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If you want to get the most out of your new PC, you need to pair it with one of the best monitors around. So whether you’re creating content, watching movies, or playing games, it’s critical to invest in a good monitor.
High-quality monitors provide better color accuracy, higher resolutions, higher refresh speeds, lower response times, and have extra features that make viewing more pleasant and more comfortable to your eyes.
However, It can be difficult to choose one since they have different sizes and there are many types of monitors to choose from; with some of them being better suited than others for certain tasks (productivity, photo/video editing, gaming). Sadly, there isn’t one that is perfect for everyone.
How to choose the best monitor for you
Resolution and aspect ratio
These are the two main specs to look for when buying a new monitor. Resolution is simply put the display’s size in pixels; the aspect ratio, on the other hand, is the ratio between the monitor’s width and height.
More pixels means more screen real estate. Higher resolutions produce a cleaner, crisper image. However high-resolution monitors require a more powerful graphics card.
Most monitors are Full HD, which means they have a resolution of 1,920×1,080 pixels. Monitors with a resolution of 2,560×1,440 pixels (also known as WQHD) occupy the middle ground between Full HD and 4K, or Ultra HD resolutions. 4K monitors are quickly becoming the most popular high-end monitors; they have a resolution of 3,840×2,160 pixels. All of these monitors also have an aspect ratio of 16:9.
But there are also office monitors with a resolution of 1,920×1,200 (16:10 aspect ratio) that offer more vertical real estate. If instead, you like the idea of an even wider screen, one that can display two documents side by side or a movie without the black bars above and below, then you are looking for a monitor with a resolution of 2,560×1,080 or 3,440×1,440 pixels, i.e. an aspect ratio of 21:9.
Refresh rate and frame rate
The refresh rate is described by a number in hertz (Hz) that indicates the number of times the monitor is being updated every second. In other words, that figure shows the monitor’s frame rate – the higher the number the smoother the image.
Most monitors have a 60Hz refresh rate. However, there are gaming monitors that have a 120Hz, 144Hz, and 240Hz refresh rate. There are even some that can go above 300Hz! Similar to higher resolutions you will need a powerful graphics card in order to achieve those higher framerates.
Response time and input lag
At one time slow response times were responsible for the ghosting effect. Today, however, most monitors boast a response time of sub 4ms, which is barely discernible by the human eye.
Input lag is something entirely different and should not be confused with the response time. This value is never listed by manufacturers; input lag is the time it takes for the monitor to react to an action you take, such a mouse click or a keypress.
Three things determine a monitor’s image quality: color accuracy, contrast, and black levels.
Color Accuracy: By measuring the percentage of coverage of the sRGB color gamut that a monitor is capable of, we can understand its amount of accuracy in representing those colors. The higher the percentage, the better the colors; look for a monitor with a minimum coverage percentage of 95%.
Contrast: The contrast is measured as a ratio of X:1, where “X” is as high a number as possible. VA and OLED panels will always offer better contrast than their IPS and TN counterparts, but they also cost more. Look for a monitor with a contrast ratio of at least 500:1.
Black levels: not to be confused with contrast, the black level is measured in cd/m². In this case, you’re looking for a number as close to zero as possible — any monitor with a black level below 1.0cd/m² is fine.
If you’re going to spend a lot of money on a good monitor that will last you for a long time we recommend spending some more to get a good all-around product and not just a really good screen.
Stand: Investing in a monitor with a sturdy, height-adjustable stand is usually worth the extra money.
USB Hub: A USB hub may reduce clutter onto and under your desk, and allow you to connect peripherals such as the mouse and keyboard directly to your monitor.
Now that you know what to look for, these are the best monitors for 2021:
Dell UltraSharp U2720Q: best 4K monitor
The Dell UltraSharp U2720Q (Check on Amazon) is our favorite 4K monitor. It combines a sleek design with slim frames and an adjustable stand, boasts a huge contrast ratio (1,300:1), excellent color accuracy (with the sRGB color preset, color accuracy is almost perfect), and numerous ports; in addition to the standard HDMI and DisplayPort inputs and the USB 3.0 hub, it features a USB-C port that can receive a video signal and provide up to 90 W of power to your laptop via a single cable!
