Computer monitors come in variety of sizes, from 12-inch portable displays (the smallest we’ve reviewed) up to 65-inch panels that bridge the gap between monitors and TVs. Between the two extremes, though, we group most desktop displays into two general categories: business monitors, and entertainment monitors.
Business (aka productivity) monitors include professional monitors with high (usually 4K) native resolution and image quality geared to graphic artists, photographers, and videographers. Also in this class: general-purpose workaday monitors, and home-office monitors. The latter may be equipped with videoconferencing features and/or a port selection that makes them a good substitute for a laptop’s docking station. Entertainment panels, meanwhile, comprise the vast range of gaming monitors, as well as some for content creation and consumption. (The lines can get fuzzy among these panels.)
We've outlined below our top picks among home and office monitors we've tested. Read on for our labs-tested favorites, followed by the buying basics you should know when buying a monitor. Also note: At the very end of this article is a detailed spec breakout of our top choices.
The Best Monitor Deals This Week*
- Dell UltraSharp U2723QE 27" 4K Monitor With USB-C Hub (Opens in a new window) — $624.99 (List Price $779.99)
- HP X27C 27" 1080p 165Hz FreeSync Curved Monitor (Opens in a new window) — $169.99 (List Price $259.99)
- Samsung S80A Series 27" 4K IPS Monitor (Opens in a new window) — $300.95 (List Price $399.99)
- Samsung CRG9 49" QHD 120Hz Curved QLED Gaming Monitor (Opens in a new window) — $799.96 (List Price $1,199.99)
- Gigabyte M28U 28" 4K 144Hz HDR400 IPS FreeSync Monitor (Opens in a new window) — $529.99 (List Price $599.99)
*Deals are selected by our commerce team
Dell UltraSharp 27 4K USB-C Hub Monitor (U2723QE)
Best Overall Business Monitor
Why We Picked It
With a list price north of $600, the Dell U2723QE is not the cheapest monitor around, but it has a prodigious feature set: a full range of ergonomic adjustments, and all the ports we would expect from a so-called "USB hub" or "docking-station" monitor. It can charge a laptop over its USB-C display connection, and it even provides Ethernet connectivity should you be in an office with spotty Wi-Fi. What’s more, it has a 27-inch 4K (UHD) screen with a high pixel density and wide color gamut. All that, plus it’s one of the first two monitors to incorporate IPS Black, LG’s latest flavor of in-plane switching (IPS) technology. It provides far better contrast than standard IPS displays. About the only common business feature it is missing is a webcam, but only a select few desktop displays have one.
Who It's For
The U2723QE sells at a high enough price that you’re not likely to outfit a whole office with them. It would be a good choice for meeting-heavy managers (or other critical workers), especially ones involved in dealing with creative content as one aspect of their job. It’s not a full-on graphic-arts monitor, but it is fine for photo and video work in a pinch, and it's an easy attach/detach for a frequently toted laptop.
- IPS Black technology deepens black levels, improves contrast
- 4K resolution with sharp high-pixel-density image
- Extensive ergonomic features
- Dual DisplayPort connectors let you daisy-chain monitors
- Mini-joystick controller for OSD
- Pricey for a 27-inch monitor
- No webcam
|Dell||$624.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
HP E27m G4 QHD USB-C Conferencing Monitor
Best Business Monitor for Teleconferencing
Why We Picked It
The HP E27m G4 is built for the age of Zoom and Google Meet. Its hi-res webcam, powerful speakers, and dual microphones provide a better teleconferencing experience than what you'll get from most laptops. In addition, it has the ability to power or charge a laptop over a USB-C connection. It adds Ethernet connectivity, multiple video ports, and a quartet of USB-A downstream ports to which you can connect a keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals. In short, it has all the connection choices you’d expect from a laptop’s docking station, and that's before you even get to the screen.
The E27m G4’s 27-inch QHD screen effectively covers the full sRGB color space, and its contrast was slightly better than its rating would indicate. It has all the essential ergonomic features as well. Its main downside is the small and inconveniently placed buttons for navigating the onscreen display (OSD).
Who It's For
The E27m G4 is a great choice for anyone involved in videoconferencing—and who isn't, these days? It's especially good if you have problems being heard or seen in teleconferences. (Personally, my next monitor is likely to be a conferencing model such as this one to ensure that I am well seen and heard, and that my colleagues are, too.) It's a fine general-purpose office monitor as well. If you're cramped for space, HP has the 1080p HP E24m G4 FHD USB-C Conferencing Monitor, which has all the teleconferencing features of its larger sibling.
