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  • Acer Nitro XV282K KV

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  • How We Tested 4K Monitors

  • What Size 4K Monitor Do I Need?

  • Other 4K Monitors We Tested

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Our Favorite 4K Monitors of 2021

  1. Best Overall

    Acer Nitro XV282K KV

    Pros

    • High refresh rate

    • Excellent color accuracy

    • Very wide color gamut

    Cons

    • Mediocre contrast

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    Dell S2721QS

    Pros

    • Affordable

    • Great image quality

    • Attractive design

    Cons

    • 60Hz refresh rate

    • No adaptive sync

    Skip to the full review below
A photo of the Acer Nitro XV282K KV 4K gaming monitor
Credit: Reviewed / Matthew S. Smith

The Acer Nitro XV282K KV is a very expensive 4K monitor, but that high price includes spot-on color accuracy and a very wide color gamut that creates lifelike images.

Best Overall
Acer Nitro XV282K KV

The Acer Nitro XV282K KV is a 28-inch 4K monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate and AMD FreeSync support. It also supports HDMI 2.1, so it can handle 4K/120Hz gameplay from an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. The monitor is also VESA DisplayHDR 400 certified and uses an IPS panel to deliver exceptional image quality.

The screen looks sharp and crisp, and it has outstanding color performance including spot-on color accuracy and a very wide color gamut. This adds up to vibrant, lifelike images. Although marketed primarily to gamers, the XV282K KV’s color performance makes it perfect for professional content creators.

The only flaw is a mediocre contrast ratio that leads to a hazy, dull look in dark scenes. The XV282K KV supports HDR and is bright enough to add pop to some HDR scenes, but it’s not a huge upgrade over SDR.

Motion clarity and refresh rate are the key features for gamers. The XV282K KV can reach a refresh rate of 144Hz for super-smooth gameplay. This is rare for a 4K monitor. It also has HDMI 2.1, so it can handle 4K/120Hz from a modern game console. Only a small handful of monitors offer this feature and the XV282K KV is currently the least expensive.

This monitor is still not affordable, but it does outperform most monitors in its price range. Acer achieves this by making a few cuts to build quality. The XV282K KV has a sturdy stand that adjusts for height, tilt, and swivel, but the monitor’s design is plain and its construction is merely functional.

Pros

  • High refresh rate

  • Excellent color accuracy

  • Very wide color gamut

Cons

  • Mediocre contrast

A computer monitor on a desk.
Credit: Reviewed / Matthew S. Smith

The Dell S2721QS provides great image quality in a wide range of content for the price.

Best Value
Dell S2721QS

The Dell S2721QS is a 27-inch 4K monitor with an IPS panel. It has a 60Hz refresh rate, supports HDR, and is among the least expensive 4K monitors available.

Despite its price, the S2721QS provides great image quality in a wide range of content. It has a high maximum brightness, superb sharpness, and good overall color performance. Its contrast ratio is near the top of monitors with an IPS panel, so it looks better in dark scenes than most.

The monitor supports HDR input but it’s VESA DisplayHDR certified. That’s a bit surprising because, in our tests, it performed better than some monitors that are. Don’t get too excited, however. While it can add vibrance to HDR content, it’s only a modest improvement over SDR.

Unfortunately, this monitor doesn’t support adaptive sync, which will probably disappoint gamers who prefer smooth, fast-paced gameplay. It’s still a great choice for games with a slower pace, such as strategy or simulation titles.

Affordable pricing hasn’t forced Dell to cut corners on build quality. This is a sleek, modern monitor that looks great on a desk and feels sturdy. It ships with a quality stand that can adjust for height, tilt, swivel, and even rotates 90 degrees.

Pros

  • Affordable

  • Great image quality

  • Attractive design

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate

  • No adaptive sync

Related content

How We Tested 4K Monitors

The Tester

Matthew S. Smith is a technology journalist, reviewer, and editor with 14 years of experience. He’s tested over 600 laptop and desktop displays over the past decade, keeping a log of his results for future reference. In addition to evaluating monitors, laptops, and other gear for Reviewed, you can find his monitor reviews published at Insider, IGN, and Digital Trends.