It may not have the biggest screen (27″) but with its 4K resolution, it offers the highest pixel density in an office monitor for an exceptionally sharp image. Combined with its great HDR support, this monitor produces an amazing picture, no matter what you intend to use it for.
It’s not a gaming monitor. It doesn’t have a high refresh rate, but its 60Hz is more than enough for casual gamers looking for 4K details.
The Dell UltraSharp U2720Q is a bit more expensive (Check on Amazon) than its competitors, like the HP Z27 (Check on Amazon) (best monitor for most people) and LG 27UK650 (Check on Amazon) (best cheap 4K monitor) but it’s worth paying a little extra for its added features, especially if you are a professional photographer or video editor. Dell also has a 32-inch model, the U3220Q, but it costs a couple of hundred dollars more.
BenQ PD3200U: a valid alternative
Now that most PCs can handle 4K resolutions, 4K monitors are becoming the new norm. That’s why BenQ launched the PD3200U (Check on Amazon), a huge 32-inch Ultra HD display, which is part of its Designer Monitor range.
32-inch monitors are much better suited for 4K resolutions than 28-inch monitors since you don’t need to resize your apps or UI. The only problem is finding the desk space.
The BenQ PD3200U uses an IPS panel with a 10-bit color depth, covering 100% of the sRGB and Rec. 709 color gamuts. But what makes this monitor the best choice for 3D designers is its plethora of useful features such as numerous factory-calibrated preset modes (CAD/CAM, Animation, Darkroom, sRGB, and Rec. 709). It also sports DualView functionality, which allows you to split the screen in half and use a different color gamut on each half of the screen. This monitor also comes with a built-in KVM switch that lets you control multiple devices connected to the display via a single keyboard/mouse set.
The monitor is equipped with a fully ergonomic stand, with height adjustment, and is also VESA compatible. In the monitor’s base, we also find a small device called a “Hotkey Puck” that you can use to quickly change between the different modes or assign your own shortcuts for OSD-related functions (On Screen Display).
As far as connectivity goes the monitor includes two HDMI 2.0 ports, a DisplayPort 1.2, a mini-DisplayPort 1.2, four USB 3.0 outputs, two USB Type-B inputs, and a mini-USB port for the Hotkey Puck. There’s also a headphone jack, two built-in 5W speakers, and an SD card reader.
The only drawback? It uses a 60Hz panel with no variable refresh rate (G-Sync or FreeSync). You’ll still be able to game on it if you own a mid to high-range graphics card, but it’s not really meant for that.
While it’s not the cheapest monitor around (Check on Amazon), it offers so much for the money that we consider it the best investment on our list.
Samsung Odyssey G7: best gaming monitor
The best gaming monitor is the Samsung Odyssey G7 (Check on Amazon), period. It’s an excellent monitor with great performance. It boasts the most aggressive curve currently available, 1000R, for an extraordinary immersion. Furthermore, it comes in two sizes: 27 (Check on Amazon) and 32 inches (Check on Amazon). The performance is almost the same, except that they both have the same 1440p resolution — which offers a good balance between sharpness and gaming performance — which means that the 32-inch model has a lower pixel density and the text doesn’t look as sharp.
It has a high 240Hz refresh rate, native support for AMD’s FreeSync, and is also compatible with NVIDIA’s G-Sync variable refresh rate technology in order to eliminate screen tearing and stuttering. Movement feels smooth — whether you’re playing at maximum or 60Hz refresh rate — thanks to its exceptional response time (this is the first VA panel to boast a 1ms GTG response time, ensuring fast and largely blur-free gaming). In the benchmarks, the input lag was only 20 ms, which means that this panel is 5-10 ms faster than other 165Hz displays.