- 27-inch QHD panel with good sRGB color coverage
- 5-megapixel tilt-adjustable webcam
- Dual 5-watt speakers and echo-canceling microphones
- USB-C port with power delivery and DisplayPort, plus four-port USB-A hub
- Ethernet connectivity
- Ergonomically friendly stand
- Small buttons inconveniently placed
|Amazon||$519.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
|HP||$549.00||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Best Overall Home-Office Productivity Monitor
Why We Picked It
With a 32-inch 4K UHD IPS screen providing superior brightness, contrast, and color accuracy, the Philips 329P1H is great choice as a productivity monitor and is particularly good for workers who edit photos and the like. Its generous port selection also makes it an excellent docking station. You can connect to a laptop through a single USB-C port, which supports up to 90 watts for powering and charging the computer, and supports data and video transfer as well. It also has four USB-A downstream ports for adding a keyboard, mouse, external drive, or other peripherals. One DisplayPort connector, two HDMI ports, and an RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet jack round out the connectivity picture. Its stand supports the full range of ergonomic features, and the back of the cabinet has holes for a VESA bracket should you want to wall-mount it instead.
Who It's For
The Philips 329P1H is a good choice as a home-office monitor, although it would work equally well in a small to midsize office. It's good for web designers and other creative workers. Its teleconferencing features make it appealing to people who have trouble hearing or being heard at videoconferences. It is moderately priced for its feature set, and it carries the generous Philips four-year warranty.
- 32-inch IPS display with 4K resolution
- Exceeded its rated brightness, contrast, and color accuracy
- Webcam, powerful speakers, and Ethernet connectivity
- Four USB-A ports; can deliver 90 watts to a laptop over USB-C
- Full set of ergonomic features
- Not the cheapest
- No mini-joystick controller for OSD
|Amazon||$530.27||See It (Opens in a new window)|
HP 24mh 23.8-Inch Display
Best Budget Home-Office Monitor
Why We Picked It
You'll find plenty of under-$200 business and general-purpose monitors with screens in the 24-inch range. As a rule, they have very basic features and limited port selections. The HP 24mh offers more than most, adding a DisplayPort connector to the usual HDMI and VGA ports found on similar machines. While most budget monitors offer tilt adjustment, the 24mh adds both height and pivot control.
Like most of its ilk, the 24mh has a 1080p IPS panel, not a 4K UHD one, but it makes up for that with impressive sRGB coverage and a contrast ratio well above its rating. It has a pair of built-in 2-watt speakers—not exactly high-fidelity, but many budget monitors don't include speakers at all.
Who It’s For
The HP 24mh is for cash-strapped individuals looking for a monitor that's a good value and will fit on a small desk. It's a good option for households, home offices, and dorms. Its sRGB color coverage is great, so it's good for photo viewing or basic editing. Users who can afford one should opt for a more full-featured monitor, but the HP 24mh offers more than you'd typically get for its bargain-basement price.
- Excellent sRGB color coverage
- High contrast ratio for an IPS monitor
- DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA connectors
- Stand supports height, pivot, and tilt adjustment
- Built-in 2-watt speakers
- Warranty limited to one year
- Brightness fell short of its rating
|Amazon||$146.00||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Dell UltraSharp 27 4K PremierColor (UP2720Q)
Best Professional Graphics Monitor
Why We Picked It
The Dell UP2720Q has a 27-inch IPS panel with 3,840-by-2,160-pixel 4K (a.k.a. UHD) resolution, and a very healthy pixel density of 163 pixels per inch (ppi). What sets it apart is that it is the only professional monitor in its price range that has a built-in colorimeter. You can use it not only to measure the monitor's color accuracy in a range of color modes, but to calibrate the monitor itself. To this end, the colorimeter seamlessly integrates with Portrait Displays' CalMAN display-calibration software. From the monitor's settings menu, you can schedule regular calibrations to ensure that the monitor retains its excellent color accuracy.
The UP2720Q has the full complement of ergonomic features, and a wide range of ports that include two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one of which supports up to 90 watts of power delivery to charge an attached laptop. The real draw of this panel, though, is its colorimeter and calibration ability.
Who It's For
The UP2720Q is geared to professional photographers, as well as photo enthusiasts who want to up their game. It should be especially appealing to users who already have CalMAN software (which isn't included), and photo buffs who don't already own a calibration tool (or ones who like the easy integration of the built-in colorimeter and software). That said, you pay a significant premium for the colorimeter, so if you don't need it, there are plenty of pro monitors with great color accuracy that won't set you back as much.
- Includes integrated calibration tool
- Very good color accuracy results
- Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports
- Intuitive OSD navigation
- Height, tilt, swivel, and pivot control
- Does not include the CalMAN software it integrates with
- Low brightness for a professional monitor
- Tested contrast ratio considerably lower than its rating
|Dell||$1,624.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
ViewSonic Elite XG270QG
Best Overall Gaming Monitor
Why We Picked It
Although it's a bit on the pricey side, the ViewSonic Elite XG270QG is a monitor without any notable flaws. It's a superior gaming machine, with a 27-inch 1440p screen that boasts a maximum 165Hz refresh rate, fast response times, and low input lag. Bright, with stunning color fidelity in the DCI-P3 color space and a high contrast ratio, the XG270QG is equally good for movie watching.
Although it earned our Editors' Choice award as a gaming monitor, the XG270QG is a great example of an all-around entertainment monitor, too. It adds an often-lacking depth of color and beauty to games, and when the swordplay and shoot-'em-ups are done, the XG270QC is ready to do double duty on movie night.
