Best monitor 2016 – budget, 4K and 1080p picks and buying guide

 

If you’re going to sit at a desk and use a computer, then the one thing that you’ll stare at all of the time is your monitor, so it’s worth buying something good. Choosing the right one isn’t quite as easy as you may think, with tons of options available depending on exactly what you want to do. To help, I’ve put together this guide to the best monitors of 2016. Expert Reviews has tested and reviewed all of these display properly, so you can relax knowing that these really are the best models.

Page two of this article has a full buying guide to help you narrow down your decision, while on this page, I’ve listed all of the best buys, should you just want to dive straight in. I’ve split the monitors into categories (use the quick links below to jump to the one you’re interested in), to make narrowing down your choice easier. First, there are budget 1080p monitors. These are general purpose monitors at a great price. Next, I have high-resolution monitors, with resolutions running from 2,560×1,440 all the way up to 4K. These displays will look much sharper than 1080p screens. Then, I have gaming monitors, which are designed for high frame rates in the latest titles (check out the Expert Reviews guide to G-Sync and FreeSync to find out how they work and which one you should get). Finally, I have some professional monitors, which are comparatively expensive, but their accurate colour reproduction is ideal for pro video and photo editing.

Use the quick links below to jump to the section you’re interested in. Lastly, if you’re wondering which type of connection you should use for your monitor, check out our guide on HDMI vs DisplayPort vs DVI vs VGA guide.

General Purpose monitors for under £150

These monitors aren’t outstanding but, for the price, they can deliver excellent performance for all your basic office and multimedia tasks

1. ViewSonic VX2363mhl-W

At its current price of £100, the ViewSonic VX2363mhl-W is an extremely attractive bargain. With a 1,920×1,080 IPS panel, image quality is pleasing and there’s plenty of space on the screen for multiple windows side-by-side. The white plastic design won’t be for everyone, but if you can stomach it, it’s superb value and one of the best screens for this price. The only downside? There’s no DVI port, which may upset some people with multi-monitor setups. For more information, see our full ViewSonic VX2363mhl-W review.

Screen size: 23in, Resolution: 1,920×1,080, Screen technology: IPS, Video inputs: VGA, 2x HDMI (1xMHL)

Buy Now from Amazon

2. Iiyama ProLite XU2390HS-B1

Iiyama ProLite XU2390HS-B1

This 23in Full HD monitor uses an IPS panel and consequently very good performance for the price. It has a decent selection of inputs for multiple devices including DVI, HDMI and VGA connectors. It doesn’t have an adjustable stand and can be a little bit wobbly, but it’s a decent piece of no-frills design. Perhaps its most attractive selling point is its very small bezels, which make it suitable for multiple monitor setups with minimal wasted space between screens. For under £130, it’s a decent buy. For more information, see our full Iiyama ProLite XU2390HS-B1 review.

Screen size: 23n, Resolution: 1,920×1,080, Screen technology: IPS, Video inputs: HDMI, DVI, VGA

Buy Now from Amazon

WQHD,4K and Ultrawide monitors from £220

These screens offer astounding image quality and plenty of pixels so your high-resolution photos and videos look great. What’s more, with so much screen real estate, there’s loads of room to put more programs side-by-side or see more in your games if you have the graphics card to handle it. WQHD generally means 2,560×1,440 pixels, while 4K monitors get you 3,840×2,160. Ultrawide screens vary: usually either 2,560×1,080 or 3,840×1,440.

1. Iiyama XUB3490WQSU

The catchily-named XUB3490WQSU is the perfect monitor for wide-screen multitasking. Not only does it have a massive 34in display, but it also has a 21:9 aspect ratio and 3,440×1,440 resolution, which is almost like having two Full HD monitors sitting side by side. You might not get as many pixels as a proper 16:9 4K display, but this is definitely a more practical option for those who like to have multiple windows open simultaneously.

It’s not just a great office monitor, either, as its ultrawide aspect ratio makes it a good fit for films and games alike. Perhaps not quite as immersive as curved ultrawide monitors, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker. Image quality is fantastic, too, as it already display 96.7% of the sRGB colour gamut out of the box, requiring little need to calibrate it unless you absolutely need to. The only drawback is its lack of height adjustment. For more information, see our full Iiyama XUB3490WQSU review.

