Whether you have an all-powerful gaming PC, a MacBook or just an everyday use-it-for-everything computer, there are many reasons why you'd need a monitor.
That also means there are many things to consider when looking to buy one.
For some, only the biggest and sharpest panel will do. For others, it's fast refresh rates for smooth gaming.
Whatever your reason for wanting a monitor, we've tested and rounded up some of the best monitors for all purposes available right now.
Best everyday QHD
Dell Ultrathin S2719DM
- Quad HD (2560 x 1440) 16:9
- 27-inch LED backlit IPS LCD
- 60Hz + AMD Freesync
- 600 nit brightness
- Up to 5ms response time
- HDR-ready (HDR400)
Over the past couple of years, Dell has made a name for itself in the world of laptops for designing some of the best-looking devices around. In the same time frame, it’s also applied this same approach to monitors. The Ultrathin series is a fine example of stylish, minimalist design for around £320 or $329. This does mean some compromises though, so we’ll get those out of the way first.
Because it has a slim, sleek metal stand, you don’t get as much movement or adjustment out of it as you might from a big, plastic thing with lots of moving parts. You can adjust the angle of the screen to make it as comfortable as possible, but you can’t raise or lower it, and you can’t swivel it. That means - if you’re tall - you can’t have the monitor at eye level, although we found with the ability to tilt the screen backwards, we could get it angled enough to be pretty comfortable to use.
The other downside to this particular slim, attractive design is that there isn’t a lot of room for rows of extra ports. In this instance, you get two HDMI ports, a single 3.5mm output and the power input. Nothing else.
As a monitor, it’s great, especially for those looking for something simple, capable and stylish to complement their minimal desk setup. While it’s not as pin-sharp as 4K, there’s plenty of detail in the Quad HD resolution panel, and with the configuration options available - and easily controllable through the four button system - you can get it looking really good. IPS LCD based tech also means you get good viewing angles too.
It’s HDR-ready, for content that supports that which, although not as dynamic or apparent as HDR on a good 4K TV, still means this monitor is just as great for watching the occasional movie as it is for editing your photos, getting work done or editing video. It’s a truly great allrounder, it looks classy and doesn’t cost the earth.
Even for gamers, the 60hz, 5ms response time and AMD Freesync means it’s a capable gaming monitor too, even if it’s not quite up there with the super fast, G-sync driven displays out there. Those wanting really fast response times and Nvidia GPU optimisation will want to look elsewhere, but for the casual gamer, it’s just fine.
As a bonus, for those who have a particular interest in environmental impact, Dell’s monitors are among the very few that ship with predominantly cardboard packaging, both inner and outer. There’s no chunky polystyrene anywhere to be seen.
Sure, we’d prefer it if it had a Thunderbolt port or a Displayport input, but as an all-rounder, it’s hard to criticise too much.
Best everyday 4K
- 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) 16:9
- 27-inch LED backlit IPS
- 60Hz + AMD Freesync
- 450 nit brightness
- HDR support
- Up to 5ms response
If what you're after in a monitor is a standard 16:9 ratio screen in an attractive package that's as accurate as it is sharp, LG's 27-inch 4K monitor is a great shout that's priced at $567 or £398.
Getting possibly the only two downsides out of the way first: The stand doesn't move up and down, it's fixed, so you can't adjust the height to be at a more ergonomic level without putting it on top of a raised surface of some kind. Secondly, it doesn't have the most generous number of ports we've ever seen on a monitor.
While the stand height isn't adjustable, the screen can be tilted between minus 5-degrees to 15-degrees to ensure there's at least some adjustment there. We feel, perhaps, part of these design choices were down to cost cutting. To get a great 4K resolution panel in a monitor under £400, some compromises had to be made somewhere.
Apart from that, the mostly all-plastic design is pretty attractive. It's subtle, minimal and we like the silver curved base and the slim bezels around the actual display.
At 27-inches, the screen itself isn't too big or too small, it's a good size, and the quality of the panel is pretty surprising at this price point. It's an IPS panel, so viewing angles are tremendous, and we found colours, contrast and details to be really well balanced across the board. It made a great panel for editing photos and video on.
Its frequency response and frame rates (5ms and 60Hz respectively) it's not the most highly tuned for gaming, but with the addition of AMD's Freesync, it's certainly good enough for all but the most extreme gamers. We tested it on a couple of games running at ultra visual settings (again using the 1080Ti GPU) and found very little to be dissatisfied with.
