows: FHD (Full High Definition) is 1920 x 1080; QHD (Quad High Definition) is 2560 x 1440; and UHD (Ultra High Definition) is 3840 x 2160. Interestingly, despite only getting to 3,840 pixels wide, this is commonly referred to as 4K.
So, what resolution is good for programming? This is another case of the bigger, the better, but we recommend going for at least 1080p, with 1440p and higher offering the best experience. One often unmentioned, but nonetheless worthy, note is that your desktop space changes with your resolution. So, if you’re the type of programmer with about 40 to 50 files and folders on your desktop, plus a dozen or so game shortcuts, then you’ll definitely want to be opting for the highest resolution possible!
It’s a sad fact but you’re probably going to be working more often than you’d like to be. Be comfortable while you do it. For this review, we’re looking at three key comfort factors that can work for you:
Range of tilt: Your monitor’s ability to tilt will add comfort by increasing the flexibility of its facing. Having a monitor that is tilted too high or too low could have the negative effect of subconsciously forcing your head to match, giving you headaches or unnecessary shoulder tension.
Ability to wall mount: Rigging up your monitor with a reliable wall mount or desk stand will give you the advantages of increased desk space and heightened maneuverability of your monitor. Look for VESA-compatible monitors, with 100 x 100 mounting surfaces giving you the most options in terms of wall mounts to buy and 200 x 200 being an okay alternative for ultrawide monitors.
Eye comfort: Screens that are too bright, glossy, or that suffer from screen flickering can all cause discomfort to the eyes. Nowadays, monitors are also providing built-in blue light blocking to improve users’ sleep quality. All of these factors can greatly affect how you perceive your time with your monitor and the quality of your work, so much so that we’d recommend you check out our monitors for eye strain if this is a recurring problem for you.
The best monitors for programming: Reviews & Recommendations
The best monitors for programming include a wide range of brands, makes, and features. Again, a good monitor for programming will be good for a wide variety of uses. Any of the monitors on this list will be good for any purpose, but also happen to have some qualities that give them the edge over the competition when it comes to quality coding time.
Best overall: LG 34WN80C-B UltraWide Monitor
Why it made the cut: This monitor is ultrawide, the perfect size, and has on-screen controls to make it the best possible experience for people wanting to use multiple windows at once.
- Size: 34”
- Resolution: 3440 x 1440 pixels
- Screen: Anti-glare, Hard coating
- Built-in screen-splitting options
- USB-C works great with the MacBook Pro
- Excellent height adjustability for neck comfort
- 100 x 100 VESA wall-mountable
The LG 34WN80C-B Ultrawide is designed for intensive programming at home. This is seen in its On-Screen tech, maneuverability, and MacBook Pro connectability. It also happens to be one of the best ultrawide monitors for working at home.
The first way this can be seen is through the huge customization ability available through LG’s On-Screen control options. Using this feature you can subdivide your screen into defined boxes. Click, drag, and pop your relevant windows into place to fill each section and get the most out of the monitor. You’ll notice that you have space for debugging windows, coding screens, GitHub pages, and more all on one monitor without feeling cramped. Naturally, the 34-inch ultrawide size of this LG plays into that, but the on-screen controls will certainly pull their weight.
Next, let’s talk about maneuverability. This monitor does a great job of accommodating coders of any height by having just over half a foot of vertical height adjustment. Furthermore, this is accomplished without finicky knobs or difficult-to-reach panels, you can just move it with your hands and the spring-loaded mechanism of the stand will take care of the rest.
Finally, consider that this monitor supports USB-C, making it a really good combo with MacBook Pro laptops. Considering that macOS is a preferred programming environment, there’s a good chance that either your current or next company computer will be one. There are other good monitor options for MacBook Pro users but not all of them will prove to be best for programmers.
Best 4K: HP 27-inch 4K UHD
Why it made the cut: This is a 4K monitor for programming with built-in blue light filtering, excellent tilting, and the ultra high resolution you deserve.
