Why you should trust us
Andrew Cunningham has been testing, reviewing, and otherwise writing about PCs, Macs, and other gadgets for AnandTech, Ars Technica, and Wirecutter since 2011. He has been building, upgrading, and fixing PCs for more than 15 years, and he spent five of those years in IT departments buying and repairing laptops and desktops as well as helping people buy the best tech for their needs.
Our monitor guides benefit from the expert advice of Wirecutter senior staff writer Chris Heinonen—AnandTech’s former monitor guru and the guy a number of other reviewers go to for display-testing advice. He helped us figure out the best hardware and software to use for our testing, and he designed the evaluation process.
Who this is for
If you have room on your desk, a 27-inch monitor is an ideal size. If you use lots of apps at once and have good eyesight, a 27-inch monitor fits a lot more information than smaller screens do. If you have poor eyesight, you can also scale up the size of text and images and still have a usable amount of desktop space.
Most people buying a new monitor for their desktop or laptop computer should consider a 2560×1440 monitor (also known as a Quad HD or QHD monitor). These monitors aren’t as sharp as 4K screens, but they are usually several hundred dollars cheaper. And it’s easy to find models with plenty of ports, excellent adjustable stands, and great picture quality.
On the other hand, if you edit photos or video for a living, or if you just want sharper text and more detailed images, consider a 4K monitor instead. A 27-inch 4K monitor has a 3840×2160-pixel resolution, 2.25 times as many pixels as a QHD monitor. But a good 4K monitor costs a few hundred dollars more than a good QHD monitor, and not everyone will benefit from the added sharpness—if you sit more than a few feet from your monitor, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to tell much of a difference. Our full guide to 4K monitors has even more picks for people who need a larger or cheaper 4K screen.
If you don’t have enough space on your desk for a 27-inch monitor, one of our 24-inch monitor picks might be better. If you’re looking for the cheapest good monitor you can buy, consider a 1080p budget monitor. And if you work with lots of big spreadsheets or databases (or multiple apps side by side) and you don’t want a multi-monitor setup—either because you don’t have the space for them or you want one large, continuous workspace—read our guide to ultrawide monitors.
How we picked
These are the features you should look for in a 27-inch monitor:
- Display technology: We only tested monitors that use IPS display panels, not TN (or VA), because IPS panels provide far better viewing angles and color reproduction.
- Resolution: The three most common monitor resolutions that we test across all our guides are 1080p, or 1920×1080; Quad HD/QHD, or 2560×1440; and 4K, or 3840×2160. For a 27-inch monitor, 1080p is too low a resolution—text and images will likely be visibly pixelated or blocky. And 4K monitors, while excellent for photo or video work, are much more expensive—this is part of the reason we have a separate guide for them. For most people, QHD monitors offer the best combination of detail, usable desktop space, and price.
- Ports: HDMI and DisplayPort connections are both requirements for any good monitor, and the best ones will also include a USB-C port that can receive a display signal and charge a connected laptop at the same time. Great monitors should also include a USB 3.0 hub so you can connect peripherals like keyboards, mice, and webcams, since modern laptops come with fewer and fewer ports of their own.
- Contrast ratio: We measured each monitor’s contrast ratio—the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black that the screen can display. We measured each monitor’s contrast ratio during our testing, instead of relying on the manufacturer’s listing. A contrast ratio of 1000:1 or higher (note that higher is better) is typical of IPS panels. Having a good contrast ratio is a little more important than having accurate color—you can often fix inaccurate color after the fact by calibrating the monitor yourself, but a poor contrast ratio is harder to address.
- Color accuracy and color gamut: For any kind of photo, video, or graphics work, a monitor’s color accuracy ensures that your images look the way you intend them to when they appear on another screen or in print. Monitors that have been calibrated by their manufacturers have better color accuracy than ones that don’t. For the best image quality, your monitor should also cover as much of the sRGB color gamut as possible; the more gamut coverage a monitor provides, the wider the range of colors it can accurately represent. Coverage of the wider DCI-P3 color gamut is also a plus. If you’re doing professional image work on the monitor, we recommend either calibrating it yourself or hiring a professional to do it. Though the accuracy of factory-calibrated monitors is generally great, professional calibration can usually improve it.
- Stands and VESA mount support: If your monitor doesn’t allow you to properly align it for correct posture, your body can pay the price. The most ergonomic option, and a requirement for our picks, is a monitor’s ability to attach to a monitor arm via a VESA mount. But because good monitor arms can cost an additional $100 to $200, our recommendations prioritize monitors with stands that can tilt front to back, swivel side to side, slide up and down, and pivot into portrait mode.
- Warranty: We only looked at monitors that came with warranties lasting three years or longer. A good dead-pixel policy that protects your purchase from bright and dark pixel defects is also important.
