computer monitor and keyboard on desk in dark office
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What to Look For in a Computer Monitor in 2021

There are many things to consider before you buy a monitor. This includes your budget, intended use, available space, and hardware constraints.  Someone playing games competitively will have a very different set of criteria to someone who relies on full Adobe RGB coverage for photo editing, for example.

In 2021, you have a lot more options for what you put on your desk than you did even a decade ago. 4K monitors are more popular than ever as people buy new computers capable of driving more than one screen at a time. Opting for a 4K monitor is a great choice as you get a higher pixel density for sharper text and images, plus more screen real estate.

Some options target laptop users, with many monitors now using DisplayPort or Thunderbolt capable USB-C connectors. These can be used as a single connection point to drive the monitor and power the laptop simultaneously. This cuts down on the number of cables you need to carry or hide behind your desk, though be aware that a monitor’s power output has to match your laptop’s power requirements for this to work.

If you need color accuracy (say for photo or video editing), a calibrator is a must-buy since even a monitor that is accurately calibrated out of the box can change over time. It’s also worth keeping in mind that most monitors come with sub-par speakers, so you should look at a small desktop soundbar, a 2.1 system, or a good pair of headphones.

In determining the best picks, we’ve used our discretion to make sure our recommendations are within a reasonable budget and easy to find. By tailoring our choices to the consumer market and picking only widely available models via vendors like Amazon and Best Buy, the choices below should have broad appeal to office workers, creatives, and casual gamers alike.

Best Monitor Overall: Dell UltraSharp U2720Q

dell ultrasharp on grey background
Dell

Pros

  • 27-inch 4K monitor delivers great pixel density, brightness, and color accuracy
  • 99% sRGB, 95% DCI-P3
  • 90w of power via USB-C connection
  • Great ergonomics for portrait and landscape working
  • Thin bezels look great and make it ideal for multiple-monitor setups

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate is a poor choice for gaming
  • Some Apple Silicon users have reported issues with Dell's USB-C implementation

The Dell UltraSharp U2720Q gets our top pick as the best all-rounder monitor for most budgets and uses. Dell divides its monitor range into tiers, with the “UltraSharp” U series outshining the “Professional” P series with higher overall brightness and better color coverage.

This 27-inch Dell UltraSharp has pretty much everything you’d want from an office monitor, including 4K resolution, USB-C connectivity for both charging (90w) and driving the monitor, and a sharp IPS panel. There’s 95% DCI-P3 coverage and 99% sRGB, with Dell claiming a Delta-E of less than 2 out of the box.

The bezels are very thin, which gives the monitor a sleek and modern look. In terms of viewing angles, this Dell monitor has an adjustable stand that can be positioned in portrait or landscape, has a +/- 45º swivel range, adjustable height, and good tilt range. There’s support for HDR content, but with a peak brightness of around 450 nits on a 10% window, don’t expect to have your socks blown off. This fantastic 4K monitor lends itself well to multiple monitor setups because of its thin bezels and versatile ergonomics, with a VESA 100×100 mount for more elaborate setups.

One thing to note for Mac users with a new Apple Silicon chip is that some users have reported compatibility problems, with RTINGS going as far as removing Dell monitors from their best MacBook Pro and best Mac mini monitor round-ups, so Mac users may want to go with another option instead.

Best Monitor Overall

Dell UltraSharp U2720Q

This 27-inch monitor gets you 4k resolution, HDR support, and simple USB-C connectivity. It's a great monitor for most uses!

Best Gaming Monitor: Asus ROG Strix XG27UQ

Asus ROG Strix on pink and yellow background
Asus

Pros

  • 4K resolution with a 1ms response time
  • Adaptive Sync variable refresh rate support (including G-Sync)
  • Support for 144Hz gaming
  • Height, tilt, and pivot adjustable stand

Cons

  • Relies on DSC (and DisplayPort 1.4) for 4K gaming
  • HDR performance is underwhelming
  • No USB-C or USB hub functionality

There’s no one-size-fits-all gaming monitor recommendation, but the Asus ROG Strix XG27UQ is a strong all-rounder. This 27-inch 4K monitor supports refresh rates up to 144Hz, with Adaptive Sync variable refresh rate technology to help eliminate screen tearing. It even supports HDR content at the bare minimum DisplayHDR 400 standard.