Screen size: 34in, Resolution: 3,440×1,440, Screen technology: IPS, Refresh rate: 60Hz

Buy Now from Amazon

2. AOC Q2778VQE

This 27in QHD monitor is the cheapest we’ve ever reviewed. It may only use TN technology for its panel and it’s certainly not the prettiest, but if your main priority is more onscreen real estate then there’s no competition. Despite its TN panel, the AOC has decent vertical viewing angles, which is often a problem on other TN monitors.

We were also pleased to see decent colour coverage of 98.9% and while overall accuracy was better than we expected. A peak brightness level of 322 cd/m2 and black levels of 0.33cd/m2 were also very good for the money. Our main concern here is a slightly high input lag figure, which we measured at 38ms. This is too high for twitchy gamers but is fine for most other uses. If you want a high-performance 2,560×1,440 pixel monitor, the rather more expensive Acer Predator XB270HU below is a better bet. For more information, see our full AOC Q2778VQE review.

Screen size: 27in, Resolution: 2,560×1,440, Screen technology: TN, Refresh rate: 60Hz

Buy Now from Amazon

2. BenQ GW2765HT

BenQ’s GW2765HT is a 27in WQHD panel using IPS technology. The price of the screen is impressively low, especially when you consider the adjustable stand. It’s astoundingly bright and has excellent contrast levels of 1,064:1. There’s plenty of options to adjust in the onscreen menus to get the screen set up how you want it, too.

Our only two complaints are the slightly cheap-looking stand and the fact that blacks appear a little lighter than we’d like. If you’re looking for a cheap WQHD screen, though, this is a great choice. For more information, see our full BenQ GW2765HT review.

Screen size: 27in, Resolution: 2,560×1,440, Screen technology: IPS, Video inputs: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort

Buy the BenQ GW2765HT now from Ebuyer

3. Samsung S32D850T

The Samsung S32D850T achieves the impossible with a superb physical design, great stand and outstanding image quality, all for under £500. Oh, and it’s a 32in screen. Yes, it only has a WQHD resolution, but this is more than made up for by the quality of the VA panel that has superb colour coverage and high contrast levels. It’s a great general purpose screen for gaming, photo editing and general work. 32in is huge, though, so make sure you have enough space to sit slightly further away from it than you would with a smaller screen. For more information, read our full Samsung S32D850T review.

Screen size: 32in, Resolution: 2,560×1,440, Screen technology: VA, Video inputs: HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort

Buy Now from Amazon

4. Asus PB279Q

The PB279Q is easily the best 4K monitor we’ve reviewed for under £1,000. It uses a 27in AHVA panel that shares some characteristics with VA and IPS screens. The result is a supremely accurate monitor serving up stunning Ultra HD images at a reasonable price. There’s a generous array of inputs, although it’s a shame there’s no USB hub. Still, it’s a gorgeous panel that’s well worth the cash. For more information, see our full Asus PB279Q review.

Screen size: 27in, Resolution: 3,840×2,160, Screen technology: AHVA, Video Inputs: 4x HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort

Buy Now from Amazon

5. AOC U3477PQU

If ultra wide screens are more your bag, the AOC U3477PQU is the best we’ve tested so far. With a 3,840×1,440 resolution, there is loads of space on screen to fit windows side-by-side, and it’ll give your games cinema aspect ratio moves an extra degree of immersion. Image quality is stunning, and its design and build quality is excellent, too, and the USB3 hub is a very welcome added bonus. If you’re after a 4K ultra-wide display, this is the one for you. For more information, see our full AOC U3477PQU review.

Screen size: 34in, Resolution: 3,840×1,440, Screen technology: IPS, Video inputs: DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, VGA

Buy Now from Amazon

6. Philips Brilliance BDM3490UC

Some see curved monitor as something of a gimmick, but we happen to think that a nice curve on a large, ultrawide monitor works very well. Enter the Philips Brilliance BDM3490UC, which has a subtle but effective 3800mm curvature radius. It focuses your eyes into the screen and makes the extreme edges of the monitor easier to find.

This monitor comes loaded with connections including three HDMI ports, a DisplayPort connector and four USB3 ports. It also comes with a 7W speaker in the base. It’s not brilliant, but you could forego a set of desktop speakers and not feel like you’re missing something. It’s very expensive, sure, and you’ll find 34in, non-curved screens (such as the monitor above this one) for much less cash. But if style is your thing, it’s a great choice. For more information, read our full Philips Brilliance BDM3490UC review.

