PC Advisor reviews the 12 best PC displays on sale in the UK in 2015/2016. Best 4K and Ultra HD displays. Best PC monitors. Best LCD displays. Best display reviews. See all display reviews.
There are murmurings from the film industry of 4K movies and video as the next Big Thing in home entertainment. Finding actual 4K footage to enjoy in mid-2015/2016 is still hard though – Netflix, Sony and Amazon have limited streaming-only offerings in some territories, but the rollout is tentative at present, and you’re limited to certain specific models of smart TV. Plus, of course, you’ll need a reliable uninterrupted high-bandwidth internet connection to access these streams. Also see: Ultra HD explained.
Viewing from a Blu-ray disc or downloading would be a much better proposition, but no studio is taking advantage of the latest 100GB BD discs nor releasing 4K films to download and keep – just yet. Hopefully 4K Blu-ray films will be available to buy by the end of 2015, as promised by the Blu-ray Disc Association at IFA 2014. But that doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy the benefit of enhanced resolutions for use on a personal computer today.
Until recently, ‘full HD’ – or 1920x1080 pixels – was the highest goal for high-resolution video and the screens on which to watch it. But the industry was shaken up by Apple when it introduced the idea of Retina displays to consumers – LCD matrices with pixels packed so tightly that the human eye cannot discern individual picture elements at normal viewing distances. At once panel makers rushed to go beyond traditional pixellated device displays. Also see: Best budget LCD displays 2015/2016.
It started with the iPhone 4, followed by other smartphones and tablets, and now we find laptops and desktop PCs, too – they can all be found with breathtakingly sharp displays, providing print-quality typography and razor-sharp images. The density of pixels required varies, depending on actual viewing distance, but for laptops and desktop PCs around 220 pixels per inch (ppi) is about right for real Ultra-HD mode.
With the help of UHD displays, you can get a decent approximation to that quality, especially if you find a small monitor still packing 3840x2160 pixels. Ideally, you’d need a 20in monitor but in their absence a 24in design is the closest, providing 184ppi. Our group includes two examples of perhaps the most popular UHD size at the moment of 27in, plus 28-, 32- and a 40in whopper.
In Windows, you set the interface resolution to 150- or 200 percent to view these UHD displays with sensible size fonts and folders. The result is a very sharp desktop with jag-free fonts. But be warned that many Windows programs will not respect these settings and you may still need to arm yourself with a magnifying glass to read the screen. In Mac OS X Yosemite, the interface can be set to true Retina mode – also known as HiDPI mode – by selecting ‘looks like 1920x1080’ from the Mac’s Display preferences. Mavericks users will need to use developer tools to access HiDPI mode. In fact, we found with some displays, the Mac automatically set Retina mode when attached.
Alternatively, you can keep the screen’s native 2160p setting and 100 percent scaling from the PC, which works better with the largest 32- and 40in offerings. Be prepared to squint a little to see, but enjoy the acres of desktop real estate now available. Also see: How to duplicate screen on multiple monitors.
In a bid to keep the marketing simple, the four-times full-HD resolution that is exactly four times 1920x1080 is now typically labelled ‘4K’, even though twice the pixel count on each axis creates only a 3840x2160-sized image. Somehow 3.8K doesn’t have the same ring to it; but be aware there are literal 4K-class panels with 4096x2160 pixels, based on the Digital Cinema Initiative standard for cinemas with high-resolution digital projection.
Best PC displays 2015/2016: What to look for in a PC monitor
Don’t be too distracted by trendy styling and outrageous specification boasts. A display is for looking at electronically created images, and demands an LCD panel of high quality first and foremost. The cheapest LCD tech is twisted nematic (TN), which generally provides poor quality images in every key parameter. The human eye can be forgiving though, and viewed straight-on many users won’t realise just how much colour and contrast their monitor is missing. Higher grade options are found with in-plane switching (IPS) and vertical alignment (VA) panels, which are available at much more approachable prices today, and all of the cutting-edge UHD monitors available today will take these superior panels.
