Key Takeaways:

  • Setting up your PC’s monitor is generally straightforward and requires no expertise
  • Adapters are widely and easily available for connecting nearly any combination of port types
  • Not all port types support both video and audio

Laptops are versatile and convenient options for many peoples’ daily computing needs, but for video and music production, high-end gaming, and more, only a desktop tower can provide the processing power necessary for demanding mediums. A dedicated monitor is a part of that package, but first-time users may be intimidated when it comes to their set-up. Thankfully it’s not as complicated as it seems- here’s all you need to know to find and set up the best monitor for your PC.

Tip: only a desktop tower can provide the processing power necessary for demanding mediums

Deciding on the right connector

The history of personal computing includes a long list of standardized and proprietary connection types, and even in 2021, there are a number of choices, though only one or two will really be relevant or useful to most.

HDMI

HDMI is probably the most common high definition connection type out there and is the standard for nearly all consumer flatscreen televisions, many of which come with multiple HDMI ports for the largest variety of connectivity options. HDMI can transmit both video and audio and cables are both easily found and inexpensive. However, not all desktop PCs come with HDMI ports, especially if they use an integrated graphics processor. This means if your monitor is HDMI-only, you’ll need an adapter (generally this will be a DVI-HDMI adapter, also inexpensive and easy to find).

Tip: HDMI is probably the most common high definition connection type out there

Warning: not all desktop PCs come with HDMI ports

DVI

DVI is the standard video-only connection type for both Windows and Mac towers. It transmits high-definition video but, unlike HDMI, it does not transmit audio. Most modern computer monitors have a DVI port and many will come with a DVI cable for connection to your computer.

Warning: it does not transmit audio

Some flatscreen televisions don’t feature a DVI connection but all should feature an HDMI port- which means you’ll have to use a DVI-HDMI adapter if your computer only has DVI. There is no quality difference between HDMI and DVI, so apart from HDMI’s audio streaming ability, they’re functionally the same.

Warning: Some flatscreen televisions don’t feature a DVI connection

VGA, DisplayPort, USB-C, and Thunderbolt

Other connection types include VGA- an older, analog, video-only format that many flatscreen televisions and some computer monitors still include. Generally not used except for when connecting analog equipment to digital equipment and definitely the last resort in a pinch, since image quality and resolution would be severely compromised.

Tip: Generally not used except for when connecting analog equipment to digital equipment

DisplayPort, USB-C, and Thunderbolt are all types of connections more commonly used when connecting laptops to monitors, though they’re all viable for desktop computers if provided.

Connecting Your Monitor to a PC

  1. Make sure your monitor is plugged into power, and with the computer powered down, connect the two components using your HDMI or DVI cable.
  2. Step 2- Power on your computer and wait a few seconds- a Windows or Apple logo should appear if you’ve connected everything correctly.
  3. Step 3- After your computer boots up, check display preferences to make sure your settings are correct and that you’re getting the screen resolution, refresh rate, and aspect ratio intended.
  4. In Windows, go to Settings>System>Display and check the display resolution and display orientation
  5. In macOS, go to System Settings>Display and check display resolution and picture orientation.
  6. See your operating system’s advanced display settings if anything needs tweaking.

STAT:

Micro HDMI cables: This format combines video and audio into an interface that is small enough to connect to tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices. They are 50% smaller than the standard HDMI cables.

https://www.quill.com/blog/tutorials/how-to-connect-a-monitor-to-your-desktop-or-laptop-computer.html

For reference, Brightness is often tuned between 50-80% from the factory. Adjust to taste.

https://www.ign.com/articles/2019/09/16/monitor-calibration-how-to-calibrate-monitor

DVI ports do not transmit audio data.

https://www.sony.com/electronics/support/articles/00010109

Sources:

https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/how-to/desktop-pc/how-set-up-new-pc-3446210/

https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/how-to/laptop/laptop-second-monitor-3674679/

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad5zmFk80lU&ab_channel=ComputerPlanet

How To Set Up Your Monitor FAQ

Do I need an adapter?

If your monitor and computer don't share any common port types, you'll need an adapter to connect them. The most common connection mismatch experienced is with a monitor that has only an HDMI port and a computer that has only a DVI port. In that case, you'll need a DVI-HDMI adapter- which is thankfully easy to find and inexpensive. For the most part, adapters exist for all the most common mismatches, including USB-C-HDMI, DisplayPort to DVI, and so forth.

Can I use a flatscreen television as my computer monitor?

Flatscreen televisions and computer monitors are functionally the same at this point, so the answer is yes, though the main difference between a dedicated television and a dedicated computer monitor is in the connection options it offers. Flatscreen televisions tend to have HDMI primarily whereas computers and their video cards tend to offer DVI, though certain either may offer both depending on the model. Adapters can take care of this issue easily enough, however.

Can I use my laptop as a second monitor?

In Windows 10 it's possible to set up your laptop as a second monitor- a useful feature if your workflow requires a two-monitor set-up. Doing so requires using Windows' included Miracasting technology and a handful of simple commands- instructions can be found here: https://store.hp.com/us/en/tech-takes/how-do-I-use-laptop-as-monitor

Jed Smith

I'm a musician and recording engineer and live in Queens. I have a cat. Her name is Elsa. I love to write about consumer tech and musical instruments.

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