Lower prices, improved image quality, and better support from Windows and macOS make it a good time to buy one of the best 4K monitors — especially since they’re already in the bag standard.
These monitors provide an amazing improvement in sharpness that is just as useful while browsing the web or watching 4K movies or playing games. Although 1080p 24-inch gaming monitors can reach higher refresh rates for smooth gameplay, few 4K displays today reach the same speed.
Our top pick is Acer Nitro XV282K KV (available on Amazon) , a 28-inch 4K monitor marketed to gamers but it does a lot more. The XV282K KV has a high refresh rate and HDMI 2.1 support, making it ideal for PC and console gamers. However, it also has a wide color gamut and excellent color accuracy, both of which appeal to creative professionals. Well, it might be too much for some people, so we also tested a variety of cheaper 4K monitors.
Other 4K Monitors We Tested
How We Test 4K Monitors
Matthew S. Smith is a technology reporter, reviewer, and editor with 14 years of experience. He has tested over 600 laptop and desktop displays over the past decade, keeping a log of his results for future reference. In addition to reviewing monitors, laptops, and other gear for GiReviewed, you’ll find his monitor reviews published by Insider, IGN, and Digital Trends.
Image quality is the most important characteristic of the monitor. An exceptional monitor will provide a strong contrast ratio, pixel-perfect sharpness, wide color gamut, high color accuracy, good uniformity, and enough brightness to see clearly in a typical home. office. Most monitors fail to achieve solid results in every area, but those that do provide a realistic, vibrant experience.
We tested the image quality objectively using Datacolor’s SpyderX Elite monitor calibration tool. It provides detailed tests that measure how a monitor performs against industry standards. If this seems a little complicated, though, don’t worry. You don’t need to get into the weeds of color accuracy and contrast ratios to buy a good monitor. We’ve done the work for you.
Our objective tests are matched with real-world usage that includes everything from Microsoft Word to Netflix streaming and PC gaming. This step allows us to find small errors that are not visible in our objective tests.
We also judge monitors on design, build quality, and ease of use. Most modern monitors are good in these areas, but budget options sometimes stumble.
What Size 4K Monitor Do I Need?
24 inches: There are some 24-inch 4K monitors, but we don’t recommend buying them. 4K resolution on a 24-inch display can lead to issues with older apps that don’t scale properly on pixel-dense displays. The selection is also limited, so you may not find a monitor that supports the features you want.
27 inches: A 27-inch monitor is a perfect size for most people. The 4K resolution looks sharp at this size, but most applications are good enough to use. Monitors of this size are also cheaper, so you can buy a good 4K monitor at a low price. Some 4K monitors have a 28-inch screen, but the difference in size is not enough to notice.
32 inches: Especially popular with gaming monitors, a 32-inch monitor is too big for most desks. However, a 4K 32-inch monitor can make sense as a replacement for a television in small rooms and may appeal to gamers who want an immersive, in-your-face experience.
43 inches: 43-inch monitors have become the opposite of small televisions. Most 43-inch 4K monitors are designed for gamers and have more game-focused features available on televisions of this size. A 43-inch monitor may be too big for a desk but may make sense if you need a display that can be used with a PC and game console in a small room.
The Three Types of LCD Panels: IPS, VA, and TN
Most monitors use an LCD panel that sits in front of an LED backlight. The type of LCD panel technology used in a monitor has a big impact on its image quality. There are three major panel types you’ll find on modern monitors. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
- IP: This means “in-plane switching.” The most popular type of display panel for 24-inch and 27-inch monitors, IPS panels are known for providing bright, vibrant images with a very wide color gamut.
Modern IPS panels can also provide a high refresh rate for smooth and responsive gameplay. IPS struggles with contrast, however, which can lead to a dull, blurry look in dark content.
- VA: It means “vertical alignment.” VA is known for delivering the best contrast ratio of any LCD panel. It provides a better sense of depth and realism and is great for movies, streaming, and gaming. VA panels usually aren’t as bright or vibrant as IPS at a given price point, but they’re close.
VA panels have poor viewing angles that make them frustrating if you’re not sitting directly in front of the monitor. They also have lower refresh rates than IPS competitors.
- TN: It means “twisted nematic.” TN technology is an older option that trails IPS and VA in every image quality metric. Motion clarity is an exception, although modern IPS panels tend to outperform TN in this area. TN panels are not expensive, however, so you can often find them in budget monitors.
Want more general help buying the right type of monitor? Check out our guide to buying a monitor.
What is the Refresh Rate?
A monitor’s refresh rate is the number of times it updates the image per second. This is usually expressed in hertz (Hz). A 60Hz monitor updates the image 60 times per second, while a 120Hz monitor updates 120 times per second.
Increasing the refresh rate improves motion clarity, which means objects that move across the screen are more clearly defined. It can also reduce input lag, giving a more responsive feel when using your PC.
The refresh rate is not important for daily use and is mainly aimed at gamers. An improved refresh rate can lead to a smoother, more connected feel that’s especially helpful in fast-paced games.
What is AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync?
AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync are adaptive sync standards that allow the monitor to synchronize its refresh rate with the framerate of your PC’s video output. This eliminates problems like stuttering and screen tearing that occur when your PC’s video output is too different from your monitor’s refresh rate.
Adaptive sync, like refresh rate, is primarily targeted at gamers. Windows and macOS desktops can easily output video at a speed that matches your monitor’s refresh rate. This only becomes difficult in games, which tend to vary in frame rate and quickly fall out of step with the monitor’s refresh rate. Adaptive sync was developed to fix this problem.
AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync are designed to work with AMD or Nvidia graphics solutions. In fact, these patterns are not mutually exclusive. An AMD FreeSync monitor can be used with Nvidia video cards or vice versa.
As such, most monitors only offer official support for one of these two standards. We recommend that you purchase a monitor that officially supports the standard compatible with your PC’s graphics solution.
What is HDR?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR content contains more color and brightness data than SDR content. It delivers a brighter, more vibrant image with more detail in both dark and bright scenes.
HDR technically does not refer to a specific standard and is instead used as shorthand for a variety of standards. In monitors, the term HDR almost always refers to the HDR10 standard. HDR10 is an open source standard for HDR content that can be used by any company.
Other standards such as Dolby Vision HDR are popular in televisions but not seen in monitors (yet).
At its best, HDR can provide an undeniable improvement in image quality that is evident when viewing HDR content. However, it only works best when viewed on a very bright, high-contrast display, and most monitors aren’t up to the task. Budget and mid-range televisions also face these issues.
That’s not to say you should skip HDR. It’s become a standard feature, especially on 4K monitors, and it delivers a more vibrant, colorful image on many of the monitors we’ve tested. Just keep your expectations in check.