The Tests

Image quality is a monitor’s most important trait. An outstanding monitor will deliver a strong contrast ratio, pixel-perfect sharpness, a wide color gamut, high color accuracy, good uniformity, and enough brightness to appear vivid in a typical home office. Most monitors fail to achieve strong results in every area, but those that do provide a realistic, vibrant experience.

We test image quality objectively with Datacolor’s SpyderX Elite monitor calibration tool. It provides detailed tests that can gauge how a monitor performs against industry standards. If this sounds a bit too complex, however, don’t worry. You don’t need to get into the weeds of color accuracy and contrast ratios to purchase a great monitor. We’ve done the work for you.

Our objective tests are paired with real-world use that includes everything you’d typically expect of a monitor, from Microsoft Word to Netflix streaming and PC gaming. This step lets us detect small flaws that don’t turn up in our objective tests.

We also judge monitors on design, build quality, and ease of use. Most modern monitors do well in these areas, but budget options occasionally stumble.

What Size 4K Monitor Do I Need?

  • 24 inches: A handful of 24-inch 4K monitors exist, but we don’t recommend purchasing them. 4K resolution on a 24-inch display can lead to issues with older apps that do not scale properly on pixel-dense displays. The selection is slim, too, so you may not be able to find a monitor that supports the features you want.

  • 27 inches: A 27-inch monitor is a perfect size for most people. 4K resolution looks sharp at this size but most apps scale well enough to remain usable. Monitors of this size are also more affordable, so you can purchase a great 4K monitor at a low price. Some 4K monitors are available with a 28-inch screen, but we judge them as we would a 27-inch monitor. The size difference is not enough to be noticeable.

  • 32 inches: Especially popular as gaming peripherals, a 32-inch monitor is too large for most desks. However, a 4K 32-inch monitor can make sense as a replacement for a television in small rooms and may appeal to gamers who want an immersive, in-your-face experience.

  • 43 inches: 43-inch monitors are becoming a rival to small televisions. Most 43-inch 4K monitors are designed for gamers and outpace the gaming-focused features available on televisions in this size. A 43-inch monitor is much too large for use on a desk but it can make sense if you need a display to use with a PC and game console in a small room.

The Three LCD Panel Types: IPS, VA, and TN

Most monitors use an LCD panel that sits in front of an LED backlight. The type of LCD panel technology used by a monitor has a big impact on its image quality. There are three major panel types that you’ll find in modern monitors. Each has strengths and weaknesses.

  • IPS: This means "in-plane switching." The most popular type of display panel for 24-inch and 27-inch monitors, IPS panels are known for providing a bright, vibrant image with a very wide color gamut. Modern IPS panels can also offer a high refresh rate for smooth and responsive gaming, though this is less common among 4K monitors. IPS struggles with contrast, however, which can lead to a dull, hazy look in dark content.

  • VA: This means "vertical alignment." VA is known for delivering the best contrast ratio of any LCD panel. This provides a better sense of depth and realism and is great for movies, streaming, and gaming. VA panels often aren’t as bright or vibrant as IPS at a given price point, but it’s close. VA panels have poor viewing angles that can make them disappointing when you’re not sitting directly in front of the monitor. They also tend to have a lower refresh rate than IPS competitors.

  • TN: This means "twisted nematic." TN technology is an aging choice that trails IPS and VA by every metric of image quality. Motion clarity is one exception, though modern IPS panels tend to outperform TN in this area, as well. TN panels are inexpensive, however, so you’ll often find them in budget monitors.

Want more general help in buying the right kind of monitor? Check out our guide to buying a monitor.

What is Refresh Rate?