Who It's For
The XG270QG lets gamers better appreciate the aesthetics of gameplay, thanks to its superb color quality, while also providing fast pixel response and low input lag. The full coverage of the DCI-P3 color space—which was designed for digital video—coupled with a bright, high-contrast panel, makes this a great choice for movie watching as well. Other, more recent panels may serve you better if you demand dizzyingly low refresh rates, but the ViewSonic Elite XG270QG does a stellar job at both gaming and displaying videos.
- Exceptional visual results.
- 1ms response time from an IPS panel.
- Fast refresh rate.
- Low input lag.
- Highly flexible stand.
- Subtle use of RGB.
- A smidge pricey.
- Housing could use a little more flair.
|Amazon||$1,019.70||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Dell 27 Curved Gaming Monitor (S2721HGF)
Best Budget Gaming Monitor
Why We Picked It
The Dell 27 S2721HGF may have just a middle-range screen size (27 inches on the diagonal) for a gaming-oriented panel, but it includes many of the other elements that gamers seek, including a graceful curve, at a great price. A VA panel with 1080p resolution and a 144Hz refresh rate, it is both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync compatible. It serves up very good gaming performance for the money, and showed very little ghosting or screen tearing during our testing.
Who It’s For
This Dell is laser-focused on the cash-strapped gaming set. Its contrast ratio is only so-so, and the cabinet and stand lack frills, but those are standard issues with monitors in this price range. Colors are balanced and natural, motion playback is smooth, and measured input lag is extremely low. It ticks all the boxes for a satisfying and very affordable gaming monitor.
- Inexpensive for a 27-inch high-refresh gaming panel
- Very low input lag
- Excellent Nvidia G-Sync performance
- Mediocre contrast
|Dell||$259.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Alienware 34 QD-OLED (AW3423DW)
Best Curved-Screen Gaming Monitor
Why We Picked It
The Alienware 34 QD-OLED, an ultrawide panel, is one of the best gaming monitors incorporating an OLED screen that we have come across, and it's decently priced, too. (It uses Samsung's quantum dot OLED technology, aka QD-OLED.) Its 34-inch panel has a rated 144Hz refresh rate but can be overclocked to 175Hz. The 1800R-curvature panel has a 3,440-by-1,440-pixel native resolution. While its input lag is nothing special compared with gaming panels in general, it is a giant leap forward for OLED screens.
The cabinet is relatively lightweight and looks sleek, yet feels rock-stable. Its stand supports height, tilt, swivel, and (surprisingly for an ultrawide) pivot adjustment. Great color coverage and a 2.0 Delta E measure make it a good choice for content creators as well as gamers.
Who It’s For
The AW3423DW is for gamers ready to try their first OLED-based panel, and it is relatively affordable as such. Its color coverage and accuracy also make it a solid choice for content creators. too. If you're a graphic artist, and you game in your spare time, it's a near-perfect fit.
- Gorgeous and sturdy design
- Beautiful picture quality in SDR and HDR
- Competitive price for the feature set
- Exceptional gamut and color coverage results
- Snappy and responsive gaming performance
- Significantly lower input lag than previous OLED monitors
- Finicky settings will take time to get used to
- Lower peak brightness than advertised in HDR mode
- Added image presets could detract from HDR experience
|Dell||$1,199.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Samsung Odyssey Ark
Best Cost-No-Object Giant Gaming Monitor
Why We Picked It
With a price north of three grand, the Odyssey Ark is not for everybody, but for the money, gamers can get a monitor with massive (55-inch) 4K curved VA panel that rests on a sturdy L-shaped stand. Gaming enthusiasts, flight-sim addicts, and assorted multitaskers will also appreciate the screen’s ability to be pivoted from horizontal to vertical (aka "Cockpit") mode, an unheard-of ability in such a ginormous panel.
Out of the box, the Ark covers the full sRGB color space and 92.9% of the DCI-P3 digital video space. Two central woofers and four corner-mounted, forward-firing speakers combine to create a magnificent soundscape. The Ark can be controlled (and split into multiple virtual screens) with either a standard remote or Samsung's Ark Dial solar-powered remote. Through the Samsung Game Hub, you can access a variety of cloud gaming services. The Ark supports up to a 165Hz refresh rate, and employs FreeSync Premium Pro, which eliminated any noticeable ghosting or screen tearing.
Who It's For
The Samsung Odyssey Ark is for well-heeled gaming enthusiasts looking for something a bit different. You won’t want to move it around much, so its role is to anchor a den or game room. With its gigantic 16:9 screen, it’s good for movies as well as gaming, and between its color coverage and excellent sound system, provides an excellent multimedia experience.
