Best monitors of 2011

Eric Franklin loses countless hours of sleep (and likely years off his life) in an attempt to determine 2011's best monitors.

We saw some pretty cool monitor innovations in 2011. A new panel technology debuted, the thinnest panel yet was revealed, as was a monitor that functioned fully, without requiring a physical connection to a PC.

Going into 2011, we'll likely continue to see thinner monitors with more power baked into them, cheaper IPS monitors, more monitors that are completely self-sufficient (no PC required, necessarily), and be on the lookout for DisplayPort to finally take off in a big way.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Right now now it's time to take a look back at 2011 and the most impressive monitors that came through CNET Labs.

Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D
Samsung's first Plane to Line Switching (PLS) monitor is easily my favorite monitor released in 2011. It's thin, packs tons of pixels onto its 27-inch screen, and houses three superfast USB ports. All that would be great, but throw in a little alcove that lets you attach the power adapter to the back of the panel and you now have my attention, sir. Read the full review.

Asus PA246Q
One of the best values of the year, thanks to its low price and high performance. Also, the grid overlay feature alloys me to reduce everything on my screen into small, centimeters-wide squares. And I guess it can be pretty helpful to graphics artists and photographers as well. Read the full review.

Apple Thunderbolt Display
Apple took its previous Cinema Display, retained everything that made that monitor great (WQHD resolution, beautiful design, and IPS screen) and added Thunderbolt, Ethernet, and Firewire support. The incredible glossy screen makes *everything* displayed on it just look better. Read the full review.

Samsung SyncMaster T27A950
No monitor released this year or in any previous year has displayed movies with such vibrancy, clarity, with such a deep black level. If you bought this thing for movies only, you'd be making a sound investment. If the appeal of 3D movies is slowly chipping away at your common sense, this monitor has that covered as well. If only 3D games ran at full resolution, this would have been a lot higher on the list.

HP x2301 Micro Thin LED monitor
The best "budget" monitor released in 2011 doesn't skimp on options. DVI, VGA, and HDMI are beautifully represented and are so easily accessible. The fact that you can get this monitor for about $200 is criminal.Read the full review.