The best budget monitor for graphic design

Why This MSI Optix Is The Best Budget Monitor for Graphic Design

Why This MSI Optix Is The Best Budget Monitor for Graphic Design 1024 602 Nick Saporito

Graphic design is the process of using visuals to communicate a message, making the monitor you choose to work with a very important choice. In this post I’ll be going over what you should look for in a graphic design monitor as well as what I think is currently the best budget monitor for graphic design.

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Graphic Design Monitor Requirements

Here are some of the baseline requirements to look for in a graphic design monitor. The specifications you should prioritize will depend on the type of design work you do, so I would recommend making your decision on a monitor accordingly.

Bear in mind that this is all just my opinion based on my own 8 years of experience to-date as a graphic designer. None of this is concrete and I am by no means a tech expect.

1080p Minimum Resolution

Display resolution represents the total number of visible pixels on your screen. The higher the resolution, the more pixels you’ll see, meaning you can fit more information and work with larger canvases.

I’ve worked with lower resolutions in the past — namely 720p — and for graphic design, that just doesn’t cut it. It’s particularly difficult when you’re designing things like business cards, headers, channel art, thumbnails, etc. 720p is such a low resolution that it can rarely fit the entire graphic on the screen when zoomed in at 100%. You’ll have to zoom out to get a look at what you’re creating in its entirety, which is problematic. This is why I recommend a minimum resolution of 1080p. 1080p is a high enough resolution that you can design all of your standard branding items and see exactly how they look, in their entirety, when zoomed in at 100%.

If you regularly design large print items like trade show banners and vehicle wraps, or you’re into video editing and animation, you may even want to go a little high than 1080p. At that point I would recommend looking into 4K if you can fit it into your budget.

24″ Minimum Size

When it comes to screen size, the more inches you can afford the better off you’ll be, but 24″ should be sufficient for a budget graphic design monitor.

I recommend a minimum monitor size of 24 inches because screen size affects your viewing distance. Smaller screens usually mean having to view the screen a little more closely, and if you’re like me, this means migraine headaches and back stiffness from constantly craning your neck for 8+ hours per day.

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I’ve worked with laptops with 15″ screens in the past and it just isn’t a pleasant experience once you’re used to working with a larger monitor. The image may be more crisp because of higher pixel density, but I regularly find myself having to lean in and strain my eyes in order to see finer details a little more closely. That’s rarely the case for me with a larger monitor though. A screen size of 24″ or greater should be sufficient enough to lean back in your chair and still see the fine details of whatever you’re designing with clarity.

120hz Minimum Refresh Rate

According to How-To Geek, refresh rate is the number of times the image on your screen is updated per second. So for example, a screen with a 60hz refresh rate means that your display updates 60 times per second. The higher the fresh rate, the more updates you’ll get per second, meaning the smoother the picture on your screen will be.

Refresh rate is something I only ever considered in the context of gaming, but after recently making a switch from a 60hz to 144hz, I certainly see its value in the context of graphic design. If you do any kind of 3D or animation work, 120hz should be the absolute minimum you look for in a budget graphic design monitor (but the higher the better!) It will also be useful if you regularly do any kind of painting, masking, or any other task where you’re making subtle adjustments to fine details. The smoother picture makes a noticeable difference.

Dual Monitor Setup

Finally, I would absolutely recommend choosing a graphic design monitor that fits so well into your budget that you can afford to get two of them! This may not have a direct impact on the design work itself, but it certainly impacts workflow and productivity, which is important enough to consider when choosing your monitor.

I’ve been working with a dual monitor setup for 2 years now and I haven’t thought about looking back since. It’s very convenient to be able to run your design software on one screen and have a folder open on the other so you can easily drag and drop files onto your canvas. It’s also useful when you need to briefly search something on the web, look up a font, quickly reply to an email, or whatever else. It’s also really nice¬† to have a YouTube video playing on the other screen while you’re working. I don’t work in silence and I’m guessing you probably don’t either.

Dual monitor graphic design setup

Having that 2nd monitor has absolutely improved my workflow and efficiency as a designer. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think you’re better off with two 1080p monitors than a single large 4K monitor.

The Best Budget Monitor For Graphic Design

All things considered, and after a bit of shopping around, I came to the conclusion that the best budget monitor for graphic design is the MSI Optix MAG24c.

I’m so confident in that decision that I recently bought a couple of them myself to replace the single large 4K monitor I was previously working with.

Why I Like The MSI Optix MAG24c

I chose this monitor for a variety of reasons. Let’s explore some of them…

Meets Minimum Requirements

This monitor meets all of the benchmarks I look for in a graphic design monitor. Here’s a brief summary of the specs…

  • 1080p resolution
  • 24″ screen size
  • 144hz refresh rate

Trusted Brand

When it comes to hardware — particularly monitors and screens — brand and build quality is important to me. MSI is my go-to brand for most tech hardware. In fact, I recently wrote about choosing an MSI laptop for graphic design over a MacBook.

MSI is one of the most trusted brands in PC gaming hardware, and as I’ve written about in the past, I like go with hardware that’s built for gaming because gaming is far more taxing on a computer than most standard design work is. Any setup than can run modern games at high frame rates can certainly handle Adobe’s bloated design software.

Another thing I like about MSI is their build quality. Both my MSI laptop and these two monitors that I recently purchased seem to be built exceptionally well.

High Refresh Rate

This monitor comes with a refresh rate of 144hz which makes for quite the silky smooth experience, especially for a budget graphic design monitor. Even little things like moving objects around the canvas and zooming in and out are more pleasant with a higher refresh rate.

My old 4K monitor (which I’ll still be using for another setup I have in my other room) has a refresh rate of 60hz, but after experiencing the smoothness 144hz there’s simply no going back.

Glare-Free

This is one of those things you don’t realize you need until you have it. This monitor has a glare-free screen, which makes my life much easier later on in the afternoon.

The windows in my office face southwest, meaning I have the sun beaming directly into the room and onto my setup in the afternoon hours this time of year. It was just a minor nuisance I had to deal with previously, but this monitor has eliminated that problem. The screen reflects absolutely no glare.

Curved Design

This MSI Optix MAG Series has a curved design to it, which is actually quite a surprising feature for a budget monitor.

This is still a new concept to me, and the jury is still out, but having two of these monitors next to each other sort of feels like you’re being surrounded by your screens. I’m not sure that this has any impact on my graphic design work, but it does feel a bit more immersive and I’m liking it so far.

Bargain Price

Choosing the best budget monitor for graphic design means being conscious of price, and this monitor is very fairly priced considering its features, brand, and build quality. I was able to pick up a couple of them at my local MicroCenter on sale for less than $200 each, which was a steal.

Easy Mounting

This may be a frivolous point, but it’s a real pet peeve of mine — monitors that are difficult to mount to walls and desk arms because they either don’t come with screws or require screws that have uncommon thread sizes.

Mounting plates on the back of the monitor

I’ve had very frustrating experiences in the past trying to mount monitors and TVs. This is probably something that’s important to you as well if you’ve ever found yourself rifling through hundreds of bins of screws at Home Depot trying to figure out what size you need. Thankfully this monitor comes with all the screws you’ll need to mount it to your desk arms for a dual monitor setup like I have. It even comes with spacer screws to accommodate mounting plates that don’t quite fit the back of the monitor.

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Nick Saporito

Nick Saporito is a Philadelphia-based graphic designer who specializes in branding-specific design. A full portfolio and information regarding services offered can be found at LogosByNick.com.

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