- Immersive panel curve
- Wide color coverage
- Fantastic sound quality
- Extensive port selection
- Packed with cloud gaming options
- Too expensive for most gamers
- Color accuracy needs adjustment
- Ark Dial remote is a bit clunky
- Very heavy
|Amazon||$1,999.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
|Best Buy||$1,999.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
|Walmart||$1,999.99||Check Stock (Opens in a new window)|
Asus ROG Swift PG35VQ
Best Ultrawide Monitor
Why We Picked It
You pay a lot for the Asus ROG Swift PG35VQ, but you get a lot in return: top-notch color accuracy and beautiful HDR, a 35-inch ultrawide screen with 3,440-by-1,440-pixel resolution, a 200Hz refresh rate, and low input lag. It's good for gaming as well as content creation, and fortunately, its unusually low DCI-P3 scores didn't seem to affect its video quality. Its moving images were incredibly vivid in HDR, where it turned in a peak brightness of 1,017 nits.
The PG35VQ is a heavy puppy, weighing 45 pounds including the stand. It lacks the ability to pivot between landscape and portrait mode, though that's not unusual for an ultrawide monitor.
Who It’s For
Deep-pocketed gamers seeking a killer ultrawide monitor will want to take a look at the PG35VQ, and all the more so if they have photos to edit. Despite a low DCI-P3 score, video quality was magnificent. It hits the spot for gaming, content creation, and video watching. You just need to find a way to afford it.
- Exceptional gaming experience at 200Hz refresh
- Top-notch color accuracy
- Beautiful HDR
- Low input lag
- Integrated headphone DAC
- Responsive OSD
- Expensive compared to competing options
- Low DCI-P3 numbers
|Newegg Business||$2,699.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
|Walmart||$2,199.99||Check Stock (Opens in a new window)|
|Amazon||$2,299.00||Check Stock (Opens in a new window)|
Apple Pro Display XDR
Best Mac Monitor
Why We Picked It
Apple's Pro Display XDR provides exceptional color accuracy and build quality at a price that's competitive compared with reference-grade pro monitors, though beyond the budget of typical users. (The stand alone costs an extra grand!) It has no buttons, and ports are limited to USB-C and Thunderbolt. Don't even bother to connect a non-Mac computer to it.
So why buy it? It covers nearly the full DCI-P3 color space, designed for digital video. In HDR testing, we recorded a peak burst brightness of 1,561 nits, while its peak SDR brightness was a "mere" 499 nits. Color accuracy was amazing; its Delta E result in each of the three color modes we test—sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3—was less than 1.0. Its LED-backlit screen makes use of a technology called full-array local dimming (FALD), which allows the monitor to dim individual screen areas as needed instead of doing it globally.
Who It’s For
With its stratospheric price tag, 6K resolution, and standout color accuracy, the Pro Display XDR has a very specific target market: professional Mac-based content creators. In fact, it only officially works with Apple devices. If you're a Mac creator and don't have the small fortune needed for the XDR, look to the Apple Studio Display, which is still pricey but a pittance compared with the XDR. Windows-based creators should look to the likes of the Asus ProArt PA34VC Professional Curved Monitor instead.
- Exceptional color accuracy.
- DisplayHDR 1600 looks incredible.
- High contrast ratio.
- Sturdy build.
- Beautiful design.
- Functionality with Windows in Boot Camp, or with specialized broadcast-workflow hardware.
- Super-expensive stand.
- No input alternatives to USB-C.
- Matte-panel version costs $1,000 more.
|Amazon||$4,999.00||See It (Opens in a new window)|
|Best Buy||$4,999.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Lenovo ThinkVision M14
Best Portable Monitor
Why We Picked It
The Lenovo ThinkVision M14 doesn't have the range of controls of some other portable displays, and its 14-inch screen isn't the largest among portable monitors. But it's bright, features high color fidelity, can be tilted to a wide range of angles, and is very light and easy to transport. Its color accuracy (97% of sRGB) is much better than that of most portable panels we have reviewed. The screen cabinet rests on a hinged base on which the ports and controls reside, and you can tilt the screen away from you at any angle you desire, down to flat. Connectors include two USB-C ports, including one that supports USB Power Delivery as well as DisplayPort over USB-C.
Who It’s For
The Lenovo M14 is a good pick for anyone looking for a secondary monitor for home or travel use. (For the latter, Lenovo includes a soft traveling sleeve.) It is particularly good if you want reasonably good color fidelity for photo viewing and editing or movie watching. It's also aimed at people who want simplicity, since the attached, hinged stand is much easier to use than the folding, "origami-style" stands commonly found on portable monitors.
- Compact and very lightweight.
- Bright for a portable monitor.
- Good color fidelity.
- Wide range of tilt angles.
- Includes protective sleeve.
- USB connectivity only.
- Limited OSD controls.
|Amazon||$233.60||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Ready to get started shopping? Regardless of the type of monitor you're eyeing, some general factors are worth considering. Here's a rundown of key areas to keep in mind.
What Are the Price Ranges for Different Monitor Types?
Monitor prices depend on the target audience, screen size, and the features of the display. You can pick up a no-frills 22-inch or 23-inch display for $100 or less, but don't expect such a monitor to provide niceties such as a wide variety of ports and a height-adjustable stand. Even so, such panels today do feature LED backlighting, draw little power, and are often bright enough for everyday applications. Performance is adequate for most entertainment or basic business and productivity purposes, but not well suited to tasks where color accuracy is key.