It’s a good choice for gaming in a dark room since its VA panel offers a high contrast ratio (2,200:1) to display deep blacks — unfortunately, its local dimming function works terribly and doesn’t improve the contrast any further. Sadly, the VA panel also sports narrow viewing angles, thus the image appears inaccurate when you look from the side or when viewed too closely, as the edges of the curved-screen may appear darker.
The positive side is that it also performs very well in bright environments thanks to its high peak brightness and excellent reflection handling. If you want to use it for HDR gaming (it supports the HDR600 standard), it supports a wide range of colors and gets bright enough to bring out the highlights.
This is also a powerful work monitor. Its 16:9 panel offers enough height for productivity — working on spreadsheets is easier than with an ultra-wide monitor. And at a viewing distance of 2 to 3 feet, we didn’t notice any distortion due to the curve. And, it is also among the best monitors you can buy from a color performance perspective (accurate DCI-P3 colors).
Overall, the Odyssey G7 (Check on Amazon) is a classy gaming monitor, with brilliant image quality and incredibly stylish gaming credentials; definitely one of the best monitors we’ve ever tried!
Apple Pro Display XDR: best monitor for Apple users
The Apple Pro Display XDR (Check on Amazon) is a professional monitor with an unmatched build quality that delivers exceptional color accuracy. Its price is in the stratosphere, but paradoxically, also pretty competitive when compared to that of other professional monitors.
Ideal for Mac users, the 32-inch Pro Display XDR uses Apple’s Retina display with IPS technology that produces a stunning 6K Ultra HD resolution (6,016×3,384 pixels) and has HDR support. It has several preset modes for professionals working in printing, design, photography, and cinema, and web applications that automatically calibrate the screen’s color and contrast according to the type of work you are doing.
Most monitors have a brightness value that hovers around 300 nits. The Pro Display XDR, on the other hand, sports 1,600 nits! It also has two built-in ambient light sensors that monitor the work area and automatically adjusts the screen’s brightness. Moreover, the glass screen has a low reflectivity to reduce glare and eye fatigue.
The aluminum frame features a honeycomb heat sink on the back which helps keep the monitor temperature at optimum levels, thus providing excellent durability. In addition, the Pro stand allows you to turn, tilt, and rotate the monitor for optimal comfort. It is also VESA compatible for wall mounting. And, with four Thunderbolt ports, it lets you connect all of your Apple devices and set up your dream workstation.
However, unless you’re a professional graphic designer or video/photo editor, there’s little reason to spend (Check on Amazon) on this monitor [and another (Check on Amazon) for the Pro stand]. But if you are, this is the best monitor you can buy.
BenQ EX3203R: best 1440p monitor
With the recent drop in prices of high-resolution monitors, the price of large monitors also came down. A few years ago a 32-inch screen would have cost you a fortune, but today an excellent display like the BenQ EX3203R (Check on Amazon) offers a ton of high-end features while being reasonably priced.
It sports a 32-inch screen with a WQHD resolution (2,560×1,440 pixels) and a high refresh rate of 144Hz – both ideal for gaming.
The VA panel – rather than IPS – is very bright, has high contrast and great viewing angles. It is also factory-calibrated and achieves 90% coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut – which is much wider than sRGB.
As if all this wasn’t already enough, its 1800R curve is truly “enveloping” and helps immerse yourself in your work or games, while the FreeSync 2 support helps prevent screen tearing.
This monitor is great for both productivity and gaming, with excellent color reproduction and blacks and whites that really pop thanks to HDR support.
In addition, BenQ includes a handful of features designed to protect your eyes, such as a low blue light Night mode and a function that adjusts brightness according to ambient lighting.
The EX3203R offers a wide range of connections including a pair of HDMI ports, a Display Port, two USB 3.0, and a USB-C port. There’s even a headphone jack.
Last but not least, the support is tilt and height adjustable for optimal viewing. Considering the price (Check on Amazon), what more could you ask of a monitor?