Among the must-haves for, a decent external may be the most important. If your work involves looking at two or more documents simultaneously, referring to multiple browser windows or scrolling through spreadsheets, you're going to get a lot more done gazing at an LCD with a decent screen size than squinting at your 13-inch (or even 15-inch) laptop display.
A few words about monitor technology in 2020: All things being equal, bigger is better. Nearly all built-in speakers are lousy. Unless you're a hardcore gamer or creative professional, many of the most technical specs -- color gamut and latency, for example -- won't really matter to you (and you should always take them with with a grain of salt, anyway). Curved monitors, which can make a wide display fit into your field of view without requiring you to sit too far back, aren't worth paying more for with any display under 28 inches. Want to dive deeper?.
Not every monitor has an integrated height-adjustable stand. Frankly, those are sometimes more trouble than they're worth -- and eye-level height can be easily achieved with a monitor stand or a thick book. Also, though all of the monitors listed below can be connected via HDMI, some are VGA-compatible and a few support USB-C. But not every laptop has all of those connections built in. If you're working on a MacBook Air, for example, you'll need to buy to connect via HDMI. So, make sure you know how you'll connect everything before clicking "buy."
Note that demand for monitors is high and that pricing and availability is more variable than usual. This list is regularly updated to reflect pricing and stock, but may not always be up-to-the-minute accurate.
This enormous display has everything you want in a contemporary monitor: full 4K resolution (3,840x2,160 pixels), support for HDR and IPS -- and all of the inputs, including HDMI, DisplayPort and USB-C.
Currently on sale at B&H Photo for $350, Samsung's 31.5-inch LCD features full 4K resolution and a DisplayPort and HDMI input -- but no USB-C connections.
Dell's 37.5-inch curved display could easily stand in for your current dual-monitor setup. And the specs are legit: near-4K resolution (3,840x1,600), IPS and LCD technology and all of the connections (DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0 and USB-C).
This Philips display has solid specs for the price. You get full 4K, super-thin bezels, two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort. Some verified purchase reviews complain about the limited viewing angles and lack of integrated speakers, but this monitor is primed for straightforward work use -- probably not gaming. It's currently back-ordered, but Amazon says it will ship in six to 10 days.
If you're working on an older computer, consider the Lepow USB-C monitor. It's a good option if your laptop doesn't have a VGA or HDMI output, like the port-impoverished MacBook Air. It's also handy if you have limited space. And weighing less than 2 pounds, it's light enough to come along when you need to move your setup. The Lepow connects to your laptop via USB -- so you don't need a VGA or HDMI port. And there's no need for an external power supply, so you can use it even when there's no socket nearby.