At the other end of the spectrum are high-end monitors geared toward graphic design professionals and photographers. Most of these are 27-inch to 38-inch panels that support 4K resolution (usually 3,840 by 2,160 pixels), capable of displaying four times the resolution of a typical full HD or 1080p (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) monitor. Moreover, they offer such features as highly adjustable stands, a range of ports including HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB (often including USB-C), and a wealth of advanced image settings, sometimes including color calibration hardware and software.
You can expect to pay $1,000 or more for a fully loaded, high-performance 4K or ultra-high-definition (UHD) monitor. Top-of-the-line professional monitors, some packing up to 6K resolution (around 6,000 horizontal pixels), generally cost between $2,000 and $6,000. The Apple Pro Display XDR is the quintessential example of this category.
If you're serious about PC or console gaming, you can find gaming monitors at just about every price point you can imagine. A few budget models go as low as $99, while ultra-premium offerings like the $3,999 Alienware 55 OLED come closer than ever to merging the worlds of "gaming monitor" and "HDTV." Of all the display categories, gaming monitors encompass the broadest spectrum of prices and feature sets, all serving slightly different markets.
Bottom line? Be prepared to pay for extras, but don't overspend on features you'll never use.
What Size Monitor Do I Need?
Desktop computer monitors generally fall between 19 and 38 inches measured diagonally, although users with extra-large desks can choose among ultrawide displays in sizes up to 49 inches. Some displays are smaller than 19 inches; they're either specialty panels (such as those intended for use with a Raspberry Pi) or USB-connected portable displays meant to be carried alongside laptops.
While it's always nice to have as large a viewing area as possible, a jumbo monitor may not be practical given your desktop-space constraints. Besides, the bigger the screen, the more you can expect to pay. A 24-inch monitor is a good choice if you wish to view multipage documents or watch streaming video but have limited desk space and a tight budget. But there's nothing like watching a movie or playing a game on a big screen, so if you have room on your desk, a 27-inch or 32-inch display delivers a superior viewing experience for a reasonable price. If space is not an issue, consider a massive curved monitor to bring a true movie-theater experience to your desktop.
If you're looking to replace a dual-monitor setup with a single display, check out one of the ultrawide models. These are available in panel sizes ranging from 29 to 49 inches in both curved and flat varieties, feature aspect ratios of 21:9 or 32:9 instead of the familiar 16:9, and come in a variety of resolutions including 4K/UHD and Wide Quad High-Definition (WQHD, or 2,560 by 1,440 pixels). Some of these are built for productivity apps, while others are gaming-oriented. (More on the latter later.)
Do I Need a Low Pixel Response Rate?
Measured in milliseconds (ms), pixel response rate is the time it takes for a display pixel to change from black to white (black-to-white response time) or to transition from one shade of gray to another (gray-to-gray response time). The faster the pixel response rate, the better the monitor will be at displaying video without showing artifacts such as ghosting or blurring of moving images. Monitors with a fast 1ms gray-to-gray response are ideal for gaming, but even monitors rated at a 6ms gray-to-gray pixel response can show games without much blurring or ghosting.
Most users won't notice input lag, which is the time it takes for the display to react to a command, but hardcore gamers consider it a key factor and typically seek out the fastest models (lowest lag time) available. The fastest monitor we've seen has an input lag of less than a millisecond, but for everyday apps you can get by with 20ms to 25ms before lag becomes a noticeable problem.
Which Monitor Resolution and Aspect Ratio Is Best for What I Do?
These two factors are always intertwined but carry different considerations.
A monitor's native resolution is the maximum number of pixels it can display, both horizontally and vertically. For example, a monitor with a 1,920-by-1,080-pixel native resolution shows 1,920 pixels across the width of the screen and 1,080 from top to bottom. The higher the resolution, the more information can be displayed on the screen.
These days, many monitors in the 22-to-27-inch range have a native resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels and are referred to as full HD or 1080p displays. You'll also see plenty of displays from 24 to 32 inches that offer WQHD (2,560-by-1,440-pixel or 1440p) native resolution. Stepping up to a UHD or 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) monitor usually means a 27-inch or larger screen, although we've seen a few 24-inch models. UHD monitors are ideal for viewing highly detailed images or looking at multiple pages in a tiled or side-by-side format.
The next generation will be 8K monitors (and televisions). These do exist, but even in 2022 they're so far out on the bleeding edge that they barely deserve mention. If you're the kind of imaging professional who already knows what an 8K display is good for, you don't need us telling you about them here. Stay tuned as the panels come down in price and up in availability over the next few years, however.
The best aspect ratio for your monitor depends on how you intend to use it most. For people who want the ultimate productivity panel or an immersive gaming experience unlike any other, extreme options like the Samsung Odyssey G9, a 32:9 super-wide gaming monitor, might be perfect.
For digital content creators, a 16:10 ratio might be preferable (offering a bit extra vertical space for toolbars and such). But the 16:9 aspect ratio of 1080p and 4K screens is by far the most common among desktop monitors, though that dominance has been chipped away in recent years by the ultrawide formats.
