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Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

What to Look For in a Budget Monitor in 2023

Shopping for a budget monitor is often a case of balancing quality and features. You don’t necessarily need to settle for bad products, but you have to decide which features and specifications are most important to you after you set your budget.

For most, image quality is the most important factor in choosing a monitor. You may find that panel quality can suffer slightly at the cheapest end of the spectrum, but you don’t necessarily need to give up on having a high-resolution display if that’s what’s most important to you.

Unfortunately, you likely won’t be able to have both high resolutions and high refresh rates, so you should decide which is more important to you. Your monitor’s refresh rate measures how many times the monitor updates in a second, measured in hertz (Hz). Higher refresh rates can lead to better results in online games and a smoother overall desktop experience.

Gamers on a budget might want to consider what their PC is capable of when shopping for a monitor. If you can’t get satisfactory frame rates at 4K (even with upscaling technologies like DLSS) you are better off settling for a lower-resolution display with a faster refresh rate for a smoother and more responsive gaming experience.

HDR performance may also suffer since cheaper displays won’t be able to sustain the peak brightness required for a dazzling HDR experience. But these monitors should be plenty bright enough when displaying SDR content, which means they’ll be fine for use in a bright room.

Variable refresh rate (VRR) features are fairly common nowadays, especially since AMD made FreeSync a royalty-free standard. If the monitor lacks HDMI 2.1, you won’t be able to use HDMI Adaptive-Sync—which means no VRR support for the PlayStation 5. This won’t be a deal-breaker for everyone, but something to keep in mind if you’re planning on playing your PS5 on the monitor.

Connection options across the board may be slightly more restrictive on budget monitors. You might find DisplayPort over USB-C (with USB Power Delivery) for connecting and powering a laptop with a single cable, but most budget monitors have DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0b instead.

Regarding aesthetics, you may compromise on the finish and take a slightly chunkier display than those found at higher price points. This may mean thicker bezels for a less modern look, and don’t set your heart on anything other than a plastic finish for the rear or monitor stand. Fortunately, this doesn’t affect the monitor’s performance in the slightest.

Budget monitor options that come with an inferior stand that lacks good ergonomics and looks ugly can be solved with an inexpensive monitor arm.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I clean a computer monitor?
You should always consult your manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning your display. Most of the time, cleaning involves using a soft, dry cloth to remove dust or even canned air. Other times you may need to use moisture to remove stubborn grime. For best results use distilled water and a microfiber cloth. There are also specially designed cleaning products designed for use with sensitive display surfaces. Learn more about cleaning a TV or monitor.
How do I measure a computer monitor?
Measure a monitor (or TV) diagonally to get its size in inches.
How do I dispose of a computer monitor?
You can list your monitor for sale on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or another classified site if it is still in working order. Even an old monitor will be of use to someone, so don’t write it off just because you have no use for it. If the monitor is “dead” or not working as intended you can recycle it responsibly at a local recycling center, a retailer like Best Buy, or through manufacturers like Apple. Learn more about recycling old computers and monitors.
Do computer monitors have speakers?
Some monitors include speakers, while others do not. You’ll need to carefully read the product description to determine whether or not a monitor you’re interested in buying includes speakers. Even if a monitor does have built-in speakers, the sound quality is likely to be poor (which is also the case on many new TVs).
Can a computer monitor be used as a TV?
You can use a computer monitor to stream TV shows using a web browser, play movies and video files you have downloaded, or use a streaming device like an Apple TV or Google Chromecast as long as the monitor satisfies HDCP requirements.

Best Budget Monitor Overall: Dell S2721QS

Dell S2721QS in game setup


  • A 4K monitor that won't break the bank
  • Great image quality and overall brightness in SDR content
  • Great ergonomics and thin bezels
  • FreeSync is a nice bonus


  • Limited to a refresh rate of 60Hz
  • Lacks USB-C and power delivery
  • Disappointing HDR performance

The Dell S2721QS continues to be one of the best budget monitor choices on the market. It’s not the cheapest monitor you can buy, but it strikes an excellent value between image quality and price.