Now, while it claims to offer HDR support, it's much like most other monitors we've tried so far, in that it actually isn't true HDR. With the screen's peak brightness of just 450 nits, you don't get close to the full HDR effect you'd get from a proper HDR 1000+ nits TV. Still, it's as great a panel for watching movies on as it is everything else.
There are so many preset modes to choose from, ranging from various gaming modes to photo editing, movie watching and so on, that it's foolish to try and list them all. What's more pleasing here is that you select and customise your screen's callibration using the one single joystick at the bottom of the monitor. It's so easy to control. Every monitor should work this way.
Back to those ports we mentioned earlier, and what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in capability. There are two HDMI 2.0 inputs, both support HDR sources and both can delivery 4K at 60Hz. Similarly, there's a DisplayPort input of the same specification. The only other connector - apart from the power input - is the 3.5mm jack.
That means, sadly, you can't use it as a USB hub of sort. It's a display only. But, it is a very good one that won't cost you an absolute fortune.
Best everyday ultrawide?
- Ultrawide 3440 x 1440
- VA panel + HDR
- AMD FreeSync
- 1800R Curved
- Type-C port
If you’re after an all-round great ultrawide panel for content creation, media consumption, MacBook use, gaming and everything in between it’s hard to look past the BenQ EX3501R. It’s big, looks professional, feels solid and offers a great experience regardless of what you want to use it for, costing $849 or £625.
One thing we really like about the BenQ is that even if it does have some impressive specs that make it ideal for gamers - particularly those using AMD graphics cards - it has plenty about it to make it great for just about any purpose.
For MacBook users there’s a USB 3.1 Type-C port, so you’ll only need that one compatible cable to make use of the monitor's primary display function, as well as gain access to the USB 3.0 hub capabilities. So, simply plug in your MacBook and then use the two built in USB ports to connect any other peripherals.
For PC users, there’s both DisplayPort 1.4 and two HDMI 2.0 ports. In total then, that means you can connect up to four different devices, including your MacBook. Add that versatility to the sheer size and immersive viewing you get from the 35-inch curved panel, and the boosted contrast offered by its HDR capabilities and you get one impressive, big canvas. It’s worth noting, HDR doesn’t make as much of a difference here as it does on a big 4K television, but it certainly improves dynamic range.
As for other features, there’s plenty here to ensure it’s just as good for work as it is for play. The B.I.+ or Bright Intelligence Plus feature uses an onboard light sensor to adapt the screen’s brightness to match the surroundings. There’s also a blue light filter and flicker-free technology to help protect your eyes during long stints at the screen. The following picture modes are available:
- Gamer 1
- Gamer 2
- Gamer 3
- Custom 1 & 2
Off all of those, the latter was the one we felt offered the best mix of colour vibrancy, clarity, brightness and contrast. However, there’s an endless amount of customisation here, and - as with any expensive monitor - it’s worth getting it calibrated properly using a purpose designed tool.
Although the AMD FreeSync is designed to ensure there’s no frame dropping or screen tearing/aliasing with AMD GPUs, we found the response time was fast enough that we were able to play games at 60fps with an Nvidia based GPU without any real issues. Details and speed were good.
Likewise, it made a great tool for editing video on long timelines thanks to the colour production and extra space granted by the ultra-wide ratio. We also like that it doesn’t look like a “gamer” monitor. The solid build, classy chromed feet and 60mm up-and-down travel ensured it looks good and is relatively adjustable. There’s no right/left movement, but with an 1800R curved monitor, you don’t tend to get that.
Best 4K monitor for creatives
- 4K UHD 3840 x 2160
- 10-bit, 100% sRGB, Rec.709
- 60Hz refresh
- IPS panel
If what you’re after is a big, sharp panel with great viewing angles, tonnes of flexibility, ergonomic design and brilliant colour accuracy, then look no further. The BenQ PD3200U is that monitor that costs $600/£700.
At 32-inches diagonally with the more standard 16:9 aspect ratio, you’re getting a big display without it being too enormous. Despite having 5 more inches diagonally, it doesn’t take up much more space than a 27-inch iMac, thanks to having slimmer bezels.