- Refresh rate: A 60-hertz (Hz) refresh rate over either HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 keeps things smooth and prevents laggy animations and mouse movements. Older versions of HDMI and DisplayPort topped out at 30 Hz for 4K monitors or relied on multiple cables to achieve 60 Hz. You can buy monitors with much faster refresh rates—from 75 Hz all the way up to 360 Hz—but they’re more expensive than 60 Hz monitors, the integrated graphics processors on laptops don’t support them, and if you’re not playing fast-paced video games they offer little benefit.
- Design: A monitor’s bezel, or the border around the screen, doesn’t affect its functionality. But a slim border looks more modern and reduces the amount of space between screens if you’re using a multi-monitor setup.
- Easy-to-use controls: Your monitor’s on-screen display should make it easy to change settings such as text size or brightness. Its buttons—whether capacitive or physical—should also be easy to use.
- Variable refresh rates: If you don’t play PC games, you don’t need to worry about this. A monitor with a variable refresh rate, also called adaptive sync, matches the screen’s refresh rate to the frame rate of the game you’re playing as it goes up and down, eliminating screen tearing and stuttering, and reducing input latency without impacting the game’s performance. A few of the monitors we looked at support FreeSync, which works with both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.1
We looked through the websites of monitor manufacturers such as Acer, Asus, BenQ, Dell, HP, LG, and ViewSonic to find new QHD models to consider (in addition to the 4K models we considered for our 4K monitors guide and models we’ve already dismissed for previous versions of the guide). We eliminated monitors that didn’t meet our criteria, weren’t readily available through established retailers, or were significantly more expensive than the other monitors we considered.
How we tested
To test those monitors, we performed typical desktop work for a few hours on each one, noting the sturdiness and quality of the stand and how easy the monitor was to adjust using the on-screen controls. We tested for some common issues that can afflict LCD monitors, like low-light flicker (also called PWM flicker) and image retention.
We then tested the accuracy of each monitor’s color and contrast—a screen with too-bright, oversaturated color might look good to the naked eye, but photos, videos, and web pages won’t look the way their creators intended. We tested each monitor using an X-Rite i1Basic Pro and an X-Rite OEM i1Display colorimeter, and we ran custom tests using the CalMAN 2019 software calibration suite designed by Wirecutter senior staff writer Chris Heinonen. The CalMAN tests produce DeltaE 2000 numbers, which show how much the displayed color deviates from what it’s supposed to be: the lower the number, the better the result. A DeltaE value lower than 1.0 is perfect. Under 2.0 is good enough for print-production work, and you wouldn’t notice a difference even if you had a perfect reference to compare against. Ratings above 3.0 mean you’d probably see a difference with your naked eye.
Color gamut, or the range of colors that a device can accurately represent, is also important—color accuracy doesn’t mean much if your screen shows only a portion of the colors meant to be displayed—so we used our CalMAN tests to determine how much of the sRGB color gamut each monitor’s screen could reproduce. The ideal score is 100%. Our numbers don’t go past that because reporting numbers larger than 100% can give the impression of full gamut coverage even in cases where that isn’t true—for example, if the monitor displays many colors outside the gamut without displaying all the ones inside it.
4K monitors often include support for a wider color gamut called DCI-P3, which is primarily used in film production but is also supported by most of Apple’s recent phones and computers and a number of high-end Windows laptops. It’s rare to come across 100% DCI-P3 coverage, at least in our price range, but anything higher than 80% is better than average.
For each round of tests, we adjusted the monitor’s brightness to 140 cd/m2 (candelas per square meter), a good value for everyday use, and set its contrast as high as it could go without losing white details. We tested different built-in color presets for the monitors that had them, noting the ones that produced the most accurate colors.
Our pick: HP Z27n G2
The HP Z27n G2 is greater than the sum of its specs—it’s neither the most color-accurate QHD monitor we tested nor the cheapest, but it’s definitely the best value for the money. It has a useful array of ports including USB-C support and a USB hub, good picture quality, a flexible stand that can adjust the monitor’s height as well as tilt, pivot, and swivel, and HP offers a great three-year warranty and dead-pixel policy. The only downside is that its USB-C ports can’t provide enough power to charge a laptop, so you’ll still need to plug in your laptop with a separate power cable.
The Z27n G2 includes ports that will connect to just about any computer manufactured in the past 15 years: one DVI port, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort input and a DisplayPort output, and a USB-C port that functions as another DisplayPort input and enables the monitor’s USB hub. The USB hub provides two USB-A ports on the back and another USB-A port and a USB port on the side.
