Bargain basement screens

Not everyone needs a high-end monitor, so for those on a budget or who just need a basic screen, we’ve compared the most affordable options.

[Lindsay Handmer]

To help scope out what was available when it comes to low-cost screens, this month, we’ve put 10 models to the test, with all models priced under $300.

Of course, at this pricepoint, monitors tend towards simpler models, but there are plenty of smaller panels with higher-end features. It’s also possible to buy quite competent gaming models, with functionality such as AMD FreeSync and higher refresh rates. While many cheaper screens use basic TN panels, some step up the quality with VA or even IPS displays.

Other affordable productivity focused monitors include adjustable stands, or have increased power efficiency.
While it’s possible to buy affordable LCDs under 20-inches, 27-inches is about as big as you will find without blowing out the budget and going above $300.

As always, make sure you shop around for the best price — our sister site www.getprice.com.au is a great place to start. But don’t shy away from big name stores such as JB Hi-Fi or OfficeWorks either, who often have some surprisingly great discounts and special offers.

HOW WE TESTED

Each was tested in a range of scenarios at its native resolution, including gaming, productivity, media playback and web surfing. OSD settings were adjusted for best image quality.

FreeSync was tested using an AMD Radeon RX 480.

Acer G246HL

A simple 24-inch monitor.

The G246HL aims to provide plenty of screen real estate without a high price tag. The monitor is available as a 24-inch model, 27-inch version. Both use a TN panel, with the standard 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. It’s also got a 5ms response time, 60Hz refresh rate, 100 million to 1 adaptive contrast ratio and a 250cd/m2 brightness.

While the stand itself looks great on a desk, it only has tilt adjustment — no height or pivot. As expected from a TN panel, the viewing angles are a bit lower than an IPS screen, at 170° horizontal, and 160° vertical.

Colours are fairly vibrant and a bit more accurate after some tweaking, and picture quality is reasonable. The backlight is quite even, though there is a touch of light bleed on the edges.

The G246HL has HDMI, DVI and VGA inputs, but only includes cables for the latter two. While the Acer G246HL is a competent monitor, there are better options for similar amounts of money.

Verdict

The G246HL has practically no bells and whistles, but is vibrant and fairly cheap. However, there are better options out there.

24 inches; TN panel; 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; HDMI; DVI; VGA

Rating 3.5/5

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Acer G246HL 24-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor

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$109.99

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AOC G2778VQ

An affordable gaming monitor.

At 27 inches, the AOC G2778VQ is a decent step up from a 23-inch screen, without too much of a price bump. It features a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, and has a simple but stylish red and black color scheme with internal PSU. The G2778VQ is aimed at gamers, with a low 1ms response time and gaming modes such as FPS, racing and RTS.

It supports AMD FreeSync, and has a 75Hz refresh rate. The screen also has shadow control, which allows the user to improve detail in dark areas.

The AOC gives a great image for gaming, but the TN panel doesn’t have the colour accuracy or viewing angles of its IPS brethren. The backlight is bright (300cd/m2) and quite even, and overall contrast is decent and colors vibrant.

We experienced no visible ghosting and FreeSync does an excellent job.

Round the back, the AOC has HDMI, DisplayPort and VGA inputs. The inbuilt 2W speakers are nothing special, but handy as a backup.

Verdict

With AMD FreeSync on board, plus shadow control, this monitor will do a good job and for a fairly good price.

Rating 4/5, Recommended

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AOC G2778VQ 27" Full HD Black,Red computer monitor

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27-inches; TN panel; 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; HDMI; DisplayPort; VGA

ASUS VX239H

Affordable, yet well equipped.

For as little, the 23-inch ASUS VX239H is well suited as an everyday monitor. For those who want the extra quality, it uses an AH-IPS panel, with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, wide 178° viewing angles, 80 million to 1 smart contrast ratio and an ultra-low blue light production backlight.

The VX239H looks great on the desk, with thin (but not quite frameless) bezels and a minimalistic stand with basic tilt adjustment. We did not experience any ghosting at all, thanks to the 5ms response time, and while not really aimed at gamers, the monitor does have gamer modes.

The monitor is quite bright (250cd/ m2), with an even backlight and vibrant, accurate colors. The screen has dual HDMI and VGA inputs, with the former MHL compatible for connecting (and charging) mobile devices. Frustratingly, only an VGA cable is included (not HDMI), and the speakers are expectably tinny.

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Asus VS239H-P 23-Inch Full HD 1920x1080 IPS HDMI DVI VGA Back-lit LED...

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$123.34

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Verdict

For those who need a quality 23-inch screen with a few handy features, you can’t go wrong with the VX239H.

Rating 4/5, Recommended

23-inches; AH-IPS panel; 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; dual HDMI; VGA

BenQ GW2270H

A compact option.

Measuring in at 21.5 inches, the little BenQ GW2270H is great for smaller desks or as a second screen. Despite using a higher-quality VA panel with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution.

Sure, it’s not quite IPS territory, but the GW2270H offers true 8-bit color and wide 178° viewing angles. VA panels also give great contrast, and the BenQ screen exploits that with a high 3,000:1 native contrast ratio.