Its 4K UHD resolution IPS panel provides really sharp details and crisp text and looks good from almost any angle. Its impressive 10-bit 100% sRGB colour also means that your colours are going to look great too. It’s an ideal monitor for editing 4K video and working with graphics and photos. It’s not all about photos and video though, it has several preset calibrations designed for specific use cases:
- Rec. 709
- Low Blue Light
In each of those, brightness, contrast, colour balance and blue light filtering are adjusted to better suit the use cases they’re designed for. What’s more, with Dual View mode, you can have one side of the screen set up to one mode, and the other half calibrated for another. For instance, you could be working with a photo editor on one side, and a CAD drawing on the other.
Those working with more than one machine will be pleased to know that you can also have two computers connected at once and control them using the same keyboard/mouse combination using the KVM mode.
With all these plus points you’d assume there was some horrible compromise around the corner somewhere, but there really isn’t one unless you demand a design monitor that’s capable of keeping up with the ultra fast gaming monitors. At 60Hz, it’s not the fastest screen going, but we were still able to play games at 60fps reliably, using the Nvidia GTX 1080Ti card, and with resolution and rendering settings set to maximum. There was some minor stuttering here and there in Forza Horizons 3, but very rarely.
Then there’s the design and port offering, which only help increase our admiration of the monitor. The stand can swivel on its base 45 degrees to the left and to the right, and the screen can tilt from -5 to 20 degrees while also offering 150mm of height travel up and down. Oh, and if you want to, you can use it vertically.
Port wise, we’re looking at an array of useful inclusions. It has two HDMI 2.0 inputs as well as a DisplayPort 1.2 and mini DisplayPort 1.2. It’s got four USB 3.0 outputs as well as two USB type-B inputs, 3.5mm line in, 3.5mm line out and an SD card reader.
While it’s far from the cheapest monitor in the world, we think it still offers a lot of value and its qualities comfortably match that outlay.
Best gaming monitors
When it comes to displays, gamers have a slightly different set of priorities to creatives and media consumers. Rather than have ultra-sharp panels with accurate colours and great viewing angles, the priority is vibrance, fast response times, fast frame rates and immersive views.
HP Omen X 35-inch
- Ultrawide 3440 x 1440
- VA based panel
- Nvidia G-sync (100Hz)
- 1800R Curved
If your approach to gaming monitors is biggest, baddest, fastest, no expense spared, the HP Omen X 35-inch curved monitor is an impressive piece of display technology. Make no mistake, this is a monitor for gamers. Everything about it is primed for fast-paced, immersive gameplay.
From the outside, HP’s $829/£840 monitor has a very gamer-esque look matching the rectangle design of its eye-catching Omen PC. The base is made predominantly from metal, giving the monitor some heft, which means it’s heavy to lift, but on the plus side, makes it super stable. What’s more, there’s around 6-inches of travel in between the highest and lowest position, while the hinge on the back enables it to pivot upwards and downwards to a comfortable angle.
There’s a light underneath the monitor, beaming a red glow on to the stand below, featuring the tribal-looking Omen logo. Combined with the thin, straight lines and matte black finish, it certainly looks like it means business.
Before diving into the rest of the specifications, it’s worth noting that unless you have a fairly powerful Nvidia graphics card, you might not want to consider stumping up the current £840 it would take to own one of these. Because in order to make the most of it, that’s what you need.
As with other Nvidia G-sync monitors, you do pay a premium, but the feature list is impressive. First of all, the screen is a huge 35-inch panel. It’s 3440 x 1440 resolution with 21:9 aspect ratio, and has an 1800R curve. All of this combines to create a screen that’s brilliant for those who want a really immersive gaming experience.
For gamers, the Nvidia G-sync and the 100Hz refresh rate means you’ll get fast, fluid response with a high-end Nvidia card without the tearing and aliasing you would most likely get with displays that don’t have G-sync capabilities.
Controls on the right edge let you fine-tune all the elements, like brightness, refresh rate, contrast, colours and so on. However, there are also preset modes, which include the following:
- Low Blue Light
- Gaming - Racing
- Gaming - FPS
- Gaming - RTS
To get the most out of it, you do need to use the DisplayPort 1.2 connection, but there is also an HDMI 1.4 connector for a second device if you need it. Other ports include three USB 3.0 downstream ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
As for VA display technology, that generally means you get more vibrant colours and deeper contrast than IPS/LCD based, but the viewing angles aren’t quite as good. Still, with a screen this big, set to the right height and with its curved design, viewing angles aren’t really an issue at all.
We played many hours of games with the Omen X, and it performed really well. There was no tearing/aliasing whatsoever, and it kept up with fast frame-rates with no struggle. What’s more, colours and detail in game were retained and looked spectacular stretched over this wide panel.
