What is a Monitor?

Monitor Facts & Troubleshooting Guides

Photo of a Dell UltraSharp U2412M 24-Inch LED Monitor
Dell UltraSharp U2412M 24-Inch LED Monitor. © Dell, Inc.

The monitor is the piece of computer hardware that displays the video and graphics information generated by the computer through the video card.

Monitors are very similar to televisions but usually display information at a much higher resolution. Also unlike televisions, monitors are not usually mounted on a wall but instead sit atop a desk.

Other Names of a Monitor

A monitor is sometimes referred to as a screen, display, video display, video display terminal, video display unit, or video screen.

A monitor is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the computer, as in the hardware within the computer case, like the hard drive, video card, etc. For example, shutting down the computer isn't the same thing as turning off the monitor. It's important for that distinction to be made.

Important Monitor Facts

A monitor, no matter the type, usually connects to either an HDMI, DVI, or VGA port. Other connectors include USB, DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt. Before investing in a new monitor, make sure that both devices support the same type of connection.

For example, you don't want to buy a monitor that has only an HDMI port when your computer is only capable of accepting a VGA connection. Although most video cards and monitors have multiple ports so as to work with various kinds of both devices, it's still important to check their compatibility.

Monitors are not typically user serviceable. For your safety, it's not usually wise to open and work on a monitor.

Popular Monitor Manufacturers

Acer, Hanns-G, LG Electronics, Sceptre

Monitor Description

Monitors are display devices external to the computer case and connect via a cable to a port on the video card or motherboard. Even though the monitor sits outside the main computer housing, it is an essential part of the complete system.

Monitors come in two major types - LCD or CRT. CRT monitors look much like old-fashioned televisions and are very deep in size. LCD monitors are much thinner, use less energy, and provide a greater graphics quality.

LCD monitors have completely obsoleted CRT monitors due to their higher quality, smaller "footprint" on the desk, and decreasing price.

Most monitors are in a widescreen format and range in size from 17" to 24" or more. This size is a diagonal measurement from one corner of the screen to the other.

Monitors are built-in as part of the computer system in laptops, tablets, netbooks, and all-in-one desktop machines. However, you can buy one separately if you're looking to upgrade from your current monitor.

Although monitors are considered output devices since they usually only serve the purpose of outputting information to the screen, some of them are touch screens as well. This type of monitor is considered both an input and output device, which is usually called an input/output device, or an I/O device.

Some monitors have integrated accessories like a microphone, speakers, camera, or USB hub.

More Information on Monitors

Are you dealing with a monitor that isn't showing anything on the screen?

Read my guide on How To Test a Computer Monitor That Isn't Working for steps that involve checking the monitor for loose connections, making sure the brightness is properly set, and more.

Newer LCD monitors should be cleaned with care and not like you would a piece of glass or older CRT monitor. If you need help, see How To Clean A Flat Screen TV or Computer Monitor.

Read How To Fix Discoloration & Distortion on a Computer Screen if your monitor doesn't seem to be displaying things like it should, like if the colors seem off, the text is blurry, etc.

If you have an older CRT monitor that has a problem displaying colors, like if you see an array of colors around the edges of the screen, you need to degauss it to reduce the magnetic inference that's causing it.

See How To Degauss a Computer Monitor if you need help.

Screen flickering on a CRT monitor can be solved by changing the monitor's refresh rate.