The 5 best 4K computer monitors of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • 4K monitors offer the highest resolution commonly available to PC desktops and laptops. 
  • I’ve reviewed hundreds of monitors and laptop displays over the past 14 years. 
  • Dell’s S2721QS combines sharp 4K resolution with vibrant color and an affordable price.

A 4K monitor is the sharpest, most attractive display for most computers sold today. Only Apple’s 5K displays pack more pixels per inch. While 4K monitors are often marketed towards professionals or enthusiasts, their superior image quality is obvious in everyday use. It’s possible to buy an outstanding 4K monitor without emptying your wallet.

I’ve tested over 600 desktop monitors and laptop displays over the past 14 years, and I’ve kept a log of instrumented test results for the past decade. While monitor technology hasn’t changed drastically in nearly 20 years, quality has certainly improved. Modern monitors are much brighter, more colorful, and sharper than those sold a decade ago.

Despite that, pricing continues to fall. Dell’s affordable S2721QS is a great example. It’s excellent by every measure, providing a crisp, vibrant, bright image. It’s also sturdy and includes an ergonomic stand. If the Dell S2721QS isn’t for you, though, don’t worry. There’s several great alternatives for people with more specific needs.

Here are the best 4K computer monitors you can buy:

The best 4K monitor overall

best 4k monitor dell s2721qs.JPG

The Dell S2721QS delivers a bright, colorful, sharp 4K picture at a surprisingly affordable price.

Pros: Vibrant color, high maximum brightness, attractive design, sturdy ergonomic stand, great value

Cons: Mediocre HDR performance

Dell’s S2721QS is a fantastic monitor that raises the bar for value. Though not the best in any category, it has many strengths and no major flaws. It’s also among the most affordable 4K monitors currently sold. 

This monitor has a sharp, vibrant image. Its color performance is excellent, displaying a wide range of color with great accuracy. It can realistically display photos, video, and games as their creators intended. 

It’s an exceptionally bright display, which is useful if your home office or computer room is brightly lit. The S2721QS is bright enough to compete with open windows on a sunlit day and has an anti-glare finish that reduces reflections.

The S2721QS supports High Dynamic Range (HDR), a standard that helps movies and games provide better contrast and color. Despite its vibrant color and intense brightness, this monitor’s HDR performance is mediocre, as it lacks advanced features like a backlight that can selectively dim when necessary. Having said that, the S2721QS is the best monitor for HDR on this list. 

You’ll enjoy looking at the S2721QS even when it’s off. The monitor’s design is sleek, modern, and professional. It has a sturdy ergonomic stand has the ability to rotate 90 degrees for use in portrait orientation. It’s VESA compatible for use with third-party monitor arms. 

The S2721QS is affordable, but sometimes out of stock due to its popularity. You should also consider the (similarly named) Dell S2721Q. This monitor has comparable performance but lacks an ergonomic stand, though it includes a VESA mount for attaching a third-party monitor arm. The S2721Q is less expensive and rarely out of stock. 

The best 4K monitor for gaming

best monitor Viewsonic XG3200

The Viewsonic XG3220 is a large, sharp, and colorful monitor with AMD FreeSync support.

Pros: Attractive color, good contrast in dark scenes, impressive display size, AMD FreeSync supported, significant image customization 

Cons: Poor HDR performance, limited viewing angle, not a high-refresh monitor

Gamers prefer a monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate (or higher) because higher refresh rates let a monitor respond more quickly to player input. Unfortunately, high-refresh 4K monitors are very expensive and hard to find in stock. That’s why I recommend the large yet reasonably priced Viewsonic XG3220.

4K resolution pairs nicely with this monitor’s 32-inch display, providing excellent clarity that gives games a sharp, immersive look. The XG3220 performs well in contrast by reaching a deep, inky black level that most monitors fail to achieve. Gamers who enjoy the horror and simulation genres will appreciate this. 

The XG3220 technically supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) content. Its brightness is just mediocre, however, leading to poor HDR performance. I recommend you leave HDR turned off. The XG3220 has poor viewing angles, so you’ll need to view this monitor straight-on for best results. 

