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The best monitors in 2020

best monitors
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best monitors do more than just put up a pretty picture. Whether you need something for general use, for gaming, or even professional graphics work, the right monitor will often be the difference between comfortable enjoyment and awkward discomfort. We've looked at dozens of desktop displays to find the best monitors for a range of uses, from basic office use to fast-paced gaming and even color-critical graphics work. We even have a favorite portable monitor on the list to take with you on road trips.

And there's way more to picking a monitor than just how good the display panel looks. From features that make it easy to connect to ergonomic functions that are better for your posture and eyes, a good monitor has to deliver on several fronts.

We've looked at monitors ranging from small to extra large, with resolutions from 1080p to 4K, and features like frame syncing and adjustable stands, and measuring everything from the color gamut and brightness to response times. We've also identified specific use-cases that make a monitor a better fit for one person or another. Whether it's professional work or gaming, in your home office or on the road, these are the best monitors you can buy.

What are the best monitors?

For general use, we like the Dell SE2719HR. With a solid basic feature set and good performance, the 27-inch Dell1080p monitor is an affordable option that will meet the needs of most users.

The Samsung Space Monitor (SR75) is a 32-inch 4K monitor that will actually free up space on your desk thanks to an innovative space-saving design that can sit flush with a wall or low at and angle to give you a perfect view without sacrificing real estate on a crowded desk.

The compact HP EliteDisplay S14 is the best portable monitor out there, giving you a second screen to use on the road. Thanks to an included USB-C cable, it's easy to connect and the lightweight, compact design is easy to carry with a laptop in your bag.

For a truly immersive experience, we like curved monitors, and the Acer Predator X34 is the best of the bunch. The 34-inch ultrawide display wraps around to provide perfect viewing angles from edge to edge, making it a great pick for gaming or just dealing with huge spreadsheets.

The Dell S2417DG is a sleeper gaming monitor that will fit in at even the drabbest office, while the Alienware AW5520QF is a giant 55-inch OLED gaming monitor that's big enough to fit in amongst the best TVs.

For the best picture quality you can get, we love the Acer PEO Series ProDesigner PE320QK. Aimed at photographers, and graphic designers who need pixel-perfect images and exacting color, it's the best monitor for professional users by a long shot.

The best monitors you can buy today

best monitors: Dell SE2719HR

Dell SE2719HR (Image credit: Dell)

1. Dell SE2719HR

The best monitor for general use

Size: 27 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Refresh Rate: 75Hz | Response Time: 8 ms | Ports: HDMI, VGA | Frame Syncing: AMD FreeSync

Wide viewing angles
Crisp detail and good color
Sleek design for an affordable monitor
Limited port selection
No height adjustment

For a monitor that's great for everyday use and won't cost an arm and a leg, the Dell SE2719HR is our pick. The 27-inch Dell boasts an IPS panel, so the display will look great from any angle. While it won't match the resolution of a 4K monitor, the display is still sharp and clear, with vibrant color and deep black levels. With only HDMI and VGA inputs, it's not ideal for gaming (DisplayPort is better suited to the higher frame rates of a GPU), but most any other use should be ably handled by the 27-inch display, thanks to its minimal lag times and 75Hz refresh rate.

An adjustable stand lets you set the angle to your comfort and liking, while the bezels around the display are surprisingly slim. And with a relatively small stand, the footprint of the monitor is compact enough that you won't have to give up much of your desk space. Heck, with the sleek design and affordable price, you just might pick up two for a dual-screen workspace. For our favorite monitor in terms of function and value, the Dell SE2719HR is the best monitor on our list.

best monitors: Samsung Space Monitor (SR75)

Samsung Space Monitor (SR75) (Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Space Monitor (SR75)

The best space saving monitor

Size: 32 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Refresh Rate: 60 Hz | Response Time: 4ms | Ports: HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0 | Frame Syncing: None

Innovative space-saving design
Slim bezels
Vibrant, accurate colors
Few ports
Setup can be tricky

If you're looking for a monitor that won't take up half your desk with a bulky stand, then the Samsung Space Monitor (SR75) is for you. This 32-inch monitor takes up a fraction of the space used by other monitors of this size thanks to its innovative, minimalist design, which includes a clamp-mounted monitor stand that pivots out of the way and folds into the monitor housing when not in use. It's one of the best monitors for anyone that's turned a corner of their home into a makeshift home office.

