With the pandemic showing few signs of ending soon, it's looking like working or studying from home may be a long-term thing. Luckily, if you've suddenly found yourself on a tight budget, you can still find a decent monitor for less than $200. But act fast if you find a cheap monitor you want - thanks to so many people currently working from home, they're going in and out of stock like Black Friday doorbusters.
When buying a budget monitor, you should absolutely check out the listing of what's in the box. Make sure that it's not missing items that would drive the price above that threshold, like a stand or appropriate cables. The stand might not be an issue if you're planning to use the VESA mount to put it on a wall or an arm. But in that case, you should ensure the mount screws on the back of the monitor match yours: The bulk of these have 100-by-100mm mounts, though in some cases, they don't support a VESA mount at all.
Upping your budget to between $200 and $300 will bring more 32-inch options and 2,560-by-1,440 resolution. And, of course, the more you're willing to spend, the more you're likely to find something in stock and ready to ship.
LG 27ML600M-B 27-inch FHD IPS FreeSync display
CNET TAKE: The LG is a solid, attractive general-purpose choice with some gaming perks. Though we'd hardly call it a gaming monitor, it has features for a good gaming experience, such as the ability to overdrive the response time, a 1ms motion-blur reduction mode and an optional center crosshair. It's slightly brighter than most, and there's a Photo mode that seems to improve the color accuracy. It's got a VGA connector in addition to the two HDMIs (though that's not uncommon in this price range) if you've got a really old device to connect.
This one goes in and out of stock rapidly, so if you need it or want it (for gaming or work) and you see it, don't wait to buy.
Dell SE2719HR 27-inch FHD IPS FreeSync display
CNET TAKE: This LED monitor is a good option if you're fed up with eye strain and squinting at your work on a small laptop screen. The display's thin bezels and built-in power supply make it streamlined and tidy, and you're pretty much looking at all screen. The base does allow it to tilt - there's no height adjustment - and has a hole for cable management so you can pass its power cord and a VGA or HDMI cable through to the inputs in back (power and HDMI cables are included).
Along with the screen size and design, you're getting a 75Hz refresh rate, 4ms response time and FreeSync support, which makes this a bit better for gaming and fast-moving video than your average office monitor. On the other hand, unexciting color performance and seemingly lower-than-spec brightness undercut it solely for that use. It's fine for mixed use even if it doesn't excel in any area. Also, that's about the end of the road for features, so if you want things like built-in speakers, a webcam or VESA mounting holes you'll have to look elsewhere.
Asus ProArt PA248QV 24-inch UXGA monitor
CNET TAKE: If you need a color-accurate monitor on the cheap-ish, the 1,920-by-1,200 PA248QV is a great way to go. We tested the 27-inch model (this one's 24 inches), and its sRGB accuracy is excellent. Plus, it's quite well-rounded for the money, with a 75Hz refresh rate if you need it for games that don't have fast action - simulations, turn-based RPGs and so on - a USB hub, a full set of inputs and speakers. And the stand raises and lowers, swivels and supports 90 degree rotation into portrait mode, all of which are unusual for its price class. The speakers don't get very loud and the connections can loosen when you move it, but otherwise we really like this one.
If you can afford it, the 27-inch model, PA278QV, runs $100 more and ups the resolution to 2,560-by-1,440.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Senior Editor Lori Grunin, Senior Editor Joshua Goldman and Copy Editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.[object Object]