When using the monitor’s Photo color preset, which is the most accurate of its presets, the Z27n G2 has good but not exceptional contrast and color accuracy. Its contrast ratio of 1056:1 is typical of most LCD monitors—shades of black and the detail level in dark photos or videos will look the same on most of the QHD monitors we tested. In our tests for color accuracy, its CalMAN DeltaE scores were generally a little below or a little above 2.0, which means the monitor’s color is accurate enough for day-to-day use but not necessarily for precise professional photo and video editing.
The stand tilts, swivels, pivots, and adjusts in height, so it’s easier to make the monitor comfortable to look at regardless of your desk setup; only a monitor arm (which the Z27n G2 supports) can give you more flexibility. In our tests, the stand was stable no matter how we adjusted the monitor, though the screen could wobble a bit if we bumped the desk. (This was true of every monitor we tested, and it’s hard to avoid with screens this big.)
HP’s standard three-year monitor warranty and dead-pixel policy together make for some of the best coverage you can get with any monitor; HP will replace your screen if it has any bright subpixels, as well as if it has more than four dark or dead subpixels. Dell’s dead-pixel policy covers only bright pixels, while other monitor manufacturers offer short dead-pixel policies or none at all.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Most monitors with USB-C ports can provide somewhere between 45 and 65 W of power to a connected laptop, which is enough to charge 13-inch laptops like Dell’s XPS 13 or Apple’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. But the USB-C port on the back of the Z27n G2 can only output 15 W of power, and the one on the side supplies only 10 W of power. This is enough to charge a phone, or possibly to trickle-charge a laptop in sleep mode when it isn’t being actively used, but it’s not enough to replace your laptop’s power cable. This won’t really matter if you’re using a desktop, or a power-hungry 15-inch laptop with dedicated graphics that needs more than 65 W of power in the first place. But it makes the USB-C port less useful than it usually is.
The monitor’s USB-C port and USB hub also don’t work at all if the monitor is in Power Saver mode, which is enabled by default. If you’re trying to use the monitor’s USB-C port and having no luck, this might be the reason.
Budget pick: Acer V277U bmiipx
The V277U 2560×1440 IPS monitor is a great screen for the price, but it’s not especially accurate unless you calibrate it yourself. Its stand is bad, too, and it has neither a USB hub nor USB-C.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $258.
Acer’s V277U bmiipx usually costs at least $100 less than the HP Z27n G2. There are reasons for that: Its color accuracy out of the box is mediocre at best, Acer’s dead-pixel policy on its three-year warranty isn’t as generous as HP’s, the monitor has no USB hub or USB-C ports, and you may want to add a monitor arm to replace the wobbly stand. But if you’re not doing professional photo-editing work and you don’t care about pivoting or flipping your monitor, this is a great-looking screen for the price. And its impressive contrast ratio and color gamut coverage make it good enough for high-end photo work if you calibrate it yourself.
If all you plan to do with your monitor is look at it with your own eyes, the V277U looks great; movies and games appear vibrant and colorful, and this monitor is fine for casual photo or video editing. But if you’re editing photos and videos professionally for other people to look at, the V277U probably won’t be accurate enough for you out of the box, even on its Graphics preset (its most-accurate preset). In our tests, its DeltaE 2000 values were generally between 3.0 and 4.0; anything above 3.0 begins to look inaccurate in comparison with a reference photo.
The monitor’s redeeming qualities are its exceptional 1142:1 contrast ratio, and the fact that it covers most of the DCI-P3 color gamut. A monitor that covers DCI-P3 can show a wider variety of red and green shades than typical sRGB monitors can, and although most people don’t need that, it can be useful for high-end video and photo editing if you’ve properly calibrated the V277U.
But in most other ways, the V277U looks and feels exactly like the cheap computer monitor that it is. The whole thing feels plasticky and light, and the mediocre, wobbly stand doesn’t offer height adjustments, swiveling, or pivoting. Because it’s VESA-compatible, you can always switch the monitor’s stand out for a monitor arm, but our other picks have much more versatile default stands.
Acer’s three-year warranty covers its monitor for the same amount of time as HP’s warranty does for its models, but the company’s dead-pixel policy isn’t as good. HP will replace your monitor if it has any bright subpixels at all, or if it has four or more dark or dead subpixels. Acer’s requires at least two bright subpixels, five dark or dead subpixels, or a total of five defective subpixels of either type. Any dead-pixel policy at all is better than none, but if your screen develops a single stubborn bright subpixel, Acer can’t help you out.
While it’s not a gaming monitor, the V277U does support a higher-than-normal 75 Hz refresh rate as well as FreeSync adaptive sync support. The former can make scrolling and other animations look a little smoother than they do on a typical 60 Hz monitor, and the latter eliminates screen tearing and stuttering. Monitors designed and sold specifically as gaming monitors offer even higher refresh rates than the V277U, but Acer’s monitor is still a good option for people who want to save money or only play these kinds of games occasionally.
