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Ask HN: Best Monitor Around $300 for Dev Work?
107 points by thebiglebrewski on Dec 12, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments
Title says it all! Have a $300-ish budget for a new screen for dev work. I've been using a https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=10509 for a past job and enjoyed it but it's been a few years since that model came out so I thought it was worth asking.

If it makes any difference I'm on the new Macbook Pro w/ Touchbar which I'll be pairing it with (as well as wireless keyboard/mouse). Thanks for any suggestions!

I have three of the following:

Dell Computer Ultrasharp U2415 24.0-Inch Screen LED Monitor

I purchased them from Amazon.com:


This is a 24 inch screen in the 16:10 ratio, at a resolution of 1900x1200. It has four inputs (2x HDMI, 1x Mini Display Port, 1x Display Port). I am very happy with these monitors. I like the 16:10 ratio as it gives some extra height compared to 16:9 screens.

I have a 16:9 Ultrasharp from the previous year, I believe it is the U2414h, but I could be mistaken. I was a little skeptical at first, because Ultrasharps are pretty expensive if you are used to buying the cheapest monitor that meets your criteria. Subjectively though, this monitor is amazing. The best thing I can say about it is that I almost regret buying it, as every other monitor looks terrible when placed next to it. Otherwise, I could look at the monitor all day without really thinking about it. It's like a really nice tool, in the sense that you almost forget you are using it because it does it's job so well.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dell monitors, the first letter is the model range. U is Ultrasharp, which generally are IPS displays and come from the factory with a certificate indicating the display has been calibrated, as well as stands with tilt, swivel, rotation and height adjustment. P is professional, which are generally very similar to the Ultrasharp displays, but without the exacting calibration, and the stands generally only have adjustable tilt and height. E (I think) is the third type, which is the kind of monitor you might get with your average computer. The stand generally only tilts.

The first two numbers following the letter indicate the size of the monitor, and the last two numbers indicate the year the monitor was released. I believe trailing letters are used when disambiguation is needed. So a U2414h is a 24" monitor released in 2014, and the h indicates it's the 1080p model rather than the 1200p model. The U2415 was released the following year.

Thank you for the explanation! How did you learn what the model numbers mean?

Honestly, it's basically a recollection of some information on one of the /r/buildapcsales threads on reddit. The Dell Outlet has monitors on sale all the time, and they generally either seem to fit in to one of two classifications: refurb or coming off a lease (which is probably technically a refurb as well). The information provided is generally lacking unless the monitor is being also a model Dell is currently selling new. Dell tends to release monitors to the outlet in batches, which generally inspires someone to make a post on /r/buildapcsales. Someone then inevitably asks what the difference is between the product numbers.

Honestly, if you ever need to figure out what the difference is between product numbers, searching for it on google using "site:reddit.com" or "site:reddit.com/r/relatedsubreddit" is a pretty good way of learning what they mean. Otherwise you only get results for out of stock listings on Newegg or Amazon.

Quick edit:

Here's the link to a /r/buildapcsales page with information on my monitor: https://www.reddit.com/r/buildapcsales/comments/3xh9ue/monit...

And here's a link to the TFT Central page, which has more information: http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/dell_u2414h.htm

(I'd highly recommend reading the TFT central reviews of monitors. I learned a lot about monitors from them.)

One thing I didn't mention is that Ultrasharps and the Professional models tend to have VESA mounts, whereas the standard line doesn't. If you have a mount for your monitors, I'd probably go with the Professional line, since they have the VESA mount, and you aren't paying the extra money for the really nice stand.

However, if you don't have a mount, the Ultrasharp stand is amazing. I think it's worth the price premium for the stand alone. The base rotates, the monitor can rotate 90 degrees in either direction, the screen tilts, and the height is adjustable as well. The stand is literally perfectly designed. Adjusting the monitor doesn't require any tools, but unlike a lot of other stands (I'm looking at you desk lamp) the monitor will not move unless you are intentionally moving it. It moves smoothly once you start adjusting the monitor though, so you never have the issue where you overshoot your intended adjustment several times.

The stand is nicely weighted too, so the monitor tends to stay in place while manipulating it as well. The only adjustment that isn't completely smooth is the screen tilt. The tilt is a bit solid, and I just end up rocking the monitor back and forth if I try adjusting the monitor with one hand. I need to use a hand at the top of the monitor and one at the bottom to adjust it.