Screen size: 34in, Resolution: 3,440×1,440, Screen technology: IPS, Refresh rate: 60Hz

Buy Now from Amazon

Gaming monitors from £200

Gaming screens typically have higher refresh rates and other useful features to get gamers to spend a bit more money than they otherwise would on a standard monitor.

1. Acer Predator XB270HU

Acer XB270HU front shot

The Predator XB270HU comes at a serious cost, but for that £680 asking price you get the most technically advanced gaming monitor we’ve ever seen. It comes with G-Sync, Nvidia’s adaptive sync technology, but that’s only a side show for the true star of the show: the panel.

Using IPS-like AHVA technology, this screen produces high contrast, vibrant images in a huge 2,560×1,440 resolution. Not only that, it refreshes at 144Hz, which is the first time we’ve ever seen a screen with such great colours also manage to refresh at a rate that hardcore gamers will actually want. Essentially, it’s the best of all worlds. Its only downfall is a G-Sync limitation: it only has one DisplayPort input and nothing else. Aside from that, if you have an Nvidia graphics card and a whole lot of money to spend on a monitor, this should be on your shortlist. For more information, read our full Acer Predator XB270HU review.

Screen size: 27in, Resolution: 2,560×1,440, Screen technology: AHVA, Refresh rate: 144Hz

Buy Now from Amazon

2. Acer Predator XB271HK

Acer Predator XB271HK

If the XB270HU doesn’t have quite enough pixels for you, Acer’s XB271HK is a massive 4K resolution at its disposal as well as Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, allowing you to pack even more detail into your games. The one thing it doesn’t have is a high refresh rate, instead sticking with the traditional 60Hz rather than 144Hz.

However, you’re not missing out on image quality, as the XB271HK’s stunning IPS panel was already covering the full sRGB colour gamut out of the box and only needed very mild tweaking to bring its colour temperature into line. It also has more ports than the XB270HU, as it has both HDMI and DisplayPort inputs as well as a USB3 hub. Add in an adjustable stand, and the XB271HK ticks all the right boxes for Ultra HD gaming. For more information, read our full Acer Predator XB271HK review.

Screen size: 27in, Resolution: 3,840×2,160, Screen technology: IPS, Refresh rate: 60Hz

Buy Now from Amazon

3. Iiyama ProLite GB2488HSU-B1

Iiyama ProLite GB2488HSU-B1

Iiyama’s not-so-catchily-named gaming screen is about as no-frills as you can get. As a result, though, it’s very cheap and one of the cheapest 144Hz monitors you can buy at the moment. It’s a TN panel, which means image quality isn’t perfect, but for the price, it’s very good indeed. The 144Hz refresh rate results in silky smooth gameplay and reduces screen tearing to almost nothing, and the Full HD resolution and 24in form factor means you can see plenty of detail, too. It’s not much to look at, but if you’re a gamer on a budget, it’s a great choice. For more information, read our full Iiyama ProLite GB2488HSU-B1 review.

Screen size: 24in, Resolution: 1,920×1,080, Screen technology: TN, Video inputs: DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI

Buy Now from Amazon

4. Eizo Foris FS2434

Eizo’s monitor doesn’t have fancy high refresh rates. Instead, it packages an IPS panel with great image quality into a good-looking frame with tiny bezels. It has most of the things you’ll be looking for from a monitor, minus an adjustable stand. It has a USB hub, a remote control and some excellent Windows software to make fine adjustments to image quality to multiple monitors if you plump up the cash to buy more than one. For more information, read our full Eizo Foris FS2434 review.

Screen size: 23.8in, Resolution: 1,920×1,080, Screen technology: IPS, Video inputs: 2x DVI, HDMI

Buy Now from Amazon

5. Iiyama G-Master GB2888UHSU Gold Phoenix

Iiyama GB2888UHSU

Who said that gaming monitors had to be expensive and that 4K gaming monitors even more so? At just £344, the Iiyama G-Master GB2888UHSU is incredible value for a 28in Ultra HD monitor and one that supports FreeSync, for use with AMD graphics cards, to boot.

One of the reasons that Iiyama has managed to keep the price down is by using a cheaper TN panel rather than an IPS panel. This means that viewing angles aren’t quite as good, but it’s easy to adjust the screen for a better view. You’ll need to colour calibrate the monitor to get the best image quality, but overall, the GB2888UHSU is excellent value. For more information, see our full Iiyama G-Master GB2888UHSU Gold Phoenix review.