It features a 27-inch 4K (UHD) panel with a resolution of 3840×2160, which translates to a respectable pixel density of 163 ppi. This panel is limited to a refresh rate of 60Hz, which is fine for most desktop and creative tasks but one that will disappoint gamers aiming for frame rates that exceed 60 frames per second. Despite this, the S2721QS has FreeSync support so it could be a good choice if you enjoy casual gaming on the side.

Though the monitor can take and display an HDR signal, don’t expect much in terms of peak brightness, which tops out at about 380 nits. Connection is made using one of the two HDMI 2.0b ports or a single DisplayPort 1.4 port.

The included stand is fully adjustable with tilt, pivot, swivel, and height adjustment. Alternatively, you can attach a monitor arm to the VESA 100×100 mounting point.

In terms of aesthetic, we love the thin bezels on the S2721QS, though the monitor has a fair bit of depth to it at the back. Since it’s not the thinnest monitor around, make sure to keep that in mind when considering desk space, especially if your desk is against a wall.

If you’re after a budget monitor that packs in the pixels and don’t mind sacrificing fast refresh rates, USB-C connection, and ‘true’ HDR then this might be the perfect wallet-friendly choice.

Best Overall Budget Monitor

Dell S2721QS

The Dell S2721QS is a 27-inch 4K monitor with fairly high pixel-density for sharp text and images, AMD FreeSync support, and 99% sRGB color coverage.

Best Budget Gaming Monitor: Gigabyte M27Q



  • 1440p resolution is an upgrade over 1080p
  • 170Hz maximum refresh rate
  • FreeSync Premium variable refresh rate support
  • KVM switch


  • 1440p is still a way off 4K
  • Disappointing HDR performance

Have you heard that 1440p is fast becoming the new 1080p? The resolution of 2560×1440 also known as QHD or WQHD is seen as a midpoint between 1080p resolution and 4K. If your PC is capable of satisfactory frame rates at 1440p, then now is an excellent time to move up, and the Gigabyte M27Q might be the best-value option out there.

The M27Q provides a sizeable leap in resolution over 1080p with a fast 170Hz refresh rate. The added headroom in refresh rate means you can use frame rates of up to 170 frames per second, which should give you an edge in multiplayer shooters compared to the 60Hz standard.

This flat (non-curved) Gigabyte monitor uses an IPS panel with wide viewing angles, great color reproduction, excellent contrast ratio, and better pixel response times than VA-type panels. It also has FreeSync Premium support for variable refresh rate gaming, a KVM switch for quickly moving between computers, and HDR400 support.

The tilt and height-adjustable stand have a relatively small footprint, and the monitor has thin bezels and sharp looks without leaning too far into gamer aesthetics. You can hook it up to your computer or consoles with the included dual HDMI 2.0b ports or a single DisplayPort 1.2 port.

If your PC isn’t ready for 1440p gaming, consider the Asus Nitro XF243Y instead. This full HD (1080p) monitor has a 23.8-inch screen and 165Hz refresh rate. It will take up less space on your desk than many of the other options on the list, and the smaller panel size helps to make the loss in pixel density you experience at 1080p less noticeable.

The XF243Y has fast pixel response times, virtually imperceptible latency, and is ideal for HD gaming. It has FreeSync VRR support, a stand with tilt swivel and height adjustment, and it’s dirt cheap to boot.

Best Budget Gaming Monitor

Gigabyte M27Q

Get into 1440p gaming on a budget with the Gigabyte M27Q, a WQHD monitor with a 170Hz refresh rate, responsive IPS panel, HDR400 support, and a KVM switch.