This monitor allows you to enjoy both high-fidelity 4K single-player experiences and be competitive in multiplayer games, thanks to the 144Hz refresh rate. There’s 125% sRGB coverage and 90% DCI-P3 coverage too, just in case you want to use your monitor for some creative work on the side. You also get Display Stream Compression (DSC) to achieve a 4K resolution at up to 144Hz, though you’ll need to use one of the two DisplayPort 1.4 connectors for this.

The Strix XG27UQ has some fairly thick bezels, making it unsuitable for the “seamless” multiple monitor setup, but that’s not its intended use. The stand is surprisingly robust and delivers great ergonomics, plus it projects the ROG logo on your desk. That’s not so much a feature, but is certainly something you should be aware of—not everyone is a fan of RGB!

Best Gaming Monitor

Asus ROG Strix XG27UQ

This Asus ROG monitor gives you 4K resolution with support for a 144Hz refresh rate, making it fantastic for gaming.

Best Budget Monitor: Dell S2721Q

Dell S2721Q on green background
Dell

Pros

  • 27-inch 4K monitor with 99% sRGB coverage
  • Excellent image quality and pixel density for the money
  • AMD FreeSync support
  • Flicker-free display technology

Cons

  • Uncalibrated out of the box so color accuracy could be poor
  • No VESA mount or height-adjustable stand
  • 60Hz refresh rate is a poor choice for gaming
  • No USB-C connector for power delivery or display connectivity

The Dell S2721Q is a 27-inch budget monitor with a 4K IPS panel, available in both curved and flat designs. You can think of the Dell S2721Q as a budget-friendly alternative to the U2720Q, our best overall pick.

This Dell S series monitor has the same beautiful thin bezels as its more expensive siblings, with the same 99% sRGB coverage. It lacks a USB-C connector capable of delivering power and basic display connectivity in favor of dual HDMI 2.0 ports and a DisplayPort 1.2 connector.

Despite being AMD FreeSync capable, this monitor is a poor match for gamers with its 60Hz refresh rate and 4ms response time. The gaming monitor below will be a better pick. For office use, the S2721Q is a desktop monitor delivers an image that punches well above its price range. Just don’t expect the same premium build quality seen on Dell’s higher-end options.

Dell’s S2721Q is a great choice for those on a budget who don’t need the superior ergonomics, mounting options, and pre-calibrated color accuracy seen on the UltraSharp (or similarly-priced) monitors, but who still value high pixel density and vibrant colors.

Best Budget Monitor

Dell S2721Q

Getting a quality monitor doesn't have to be expensive. This Dell S series monitor has a lot of great features for a low price. It's just not a good fit for gamers.

Best Ultrawide Monitor: LG 38WN95C-W

LG 38WN95C-W
LG

Pros

  • 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio with a resolution of 3840x1600
  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) connectivity with 94W power delivery
  • 144Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time
  • FreeSync Premium Pro certfied and G-Sync compatible

Cons

  • May be overkill for office use
  • Wider monitors exist at a similar price point, with less bells and whistles
  • Poor contrast ratio compared to similar models

The LG 38WN95C-W is a curved ultrawide monitor with a resolution of 3840×1600, which translates to an aspect ratio of 21:9. Most monitors use a 16:9 or 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio, but an ultrawide is a great option if you want more on-screen at once. An ultrawide of this screen size could replace two monitors (which makes the price a little easier to swallow) and eliminate the bezel that plagues multiple monitor setups.

This particular LG ultrawide is packed with features, including Thunderbolt 3 connectivity via USB-C that can power a laptop with 94W of power delivery. It also hits an impressive refresh rate of 144Hz, making it buttery smooth to use on the desktop and ideal for gaming on the side, assuming your graphics card can handle it.

The 38WN95C-W is Nvidia G-Sync compatible and has FreeSync Premium Pro on-board, which means support for variable refresh rates that eliminate screen tearing in fast-paced games. A DisplayHDR 600 certification means that HDR games and movies will look good, and there’s 98% coverage of DCI-P3, 100% coverage of sRGB, and a response time of 1ms.

