For a discerning pro, a properly calibrated, accurate, and a detailed monitor is the name of the game. But, with so many “compelling” options on the market, it may be slightly confusing to uncover the best option specifically suited towards photography and digital creators.
With that, let’s cover the top ten best 4K monitors that provide the feature sets and capabilities to meet the workflow demands of seasoned shooters.
In color space, sRGB is the most common and preferred color space across the web. Alternatively, Rec. 709 is the more commonly recognized standard video or broadcast color space and almost identical to sRGB.
DCI-P3, however, is a slightly wider gamut and is the next progression in smoother color gradations. But, important, for those looking to print, you should prioritize monitors that offer the most coverage in AdobeRGB, not just sRGB, Rec.709, or DCI-P3. The reasoning is that AdobeRGB more closely replicates CMYK, the default color space used in printing. And it’s also a wider color gamut that provides superior color gradations, without the blotchiness typically found in the smaller color space.
Few monitors also support the newest Rec. 2020 standard, which is for UHD HDR. But it hasn’t become standardized yet and is still quite rare.
10 – Dell UltraSharp U2718Q
Dell’s U2718Q is a 27″ 4K HDR monitor backed with IPS technology. It provides HDR10, which produces higher contrast and enormous details to maximize its visual appeal. The monitor also provides a 163 PPI density, 99% sRGB, 99% Rec. 709, and 80.7% DCI-P3. With HDR10 support, users can confidently edit HDR images with much greater detail compared to traditional monitors. And its IPS panel also provides superb viewing angles at 178º. Overall, the U2718Q is an excellent choice for those not focused on printing, looking for a budget-friendly option.
9 – BenQ EX3501R
BenQ’s EX3501R is an ultra-wide monitor, perfect when size alone doesn’t cut it. Technically, its one BenQ positions as a gaming and video enjoyment monitor. However, it provides the goods to create quite a versatile option. It’s a 35″ 4K HDR monitor equipped with AMD FreeSync, 100hz refresh rate, and USB-C connectivity. It also features BenQ’s Brightness Intelligence technology, reducing eye strain during use. Plus, it offers 82% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB, and HDR10 support, for class-leading color accuracy and an excellent fit for creatives working with fine details. Coupled with its curved design, it quickly fills your field of view with a fully immersive experience. Overall, it’s brilliant and quickly surpasses rivals in image quality. And it delivers features to make it a strong all-rounder that’s worth the price.
8 – BenQ PD3200U
BenQ’s PD3200U is a business monitor designed for professionals, content creators, and CAD users. It’s a 32″ 4K monitor that offers a built-in KVM switch, SD card reader, coupled with a 10-bit wide-angle IPS panel. It also obtains BenQ’s Eye Protect setting and ambient light sensors to reduce eye fatigue. Right out the box, this monitor produces exceptional color accuracy with minimal error and is ready for use. And BenQ takes the time to factory calibrate each device before delivery. It covers 100% sRGB and Rec. 709 gamuts with outstanding highlight and shadow details in razor-sharp UHD resolution. Overall, it’s an excellent choice for professionals as a professional-grade monitor for those who want maximum accuracy with minimal fuss. Even better if you want near-perfect accuracy that fills your field of view with vibrant, lifelike colors.
7 – MSI Prestige PS341WU
MSI’s Prestige PS341WU is a premium monitor aimed at pro’s looking for a step up in resolution over competitors and the 4K norm. It’s a 34” 5K monitor back with a nano IPS panel with a 163 PPI. It packs not only superior resolution, but it also offers 100% sRGB 98% DCI-P3, and Adobe RGB support along with HDR and USB-C. Image quality and colors are superb and pop with immense contrast and details. Thus, if you want more resolution and fine resolving power than a conventional 4K UHD monitor, this is your choice.
6 – ViewSonic VP3268
ViewSonic’s VP3268 is one of their higher-end options geared strictly towards professionals needing utmost color accuracy. It’s a 4K UHD monitor backed on an IPS panel with HDR support. ViewSonic individually calibrates each monitor before delivery, and it provides 100% sRGB and Rec. 709 colors. And the monitor delivers outstanding uniformity without backlight bleed. Unlike rivals, it can pivot 90º for portrait work. Sure, it’s a simple and functional design. But, it provides an excellent cost to value ratio with color accuracy that rivals competitors twice its price.