Best Budget Ultrawide Monitor: AOC CU34G2X



  • UWQHD resolution at a budget price
  • 1500R curve for immersive gaming
  • 144Hz refresh rate for high frame rates
  • Three-year warranty against defects like dead pixels


  • VRR support limited to Adaptive-Sync over DisplayPort
  • VA panel has a slower pixel response compared with IPS or TN panels
  • Requires a fair bit of horizontal desk space

Ultrawide monitors have long been seen as luxury items, but as the AOC CU32G2X demonstrates that is no longer the case. This UWQHD (3440×1440) monitor features a 34-inch panel with a 1500R curve for an immersive ultrawide gaming experience. A refresh rate of 144Hz further bolsters this monitor’s reputation as an excellent addition to your setup.

The monitor lacks support for FreeSync or G-SYNC in favor of AdaptiveSync, for which you’ll need to use one of the two DisplayPort 1.4 ports on the back. There are also two HDMI 2.0b inputs for connecting consoles or computers that lack DisplayPort—but you’ll lose out on the variable refresh rate if you go this route.

The VA panel provides excellent color at the cost of the viewing angles you’d normally get with an IPS panel. AOC advertises an MPRT response time of 1 ms, and reviewers praised its pixel response times when operating at the maximum refresh rate of 144Hz.

In the box, you’ll get a height-adjustable stand, or you can use your own VESA 100×100 wall mount. To top it off is AOC’s three-year “no dead pixel” warranty, which gives you peace of mind if you’re concerned about stuck or dead pixels on your display.

Best Budget Ultrawide Monitor


Get an ultrawide 1440p (UWQHD) monitor on a budget with the AOC CU34G2X. It's a great pick for budget PC gamers on account of its unique resolution, aspect ratio, and dependence on Adaptive-Sync VRR over DisplayPort.

Best Budget Curved Monitor: AOC CU27G2

AOC CQ27G2 monitor on pink background


  • Budget 1500R curved 1440p monitor
  • 144Hz refresh rate
  • FreeSync Premium variable refresh rate support
  • Three-year "zero dead pixels" warranty


  • 1440p means less space than a 4K monitor
  • VA panel means worse viewing angles or response times than other panels

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that our best budget curved monitor is a standard WQHD version of our best ultrawide. The AOC CU27G2 is a 27-inch 1440p (WQHD) monitor that, like most curved monitors, is aimed at gamers. A refresh rate of 144Hz offers a big update over the 60Hz standard, and the 1500R helps provide a more immersive gaming experience than a standard “flat” display.

This time around there’s support for AMD’s FreeSync Premium VRR standard that works with AMD, NVIDIA, and Intel GPUs. It also works with the Xbox Series X or S, though it’s not ideal for the PlayStation 5 since Sony’s console requires HDMI 2.1 AdaptiveSync for VRR support.

A resolution of 1440p makes it easier to hit your desired frame rates than with a 4k monitor. The CU27G2 is also a solid choice if you lack the space or the inclination to opt for an ultrawide screen. Alternatively, two or three of these monitors side-by-side could make for an immersive budget multiple-monitor setup (especially if you’re into simulation racing or flying games).

It’s got a VA panel which means great colors and contrast ratio, and good pixel response times for a panel of this type. The included stand includes swivel, tilt, and height adjustment, and it’s also compatible with the 100×100 VESA mounting standard. To top it off, the monitor comes with the same AOC “zero dead pixels” warranty as the ultrawide above for peace of mind.

Best Budget Curved Monitor


Looking for a standard 16:9 curved monitor for gaming? The 1440p AOC CQ27G2 features a 144Hz refresh rate, 1500R curve, FreeSync Premium, and a three-year warranty against defects like dead pixels.