AMD FreeSync is supported, and the monitor unofficially works with Nvidia G-Sync. The monitor can match its refresh rate to the framerate of games, eliminating stutter and image tearing.  

The XG3220 has a detailed on-screen menu that offers a variety of customization options. This lets you customize the display’s image quality to your preferences. The monitor also includes gaming-specific features, such as a dark stabilizer that can be activated to brighten dark areas of the screen. Gamers can use this feature to see foes hiding in dark corners. 

It technically pivots up to 90 degrees, but the monitor is too large to use in portrait orientation. It’s VESA compatible, so you can swap to a third-party monitor arm.

The Viewsonic XG3220 is a great value. Its retail price is close to 32-inch competitors that have a lower 2560 x 1440 resolution, yet its image quality is superior to many alternatives.

The best 4K monitor for professionals

best 4k monitor BenQ PD3220U

BenQ’s PD3220U has pinpoint color accuracy and tons of connectivity. 

Pros: Great color accuracy and wide gamut, supports 10-bit color, excellent connectivity, plenty of display customization

Cons: Mediocre brightness, poor HDR performance

All the 4K monitors on this list have vibrant color, but professional photographers, videographers, and digital artists demand more.  They need precise color accuracy and the ability to display colors outside the range normally supported by a monitor.

The BenQ PD3220U delivers. It has exceptional color accuracy out of the box. That’s important for professional work, as it means an image displayed on the PD3220U can represent how it will look on other displays or in print. 

In testing, the BenQ PD3220U handles up to 89 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut. DCI-P3 is a standard color gamut used when shooting and editing for film and television. This monitor also supports native 10-bit color, which expands color support from 16.7 million to 1.07 billion colors. The real-world difference is less than those dramatic numbers suggest, but the PD3220U’s ability to display additional colors is critical for professional use.

The PD3220U’s color performance is backed by deep customization. You can select a variety of color temperature, gamma, and gamut presets and make tweaks to color hue and saturation. These features aren’t relevant to most readers. Professionals, however, need this customization so they can change the monitor’s look to match the standards of the project they’re working on.

Brightness is this monitor’s only flaw. The BenQ PD3220U is fine for use in most rooms but can struggle to compete with a sunlit window. This also impacts the monitor’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) performance, which is lackluster. It’s useful for professionals creating content that will be viewed in HDR but doesn’t deliver much visual punch. 

The BenQ PD3220U has excellent connectivity. It’s a great monitor to use with multiple inputs and it can charge laptops connected to it via Thunderbolt 3.

This monitor has an adjustable stand and is VESA compatible, so you can switch to a third-party monitor arm if you’d like. 

It’s important to note this is a true professional-caliber display and is priced to match. Readers not familiar with this monitor’s special features, like 10-bit color and the DCI-P3 color gamut, shouldn’t buy this monitor. The BenQ PD3220U’s superior performance will only be obvious to the eyes of professionals who work with photos, video, or digital art. 

The best 4K monitor for USB-C

best 4k monitor dell U2720Q

Dell’s UltraSharp U2720Q 27-Inch 4K Monitor can handle up to 90 watts of power over USB-C, easily charging most laptops. 

Pros: Accurate and realistic color, excellent build quality, delivers 90 watts of power over USB-C, great warranty 

Cons: Poor HDR performance, no Ethernet por

Anyone who uses a laptop with an external monitor should consider a USB-C monitor. A single USB-C cable between a monitor and a laptop that supports USB-C charging can handle both power and video. It even turns the monitor into a USB hub. This lets you replace the mess of cords normally connected to your laptop with a single USB-C cable between your laptop and monitor.

Many USB-C monitors are available, but the Dell UltraSharp U2720Q is the best 4K for most people. This has everything to do with its power delivery. The U2720Q can deliver up to 90 watts of power over USB-C. That’s enough to power any laptop that supports USB-C charging. Most competing 4K monitors support only 60 to 65 watts of power over USB-C. That’s fine if you own a 13-inch laptop, but it’s not a match for more powerful laptops like Apple’s MacBook Pro 16 or Dell’s XPS 15. 

This monitor can act as a USB-C hub. This is helpful when the monitor is paired with a USB-C laptop that has limited connectivity. However, unlike some more expensive USB-C monitors, the U2720Q doesn’t have an Ethernet port. 