The height and tilt adjustment alone is worth it for me, since I'm pretty tall and have trouble getting my monitors in the right place.

One other thing, I believe the Ultrasharp models and Professional models are much more likely to have a matte finish on them. I'm rather fond of a matte finish, but I know people who prefer their computers to have a glossy finish.

One last point about my monitor in particular -- the bezel is advertised as being quite thin, but that's a bit misleading because there is a slight black area around the edge of the screen. I'm not in front of that monitor right now, so I can't comment on exactly how far it extends, but it's much wider than the actual plastic of the bezel. It doesn't bother me in the least, but if you put several next to each other expecting to have less than a couple of mm between each screen, I could understand getting upset.

This is a great recommendation, but I would suggest paying just a little bit more (around $330 USD) and getting the U2515H. It has a higher resolution -- 2560x1440 -- and that makes all the difference if you want to rotate it into portrait mode (and you totally want to do that when coding).

If you're not in a rush, it might be worth keeping an eye on the factory outlet [1] as they pop up at a bit of a discount there and could be available locally if you're not in the US.

[1] http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/22/campaigns/outlet

+1 on the factory outlet recommendation; I bought 2 of my 3 U2415s there for around $150 each (shipped).

Yes. Though I have the older model, U2410, I am floored by how well it still outperforms much newer monitors. I really wish 16:10 ratio monitors weren't so rare these days, that extra vertical space is a godsend when working.

I have the same series, but 22" and 1440p. Best cheap external display I ever bought.

edit: I can't find it but it's similar to this, except with touch controls http://www.dell.com/ed/business/p/dell-p2416d/pd

Just as an additional datapoint, Wirecutter recommends this as well [0].

[0]: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-24-inch-monitor/

I have a number of these as well (I ordered them for the office since I was happy with them I got them at home as well). Everybody has been generally very happy with these monitors.

It also has super narrow bezels. Which seems minor, but for some reason, I really like it. I started a new job, and needed something for when I work from home. I had the 27" version of this in the office, and it was so awesome, I got the 24" variety for home without really looking around, because the 27" was so nice. I don't regret it all.

I have two of these at work hooked up to a docked surface pro 2. Probably the best monitor I've used at work. Liked it so much I picked up the 1440p version for my desktop at home.


Samsung 40inch 4k - it was going for $300 on Black Friday but it's a bit pricier now. Purportedly you can get (3840x2160@60Hz 4:4:4)

I have a Samsung 40inch 4k UN40JU6500 that I bought six months ago. Essentially you get the real estate of 4 monitors on a single screen. I usually have a browser, my IDE, and 4 terminals open all at the same time while doing development. It only supports HDMI2 input so I had to buy a Displayport to HDMI adapter to get it to work with my MacBook Pro.

There's a 40" UHD Samsung television for $300 again at Best Buy[1]

[1] http://www.bestbuy.com/site/samsung-40-class-40-diag--led-21...

It is well suited as a monitor, too, low input lag.

I've been torn among all the options, but I think I'm going to pull the trigger on this one today.

If you're weighing different options I highly recommend rtings.com for reviews. They rate every tv/monitor on the same rubric and it is pretty in-depth, so if you care about a certain aspect (i.e. use as a monitor, or contrast or motion blur, etc), it is very easy to compare.


Thanks! Just pulled the trigger on this. The monitor-use-case reviews were compellingly positive. ($25 VisaCheckout coupon almost offset CA tax and recycling fee).

I picked up a http://www.samsung.com/us/computing/monitors/uhd/samsung-uhd... for 250 during black friday (had same deal during cyber monday all over).

It's been a great monitor.

I've used a tv as a monitor before, but it was tough because it lagged pretty badly (around 80ms from when something "happened" to when the monitor showed it). What is the input lag like on this?

You may have tried this with your previous tv/monitor (and if so apologies) - but I'm currently a Seiki 4k TV and it was fairly unusable before switching to the Game/Direct mode and then playing around with the other settings. So many TVs now try to do processing on the input image that just delay and distort what you need from a monitor.

> Samsung 40inch 4k

This is a 'want' not a 'need'. Why would anyone need a 4K monitor for Dev work? Even if he/she is developing games, doesn't make sense to me.


> I have a Samsung 40inch 4k that I bought six months ago.

How far do you sit from the screen? What's it's effect on your eyes?

> This is a 'want' not a 'need'.