- Size: 27”
- Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
- Tilt: 5 degrees forward, 16 degrees backward
- AMD FreeSync for low blur
- Ultra-thin bezel
- Built-in blue light protection
- Great backward tilt range
- Not VESA compatible for mounting
The HP 27-inch 4K UHD provides a decent size while giving you the 4K resolution you’ll need for intensive graphical projects and standard computer use. The added blue light protection that comes built-in with the monitor is a nice addition for making sure a couple of crunch time hours at night don’t cut into your success the next day.
Multi-monitor setups will particularly enjoy the sub-quarter-inch bezel around the sides of the monitor. Quickly flicking your eyes to your other monitor is comfortable and not immersion-breaking like it can be with some monitors. In fact, if you manage to bump your monitors close enough together, it can feel practically like one monitor from a vision perspective.
One thing I wasn’t so happy about with this monitor was the lack of VESA mount holes. Luckily, the monitor is still quite adjustable with six degrees downward tilt and 17 degrees upward, making this HP quite great for those of you that like to tower over your monitor as you work. Ultimately, we think you’ll likely not miss the ability to pair this with a monitor arm unless that just so happens to be a priority for you.
It all comes together to give us an outstanding monitor for programming that fits in well with HP’s solid general-purpose monitors. While this HP fits in as the best 4K monitor for programming, you should certainly check out the others if you are an HP fan.
Best value: Samsung Business S27R650FDN
Why it made the cut: This monitor approaches budget pricing while still having great features for professionals.
- Size: 27”
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels
- Viewing angle: 172 degrees
- Includes Eye Saver Mode
- Wide viewing angle for collaboration
- Full connectivity panel
- Energy-saving mode
- Unreliable DisplayPort connection
The Samsung Business S27R650FDN has “business” right in the name but does it hold up to being the best value monitor for programming work? Based on the features and specs that Samsung has managed to pour into it, we’d respond with a resounding “yes.” That’s without mentioning one of the most businesslike features of all, its economical energy-saving mode and bargain sticker price.
With workers in mind, the Samsung Business uses the included Eye Saver Mode to reduce blue light from the monitor. Flicker-Free technology is also included to keep your eyes comfortable and feeling rested through a long shift.
Especially useful for teams and collaborative efforts, the Samsung Business has a 172-degree viewing angle and a wide connectivity panel to support a wide range of devices, including those that use USB 3.0 (including B type), USB 2.0, DisplayPort, HDMI, and old school RGB. For those with a ton of devices, this will certainly be the best value monitor for programming. The only caveat to this is that the DisplayPort is touchy and unreliable, dropping for some users.
Best for gaming and programming: Samsung Odyssey G9
Why it made the cut: The Samsung Odyssey G9 is the best monitor for gaming and programming due to its size, resolution, and high-performance gaming screen.
- Size: 49”
- Resolution: 5120 x 1440 pixels
- Refresh rate: 240Hz
- Gigantic screen size
- Vivid color display
- Intensive curve
Here’s another fantastic ultrawide option for your gaming and programming pleasure. Much like our pick for the overall best monitor for programming, the Samsung Odyssey G9 provides a massive screen ready to fit many windows, charts, graphs, debug menus, and the like.
What’s different about the G9 is that it is also one of the best ultrawide gaming monitors, with insanely high refresh rates of 240Hz and a 1 millisecond response time. Add on top of this the AMD FreeSync technology that ensures that your monitor matches a compatible graphics card frame-by-frame and you have a recipe for back-to-back after-work headshots.
Additionally, the G9 has a curve at a degree that copies the curve of the human eye. This helps reduce the need to constantly bend your neck to take in the fullness of the screen. That doesn’t mean that you’ll never wish to crane your neck or tilt your head while using a G9, of course, but you should notice a subtle reduction in neck and shoulder stress when compared to other curved monitors for programming.
One thing to keep in mind is that the G9 is bigger than nearly any other monitor out there, which makes it a great choice of large monitor for programming. Unfortunately, the sticker price has had the chance to measure every square inch of the G9 and has been able to keep up with it. While this is certainly not a cheap monitor for programming, it will keep you happy.