As ultrawide panels have reached the top of the wish lists of both gamers (especially simulation gamers) and productivity users, monitor manufacturers have responded in kind. What used to be a fringe aspect ratio, the more cinematic 21:9, is becoming increasingly popular, while a new fringe of 32:9 is causing even old-school enthusiasts to ask themselves, "How wide is too wide?"
Which Major Features Should I Look for in a Monitor?
If you have to share a display with a coworker or family members, consider a model with an ergonomic stand that lets you position the screen for your most comfortable viewing angle. A fully adjustable stand offers tilt, swivel, and height adjustments, and lets you pivot or rotate the screen between landscape and portrait (horizontal and vertical) orientation. If you tend to attach and detach USB devices often, look for a monitor with built-in USB ports. Ideally, at least two of these ports will be mounted on the side of the cabinet, making it easy to plug in flash drives and other USB peripherals.
Many monitors come with built-in speakers that are adequate for everyday use but lack the volume and bass response to satisfy music aficionados and gamers. If audio output is important, look for speakers with a minimum rating of 2 watts per speaker. As a general rule, the higher the power rating, the more volume you can expect, so if you want a monitor with a little extra audio pop, check the specs. Some monitors lack speakers altogether, but you can add external speakers that may give you better sound than typical monitor speakers.
Finally, glossy-surfaced screens can provide very bright, crisp colors, but they may also be too reflective for some users. If possible, compare a glossy screen to a matte screen before you buy to decide which works best for you.
Do I Need High Dynamic Range (HDR)?
Many monitors released in 2022 will come with a feature known as high dynamic range or HDR, which can drastically boost the vividness and contrast of a display depending on the rating. Here's how the rating system (established by VESA(Opens in a new window)) breaks out as of 2022:
HDR has been creeping into more and more PC gaming and content creation monitors over the past few years. While we've found that many of them would be better off not including it at all (anything below HDR 600 rarely passes muster), the HDR adoption rate in monitors resembles that of HDR televisions starting in 2017. Theoretically, once similar panel-scale economics kick in, monitors with higher HDR ratings could also come down in price.
Until then, if HDR matters to you, we recommend buying monitors only with an HDR 600 rating or above to give you an experience comparable to that of a modern HDR-rated TV. An HDR certification will always add to a monitor's MSRP, so unless you really want the feature and are ready to pay for a proper rating, that money could be better saved for upgrades to your PC or added features such as a higher refresh rate for a gaming display.
What Are the Different Kinds of Monitor Panels?
With cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) long since replaced by flat panels, the key panel types used in desktop displays are twisted nematic (TN), in-plane switching (IPS) and iterations such as Fast IPS, vertical alignment (VA), and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) plus variations such as QD-OLED.
Until not long ago, most desktop displays used TN technology. It's the least expensive panel type to manufacture and it offers superior motion-handling performance. But affordable IPS monitors are out in force; today's 27-inch IPS displays start at under $150 and offer very good color quality and wide viewing angles. VA monitors also offer robust colors, but their viewing angles, though wider than those of a typical TN panel, aren't quite as broad as IPS technology offers.
Most recently, we've seen a growing trend of what's colloquially called Fast IPS (or Rapid IPS or Nano IPS). These displays combine the vivid colors of IPS tech with the fast pixel response times and low input lag of TN and VA displays. They offer the best of both worlds. They were premium options for most of 2021, but production scaling has lowered prices now that we're in 2022.
Today, you'd be hard pressed to find a desktop monitor that doesn't deliver at least full HD resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels in a 16:9 aspect ratio). Graphic design pros who demand a high degree of image detail should be looking further up the resolution stack for a WQHD or UHD/4K display.
We're now seeing monitors that make use of quantum dot technology to offer superior color accuracy, an increased color gamut, and higher peak brightness than you can get with current panel technologies. Another newer technology, Mini LED, uses thousands of tiny light-emitting diodes arranged in a matrix, brightened and dimmed in small groups as the video signal changes. In addition, desktop monitor vendors are following a growing number of laptop makers in adopting organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, which offers ultra-high contrast, super-fast pixel response, and true blacks. (Black OLED pixels are literally turned off, with no backlight bleeding through behind them.) OLEDs have been slow to take hold (we're just now seeing the first OLED ultrawides) in the monitor market versus the TV arena, largely due to their higher price and propensity for image burn-in.
As mentioned, for laptop users who require dual-screen capabilities a portable monitor might be a better fit than a full-size desktop panel. These lightweight devices use your PC's USB port (most recent models employ USB-C) as their source for power and in some cases the video signal as well. (Others support HDMI input.) They're ideal for small-office presentations and for extending your laptop's screen real estate, and their slim profiles make them easy to travel with. For less than $200, you can get a 15-inch model that will let you double your viewing area while on the road. (See how we test monitors.)
Monitor Ports and Cables: Picking the Right Interface
Next up: how you'll actually connect your new monitor to your computer or other device. This equation is anything but simple, and often leads to confused buyers spending more than they need on marketing mumbo-jumbo.