The refresh rate is quite good at 5ms GTG, and we did not experience any ghosting in normal use, including light gaming. The screen is rated to display 72% of the NTSC color gamut, and gives a noticeably better image than a TN screen. The GW2270H looks great on a desk, but only has basic tilt adjustment.

Connectivity falls a little short as well, with DVI and VGA, but no HDMI or DisplayPort.

For those who want a larger screen, an extra gets the GW2470, with the same specs but a 23.8-inch panel.

Verdict

This little screen is a versatile solution, but its connectivity options and size won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Rating 3.5/5

21.5 inches; VA panel; 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; DVI; VGA

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BENQ GW2270H 21.5 INCH Monitor VA LED 1920 x 1080 VGA HDMI...

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Monitor specs at a glance

A quick rundown of all the important numbers and features you need to know when buying a monitor.

Resolution

Don’t accept anything under 1,920 x 1,080, but at the same time, it’s hard to find higher on a budget.

Inputs

HDMI is best for easy connection, but sometimes DVI or even legacy VGA ports are useful for connecting to older PCs.

Stand

Even the cheapest screens can be tilted, but for productivity use, look for height and pivot adjustments.

Panel Type

IPS is the best quality, but VA panels are almost as good, and are usually cheaper with better contrast.

Size

24-inch (often 23.5-inch) is the sweet spot, but a 27-inch screen is worth considering for those who game or just sit a  it further back.

Response Time

Gamers should look for the lowest response time to avoid ghosting, but for day-to-day tasks, higher is not a problem.

Refresh Rate

Gamers should look for 75Hz or higher, but most affordable monitors have a 60Hz refresh rate.

Gaming

Look for extra technologies such as game modes, as well as technologies such as FreeSync which can help eliminate tearing.

LG 27MP48HQ

27 inches of IPS screen.

27 inches; IPS panel; 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; HDMI; VGA

The LG 27MP48HQ is a remarkably affordable way to upgrade from a smaller monitor. The LG offers a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, with a high-quality IPS panel and a 16:9 aspect ratio. At 250cd/m2, it’s quite bright, but can be overpowered by high-glare situations.

The 27MP48HQ has wide 178° viewing angles, a pretty normal 1,000:1 contrast ratio and includes a splitscreen utility for up to four views at once. The response time is a gamer unfriendly 14ms (GTG) but it doesn’t create any ghosting issues in normal use, or even fast paced video. The panel colors are great, though there is some very mild unevenness to the backlighting.

The LG monitor has a single HDMI input, as well as a legacy VGA connection — though annoyingly only includes a cable for the latter. The screen itself has basic tilt adjustment, and a sleek if somewhat thick bezeled look.

Rating 4/5 Recommended

Verdict

Suitable for gaming and other uses, this bright monitor offers wide viewing angles at a great price.

Samsung LC24F390FHE

Is it time for a curved upgrade?

23.5-inches; VA curved panel; 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; HDMI; VGA

Just scraping in under the $300 limit if you shop around, the LC24F390 offers a curved screen experience.

The panel is 23.5 inches wide, and uses the standard 16:9 aspect ratio. It also has a full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, and uses a high-quality VA panel. This gives wider than TN viewing angles, as well as a higher-than-average 3000:1 native contrast ratio. Despite not being aimed at gamers, the 5ms GTG response time is pretty decent, and the screen supports AMD FreeSync.

In use, the 19° curvature of the Samsung screen makes it look larger than it actually is, but not to any huge degree. It takes a little getting used to, but helps it feel slightly more immersive, and easier on the eyes.

The actual image quality is top notch, with deep blacks and bright colors.

The Samsung has HDMI and VGA inputs, but no DisplayPort.

For those who want a smaller screen, the monitor also has a 21.5-inch version for $250, or a 27-inch.

Verdict

Providing a decent gaming experience, this curved screen provides great image quality and colours, but won’t break the bank.

Rating 4/5, Recommended

ViewSonic VX2457-mhd

Budget AMD gamers rejoice.

For those wanting a better-than-basic gaming experience for as few coins as possible, the ViewSonic VX series is a must-see. It comes in three sizes — the 22-inch VX2257-mhd, 24-inch VX2457-mhd and the larger 27-inch VX2757-mhd.

The VX screens come with 1,920 x 1,080 resolutions and a TN panel.

But going beyond the nice low 1ms response time, it includes FreeSync support and has a 75Hz refresh rate.

The tech operates from 47–75Hz — well suited to mid-range AMD cards, providing a buttery smooth gaming experience, but not super high frame rates. It responds well to some OSD tweaks, but considering the price and spec, offers quite decent image quality and a uniform backlight.

In testing, FreeSync did an excellent job of eliminating stuttering and tearing. The VX2457-mhd has HDMI, DisplayPort and VGA inputs, but no DisplayPort cable, which is needed to actually use FreeSync.

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ViewSonic VX2457-MHD 24" 2ms 1080p FreeSync Monitor HDMI, DisplayPort

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Last update was in: 2017-06-28 6:26 pm

$151.29

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Verdict

While the lack of DisplayPort cable is a frustrating caveat, this monitor delivers where it counts.

Rating 4/5, Recommended

24-inches; TN panel; 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; HDMI; DisplayPort; VGA

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