Screen size: 28in, Resolution: 3,840×2,160, Screen technology: TN, Refresh rate: 60Hz

Buy Now from eBuyer

Professional monitors from £779

These monitors are hugely expensive, but they have the colour accuracy and versatility to match their sky-high prices.

1. BenQ PG2401PT

This BenQ monitor may not have the highest resolution, but thanks to near-perfect sRGB and Adobe sRGB coverage, a great build and a sub-£1,000 price, it’s a good buy if you need accurate colours. It’s easy to navigate and adjust and you also get a hood in the box to protect the screen from glare. In addition, thanks to built-in hardware calibration you can calibrate its colours using any compatible colorimeters. For more information, read our full BenQ PG2401PT review.

Screen size: 24in, Resolution: 1,920×1,200, Screen technology: IPS, Video inputs: DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, VGA

Buy Now from Amazon

2. Samsung U32D970Q

An angled view of the Samsung U32D970Q professional monitor

This 4K, 32in monitor from Samsung is the ultimate designer’s monitor. It has some design quirks, but the one thing you can’t fault it for is its colour accuracy and versatility. Expect 100% sRGB and 99.7% Adobe RGB coverage out of the box, with plenty of hardware and software calibration to boot. It’s also very pretty to look at when it’s switched off, which is an added bonus. For more information, read our full Samsung U32D970Q review.

Screen size: 32in, Resolution: 3,840×2,160, Screen technology: PLS, Video inputs: DVI, 2x DisplayPort, HDMI

Buy the Samsung UD970 now from Ballicom

Monitor buying guide

Although they seem fairly simple on the surface, there are tons of features and options to look out for when buying a monitor, so that you get the one that suits your needs and requirements. We’ll take you through everything, so you can make a list of the features that you need.

What resolution and aspect ratio do I need?

There are two main specs to look at with a monitor: its resolution and its aspect ratio. The resolution is simply the dimensions of the screen in pixels; the aspect ratio is the relationship between the two. Today, no monitor worth its salt today will come with a resolution less than 1,920×1,080 pixels (Full HD). Full HD screens have an aspect ratio of 16:9, which means that they’re wider than they are tall and are the same shape as TVs. This resolution and is an acceptable size for general Windows tasks and for gaming, as well as matching the Blu-ray HD standard.

If you’d like a bit more vertical resolution, a 1,920×1,200 monitor could do the trick although these are relatively rare. If you’d like to have a bit more room on the Windows Desktop, as well as making it easier to work on two documents side by side, you should look for a higher-resolution screen. The 2,560×1,440 resolution offers the same 16:9 ratio as Full HD but with far more pixels and, therefore, space to work. 4K (sometimes known as Ultra HD) displays are also now coming onto the market, but these 3,840×2,160 monsters are expensive and require a powerful graphics card to display this high level of detail. There is also a variety of 21:9 aspect ratio ultra-wide displays with resolutions of 2,560×1,080, which can help make films and games look more dramatic and are a good choice for putting two documents side-by-side.

What refresh rate do I need?

The refresh rate is described as a number in Hz, where the number is how many times your monitor refreshes per second. In other words, it’s the frame rate of the monitor: the higher the number the smoother things will look. You should expect any monitor you buy to be able to have at least a 60Hz refresh rate. However, some screens have even faster refresh rates such as 120Hz and 144Hz. These will give you noticeably smoother performance in Windows applications, but are chiefly aimed at gamers, and you’ll need a powerful graphics card in order for your PC to cope.

Is the response time important?

Response time is the time it takes for a pixel to change colour. On older screens slow response times could lead to ghosting effects as pixels tried to catch up with the movement of the image, but this is a problem which doesn’t affect modern screens with their 1-6ms response times. These tiny differences are unlikely to be noticed by even the keenest observer, although it’s always worth checking the spec sheet on the off chance the response time of a screen is particularly slow.

How can I judge image quality?

In the end, however, the top priority for a monitor is image quality. Essentially, a monitor’s image quality breaks down into colour accuracy, contrast and black levels. We test colour accuracy by measuring what percentage of the sRGB standard colour gamut a monitor can display. A high percentage, such as 95% or above, shows the screen is capable of displaying a large range of colour, which should lead to an accurate reproduction of images.

For higher-end panels, we also look at the larger Adobe RGB gamut. Generally reserved for professional applications such as design for print, screens that can cover a high percentage of the Adobe RGB gamut are very expensive. With professional monitors, we also pay attention to colour temperature, as this can be particularly important when working with photographs.