The 32-inch, 4K display offers plenty of room for multitasking and has sharp, vivid colors, but we were a little disappointed by the monitor's lower brightness and limited adjustability. The minimalist aesthetic also extends to the port selection, which boasts only a single HDMI port, a Mini DisplayPort and a USB connection. However, the Space Monitor did admirably well in performance testing, with strong color and brightness results that make it great for both office work and media consumption, though it's not ideal for gaming. It's a decent monitor all around, but if you want the display that will help alleviate the claustrophobia of a cramped office or crowded desk, the Samsung Space Monitor (SR75) is the best monitor for saving space.

best monitors: Dell S2417DG

Dell S2417DG (Image credit: Dell)

3. Dell S2417DG

The best basic gaming monitor

Size: 24 inches | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Refresh Rate: 165 Hz | Response Time: 1ms | Ports: DisplayPort, HDMI | Frame Syncing: Nvidia G-Sync

Vibrant quad-HD display
Very responsive
Useful game presets
Highly adjustable
Stiff navigation buttons

The Dell 24-inch S2417DG may look like a hum-drum basic monitor, but first impressions can be deceiving. With better-than-1080p resolution and a 165Hz refresh rate, this is one of the best monitors for everyday gaming we've seen, and it's extremely affordable, too. And, with a design that skips the usual RGB lighting and extreme stylings of most gaming monitors, it's also well-suited to any environment, including the office or home work setup.

The subdued design features an adjustable ergonomic stand, rotation between landscape and portrait orientations, and slim bezels that let you see more of the display and less of the borders around it. In our tests, we were extremely impressed with how good the monitor made games and other multimedia look. We also loved the inclusion of Nvidia G-Sync support, a choice of HDMI and DisplayPort inputs, and a wide array of visual settings and gaming presets. The Dell 24-inch S2417DG is the best monitor for basic gaming, and for most other uses.

Read our full Dell S2417DG review.

best monitors: HP EliteDisplay S14

HP EliteDisplay S14 (Image credit: HP)

4. HP EliteDisplay S14

Best portable monitor

Size: 14 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Refresh Rate: 60 Hz | Response Time: 5ms | Ports: USB-C (video and power) | Frame Syncing: None

Slick design with included cover and stand
Simple one-cable connectivity
Accessible settings menus
Anti-glare display
No screen rotation

Not all monitors are made for the office. The HP EliteDisplay S14, in fact, is made for everywhere but the office, with a portable design and handy cover that doubles as a stand, ready to go on any work trip, cafe excursion or just to keep you working on multiple screens without being at your desk. With USB-C connectivity, the HP EliteDisplay S14 gets signal and power form one simple cable, and the slim design is small enough to pack alongside your laptop.

And as a travel monitor, the HP EliteDisplay S14 excels. The lightweight design makes it easy to pack, and the folding cover protects the anti-glare display from scratches and other damage, while the monitor's IPS panel offers great viewing angles. Performance in color and brightness were just acceptable – as expected for a portable monitor – but the overall design, included USB-C cable and overall convenience it offers are second to none. If you need a second screen when you're out on the road, the HP EliteDisplay S14 is the best monitor to get for pure portability.

best monitors: Acer Predator X34

Acer Predator X34 (Image credit: Acer)

5. Acer Predator X34

Best curved monitor

Size: 34 inches | Resolution: 3440 x 1440 | Refresh Rate: 100 Hz | Response Time: 4ms | Ports: DisplayPort, HDMI | Frame Syncing: Nvidia G-Sync

Impressive design
Gorgeous picture quality
Low latency
Solid built-in speakers
Navigating menus can be a pain

Curved TVs may have been a short-lived fad, but widescreen curved monitors are genuinely better than flat panel displays for everything from gaming to working with giant spreadsheets. The Acer Predator X34 is made with gaming in mind, but it's got such excellent chops that we'd recommend it for pretty much any use, from blasting bad guys to crunching numbers. The Predator's 34-inch, 3440 x 1440-pixel display is one of the best we've ever tested, with excellent brightness, color and very low latency.