You are absolutely correct. Strictly speaking, he doesn't need a monitor at all. He has a new Macbook Pro. It's got a monitor attached which is just dandy.

As an overly privileged software developer, I like to have lots of stuff on the same screen. It's also a lot easier to navigate a giant SQL schema diagram when you can have a much larger chunk of it on the screen at once.

>How far do you sit from the screen? What's it's effect on your eyes?

I stand at a normal distance from the monitor. It's essentially like having 4 1080p monitors stacked 2x2. At that size the dpi is approximately the same. There isn't any difference in eye strain.

Thank you!!

> It's essentially like having 4 1080p monitors stacked 2x2.

Is that right? So you are saying I'll be able to fit 4 screens in a 1 40-inch 4K monitor and it will be similar to 4 individual 1080p screens, at what physical size tho? 20" each??

Yes, that's correct. 4 20" screens with no bezel in between.

The advantages of UHD for displaying a lot of text sharply or large diagrams without scrolling should be obvious. An advantage of 40" is that when placed 4-6' away from your eyes, you are more likely to adjust your seating position often. Long days of sitting in nearly the exact same position for years on end can be terrible for your back.

> This is a 'want' not a 'need'.

So is indoor plumbing! Or, a roof over your head in a temperate climate.

While such a large monitor may look decadent, it should be easy to find more than $300 of increased productivity from a comfortable workspace. Also, even if it only lowers the risk of a workspace-related medical problem by a couple percent, the $300 wuold pay off there, too.

Thank you! I didn't know about the sharpness and scrollbar co-relation.

I don't sit btw. I use an IKEA standing desk that I hacked together using their table top and adjustable legs. Cost me < 100 as opposed to the motorized ones costing 1000s of $s.

Any pics? Would be nice to see your Ikea setup.

> This is a 'want' not a 'need'.

This is probably subjective, but I at least feel much more productive when working with big screens. Every once in a while I prefer to have a couple of windows side by side - for comparison, for monitoring, etc. To me it's much easier to look on the side of the screen rather than flipping windows with keyboard.

To me, 4k isn't too much at all.

I work with both depending on where I am.

To me a 4k screen is the equivalent of 3 screens. It's either one 4k or three regular screens.

I did try multiple screens (1 4k, 2 regular) but it was way too much. I ended up unplugging everything but the big 4k.

I have a 24 inch "4k" monitor. (its actually Quad HD, but thats another issue for another time)

My machine is a shit salesdroid spec dell optiplex 990 (again another issue for another day)

But, why did I opt for a 4k monitor? because I can fit more text in.

Its really that simple. Right now I have a browser window, IRC window and four normal sized terminals.

The size of the text is pretty small, but not tiny. The average letter size is 2mm, which is the same size font as the financial time's article text.

to answer your other question, the effect on my eyes is the same as reading a newspaper all day.

edit: this is my monitor: ViewSonic VX2475SMHL-4K ($370 from new egg)

>this is my monitor: ViewSonic VX2475SMHL-4K ($370 from new egg)

Same here - I have 2 of these connected to Mac Book Pro. The experience is great on a Mac because you get a retina quality display. I'm considering getting the same for the office.

However, I've had resolution issues using them on a Windows 10 PC. It looks fine overall, until you run into a Java application where UI is a bit askew and text is 4 times smaller (I've seen issues with Weka and Solidworks). No such issues on a Mac though.

I use the Seiki 42" 4k TV which hovers around $300 (http://camelcamelcamel.com/Seiki-SE42UM-42-Inch-Ultra-Black/...) as my primary development monitor. As a TV, color-correct, or a gaming monitor, it's rather dross, but as a wall of pixels to work on code, I will never go back to anything smaller. Ever.

How far away do you find you have to sit?

You dont. At 42 inches a 4k screen is basically four perfectly aligned 21 inch HD panels. Don't think 4k for smooth fonts and "retina" style pixel density. Think of it in terms of screen real estate.

Sitting an arms-length away, I'm just imagining a lot of head movement going from the bottom (dock or taskbar) to top (menu bar or window title bar). Any tips? Maybe it works if you put only less-frequently-used windows up high.

I've used a 30" display (at arms-length), and it felt nice, but already rather tall.

This is really interesting but yeah it almost seems like overkill for my use case! However I may be editing some 4K video too in the future (from a drone) so maybe this is the way to go.