The U2720Q has excellent image quality with precise color accuracy. Like the BenQ PD3220U, the Dell UltraSharp U2720Q supports the expanded DCI-P3 color gamut used in professional film and television production. Though not as accurate as the BenQ PD3220U, the U2720 is a good monitor for photographers and digital artists.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is supported, but the U2720Q doesn’t handle it well. The monitor is bright but not as bright as the less expensive Dell S2721QS, so it lacks the punchy, vivid look HDR is supposed to provide. 

This monitor’s stand can rotate 90 degrees to put the monitor in portrait orientation. It’s also VESA compatible with third-party monitor arms. 

While the U2720Q is a great monitor, I only recommend it if you can take advantage of its USB-C connectivity. You won’t get your money’s worth if you pair it with a desktop over HDMI or DisplayPort. 

The best 24-inch 4K monitor

best 4k monitor LG 24UD58 B

The LG 24UD58-B 24-Inch 4K Monitor packs 4K resolution into a 24-inch size, providing the sharpest image available on a PC.

Pros: Incredibly sharp, good image quality, compact size, supports AMD FreeSync

Cons: Unattractive design, no ergonomic stand

Not everyone needs a large monitor. If you want a small 4K monitor, however, your options are slim. 4K monitors smaller than 27 inches were easier to find in 2016 and 2017, when 4K monitors first appeared. LG’s 24UD58-B is the only reasonable option remaining.

Packing 4K resolution into a 24-inch display has the advantage of drastically upping pixel density to 185 pixels per inch. Only Apple’s 5K iMac and the rare handful of 5K monitors sold over the past five years beat that. The result is a remarkably sharp, crisp image. Pixels are virtually indistinguishable unless your nose is touching the monitor. 

The LG 24UD58-B is otherwise an average, mid-range monitor. It has acceptable color accuracy, can display a wide range of color, and is bright enough for use in most rooms. This monitor has some trouble with dark scenes, because it can’t display a rich, deep, inky black. It also tends to show bright spots in dark scenes because of uneven backlighting. 

This monitor can’t display an HDR signal. It does support AMD FreeSync, so it can match its refresh rate to a game’s framerate for smooth, stutter-free gaming if you have an AMD video card. 

Unlike other monitors on this list, the LG 24UD58-B has a flimsy stand that only slightly adjusts for tilt. The monitor is VESA compatible, though, so you can add a third-party monitor arm. This monitor isn’t much to look at, with simple black plastic construction and thick bezels around the display.

The LG 24UD58-B is the least expensive 4K monitor on this list and the least expensive commonly sold today. It’s a fine option for people who don’t want a display larger than 24 inches. 

What else we considered

4K monitors, once rare, are now extremely common. There are dozens of options, ranging from 24 to 43 inches, with prices from $300 to over $3,000. Most alternatives provide great image quality but didn’t make the cut due to pricing, a lack of additional features, or known flaws. 