It’s safe to say, this monitor is big. Big enough, in fact, that when placed within a metre of your face, the edges almost stretch to the edges of your vision. For first play shooter, racing or games with expansive, explorable worlds, this is ideal.
For video editing, the ultra-wide design was really useful too, although the lack of sharpness versus 4K or 5K was pretty telling. Still, you can’t beat having more space onscreen.
On completely dark screens we did notice some light bleeding, particularly around the top and bottom corners, near the edges. Once we got stuck into games, we didn’t notice this at all. It was as enjoyable and flawless an experience you could hope for. Blasting around in Forza Horizons 3 was so much fun, and so engrossing.
As much as this is clearly a screen for gamers, it’s perfectly capable of being an everyday monitor too, although the anti-glare design - like so many others - gives it a slightly soft look.
In the end, if you want a big, wide, fast, vibrant gaming display with Nvidia G-sync, this is up there with the best of them.
Affordable 4K/G-Sync monitor for gamers
- 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) 16:9
- WLED backlit IPS
- 4ms response time/60Hz refresh rate
Looking at a spec list like that on the AOC AG271UG, and you’d probably assume an eye-watering price tag. But, because it’s AOC, you don’t get one. It’s not a cheap monitor ($699/£579), but at the same time, it’s way more affordable than similarly-specced big brand computer displays.
AOC is a brand that’s built its reputation on offering great specs and features for a fraction of the price of its big-name competitors. For those gamers looking for high-resolution images over stupid-fast refresh rates, the AOC could be perfect.
At 60Hz and with its 4ms response time, it’s still no slouch, and when you add that to the Nvidia G-Sync capabilities to minimise lag and tearing, you do still get a swift, smooth performance, providing you have a PC powerful enough to handle gaming at that resolution. You can switch between a handful of gaming modes, which include racing, FPS, RTS and “gamer”.
Being IPS and 4K UHD also means it’s a great panel for editing video, photos and general all-round media consumption too. Details are sharp, and the colours are well balanced and vibrant without being overly saturated. We did find at times that it over-sharpened a little, but so much so that it tarnished the experience too much. Viewing angles are superb too, with very little in the way of colour shift when you change your angle of view.
As with pretty much any anti-glare matte-finish display, there is an ever so slightly fuzzy, almost rainbow like overlay to everything, but it’s so subtle and only seems to be at all visible when looking at plain white visuals. It’s not there at all during gaming. Again, very easy to ignore, and hard to detect.
Of course, there are plenty of customisation options, like the blue light filter, for those who want to go on marathon gaming sessions with minimal eye strain. Controls are easy enough to use as well, thanks to having well-indicated positions on the bottom bezel. What’s more, there’s a whole host of ports on the back. You get four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 1.4 port, one DisplayPort 1.2 and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Unlike some of the other monitors on this list, there is some construction involved in setting up the AOC monitor, and the built quality isn’t quite as high, but it’s still one of the most ergonomically versatile. It has an impressive 130mm of height adjustment, to help you get it to a comfortable eye level and can pivot on its base. There’s a decent amount of tilt too, between -3.5 to 21.5 degrees.
As if all of that isn’t enough, it has two built in two 2W speakers, although we did find the audio left a lot to be desired. It was a little weak, especially in comparison to dedicated speakers.
Still, if you’re after a versatile monitor with a really high resolution that can cope with your Nvidia GPU-powered gaming, this is a really great option. We really enjoyed our time with it.
Ultrawide, ultra-fast, and advanced eye-tracking
Acer Predator Z301CT
- Ultrawide Full HD - 2560 x 1080
- 200Hz refresh rate/4ms response
- 1800R curved VA panel
- Tobii eye tracking built in
Like many other gaming-focussed monitors, the Acer Predator Z301Ct uses a VA panel, which means lots of contrast and saturated colours. Of course, that also means colour accuracy isn’t the best, and the 2560 x 1080 resolution isn’t the sharpest either. But with that said, the sacrifice in pixels is well worth it to get all the other features this monitor offers for $799 or $719, especially if you’re into high framerate FPS style games.
Starting with the basics, the 29.5-inch ultrawide Predator has a 4ms response time and impressive 200Hz refresh rate. That means the sky is virtually the limit in regards to high frame rates if your PC supports them. Our test PC runs a GTX 1060 with an Intel Core i5 processor and SSD for game play. With this, and games running at the full 2560x1080 resolution with maximum rendering quality enabled, the monitor ran consistently - almost flawlessly - at 60fps.