5 – Dell UltraSharp UP3216Q
Dell UltraSharp UP3216Q is one of Dell’s latest heavy-duty monitors boasting PremierColor to set the standard for working professionals. It’s a much more affordable entry into this segment than it’s $3,000 plus predecessor. It’s 32-inches in size, backed by a true 10-bit IPS panel they individually calibrated before delivery. It boasts 99.5% AdobeRGB, 87% DCI-P3, and 100% sRGB and Rec. 709. Plus, a density of 138 PPI, makes its images pin-sharp, with enormous detail. The monitor also offers intuitive Picture-in-Picture and Zonal Color space modes, allowing each side to display different color spaces. Overall, it’s an impressive workhorse and an appealing option for those desiring excellent color accuracy and superb grayscale performance. And it provides all the tools you need for color-critical projects right out of the box.
4 – ASUS ProArt PA329Q
ASUS ProArt PA329Q is the company’s flagship for color accuracy and an excellent option for photo editing. It’s a 32″ IPS panel with 4K UHD resolution, HDR, and 10-bit color. Unlike rivals, it supports 100% AdobeRGB, making it the first from ASUS to boast this feature. Each device ships with full factory calibration. And it also supports the larger Rec. 2020 gamut, BlueLight filter, Picture-in-Picture, and a 90º portrait orientation. Overall, it’s a strong contender for those desiring a wider color gamut, excellent accuracy, and contrast. And its performance doesn’t disappoint.
3 – NEC MultiSync EA271U
NEC’s MultiSync EA271U is a 4K UHD equipment monitor that’s ready to tackle the most demanding applications. It’s 27-inches in size backed with a wide-angle 10-bit IPS panel, USB-C, Picture By Picture mode, and ambient light sensors. It offers 78.1% Adobe RGB and 100% s RGB coverage, plus a 90º portrait orientation. These combine to create a nearly pixel-free visualization and stunning 4K resolution. Sure, it’s a monitor oriented more towards business and enterprise solutions. However, in features, it’s also a strong consideration for creatives given its affordability.
2 – Viewsonic VP3881
Viewsonic’s VP3881 is an immersive curved display with stunning WQHD capabilities. It’s a professional monitor geared towards creative and uses a 38″ 4K IPS panel, HDR10 support, and UBS-C. It delivers incredible detail and vivid colors, along with a wide-angle of view. But, unlike the EX3501R, it offers a less pronounced curve, for more comfortable viewing. Typical for ViewSonic, the monitor also comes factory calibrated to ensure astonishing color accuracy across multiple color spaces, be it sRGB or Rec.709. And, overall, while it’s a simple, sleek, and modern design. It remains an excellent choice for content creators. And it’s one of very few monitors that boast this level of precision and accuracy out of the box. If sRGB is good for you, then this is your top choice.
1 – BenQ SW271
BenQ’s SW271 is the professional dream tool. It’s a 27″ 4K HDR equipped monitor with a 10-bit IPS panel and USB-C. It boasts 99% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB, and DCI-P3 coverage for a broad color reproduction and realistic representations. And with a density of 163 PPI, it’s got resolution backing it up. In usual BenQ fashion, it receives full factory calibration to ensure the utmost performance. Its Hotkey puck also lets you effortlessly switch between AdobeRGB, sRGB, and black & white modes with a single click. And combined with its GamutDuo mode, photographers can simultaneously view content in different color spaces side-by-side. At half the cost of alternatives, it’s surely a bargain and presents enormous value considering its feature set. Overall, it’s a monitor design to take a photographer’s work to the next level, and one that undoubtedly will.
Best Monitor for Photo Editing Guide
There are many things to consider when looking at these devices. So we’ve done our best to rank all of the relevant factors below in order of importance. But, ultimately, some of these factors may end up being more important to your workflow than others. So use this particular list as a baseline.
You can find these devices in several major types. But the most common are TN (twisted nematic) and IPS (in-plane switching) panels. TN panels are the default choice for many manufacturers, and they’re the cheapest panels to install. They offer excellent refresh rates and are ideally suited for playing video games where timing is critical. But, the downside is that these panels aren’t nearly as color accurate. So for photography, we don’t recommend opting for a device with a TN panel. Instead, IPS panels are the preferred choice. IPS technology combines both LCD and LED into a single panel.
And they deliver accurate color rendering and wide viewing angles that approach 180º. They also offer a better contrast ratio and true-to-life colors. Together, they improve the editing process by ensuring that what you see is accurate and the fine details remain discernable. As such, it’s critically important to look for a device using an IPS panel. Other panels will likely have noticeable differences in brightness and contrast when viewed at an angle. And that’s not ideal when editing photos.
The accuracy of the panel is the next most important factor. Sure, many reviewers highlight the resolution and size of a display. But, those specifications pale when compared to their accuracy, at least as far as editing is concerned.