  • AOC CU32V3 ($389.99): This 32-inch 4K monitor is inexpensive and has good image quality but can’t match Viewsonic’s XG3220. It also has a flimsy stand that only adjusts for tilt.
  • Asus VP28UQG ($274.99): The Asus VP28UQG is the least expensive monitor of its size. Its image quality is acceptable though not outstanding, but the monitor’s build quality and stand leave a lot to be desired.
  • Acer Predator X27 ($1,343.99): The Acer Predator X27 is a high-end, 27-inch 4K gaming monitor that throws in every feature imaginable. That leads to an extremely high price. It’s also frequently out of stock online and often sold at inflated prices when it is available. 
  • BenQ EL2870U ($299.99): This 28-inch 4K monitor is among the most affordable sold today, but the Dell S2721QS has superior image quality. The BenQ EL2870U also has a limited stand that only adjusts for tilt. 
  • Dell Ultrasharp PremierColor UP2720Q ($1,599.99): The UP2720Q is Dell’s top-end 27-inch monitor for professionals that need nearly perfect color. It even has a built-in colorimeter that lets you calibrate the display on the fly. Still, it’s hard to justify the monitor’s premium over the BenQ PD3220U. 
  • Dell U3219Q ($864.99): The Dell U3219Q is a credible competitor to the BenQ PD3220U. It’s a couple years old, however, and Dell is likely to replace it with a new display soon. 
  • HP V28 ($324.99): HP’s V28 is an affordable display similar to the Dell S2721QS, but its design is unimpressive and the stand only adjusts for tilt.
  • HP U27 ($464.99): The HP U27 upgrades its design to better match the Dell S2721QS, but it also ups the monitor’s price into a higher tier that forces it to compete with better displays. Despite the price bump, the stand still only adjusts for tilt.
  • LG 27UL850-W ($449.99): LG’s 27-inch 4K monitor is a great display with excellent image quality and attractive design. But it’s more expensive than the Dell S2721QS and doesn’t have an advantage in image quality. The LG27UL850-W does include USB-C, like the Dell U2720Q, but it only provides 60 watts of power delivery. 
  • LG Ultragear 27GN950-B ($799.99): The 27GN950-B is among the best gaming monitors available. It has 4K resolution, a Nano IPS panel, and a fast 144Hz refresh rate that responds quickly to player input. Unfortunately, its expensive retail price is only inflated by short supply. Gamers who want this monitor will likely have to pay over $1,000 to a third-party seller.
  • LG 43UN700-B ($599.99): This massive 43-inch 4K monitor is affordable relative to its size, but it’s too large to make sense as a desktop monitor, and its image quality is mediocre. 
  • LG 32UL950-W ($1,296.99): This 32-inch 4K monitor has features comparable to the BenQ PD3220U but targets professional use with less precision. It isn’t as easy to customize, and its color performance isn’t as accurate. 

What we look forward to testing

  • LG 32UL500-W ($296.99): This extremely affordable, 32-inch 4K monitor seems too good to be true, undercutting competitors significantly while claiming color performance that’s in line with more expensive displays. Owners seem to like it, but I’ve yet to test this monitor. 
  • Philips 328E1CA ($349.99): Philips monitors are once again coming to the North American market, and they look to undercut the pricing of established competition. This 32-inch 4K monitor is nearly as inexpensive as the LG 32UL500-W and makes similar claims, though it has a curved screen as well. I hope to test this monitor in the coming months.
  • Acer Nitro XV282K KV ($899.99): Acer’s upcoming 28-inch 4K monitor has a 144Hz refresh rate and wide color gamut and supports HDMI 2.1. That last specification is important for gamers, because it will make the monitor compatible with 120Hz output from Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5. It will be available in May 2021.
  • Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ (TBA): This 43-inch 4K monitor has every feature you could possibly desire, including a 144Hz refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, a wide color gamut, and support for the DisplayHDR 1000 standard. Asus has not announced pricing or availability, but I expect it will easily exceed $2,000. 
  • LG UltraFine OLED Pro 32EP950 (TBA): OLED technology, which is common among televisions, remains almost unheard of among monitors. This 32-inch 4K display will change that. Pricing and availability remain to be announced but expect it to exceed $2,500. 
  • Viewsonic XG320U (TBA): Viewsonic’s XG320U is a 32-inch 4K monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, and a wide color gamut, features that make it a perfect companion to an Xbox Series X or Sony PlayStation 5. It will be available in the first quarter of 2021, though pricing remains unknown.

Our testing methodology

I test displays using a Datacolor SpyderX colorimeter. This device creates a performance report that checks the monitor’s color accuracy, color gamut, gamma, luminance uniformity, and white point against industry standards. 

The Datacolor SpyderX is precise enough that the details of its report aren’t relevant to most people, but it provides an objective benchmark that can be used for comparisons between monitors. 

I have used this device (or its earlier version) for over a decade, and I have logged all my results. I’ve tested over 600 laptop and desktop displays. 

There’s more to a monitor than image quality, though. The best monitors also have good connectivity, a highly adjustable stand, attractive design, and a customization menu that’s easy to navigate and offers many options. Pricing is also a major factor in my final recommendations. 

In fact, image quality rarely elevates a monitor to a top recommendation. Many companies make monitors, but most source parts from the same suppliers and construct their monitors in similar ways. That limits how much image quality will vary between displays. Monitors instead set themselves apart with great design, impressive connectivity, or a surprisingly low price.

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