A monitor’s refresh rate is the number of times it updates the image each second. This is generally expressed in hertz (Hz). A 60Hz updates the image 60 times each second, while a 120Hz monitor updates the image 120 times each second.

Increasing the refresh rate improves motion clarity, which means objects that move across the screen will be more clearly defined. It can also reduce input lag, providing a more responsive feel when using your PC.

Refresh rate is not important for day-to-day use and primarily targets gamers. An improved refresh rate can lead to a smoother, more connected feel that’s especially helpful in fast-paced games.

What is AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync?

AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync are adaptive sync standards that allow a monitor to synchronize its refresh rate with the framerate of your PC’s video output. This eliminates problems like stuttering and screen tearing that occur when your PC’s video output differs substantially from your monitor’s refresh rate.

Adaptive sync, like refresh rate, primarily targets gamers. The Windows and macOS desktop can easily output video at a rate that matches your monitor’s refresh rate. This only becomes difficult in games, which tend to vary substantially in frame rate and can easily fall out of step with a monitor’s refresh rate. Adaptive sync was developed to fix this problem.

AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, as you might expect, are designed to work with AMD or Nvidia graphics solutions. In truth, these standards are not exclusive. An AMD FreeSync monitor can work with Nvidia video cards or vice versa.

With that said, most monitors only offer official support for one of these two standards. We recommend that you buy a monitor that officially supports the standard that matches your PC’s graphics solution.

What is HDR?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR content has more color and luminance data than SDR content. This provides a brighter, more vibrant image with added detail in extremely dark and bright scenes.

HDR technically does not refer to a specific standard and is instead used as shorthand for a variety of standards. With monitors, the term HDR almost always refers to the HDR10 standard. HDR10 is an open-source standard for HDR content that any company can use. Other standards like Dolby Vision HDR are popular among televisions but not found in monitors (yet).

At its best, HDR can deliver an unquestionable boost in image quality that’s obvious when viewing HDR content. However, it can only perform its best when viewed on a very bright, high-contrast display, and most monitors aren’t up to the task. Budget and mid-range televisions face these issues, as well.

That’s not to say you should skip HDR. It’s becoming a standard feature, especially among 4K monitors, and it can deliver a slightly more vibrant, colorful image on many monitors we tested. Just keep your expectations in check.


Other 4K Monitors We Tested

Product image of BenQ PD2720U
BenQ PD2720U

The BenQ PD2720U is a 27-inch 4K monitor designed for professional use. It has a 60Hz refresh rate, supports HDR, and uses an IPS panel. It has Thunderbolt 3/USB-C connectivity with power delivery and can charge a connected laptop.

This monitor stands out for its excellent color performance including top-tier color accuracy and a very wide color gamut. These traits make it great for its intended use as a professional display for content creators. The monitor also delivers a strong contrast ratio for an IPS panel and excellent sharpness.

Unfortunately, the monitor has a standard 60Hz refresh rate and doesn’t support adaptive sync standards. HDR support isn’t great, either, as the monitor’s maximum brightness is merely okay.

The PD2720U has a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port that supports up to 90 watts of power delivery. That’s enough to charge a USB-C-compatible laptop. It also has multiple USB Type-A ports and can act as a USB hub. The monitor’s design is plain but feels durable, while the stand can adjust for height, swivel, tilt, and pivot.

Pros

  • Extremely accurate color

  • Good contrast ratio

  • Lots of connectivity

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate

  • No adaptive sync

Product image of BenQ PD3220U
BenQ PD3220U

The BenQ PD3220U is a 32-inch 4K monitor designed for professional use. It has a 60Hz refresh rate, supports HDR, and uses an IPS panel. It also has a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port with power delivery that can charge a compatible laptop. The monitor’s additional USB-A ports make it useful as a USB hub.

As the name implies, the PD3220U is similar to the smaller PD2720U. It shares the smaller model’s top-tier color accuracy, very wide color gamut, and great sharpness, all of which make it a great monitor for professional content creation. However, the larger PD3220U suffers a lackluster contrast ratio that falls behind most competitors. This hurts the monitor’s depth and realism when using it for entertainment.