Best Budget 4K Monitor: LG 32UN500-W

LG 32UN500-W monitor on grey background


  • 32-inch 4K (UHD) monitor at a decent price point
  • Vivid VA panel with excellent contrast ratio
  • FreeSync support


  • Underwhelming HDR
  • Poor ergonomics on the included stand
  • Pixel density suffers compared to 27-inch models

Our best overall monitor and best Mac monitor are both 4K models, and they’re great choices if that’s your preference. But if you want something a little bigger and you don’t mind giving up some pixel density, the LG 32UN500-W might fit the bill. It’s a 32-inch 4K (UHD) monitor with a 60Hz refresh rate, VA panel, and FreeSync support.

LG’s monitor is a good choice for mixed usage, especially if you are squinting too much when it comes to 27-inch models. The VA panel means good color and contrast ratio, but viewing angles and pixel response times aren’t the best (rated at 4ms GtG using overdrive). Like any monitor on this list, you can use it to play games, but the LG 32UN500-W isn’t necessarily the best display for the job.

The monitor can accept an HDR signal but don’t expect much in terms of peak brightness. Make use of dual HDMI 2.0b ports and a DisplayPort 1.2 port for connecting your computer or consoles. The included stand is limited to tilt adjustment, so there’s no height adjustment or pivot. Fortunately, you mount the monitor on an arm using the VESA 100×100 attachment to get around this limitation.

Best Budget 4K Monitor

LG 32UN500-W

A 32-inch 4K (UHD) monitor for those who prefer their displays a little bigger, the LG 32UN500-W is a decent all-rounder though it lacks in the brightness and ergonomics departments.

Best Budget Mac Monitor: Dell S2722QC

Dell S2722QC monitor on pink and yellow background


  • 4K (UHD) resolution in a 27-inch display
  • High pixel density (163 ppi)
  • USB-C connection with up to 65w of power delivery
  • Thin bezels and sharp looks at a reasonable price point


  • Not enough power delivery for more powerful MacBook Pro models
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • Poor pixel response times for fast-paced motion

Most of the monitors on this list will work fine with a Mac assuming you have the right input (HDMI) or aren’t too annoyed by dongles. With that in mind, we’re stretching the definition of “budget” here to include an affordable monitor that utilizes the USB-C standard to make powering and connecting a MacBook as simple as possible.

Ultimately which monitor you choose depends on what you need, but we’ve settled on the Dell S2722QC as a general budget Mac monitor recommendation. This 27-inch 4K monitor is a sleek and simple display that connects via USB-C (with optional dual HDMI 2.0b inputs) and provides 65W of USB Power Delivery (USB-PD), allowing it to comfortably power an M1 or M2 MacBook Air or similar.

The panel hits around 350 nits of brightness—perfect for use in a bright office—with 178-degree viewing angles that make it easy to share ideas with coworkers. The included stand offers tilt, swivel, pivot, and height adjustment and you even get a set of integrated 3w speakers (perfect for operating system alerts if nothing else).

Though the monitor isn’t built for gaming (with its 60Hz refresh rate and advertised 8ms pixel response time), there’s FreeSync support for variable refresh rate gaming with an option to engage overdrive to counteract any ghosting you might encounter in fast-paced games.

If you’ve got a spare couple of hundred dollars in your back pocket and you fancy something a little nicer, you can opt for the Dell U2723QE instead which features faster response times, a refresh rate of 75Hz, a brighter screen, a higher quality panel, and up to 90w of USB-PD.

Best Budget Mac Monitor

Dell S2722QC

Featuring a 4K (UHD) panel that ticks along at 60Hz, the Dell S2722QC is perfect for Mac office use with its USB-C connectivity and ability to power many MacBook models.

The Best Computer Monitors of 2023

Best Monitor Overall
Dell S2721QS
Best Budget Monitor
Dell S2721QS
Dell Alienware AW3423DW
Best Gaming Monitor
Dell Alienware AW3423DW
LG 38WN95C-W
Best Ultrawide Monitor
LG 38WN95C-W
Gigabyte M32U
Best 4K Monitor
Gigabyte M32U
Dell U2723QE
Best Monitor for Mac
Dell U2723QE
Profile Photo for 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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