For most monitors released in the last five years or so, HDMI is the dominant interface that is used to connect a desktop or laptop PC, streaming device, or gaming console. While both monitors and devices compatible with the rival DisplayPort spec are plentiful, HDMI is the cable and port type that you can depend on to most likely get you hooked up, even if you don't know what the available ports look like on the back of, say, an Xbox. Monitor and device manufacturers have moved away from the antique VGA and DVI standards, which are still seen on the occasional budget business panel or projector but can't display the higher resolutions and refresh rates we've grown accustomed to.
Let's pause for more about refresh rate. It means the number of times per second the screen is redrawn, measured in hertz or cycles per second, and is a key factor in interface choice. Until recently, most monitors topped out at 60Hz, and their default bundled cables were up to the task. But with gaming monitors now routinely pushing 144Hz or even 360Hz, and many non-gaming panels able to go above 60Hz, paying attention to the different flavors of HDMI and DisplayPort is more important than ever.
In brief, HDMI 1.4a, 1.4b, 2.0a, and 2.0b will get you at least a 1080p signal at 30Hz. Cables and inputs that work with these standards are not hard to find; you'd have better luck digging a pre-1.4a HDMI cable out of a bin at your local computer salvage shop than from the shelves of any electronics store. This in-depth guide to HDMI flavors by our TV-reviewing colleague Will Greenwald should help to clear things up on cable compatibility, while those interested in using a version of DisplayPort should keep reading here.
DisplayPort 1.4a and 1.4b are the most common cable and interface types used in DisplayPort monitors today, and they're supported by the largest number of graphics cards and streaming devices. PC gamers and discriminating users who appreciate high refresh rates rely on them for their high bandwidth, as the more bandwidth a cable supports the more pixels it can deliver at a higher refresh rate. DisplayPort 1.4a and 1.4b are capable of transmitting today's popular video resolutions (1080p, 1440p, and 4K), at up to 165Hz for 4K and a whopping 390Hz for 1080p. By contrast, HDMI 2.0b maxes out at 60Hz for 4K.
HDMI 2.1, a standard that started showing up in modern graphics cards, gaming consoles, monitors, and TVs in 2020, aims to catch up with DisplayPort's tech advantage. However, with DisplayPort 2.0 just around the corner—and promising support for a staggering 240Hz at 8K resolution—that signal-pushing parity for HDMI may be short-lived.
Finally, there's something called DisplayPort over USB, most commonly seen in laptops that lack DisplayPort or HDMI connectors. This video-transfer method is most commonly found in a configuration of a USB-C cable that connects a computer to a USB-compatible monitor. This method currently maxes out at 60Hz/8K, though as with the other cable standards we've mentioned, we expect those numbers to climb in future.
Before we close out this section, a quick note on Display Stream Compression (DSC). We won't bore you with the cable-by-cable mathematics of it all, but just know that DSC allows for higher refresh rates without losing visual quality. The main thing is just to keep an eye out for DSC on your next monitor, as it's always better to have the feature than not (and it doesn't add much cost). It's primarily a feature of gaming monitors for now, but you can expect to see it added to creative and productivity displays when 8K resolution becomes more common.
In short (or long, depending on the cable): Cable length, version, output source, input port, and your monitor's refresh rate can all affect the interface that's right for your needs. Check the specs on any panel you're looking at for support for the resolution, refresh rate, and interface you intend to use, make sure the cable you need is bundled, and if you'll be working or playing at high resolutions and refresh rates on HDMI, hit up the HDMI guide referenced above.
What Are the Main Categories of Monitor?
You can classify most monitors into five categories, all of which target different audiences: Budget, Business/Professional, Touch Screen, General Use/Multimedia, and Gaming. Prices vary within each category, depending on the screen size, the panel technology used, and extra features.
If you're looking for a basic monitor for viewing emails, surfing the web, and displaying office applications, there's no reason to overspend on a screen with features you'll never use. Budget displays are usually no-frills models that lack niceties such as USB ports, card readers, and built-in webcams. Some cheaper models use TN panel technology and are not known for their performance, particularly when it comes to motion handling and grayscale accuracy. That said, IPS panels have become common in the budget zone at each screen size.
Don't expect much in the way of flexibility. Most budget displays are supported by a rigid stand that may provide tilt but probably won't offer height and pivot adjustments. As with nearly all displays, costs will rise along with panel size. You can buy a simple 24-inch panel for around $100, while budget 27-inch screens are available for less than $150.
This category includes a wide variety of monitor types. They can be small-screen, energy-conscious "green" models for everyday office use. Or they can be high-end, high-priced, 32-inch and larger professional-grade displays that use indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) or advanced high-performance in-plane switching (AH-IPS) panel technology and cater to graphics professionals who require a high degree of color and grayscale accuracy.