Anyone have any issues driving one of these from a MBP?

I had but then I got a mini display port 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 active converter and that fixed the colours and fineness and best of all runs @ 60Hz

Steals the question: I have to get a new monitor for dev work. I work from home so the office also houses my personal gaming/photo editing rig, meaning this screen will be both my home and work screen.

This means I want to get something that can also do games and photos, but on the companys dime. I want it to be IPS and it should be 1440+ (27"+ or a WS 34") and it would be nice if it could do e.g. 75hz. I don't need 4k.

The important issue though is I don't want it to look to my boss as though I'm buying really expensive monitor just for my gaming - Ideally I'd like to buy a product that works for gaming but isn't called "republic of gamers predator yada yada" if you see what I mean. So which are the "sleeper" gamer IPS monitors out there? Perhaps something with freesync, or a WS 34 that can overclock or something.

Honestly, try to go for an ultrawide if you can.


This model would be a good place to start.

Can't recommend that ultra-wide setup enough, though I'm using Dell U3415W.

You basically get the space of two monitors without bezels. Allows for several side-by-side windows of code, as well as preview of results (if working on UI or API) and still room for slack/hangouts/whatever else.

The Dells are definitely more expensive, but come hardware calibrated for color (report included) if you need any graphics or CSS work. Unfortunately, the prices really went up - snagged mine a year ago for around $600. $729 before taxes now on newegg.

Yep, I've got one of these and think it's a great choice.I have it standing above my macbook monitor as forcing me to move my heads up and down also feels like an ergonomic bonus.

I agree that ultrawides are a great option. I have a 29" LG and I'm very happy with it, wouldn't hesitate to buy another one.

I have this one and it's amazing for split screen work. One thing to consider is that it doesn't have an adjustable stand though.

I have an LG ultra wide and I never want to go back. It is truly amazing how many windows you can fit with it feeling natural and uncrowded.

So many things work well at half-width and full- or half-height on a 21:9 display. I've got a AOC Q2963PM & Dell U3415W on my main workstation and it feels like having a 2x2 grid of 4:3 displays without a border down the middle. I will never buy another 16:9/16:10 display.

This may be above your budget but I have this one and I'm extremely happy. Retina quality is superb and comparable to my Macbook Pro's retina screen.


It's about $150 more than your budget allows but I made a liberal interpretation of your "$300-ish".

I second this. I've got one at home and one at my office; it's a solid display all-around and excellent for dev work. The value for the price is outstanding, especially if you get one from Amazon Warehouse Deals for about $50 off new, as I managed to do twice without the slightest imperfections. (I bought "Used - Very Good" condition.)

Edit: I have the 24" version of this display, what's linked is the 27". I imagine the quality is comparable; whether the value is better or worse may depend on how many centimeters you want between your nose and your monitor. ;-)

I like small pixels and have been happy with this Acer 25" 2560 x 1440 currently $255: https://www.amazon.com/Acer-G257HU-smidpx-25-Inch-Widescreen...

My standards may be lower than most, but I bought two https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009HNEBLK/ and mounted them to https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002R9HQLI/ (clamps to my desk) a couple years ago and have been pretty happy with the setup.

I recently got the 25" Dell Ultrasharp U2515H which runs at 2560x1440 resolution, and really love it. Much better to do split screen on than my previous 24" 1080p monitor. It's just north of $300: https://www.amazon.com/Dell-UltraSharp-U2515H-25-Inch-LED-Li...

I have 2 of those, they are great monitors.

That said, for dev work I'd want more screen space than a single U2515H. If possible within this price range I'd look for an ultrawide with a vertical resolution of 1440. A great perk of the U2515H is accurate sRGB, but that seems superfluous here.

Ironically, I went from a dual monitor setup (24" and 21" in 'portrait'), and I find that I'm more productive now.

Probably just my lack of self-discipline but the dual monitor setup tended to encourage me to code on one monitor and procrastinate on the other.

I have been using two of these with a 15" MBP and have had no problems. I like them!


We have a fleet of these as well and have had a good experience. We are now switching to the 4k version for new ones.

I have two of these and a VESA mount to put them side by side: http://store.hp.com/us/en/pdp/hp-pavilion-24xw-238-inch-ips-....

I also have a Magic Trackpad 2 and Magic Keyboard (both by Apple). I feel I'm immensely productive with this suite. With the gestures you feel like you're in Minority Report without the augmented reality.