Best portable: SideTrak Swivel 14”
Why it made the cut: This portable monitor naturally attaches to your laptop to give you the dual-monitor office feel on the go.
- Size: 14”
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels
- Weight: 1.5 pounds (3.1 with attachments)
- Connects to any laptop
- No tool installation
- Plug and play, download-free installation
- Designed for right-side attachment only
As working on the go has become more and more popular, especially in the programming field, the desire to have a second monitor to travel with us has grown immensely. This can be seen with the expansive list of fantastic portable monitors coming out over the past few years. So, what makes the SideTrak Swivel the best portable monitor for programming?
While maintaining the high quality of the other portable monitors, the SideTrak Swivel has superior attachment and connectability options. With a combo of sticky pads and computer-safe magnets, the monitor attaches directly next to the side of your laptop’s screen. Unlike other portable monitors that are stuck resting in a stand, you can tilt it to the angle you’re used to in the office. Really, that’s what it all comes down to, recreating the dual-monitor office setup that you like anywhere you go.
Furthermore, the SideTrak Swivel has a ton of connectivity options. You can have USB-C, with DisplayPort capabilities, for your MacBook Pro or use standard USB-A or HDMI for other notebook computers. It’s even compatible with Chromebook and can connect to just about any device while remaining plug-and-play.
The only disappointing thing about the SideTrak experience is the fact that it could just as easily be called the RightSideTrak. The attachment mechanism is designed to be attached to the left part of the monitor. If, like me, you’re used to having your second monitor on the left, you can do so, but you’ll be stuck with an unsightly upside-down monitor as a result.
Best budget: BenQ GW2780
Why it made the cut: This monitor checks all of the basic boxes, gives you a bit extra, and still has a price tag worthy of the best budget monitor for programming.
- Size: 27”
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels
- Screen: Glossy LED
- Intelligent brightness adjustment
- Wall mountable with 100 x 100 VESA
- Built-in cable management
- Low-quality built-in speakers
Our best budget monitor for programming, the BenQ GW2780, stays cheap but has a lot of nifty features that make it worth your while for programming or any other purpose.
You can see the standard features that make it great for programming with the 27-inch screen or the fact that it has 100 x 100 VESA mount capabilities.
However, it is the extra features that aren’t costing you any extra that make the BenQ outcompete other budget monitor contenders. One cool example is a sensor that adjusts your screen’s brightness for you automatically. Another is the built-in cord control in the stand. Sure, these aren’t features most of you are begging for, but it’s these kinds of thoughtful touches that show BenQ is going the extra mile to make a worthwhile product for the budget tier.
One extra you probably won’t love, however, is the included speakers. They’re low-quality and quiet, and even people who aren’t professed audiophiles tend to struggle to like them. If you are in need of some speakers on the cheap, there are quite a few desktop speakers or budget Bluetooth speakers out there that will better suit your needs.
Q: How much does a monitor for programming cost?
A computer monitor for programming will probably cost around $300 to $600, though that can change depending on the category. For example, the best value monitor for programming might come in under $250, while the best monitor for gaming and programming might go over $1,000.
Q: What is a good monitor size for programming?
The best monitors for programming should typically be at least 24 inches but the bigger the better. Exceptions obviously exist, such as when you are getting a portable monitor, but the “big equals better” rule will apply for most coders.
Q: How many monitors are good for programming?
Two or three monitors are best for programming. In the modern age, single monitor setups feel limiting for any use but can feel especially straining when you are dealing with multiple windows simultaneously. While our pick for the best monitor for programming, the LG 34WN80C-B UltraWide, has on-screen tech to make this easier with a single monitor, the vast majority of monitors do not. At the same time, there can be too much of a good thing—don’t let your desk space get conquered by too many monitors.
Final thoughts on the best monitors for programming
Getting one of the best monitors for programming doesn’t have to be difficult. If you find a monitor that is easy to use in daily life, treats your eyes well, and connects properly with your work computer, then you’ve probably found a decent programming monitor. Still, considering a unique monitor like the LG 34WN80C-B UltraWide or the business-minded Samsung Business S27R650FDN might give you the extra edge you’ve been looking for.