Every device has a specific color range that it supports, known as a “gamut.” A gamut refers to a set range or percentage of colors a device can accurately recreate. And currently, the industry standards are sRGB and Adobe RGB.
It’s important to highlight that most devices focus on producing saturated, highly vivid colors rather than accurate ones. And while that’s great for playing a movie, it’s not ideal for editing photos professionally. This is because color accuracy ultimately determines how you perceive colors. And that, in turn, affects how you edit images. As such, it’s vital to get a device that produces accurate colors. So look for options with 100% sRGB coverage. sRGB is currently the most widely used color gamut and the default on nearly every consumer display. So having 100% coverage of this color range is not negotiable if the color translation of your images is important.
Another area to consider here is the device’s bit depth, which refers to the amount of color information it stores in an image. You can find devices ranging from 8-bit, which is standard, to 10 or 12-bit. The higher the bit depth, the more colors it stores, and the better the color reproduction. So if possible, look for a 10-bit monitor. There you’ll get even better color rendering so that you can see fine gradations with ease.
Lastly, you’ll want a device that comes factory calibrated to ensure it performs as claimed. And you’ll want to calibrate it periodically to remove any discrepancies as it ages. Unfortunately, only the high-end options include a built-in colorimeter, so you’ll also want to investigate an external one.
You can find these devices with a wide range of brightness values. But most generally have a maximum brightness of between 200-350 cd/m2 (nits). Generally, a brightness of 250 nits is best, as it’s bright enough to work in most rooms without difficulty. And you should be able to see all on-screen elements easily without strain. But, most high-end devices will lean towards the 350 nit side for maximum flexibility on the room you can use it in. Even so, 250 nits will prove sufficient for most users.
Also of note, if you’re looking for true HDR experience, you’ll want a device that has a brightness rating of 400 nits. And these monitors can support the new HDR400 standard. Anything lower, though, won’t accurately display the luminosity changes to create genuine HDR-like imagery.
You can find devices with various external coatings from matte, anti-reflective, or glossy. While glossy panels deliver better contrast and punch to images, we do not recommend them. Instead, opt for a device with a matte or anti-reflective coating. With these, you’ll see a flat image that more closely matches reality. And they’ll help translate your edits with greater fidelity, which is a must for printing.
Resolution is the measurement of how many pixels are displayed on-screen. And while it’s important, it’s not a deal-breaker. Most color-accurate displays will use 1080p FHD (1920 x 1080p) panels as standard. But, you can find plenty of models that offer 2K or 4K UHD resolutions. Generally, though, 1080p is sufficient for monitors less than 27-inches, while 4K is best for those over 27-inches. But, this is ultimately a factor that will come down to personal taste.
The size of the device is also another area that comes down to personal taste. And you may want a large display, say over 27-inches, if you’re looking for added on-screen real estate. Larger panels are also ideal if you do multi window editing so that you can have two tabs side-by-side without issue. However, it’s important to highlight that larger panels require higher resolutions to provide a similar effective sharpness as a smaller panel.
So it’s important that a large display has 4K UHD or higher resolution. Even so, they’ll help you resolve finer details in your images and do so with less eye strain. And they’ll also offer more on-screen real-estate for editing tools, which is a helpful bonus. Either way though, choosing the right size will come down to which one works best for your workflow.
The contrast ratio determines the luminance range the device produces. The greater the ratio, the deeper its blacks and the better the whites. But, most devices offer a ratio of 1,000:1 as standard. Ideally, you’d also want to know its static constant ratio, which measures contrast at a given brightness level. But, it’s important to note that not all manufacturers specify this information correctly.
And it’s not standardized or readily available for every product. So when you see the contrast, it’s usually the dynamic ratio, which is the maximum range produced over time. And while that’s helpful, it doesn’t accurately inform you of contrast delivered at the brightness you’ll likely use most of the time. So for this, if you can find the static contrast ratio, use that as a means to decide between options. Otherwise, pick the device with the higher dynamic contrast ratio.
Inputs & Outputs
You can find devices with a variety of built-in ports. And how you’ll end up connecting them to your computer will vary. Most ship with a full-sized HDMI port as standard. But, you can also find plenty of models with USB-C for an even simpler connection. And you can also find models with various other USB inputs to connect peripherals, like hard drives or SD card readers. For this, though, consider how you’ll connect the device to your computer. If you’re using a laptop, a USB-C cable will be the most convenient by far. But, if you don’t have USB-C, then HDMI is the only option.