The monitor supports HDR but is nowhere near bright enough to properly display HDR content. You’re better off sticking with SDR.

This monitor is simple but handsome and feels expensive when handled. It has a stand that adjusts for height, tilt, and swivel, but it can’t pivot due to its size.

Pros

  • Wide color gamut

  • Accurate color

  • Lots of connectivity

Cons

  • Mediocre contrast

  • Lackluster HDR performance

  • No gaming features

Product image of Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX
Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX

Asus’ ROG Swift PG32UQX has cutting-edge technology that represents the future of computer monitors. It is a 32-inch 4K monitor with a Mini-LED backlight that includes 1,152 individual dimming zones, each of which can turn on or off independently. It’s VESA DisplayHDR 1400 certified and has an IPS panel.

The monitor has great color accuracy and a very wide color gamut, traits that are obvious in movies and games but also useful for content creators. The Mini-LED backlight offers the best contrast ratio of any we tested. Motion clarity is strong, too, thanks to the 144Hz refresh rate and Nvidia G-Sync support. That’s good news for gamers, who are the monitor’s target audience. On the downside, this monitor lacks HDMI 2.1. It can still handle 4K/120Hz when connected to the Xbox Series X, but not with the PlayStation 5.

HDR performance is where this monitor leaps ahead of the pack. It has a maximum peak brightness of over 1400 nits and its sustained brightness was the second-highest of any monitor we tested. It also beats many HDR televisions. HDR content is so vivid you’ll all but feel the heat of explosions in movies and games.

Build quality is outstanding. The monitor feels luxurious, with a robust, sturdy, wide stand that adjusts for height, tilt, and swivel. But it’s also so large and heavy that you may have trouble finding space for it on a small desk.

The P32UQX has just one serious problem: price. You could purchase three of our top picks, the Acer XV282K KV, for the price of Asus’ ROG Swift P32UQX. That’s hard to justify, but those willing to open their wallets will enjoy an unparalleled visual experience.

Content creators should note Asus sells a professional monitor, the ProArt PA32UCX-PK, which also has Mini-LED technology. It trades a high refresh rate and adaptive sync for extra connectivity and the promise of even better color accuracy. We were not able to test it for this guide, however.

Pros

  • Class-leading HDR

  • Outstanding contrast

  • 144Hz refresh rate

Cons

  • Some ghosting behind bright objects

  • Heavy, large

Product image of Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ
Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ

The Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ is a 43-inch 4K monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate and a VA panel. It is VESA DisplayHDR 1000 certified. The monitor has not one but two HDMI 2.1 ports that can handle 4K/120Hz gameplay from an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. It’s even compatible with AMD FreeSync.

Since the ROG Strix XG43UQ is much larger than a typical 4K monitor, it can be used as an HDTV replacement in a small room or studio apartment. Asus leans into this with entertainment-focused features like multiple HDMI ports, including two HDMI 2.1 ports, and a high maximum refresh rate for smooth gameplay.

The monitor’s VA panel provides an outstanding contrast ratio, good color performance, and a wide color gamut. Movies and games tend to look great on this monitor, but vibrant and bright content stands out the most. This monitor’s extremely high maximum brightness can deliver a serious punch to HDR content. However, it lacks a Mini-LED backlight like that found in the Asus ROG Swift PG32UX, so HDR content can struggle when very bright objects are placed on a dark background.

Although similar in size to a small television, the XG43UQ will remind you that it’s a monitor. It has obvious bezels and is thicker than many HDTVs. The wide stand is more stable than many televisions but lacks the adjustment you might expect from a monitor; it can only adjust for tilt.

Pros

  • Bright HDR picture

  • Great contrast

  • HDMI 2.1 support

Cons

  • Stand only adjusts for tilt

Product image of Samsung S32A804NMN
Samsung S32A804NMN

The Samsung S80A is a 27-inch 4K monitor with an IPS panel. It has a 60Hz refresh rate and does not support adaptive sync. A 32-inch model is also available, but we only tested the 27-inch version.

