There are just so many reasons why a proper monitor is essential for viewing, organising and editing your images. Some of them are obvious, some aren’t. Just remember, though, if you’re using a sub-standard monitor then half the editing work you do could be compensating for problems your photos don’t actually have.
We’ve rounded up six high-resolution, high-quality monitors to see what you can get for your money. Some are designed specifically for photography, while others have specs that suggest they ought to be, so it’s interesting to see how that pans out.
If you need more information about what to look for, click to page 2. If you already know, keep reading!
How we tested
All of these monitors went through our rigorous lab test process. Professional monitor calibration tools were used to get each one as close as possible to ‘standard’ colour and then they were checked for any residual colour errors using 24 different colour patches. They were also tested for brightness uniformity across the whole frame to produce brightness contours, or ‘heat maps’.
1. BenQ SW271
High-end specs and extra features make this a top contender
Size: 27in | Ratio: 16x9 | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): 99%
Like most of the monitors in this test group, the BenQ has a 27-inch screen with a 4K UHD native resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. It also has the usual 10-bit colour depth, equivalent to more than a billion colours. It’s well built with a sturdy case and a particularly rigid stand, which keeps the monitor wobble-free throughout the range of its tilt, swivel, height and pivot adjustments.
Factory preset sRGB and Adobe RGB modes are available, along with an HDR mode. BenQ claims 100% coverage of the sRGB range and 99% for Adobe RGB. Palette Master Element calibration software comes with the monitor, to maintain optimum colour accuracy. Other supplied extras include a hotkey puck control dial for easily switching between sRGB, Adobe RGB and advanced B&W display modes.
Factory presets proved highly accurate for colour rendition, but with a very marginal green colour cast. After calibration, colour rendition proved excellent, with superb coverage of Adobe RGB gamut, only matched by the Eizo monitor.
2. Eizo ColorEdge CS2730
It boasts photo-friendly features but is down on pixel count
Size: 27in | Ratio: 16x9 | Resolution: 2560x1440 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): 99%
Whereas all of the other monitors on test have a full 4K UHD native resolution, this Eizo ColorEdge sets its sights a little lower at 2540x1440, resulting in a pixel count of about 3.7MP instead of 8.3MP. The pixel density is also lower, at 109ppi rather than 163ppi, but image quality still looks absolutely super-sharp.
Ports at the rear include DVI, HDMI and DP, along with two upstream USB 3.0 ports. There are three downstream USB 3.0 ports behind the left-hand side of the case. Bundled software includes Quick Color Match, to enable easy colour matching between screen viewing and printed output. It also comes with ColorNavigator software for use with independent calibration hardware (not supplied).
Colour accuracy of our review sample was pretty much spot on, straight out of the box. The Eizo ColorEdge also delivers excellent gamut for both sRGB and Adobe RGB, with presets available for both colour spaces, direct from the menu system. Uniformity across the screen is particularly good, and there’s very little backlight bleed.
3. LG 27UD88-W
Life’s good when you’re svelte, stylish and generally gorgeous
Size: 27in: | Ratio: 16x9: | Resolution: 3840x2160: | Brightness: 350cd/m2: | Contrast ratio: 1000:1: | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): Unspecified
With a slimline design and slender crescent-shaped silver base, the LG 27UD88-W makes everything else on test look comparatively clunky. The only real compromise is that, while tilt, height and pivot facilities are available, there’s no swivel mechanism built into the base.
There’s a good range of input ports, including DP, dual HDMI and USB Type-C, along with a USB 3.0 hub that has two downstream ports. Instead of a row of physical or ‘virtual’ touch-sensitive buttons along the lower edge of the bezel, there’s a neat joystick-like controller under the bottom of the screen. This enables easy selection of wide-ranging display modes including sRGB, but, unfortunately, there’s no dedicated Adobe RGB preset.
In our tests, the monitor scored very highly for colour accuracy in sRGB mode, gaining virtually nothing from a custom calibration. However, gamut for the Adobe RGB colour space is a little lacking compared with the likes of the BenQ and Eizo monitors on test. Detail in very dark lowlights tends to be slightly disappointing.
4. NEC MultiSync EA275UHD
It’s a quality display monitor that’s also good for business
Size: 27in: | Ratio: 16x9: | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): Unspecified
The NEC MultiSync EA275UHD monitor has a slightly corporate feel to it, supporting ‘cost saving device management’, whereby all connected NEC devices can be controlled from a central location. There’s also a wide range of eco-friendly settings.
Standard and ‘photo’ viewing modes are accompanied by text, gaming, movie and dynamic modes, but there’s no preset for the Adobe RGB colour space. Connection ports include DP, DVI and HDMI, along with a USB 3.0 hub. Unusually, the MultiSync EA275UHD also features built-in speakers, only matched by the larger ViewSonic monitor in this test group. Touch-sensitive virtual control buttons are on the lower and right-hand bezel edges.
Used in its sRGB preset, the NEC proved disappointingly inaccurate for colour rendition, with a noticeably red colour cast. Switch to the default viewing mode, however, and colour accuracy is transformed, beating even the BenQ (though the BenQ delivers better results after a custom calibration). Brightness uniformity is boosted by a dedicated uniformity-enhancing mode. Gamut for the Adobe RGB colour space is good, if not great.
5. ViewSonic VP3268-4K
It’s bigger than the average monitor, but is it smarter?
Size: 31.5in | Ratio: 16x9 | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1300:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): 77%
This 31.5-inch screen is notably larger than the 27-inch models on test, yet the ultra-thin bezel keeps the overall size from being intimidating, while the full 4K UHD resolution maintains pin-sharp image quality.
Around the back, there are DP, mDP and dual HDMI inputs, as well as the practically ubiquitous treatment of a USB 3.0 hub. Further similarities with the other monitors on test include a 350cd/m2 maximum brightness rating, 5ms response time (grey-to-grey), 178-degree viewing angle on the horizontal and vertical.
Distinctive features include an HDR mode and a 1300:1 contrast ratio, the latter shared only by the Dell monitor in this group. On the negative side, there’s no preset Adobe RGB mode and ViewSonic only claims 77% coverage of the full Adobe RGB gamut.
Image quality looks a little dull when using the sRGB preset, which locks out any brightness adjustment. Colour accuracy is good but gamut is a little lacking for the Adobe RGB colour space and brightness uniformity could be better. Overall, however, image quality is very satisfying.
6. Dell UltraSharp U2718Q
Keenly priced, this Dell monitor goes large on features
Size: 27-inch | Ratio: 16x9 | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1300:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): Unspecified
One of the least expensive monitors in the group, the Dell UltraSharp still packs full 4K UHD resolution, 10-bit colour depth and some neat extras, all inside a smart case with an ‘InfinityEdge’ ultra-thin bezel. There’s no preset Adobe RGB mode, but the standard viewing mode is accompanied by game, movie, custom colour and several additional presets, which include an HDR mode.
Video ports include HDMI, DP and mDP, and there’s also a built-in USB 3.0 hub with two downstream connectors at the bottom left hand side of the case. Control buttons on the underside of the case have a tactile feel and work well with the intuitive menu system. The maximum contrast ratio is higher than most of the other monitors featured in our Big Test, rated at 1300:1 and only matched by the ViewSonic.
Image quality is good rather than great, especially in terms of outright colour accuracy. One plus point is that there’s very little bleed from the backlight, making for good, strong blacks, although detail can be lost in very dark lowlights.