I thought. Out getting one cheap 4K TV as a monitor but this works better for me as a developer on a MacBook Pro. I can easily run apps in full screen on multiple essentially positionally locked displays and within them snap-to-edges.

For web app development in the left monitor I'll have a browser with the app running full screen and in the right I'll have my IDE in the left 2/3 of the screen snapped and terminal in the right 1/3.

I have one 27" version of the above, and I like it so far, with about a month of use.

Sounds like you have Macbook Pro only. I think you won't enjoy any non-4k or non-5k display. I have a Dell 27" as the main developer screen and sometimes I love to read on my Macbook Pro 13" retina. I will save a bit more and wait for a cheap 5k in next one or two years.

Agree with this, a non retina resolution monitor just looks unfocussed to me next to a MBPro screen.

So WQHD monitors are generally above that price range, but I would seriously suggest you consider investing in one.

Since they have become fairly niche over the last few years only pro level users buy them, so almost any monitor you buy in this space is bound to be excellent and score far above average for things like colour accuracy.

Also a WQHD resolution at 27" is the perfect size to have two text editors at 16pt next to each other. Or An editor and two terminals, or anything really. It's silly how small HD really is and how cumbersome 6:9 is for "getting shit done".

Why not 4K? Because right now it's still a gimmick and the chances of you hitting a sold-to-chache-in-on-fad monitor is jus too darn high.

Actually had this conversation last week with some other devs at my job. This suggestion is coming from a coworker not myself but he likes using curved screens - here is an affordable one in your range (27")


I have two Dell Ultrasharp displays. They come with Display port cables and they support MST (you can daisy chain 'm together). Quality wise I have been very happy with 'm.


Me also. If you need one then get two. If you need two then get three. If you do development for a living, you don't want to wait for Dell to send you a warranty replacement (been there, done that, learned my lesson).

Do you keep an extra monitor in your cupboard, just in case one blows up?

I do. And they have.

Been using these for the past few years at both home at work. Yamakasi Catleap q270, 2560x1440 for $250. Probably cheaper from overseas on eBay.


The stand is crappy and don't expect much from the speakers, but otherwise I love them.

I like the Dell UltraSharp 24". Usually on sale for about $250. (e.g., https://www.amazon.com/Dell-Computer-Ultrasharp-U2415-24-0-I... )

Very thin bezel, high enough resolution, lots of positions. Buy two, keep one in portrait!

I recently got a Dell UltraSharp UP2516D, it's great, also because I stay quite close to it. At work I have a Dell Ultrasharp U2715H, I stay like 10 cm further away. I don't see much difference even if one is 25" and the other is 27". I can not recommend them enough, my macbook air's display seems tiny now :D

ASUS PB Series 1440p 27.8" a little over your price point but they're on sale RIGHT NOW for $350 [1].

[1] http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824236...

Multiple smaller monitors over 1 big one. I use the main MBP screen plus three E2414H dells that I got for <$300. I have to context-switch so much less. I'd take utility over "ooh these colors look really good". 1080p @ ~22" is "good enough" pixel density too.

Super happy with the 1080p LG 24MP88HV-S 24-Inch https://www.amazon.com/LG-24MP88HV-S-24-Inch-Monitor-Infinit...

It's IPS and sleek.

Personally I love this monitor. Its about $150 more than you were looking to spend, but they have a 24" version at $300. The big feature here is 4k resolutions for a VERY reasonable price.


I love this site, and ended up getting the cheaper BENQ. http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-27-inch-monitor/

Just got two of the 27-inch BenQ and really like them.

I remember asking for a smaller monitor and getting some weird looks. To much screen space and I'm always turning my head left and right, was hurting my neck. I prefer virtual desktops and a tiling window manager.

I picked up the 32" QHD HP Omen monitor that was on sale during black Friday and so far it's been really nice. I have two 23" Dell something or other monitors in portrait mode on either side.

Similar to this, but that monitor will be the best for reading comfort? I have assumed a 4k monitor or TV, but not sure.

Two 27" 1080p made by LG

a bit ($420 tot) more but dell U2715 is a great super thin bezeled monitor.

The BenQ BL2411PT is still hard to beat quality / price wise.

Thanks all for your fast responses!

Slightly off-topic: Have people used 21:9 monitors for dev work? What has been your experience so far?

I just use lg ips

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