Multitasking is easy on the ultrawide display, and the height-adjustable stand lets you position to monitor exactly to your liking. Gaming performance is enhanced with Nvidia G-Sync support and custom profiles that can be fine-tuned to specific users and games, while RGB lighting accents can be tweaked to your favorite colors and usage. It also has great sound, with a pair of built-in 7-watt speakers that are loud and crisp. All told, the Acer Predator X34 is the best curved monitor you can get, for gaming or anything else.

Read our full Acer Predator X34 review.

best monitors: Acer PEO Series ProDesigner PE320QK

Acer PEO Series ProDesigner PE320QK (Image credit: Acer)

6. Acer PEO Series ProDesigner PE320QK

Best for professional users

Size: 32 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Response Time: 4ms | Ports: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0 | Frame Syncing: AMD FreeSync

Excellent color with preset color space modes
Built-in display hood and anti-glare layer
AMD FreeSync support
Some presets remove customization options
Middling audio quality

The Acer PEO Series ProDesigner PE320QK is a widescreen 4K monitor that's made for professionals who demand the best color and accuracy they can get for working with images, video and graphics. One of the best monitors overall for serious work, the PE320QK comes calibrated from the factory, offering superb accuracy right out of the box, and comes with a matte display and built-in display hood that eliminates the glare and ambient light that might skew color perception.

This excellent display is made with pros in mind, and also boasts HDR 10 and DCI-P3 support, along with AMD FreeSync. It checks all the right boxes for letting you do your best work, without the fuss of pro-grade displays that might require extensive calibration to dial in the color quality. Whether you're a freelancer working from home or one of many in a studio or creative shop, the Acer PEO Series ProDesigner PE320QK is the best monitor for creative professionals.

Read our full Acer PEO Series ProDesigner PE320QK review.

best monitors: Alienware AW5520QF 55-Inch OLED Gaming Monitor

Alienware AW5520QF 55-Inch OLED Gaming Monitor (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

7. Alienware AW5520QF 55-Inch OLED Gaming Monitor

The best OLED screen

Size: 55 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Refresh Rate: 120 Hz | Response Time: 0.5 ms | Ports: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort, USB 3.0 | Frame Syncing: Nvidia G-Sync

Beautiful, polished design
Superb OLED panel
DisplayPort and multiple USB 3.0 ports
Crazy expensive
Complicated to enable features like HDR

The Alienware AW5520QF 55-Inch OLED gaming monitor puts a killer OLED display into a TV-like size that's made for big screen gaming. With a size that toes the line between TV and monitor, the 55-inch display has a highly polished design, a cornucopia of great features and key gaming monitor features such as DisplayPort connectivity and fast 120Hz refresh rates. And while it's technically not a TV, it also comes with a slick remote control to adjust the picture settings and navigate menus from the comfort of your couch.

But it's not just a TV-sized monitor, it's also a superb OLED gaming display. The Alienware boasts a huge color gamut and accuracy that rivals some of the best TVs on the market. The AW5520QF's price will probably scare off folks on a budget, but if you do your PC or console gaming in the living room or want a truly premium monitor, Alienware's behemoth screen is well-suited to the job. And since a computer can stream almost anything, so you'll be able to watch, listen to or play whatever you want.

Read our full Alienware AW5520QF review.

How to choose the best monitor for you

Finding the best monitor can be a confusing experience when you don't know what to look for. There are a few key details to pay attention to for any monitor, and some specific advice for certain specialized uses.