In short, this ultrawide monitor is a solid all-rounder. If you want serious horizontal width at the expense of refresh rate (and your wallet), then the Dell U4919DW is an ideal super ultrawide monitor alternative that’s perfect for office use.

Best Ultrawide Monitor

LG 38WN95C-W

Do you want to step into the world of ultrawide monitors? This LG UW model comes with FreeSync and G-Sync compatibilities, making it great for gaming and web browsing alike.

Best 4K Monitor: ViewSonic VP2785-4K

viewsonic monitor on blue and purple background
ViewSonic

Pros

  • Factory calibrated out of the box with 100% sRGB, Adobe RGB, Rec. 709
  • 95% DCI-P3 coverage
  • USB-C (DisplayPort) connectivity with 60w of charging power
  • In-built hardware to help calibrate the screen for longterm accuracy

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate is fine for office use but poor for gaming
  • HDR10 decoding but no true HDR playback
  • More expensive than similar monitors if you don't need color accuracy

4K is here to stay, with most computers now able to handle one or two 4K displays at a time. The ViewSonic VP2785-4K is yet another 27-inch monitor that’s worthy of your desk space, particularly if creative work is your primary pursuit. It’s also a great office monitor with ambient light and presence sensors that adjust screen brightness to your surroundings and save energy when you leave your desk.

ViewSonic sells this monitor as factory calibrated and ready to go, with 100% coverage of Adobe RGB, sRGB, Rec. 709, SMPTE-C, and EBU plus 95% coverage of DCI-P3, also making it a great monitor for creatives. Brightness tops out at a passable 350 nits, and though the monitor can decode HDR10, it won’t pop as it would on a proper HDR television.

The VP2785-4K uses ViewSonic’s Colorbration+ system to make periodically calibrating it with a supported calibrator easier than ever. You can connect your laptop via USB-C (DisplayPort), and the monitor will output up to 60w of power for charging. There’s also a built-in KVM switch that allows you to use this monitor with multiple computers and a single set of peripherals.

Simply, this is a great-looking 4K monitor that won’t disappoint.

Best 4K Monitor

ViewSonic VP2785-4K

It's time to upgrade from your 1080p monitor. If you're looking for a basic monitor that can display in 4K, ViewSonic's VP monitor will be a perfect replacement, with great RGB coverage and HDR10.

Best Monitor for Mac: Asus ProArt Display PA278CV

Asus ProArt Display on pink background
Asus

Pros

  • Pre-calibrated 1440p monitor with a 75Hz refresh rate
  • 100% coverage of sRGB and Rec. 709
  • USB-C (DisplayPort) connectivity with 65w of power delivery
  • Preset color configurations for working in different color spaces

Cons

  • Not as pixel dense as similarly-sized 4K monitors
  • 75Hz refresh rate will disappoint gamers

There’s nothing Mac-specific about the Asus ProArt Display PA278CV; it’s just a great little monitor that pairs well with a MacBook or Mac mini for a better desktop experience. This sub-4K IPS monitor has a resolution of 2560×1440, a refresh rate of 75Hz, and 100% coverage of sRGB and Rec. 709.

Asus calibrates the ProArt range before leaving the factory for highly accurate out-of-the-box colors. The monitor features a range of presets for working in different color spaces, including DCI-P3 and some artist-specific features like QuickFit Virtual Scale, which overlays a scale grid for accurate print previews.

The PA278CV has USB-C DisplayPort connectivity, with 65w of power delivery which should be enough to power the latest Apple Silicon laptops (though older Intel models have higher power requirements). Lastly, the monitor’s stand has great ergonomics, which allows for up to 150mm height adjustment, a +/- 45º swivel, 90º “portrait mode” pivoting, and a generous +35º to -5º tilt.

This is a monitor for the masses that just happens to suit Apple users. If you’re looking for the gold standard of Mac-specific monitors, you’ll need to turn to Apple for the Pro Display XDR, which starts at $4999.

Best Monitor for Mac Users

Asus ProArt Display PA278CV

The Asus ProArt monitor is built for artists and creatives, those more likely to pick up an Apple product to create with. It has preset color configurations to make sure your work is as accurate as possible.

Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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