The V277U’s controls are positioned on the back of the monitor, forcing you to grope blindly for the buttons, and you have to navigate with an odd, joystick-esque knob. I regularly turned the monitor off by accident when I was trying to adjust the controls, but once you get the picture the way you like it, you shouldn’t have to mess with them often.
The best 4K monitor: Dell UltraSharp U2720Q
The 4K Dell UltraSharp U2720Q (and the identical U2720QM) is the best 4K monitor for most people because it offers a wide variety of useful ports, exceptionally accurate colors, a great-looking design, and a stand that allows you to tilt, swivel, pivot, and adjust the height of the monitor. Its USB-C port lets you transmit data and video and charge a USB-C laptop at 90 W, enough for a 15- or 16-inch MacBook Pro. It also comes with a three-year warranty and Dell’s great Premium Panel Guarantee dead-pixel policy. It costs around $200 more than the HP Z27n G2, but if you’re doing photo or video editing, the extra cost is worth it.
You can read more about the Dell U2720Q in our guide to 4K monitors.
For more information about the 4K monitors we’ve tested, read our full guide to 4K monitors.
Dell’s U2719DC is a fantastic monitor. It’s slimmer and sleeker looking than the other 1440p monitors we tested, it had a great 1107:1 contrast ratio in our tests, and its color measurements were all at a DeltaE score of around 1.0 or under—essentially perfect. It also has a USB-C port that can provide up to 65 W of power to a connected laptop. But at over $400, it’s just too expensive for a non-4K monitor; most people should shell out the extra $100 for a sharper 4K model instead. If you ever find the U2719DC anywhere near $300, however, buy this model instead of the Z27n G2.
We didn’t test the Dell U2719D, which is the same monitor as the U2719DC without the USB-C port. But it’s still more expensive than the HP Z27n G2, so the HP monitor is still the better choice—unless you want an especially accurate QHD monitor, don’t mind paying a bit more for it, and don’t care about USB-C now and won’t care about it for as long as you’re still using the monitor.
Dell’s U2717D, when it’s on its sRGB color preset, is a bit more color accurate than the HP Z27n G2. It also has slim bezels, a fully adjustable stand, a three-year warranty with Dell’s Premium Panel Guarantee/Warranty dead-pixel policy, conveniently located USB-A ports, and DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, and HDMI ports. We recommend the HP Z27n G2 as the best QHD monitor because it has USB-C ports, but the U2717D is a good and slightly cheaper option if you don’t care about USB-C and if you don’t mind that the monitor is an older model.
Lenovo’s P27h usually costs about the same as the Z27n G2, and its USB-C port can provide up to 45 W of power to a connected laptop—enough for most 13-inch laptops. It’s also reasonably accurate: In our tests, all of its DeltaE 2000 measurements were between 2.0 and 3.0. But the Z27n G2 was a bit more accurate, Lenovo’s dead-pixel policy isn’t as good, and the P27h is available at fewer retailers. It’s not a bad monitor, especially if you find it on sale for less than $300, but the Z27n G2 is just a bit better.
The ViewSonic VP2771 had better color accuracy than most of the QHD monitors we tested, with an impressive 1109:1 contrast ratio and nearly perfect DeltaE values between 1.0 and 1.5. Its USB-C port can also provide enough power to charge a 13-inch laptop at or near full speed (according to our 13-inch MacBook Pro, its power output was about 57 W). But color accuracy isn’t everything; the VP2771 comes with a chunky external power brick that takes up extra space on your floor or desk, its three USB-A ports are all located inconveniently on the back of the monitor, and its three-year warranty includes only 30 days of dead-pixel coverage. Typically it’s also around $100 more expensive than the Z27n G2, and that’s more than you should spend on a non-4K monitor at this point.
HP’s E273q is just barely cheaper than the Z27n G2, it has color measurements similar to those of our top pick, and it comes with a smaller but still comprehensive selection of ports (one HDMI, one DisplayPort, one USB-C, and two USB 3.0 Type-A). It also has a fully adjustable stand and a good three-year warranty, albeit without the company’s Zero Bright Dots dead-pixel policy. But as on the Z27n G2, its USB-C port can put out only 15 W of power—enough to fast-charge a phone but not enough to power most 13-inch laptops. And when we connected the E273q to a Mac, we had to turn the monitor off and then back on again to get the Mac to recognize it after waking the computer up from sleep.
BenQ’s PD2700Q is usually a little cheaper than the Z27n G2 but more expensive than the Acer V277U. Its port selection is mediocre (it lacks USB-C, and its USB-A ports handle only USB 2.0 speeds), and it has big, chunky bezels. On top of that, it had poor color reproduction in our tests—its 1230:1 contrast ratio was the best of anything we tested, but its DeltaE numbers were all near or above 3.0. The HP Z27n G2 is only a bit more expensive and better in every way.