We evaluate every montor on the same basic criteria, starting with size and resolution. A larger monitor is generally a better purchase simply because it offers the most visual real estate, which is better for both fullscreen media consumption and split-screen multitasking. Higher resolution is also better, since it allows better detail and lets you see more information in the same screen size. The old phrase "bigger is better" applies to both here, and we recommend opting for larger screens and higher resolution whenever possible.

We also measure several aspects of picture quality as part of our review process, looking at how many colors the monitor can produce (reported as color gamut) and how accurately it displays each color (reported as a Delta-E rating). Beter scores here make for a better display in every instance. Display brightness is another factor, but higher brightness doesn't always translate into a better display, though it does suggest that a monitor will deliver more vibrant color and may offer HDR (high dynamic range) support.

For some uses, like professional graphics work, you'll need to watch for additional features, and refinements on the basics. If color quality is important in your work, you should look for factory calibrated displays, and pay close attention to the color accuracy and gamut portions of our reviews. You'll also want to spring for matte-finish panels, monitors with shade hoods and adjustable stands that let you find the perfect viewing angle.

Gaming also has its own unique concerns. When the difference between victory and defeat can come down to split second timing, you can't afford long lag times. For gaming monitors, we recommend finding a display that offers response times of 15 milliseconds or less.

Smoother gameplay is also part of what you pay for in a gaming monitor, so pay attention to what frame syncing technology a monitor supports. AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync both allow the monitor and the graphics card to coordinate the refresh rate of the screen with the output of the GPU, but they approach this problem in slightly different ways, and a given monitor will likely provide support for only one or the other format. If your gaming rig uses Nvidia cards, you'll want a G-Sync capable monitor, while AMD-based systems will play nicely with a FreeSync display.

For a secondary monitor to use on the road, you'll want something that's small enough to carry with your laptop, and simple enough to set up and use within moments. For this, we recommend USB-C connectivity, which lets the monitor use a single cable for both video signal and power. While the basic advice of "bigger is better" does still have some application here, it's also worth considering how well a portable monitor matches the size of your laptop display, since a larger display panel will have different dimensions than your laptop, and may not fit as easily into your backpack or laptop bag.

How we test the best monitors

When seeking out the best monitors, we test every display we review with our Klein K 10-A colorimeter, paired with testing software. We use this high-quality scope to measure the display's brightness levels, color gamut and color accuracy.

Brightness is measured in nits, or candela per square metre (cd/m2). More nits means a higher brightness, which translates into clearer picture, brighter color and usually a more realistic looking image. For basic monitors, we expect a display backlight to produce between 2-300 nits of brightness, though HDR (high dynamic range) displays will often exceed that with a higher maximum brightness. However, brightness alone doesn't make for a great display, since some monitors will wash out colors or offer inconsistent backlight that varies in some portions of the display panel.

HDR also presents its own testing challenges, as new capabilities and standards allow a monitor to offer higher peak luminance than our standard tests will register. When in doubt, read an individual review for a discussion of these issues, and how an individual product will handle each.

Color is the other big concern for displays. Monitors that produce more colors have a larger color gamut, as measured under the sRGB or P3 color standards. This is presented as a percentage, with higher percentages indicating more colors.

Color accuracy is the other aspect of color, which lets us measure how closely a monitor can reproduce a given shade. This is presented as a Delta-E rating, which indicates the level of deviation from perfect. Zero is a perfect score, while higher numbers indicate lower accuracy.

We also test a display's response time, using a Leo Bodnar input lag tester. This device measures how long it takes a signal to travel from a source device to the monitor and show up on the display. Measured in milliseconds, this number is most useful for gamers and anyone that needs immediate onscreen feedback from any input.

Finally, every monitor we test is also used for web browsing, streaming video and gaming, as well as the writing of the review itself. Our anecdotal testing will often allow us to note the quirks of a display that lab testing might miss, whether it's difficulty in scaling content or issues with backlight or color reproduction.