Our equipment measures contrast as a ratio, and is measured by comparing the brightest white and the darkest black the screen can produce; LCD screens work by filtering light from a backlight, so all screens allow at least some light through even in supposedly black areas. The higher the contrast levels you have, the more detail you’ll be able to see in images with light and dark areas.

In our more recent reviews, we have started measuring the uniformity of monitors’ LED backlights. Because the backlight is at the centre of the panel, it can often lead to bright and dark spots around the monitor, which can lead to an uneven look. Most of the time, this won’t be noticeable, but sometimes there will be traces of darkness. We also look out for backlight bleed, where the backlight is visibly lighting up dark images that should be nearly completely black. This can kill immersion in games and cause problems with contrast levels, too.

Don’t be fooled by some manufacturers’ claims of contrast ratios into the millions or even billions, however, as this is only accurate if you have the screen set to a dynamic mode, which adjusts the backlighting to suit what’s on screen and can be distracting as the backlight changes intensity. Instead, the smaller numbers – usually 500:1 to 3,000:1 – are the ones to look at. These days we would expect most screens to have a ratio well above 500:1, with many displays now showing ratios of 2,000:1 and beyond.

You should also look at black levels. We measure this in cd/m2, and numbers closer to zero are ideal. Some panels are able to get below 0.1cd/m2, but we’re usually pleased with anything below 1.0cd/m2, and impressed by figures around 0.25cd/m2. Low numbers equate to dark, inky blacks while higher numbers turn blacks into greys, which can spoil high-contrast images.

Is there a difference between screen technologies?

There are three types of LCD screen in use in this group test, with each having its own characteristics. Twisted Nematic (TN) are the cheapest type of panel. They sacrifice some colour accuracy and contrast, but monitors with TN panels can be very cheap. Vertical alignment panels (VA, AVA and MVA) have wide viewing angles and very high contrast levels, although they don’t always have the greatest colour accuracy. Finally, IPS screens generally have the best colour accuracy and viewing angles, but are also the most expensive, although the price gap between IPS, VA and TN has narrowed recently.

What extras should I look for?

If you’re making a long-term investment in a monitor, it’s advisable to spend extra money to get an all-round good product, not just a good screen. This means taking extras into account. For some, the most important and sometimes expensive of these is the stand. Screens under £200 often have small, slightly wobbly stands with no height adjustment or swivel. This may be fine for many people, but if you’re going to be spending a long time looking at the screen, it is advisable to buy a monitor with a sturdy stand which you can adjust to your viewing position.

A USB hub is also a valuable extra. Having USB ports on the side of the monitor means you could in theory hide away your desktop PC and de-clutter your desk, and have all USB devices running through your monitor. We’re now seeing more and more monitors with high-speed USB3 hubs, too, so you will even be able to transfer large files quickly without having to delve under the desk to locate your PC’s USB3 ports.

Finally, many monitors come with speakers. In almost all cases, these are pretty poor. Music, movies and games will sound less than satisfactory on the built-in speakers, so don’t let their presence sway your buying decision – if you care about sound at all, you should use dedicated speakers or headphones.

What about FreeSync and G-Sync?

If you’re not a gamer, you don’t need to worry about G-Sync and FreeSync, collectively known as adaptive sync. If you are a gamer, it’s well worth considering.

Adaptive sync technology largely eliminates the age-old problem of screen tearing. Nearly all gamers will experience it at some point; you’ll notice horizontal lines across your screen when playing fast-paced games. This is caused by a mismatch in monitor refresh rate and graphics card output; for example if your monitor refreshes at 60Hz but your graphics card is only producing gameplay footage at 40fps, frames don’t arrive at the monitor at the exact moment it’s refreshing, so you end up with two or more frames on screen at once.

The effect is quite jarring, and can be fixed using VSync, which is an option in most games and in Nvidia and AMD graphics drivers. However, this can result in laggy, stuttery gameplay as your graphics card stops producing frames in order to stay in sync with the monitor.

Adaptive sync solves this, but your monitor has to be compatible. There are no monitors that are both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync-compatible, although manufacturers have started to produce panels that support both, but are different products. In short, once you’ve bought a G-Sync or FreeSync monitor, you’ll want to stick with the corresponding graphics card manufacturer if you want to keep using adaptive sync.

Related Post

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.