Business monitors usually offer ergonomic stands that can be adjusted for maximum comfort. Often, they'll offer pivot adjustability, which lets you rotate the screen 90 degrees for viewing in portrait mode. Look for a monitor with an auto-rotate feature that flips the image for you when you change the orientation. Other business-centric features include a generous (three- or four-year) warranty with an overnight exchange service, built-in USB ports, and an aggressive recycling program.
A fully loaded model with a high-end panel is going to cost plenty, but for photographers and other graphics pros, it's money well spent. At the other end of the price spectrum are no-frills, energy-efficient monitors; they don't offer much in the way of features, but their low power draw can help businesses save money through reduced energy costs. (For more, check out our guide to the best business monitors.)
Touch-screen desktop displays have gained some traction, but mostly in vertical markets. You'll pay a bit more for touch technology, but it's worth it if you care about the Windows touch experience. Look for a model equipped with a stand that lets you position the panel so it's almost parallel with your desktop if you need that kind of interaction. (Some touch models are designed without a stand, meant to be integrated into a specific environment with a custom stand or mounting arm.)
More common than true desktop touch screens, though, are portable touch-screen monitors, both for general-purpose use and for graphic artists. (See our guide to portable monitors.)
General Use/Multimedia Monitors
Multimedia displays typically offer a nice selection of features to help you create and view home photo and video projects. A good panel of this kind will usually provide a variety of connectivity options, primary among them HDMI and DisplayPort. Robust entertainment models will also include audio connections. At least two USB ports should be available, preferably mounted on the side of the cabinet for easy access; a USB Type-C port that lets you, say, charge a laptop from your monitor while permitting two-way data transfer is another big plus.
The monitor may also have built-in speakers. On a good multimedia panel, they should be a cut above the typical low-powered versions found on most monitors. As mentioned earlier, if audio output is a deciding factor, look for displays with speakers rated at 2 watts or better.
Less common multimedia bells and whistles to look out for include a built-in memory card reader, which makes it easy to view photos and video directly from your digital camera, or a built-in webcam for video chats and for taking quick stills and videos that are easy to email. These are uncommon, however. (If you're a serious photographer, check out our picks in the lists above and below this article for photography-friendly displays.)
Displays for gaming require fast response times in order to display moving images without producing motion errors or artifacts. Panels with slower response times may produce blurring of fast-moving images, which can be distracting during gameplay. The flaw may not be so noticeable on smaller displays, but when you're gaming on a 27-inch or larger screen, you'll want to keep blurring to a minimum. Look for a panel with a response time of no more than 5ms (black-to-white) or 2ms (gray-to-gray).
High-end gaming monitors may offer support for Nvidia's G-Sync or AMD's FreeSync and FreeSync 2 technologies that synchronize your monitor and graphics card to reduce screen-tearing artifacts and provide an ultra-smooth gaming experience, but your computer will need a compatible dedicated GPU to take advantage of that functionality.
Most gaming monitor vendors now offer displays that feature refresh rates above the 60Hz norm. (Indeed, some recent general-purpose, non-gaming monitors offer 75Hz.) They're geared toward esports aficionados or serious competitive gamers who demand the highest number of frames per second available. (Depending on the games you play, you may need a high-end graphics card to see the benefits of a high-refresh display; see our guide to the best graphics cards.) These high-refresh monitors are offered in various refresh intervals ranging from 75Hz to 390Hz, with 144Hz and 165Hz being the most common flavors. These monitors usually support AMD FreeSync (more common) or Nvidia G-Sync (less common and more expensive), as well.
Because audio is a big part of the immersive gaming experience, if you don't have a desktop speaker set already, consider a display with a decent speaker system, though most in-monitor speakers are middling at best. Alternately, a jack mounted on the side or front of the cabinet for plugging in a gaming headset is practical if you tend to go the contained-sound route. A monitor with a USB hub to plug in several controllers is also desirable. (For much more, check out our guide to the best gaming monitors.)
Should I Get a 4K Monitor?
4K or UHD monitors aren't just for gamers. In fact, many prospective owners of 4K monitors are video editors or users who like to have multiple application windows open side by side without adding a second monitor. If that's you, you don't need to look for a panel with lightning-quick response times, but you should pay attention to color gamut, contrast ratios, and size.
A 27-inch 4K monitor (starting around $350) will generally let you fit three full-size browser or program windows side by side. Any smaller than that, and the monitor won't be as useful for multitasking.
Gamers, on the other hand, who are 4K-minded will want to look for a larger display compatible with fast response times and FreeSync or G-Sync if their PC uses a graphics card that supports one or the other, since higher resolution makes screen tearing even more distracting. Gaming at 4K takes a very powerful video card, however. (See our guide to the best graphics cards for 4K gaming.) 4K gaming displays also start around $350, but they can range well north of $1,000 for 32-inch or larger models with GPU adaptive sync and IPS technology. Given the high prices and scarcity of 4K-appropriate gaming cards these days, 1080p or 1440p is a much more realistic gaming resolution for most folks.
So, What Is the Best Monitor to Buy?
Whatever your needs or budget, there's a monitor out there that's right for you. Below, check out detailed specs on the current best displays we've tested across the usage cases we've discussed, at various price levels.