What makes for one of the best monitors for programming? Plenty of pixels doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure. The more screen real estate, the more windows and applications you can have open at the same time, be that for coding itself or for collaboration tools.
Ergonomics matter, too. Preferences vary, but many programmers like to have at least the option to rotate a screen into portrait mode to maximize screen height, the better to see as many lines of code at once without the need for scrolling. Similarly, good connectivity can improve ergonomics, especially if you are primarily a laptop user, so USB-C is very desirable.
Less critical are factors like HDR support, extreme color accuracy, high refresh rates and the erest. For sure, you want a screen with decent contrast and colors, if nothing else than to minimize eye strain. But huge dynamic range, eye-piercing brightness and extensive coverage of gamuts like DCI-P3 add cost to a screen for little benefit in a programming context.
How to choose a monitor for programming
First up, we’d look for a fairly high resolution screen. 4K panels are now pretty affordable, especially in 27-inch and 28-inch form factors. That said, 1440p can be a reasonable choice for programming. If you’re the kind of coder who likes to rotate a screen into portrait mode, a pair of cheaper 1440p panels with support for rotation into portrait mode could be an interesting value-orientated option.
On the other hand, if you like to code with several application windows lined up in parallel, an ultrawide panel can make a lot of sense, too. That’s especially true now that one or two ultrawide monitors can be had with 2,160 vertical pixels. So, you’re giving up little when it comes to vertical resolution.
All of that said, we’d still prioritize a higher resolution 4K-plus panel in order to maximize pixel density. When you’re looking at code all day, nice crisp fonts can really help keep eye strain to a minimum. Again, a panel with a fully adjustable stand with support for rotation into portrait would be our pick.
As for panel type and performance, well, IPS technology has the advantage of wide viewing angles, which can be especially helpful in multi-monitor situations. We wouldn’t kick a VA 4K monitor out of bed, though, especially if it was attractively priced.
What we wouldn’t worry about so much is refresh, HDR support and the last word in pixel response. Paying extra for a 120Hz-plus panel provides little benefit for coding. The same applies to HDR monitors with fancy technology like mini-LED backlighting or wide gamut color support, or indeed uber-fast pixel response. All of that just adds cost without any significant upside.
What we would be willing to pay extra for, however, is top notch connectivity. Of particular value is USB Type-C with power delivery. That allows you to hook up a laptop and both drive the display and power the laptop with a single cable. Many USB-C monitors also