This monitor’s highlight is its excellent color gamut and good color accuracy. Though not the best we tested in these areas, its overall performance was outstanding given the S80A’s mid-range price. The monitor also has a solid contrast ratio for a monitor with an IPS panel. These traits make it a great choice for content creators and creative professionals on a budget, as the S80A’s image is slightly more accurate and realistic than the Dell S2721QS.

Samsung’s monitor falls a bit short in brightness. This leads to lackluster HDR performance. You won’t see the punchy, vibrant image expected of HDR content.

The S80A, like Dell’s S2721QS, does not cater to gamers. It has a standard 60Hz refresh rate and does not support AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync. It does make games look sharp, however, so those with a slower pace are best suited for that refresh rate.

Build quality is average for the price. The S80A’s stand is a bit less sturdy than that of competitors and the basic, matte black design could be more attractive. It strikes back with connectivity, however, as it provides multiple USB-A ports and a USB-C input.

Product image of ViewSonic XG3220
ViewSonic XG3220

The Viewsonic XG3220 is a 32-inch 4K monitor. It has a VA panel that supports AMD FreeSync. The monitor also supports HDR but is not VESA DisplayHDR certified.

This monitor offers good sharpness and solid color performance including respectable color accuracy. Its best trait, however, is the contrast ratio, which is above average even among monitors with a VA panel. Dark scenes look appropriately dark and have good shadow detail in most situations. This makes the monitor a good choice for viewing movies or streaming 4K content from Netflix.

The XG3220 can display HDR content, but its performance is below average. It lacks the brightness to let HDR content shine. It also has a standard 60Hz refresh rate, which will disappoint gamers. On the upside, it does support FreeSync for smooth gameplay on AMD video cards.

Although marketed towards gamers, the XG3220’s design is not overly aggressive and should fit in on most desks. It feels durable and comes with a sturdy stand that can adjust for height, tilt, and swivel.

Pros

  • Good contrast

  • Attractive image quality

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate

  • Disappointing HDR performance

Product image of Asus VP28UQG
Asus VP28UQG

The Asus VP28UQG is a 28-inch 4K monitor with a TN panel. It has a 60Hz refresh rate and supports AMD FreeSync. At the time of this writing, this was the least expensive option available.

Low pricing comes at the cost of everything else. The VP28UQG scored poorly in all our objective test metrics including brightness, contrast ratio, color gamut, and color accuracy. Its color performance was especially lackluster and significantly decreased image quality. Colorful photos, movies, and games look dull and unrealistic. Viewing angles were extremely bad, too. Simply moving a few inches in your chair can cause a noticeable shift in colors.

Build quality leaves a lot to be desired. The monitor looks fine but feels light and cheap in hand. It has a disappointing stand that only adjusts for tilt and isn’t tall enough to place the monitor at a comfortable viewing angle. The stand is wobbly and the screw used to secure it did not seem properly seated, which made it difficult to tighten.

Asus’ pricing can make the VP28UQG seem attractive, and this monitor is currently a top-seller on Amazon, but we recommend that you skip it without hesitation. It’s a disappointing display with flaws that are noticeable even when browsing the web or editing a Word document.

Pros

  • Supports AMD FreeSync

Cons

  • Disappointing image quality

  • Subpar build quality

  • Stand lacks adjustment

Meet the tester

Matthew S. Smith

Matthew S. Smith

Contributor

@Matt_on_tech

Matthew S. Smith is a veteran tech journalist and general-purpose PC hardware nerd. Formerly the Lead Editor of Reviews at Digital Trends, he has over a decade of experience covering PC hardware. Matt often flies the virtual skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator and is on a quest to grow the perfect heirloom tomato.

See all of Matthew S. Smith's reviews

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