The games we played were limited to 60fps as the highest frame rate, but our experience suggests this monitor is more than capable of going well over that. It sticks like glue to 60fps the entire time we played, except for literally two times it dropped to 57fps for a split second. With Nvidia Gsync built in, that also meant a really clean, stutter and aliasing-free experience.
You get plenty of calibration options as well as a handful of preset modes custom-tuned to suit different game types. All of this controllable using a nifty little directional joystick on the back of the monitor.
Perhaps the monitor’s biggest unique selling point is the built in Tobii eye tracking bar. With drivers installed and monitor connected using a USB cable, it works in tandem with FPS games that require quick movement. So, those that would require you normally to move around in your field of view using a mouse or right joystick no longer need that manual input. The Tobii bar on the bottom of the monitor can detect when your eyes change direction and automatically moves your focus point on screen.
Moving on to the design and ports, the Acer shines here too. The stand - although rather ostentatious - is among the most articulate available. You can tilt the screen -5 to 25 degrees, adjust the height up to 120mm and pivot the screen, ensuring you can get the angle perfect with a little manipulation.
What’s more, it’s not exactly short on ports and other hardware features either. As well as the additional Tobii eye tracking bar, it has two speakers built in (which aren’t great, but they work). It also has HDMI, DisplayPort and USB 3.0 ports as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack.
If you can live without the higher resolution offered by QHD or 4K monitors, this is a fantastically fast monitor. Combined with the Tobli eye-tracking technology built in as standard, and all the other features combined, one could almost describe it as great value for money despite the current £699 price tag.
When Ultrawide isn’t wide enough
- 32:9 Ultrawide 49-inch - 3280 x 1080
- VA Panel
- 144Hz refresh rate
- 5ms response
Just when you thought you’d seen it all, Samsung has decided that perhaps you just need a little bit more horizontal space than what’s currently offered by most other manufacturers. At 3840 x 1080, what you essentially have here is two 1080p monitors stuck together, but without the border getting in the way, priced at £845.
It’s worth noting that those looking for an ultra-sharp display won’t find one here. Having used mostly QHD or 4K resolution screens, the 1080p resolution does look quite fuzzy in comparison. But, this monitor is all about that horizontal space, and building it into a monitor with restrained, stylish and ergonomic design.
While day-to-day work might not be the best use of a screen this long, it does lend itself to gaming. All that extra space can often mean a much wider field of view, enabling you to see things you might not see on more traditional 16:9 or 21:9 displays. It’s particularly good for first-person views within games. Driving in Forza Horizons 3, but with the camera angle set to be in the driver’s seat is a prime example, as is any game with big, explorable areas.
Being this ratio also means that a curve is kind of necessary. And on this screen, looking at it from the side, it’s one of the most impressive curved monitors we’ve ever seen, and it’s built on to an adjustable stand that lets you pivot left and right as well as tilt. What’s more, there’s plenty of height adjustment (120mm).
Interestingly, this is marketed as a both a laptop and gaming monitor, despite its restrained and clutter-free design. There are no angry angles or ostentatious splashes of bright colour here. Just an exercise in classy, subtle design. The metal stand is really attractive, and the back cover and channels built into the stand ensure that cables can all be routed out of sight, keeping your desk free from messy wires.
As for the panel, that's a VA display, which means good contrast and colour, and plenty of it for making your games and videos look good on screen. Don’t go expecting that super bright, ultra high dynamic range you’d get from a great TV though, this doesn’t really get close to that. Still, games were great on this and performed well too thanks to the monitor’s 144Hz refresh rate and 5ms response time.
Despite not featuring Nvidia's G-sync technology, we tested it with the Nvidia GTX 1080ti and didn’t struggle at all with any aliasing or stutter, even with graphics pushed into ultra settings.
Other features worth noting include the plethora of ports on the back. This particular monitor has two HDMI ports, one Display Port, one mini Display Port, two Type-C ports, a 3.5mm jack, 3.5mm input, and a built-in USB hub, so you can attach any permanent peripherals you want. It’s worth noting, because of the placement on the back, and the cover over them, the ports shouldn’t be viewed as easy access for things you plug in and plug out often. But, plug your keyboard and mouse in, or a wireless receiver, and you’re good to go.
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