Our eyes can judge image quality readily enough, but it helps to put figures on available performance. Brightness rating is a manufacturers’ arms-race figure that can be safely ignored, so long as the result is above around 200 candela per square metre (cd/m2). Much more important is contrast ratio, the difference between the very brightest and darkest images a screen can show. Around 500:1 is the starting point for believable imaging, though, you should beware brands that promise the earth with millions:1 ratios, as they will be fudging their figures.
Colour gamut, the spectral spread of reproduced colour within our perceptual limits, has been getting worse in modern displays, tumbling first with the introduction of LCD to replace glass-tube CRT sets. Then colour gamut shrunk again when traditional CCFL backlights were tossed out in favour of white LED technology. Full coverage of the PC-standard gamut called sRGB is a good first target for decent colour range; Adobe RGB is a more challenging spec that nevertheless gets closer to the vast range of colour the human eye can appreciate. Also see: How to use two monitors with one laptop.
Colour accuracy meanwhile is about reproducing the exact hue as intended, rather than a rough approximation. Deviation from true colour fidelity is represented by a Delta E figure, lower numbers better. Close to or below 1.0 is a good achievement.
A narrow bezel to frame the actual panel is usually welcome, and preferably not a distracting and shiny one. The panel should be supportable at a comfortable height, which means a fully adjustable stand that can centre it precisely at your own eye level; bending the neck downward at all to view is a recipe for skeletal strain and stress after long-term use.
Today, to connect the monitor to a PC and appreciate 8.3Mp of colour (3840x2160 = 8,294,400) that is being refreshed 60 times per second (60Hz), the only viable option at the moment is a link via DisplayPort 1.2. You could try HDMI if you have a source device specified to v2.0, but this is in effect missing in action for most personal computers as of May 2015; and still also rare on today’s displays. You can use HDMI 1.4, the previous specification, but will be limited to 30Hz refresh rate on UHD resolution displays, which makes motion look very strobed on the PC desktop.
Some monitors offer ‘dual-link DVI’, based on two DVI streams in one DVI connector. DVI remains popular with gamers who believe that this digital interface cable has less latency and so will better their reaction times. However, we’re now seeing DVI with added HDCP, a digital restrictions management system enforced by Hollywood to deter copying though the monitor cable, and this is likely to introduce additional processing time and hence introduce the lag for which HDMI got bad press. In addition, dual-link DVI is limited to 2560x1600 pixels at 60Hz, so is of little practical use on an UHD display.
Response time is often quoted in the manufacturer’s specifications, another area for brand one-upmanship, but even for gamers there is little need to seek vanishingly low figures such as 1- or 2 millisecond (ms). The intrinsic lag of the monitor’s electronics is typically well in excess of 10ms, so the added time for liquid crystals to complete their transition as they turn on/off has become inconsequential. Response time figures are quoted solely for gamers’ benefit, best filed under marketing misdirection.
Remember, you need a good graphics processor to push all those pixels in a timely fashion on to the screen. Integrated graphic chipsets in Intel Core series processors will sometimes do the job, the recent Haswell generation and onward anyway, although a suitable discrete AMD or nVidia graphics card may be preferred for best results.
Don’t get too excited about UHD gaming yet though, as it demands the very best and most expensive of today’s GPUs to drive these screens at native resolution with a decent framerate and detail level. Also see: Best graphics cards 2015/2016.
12 best PC displays 2015/2016 UK:
12. Philips 272P4
- Reviewed on: 14 October 13
- RRP: £449 inc VAT
The Philips 272P4 is a premium-quality display with great performance. It’s possible to pay much less for a decent 27in display, but you’ll Miss out on many of its advanced features such as a fully height-adjustable stand with pivot and built-in USB 3.0.
Read our Philips 272P4 review.
- Reviewed on: 14 March 14
- RRP: £1995 inc VAT
The Dell UP3214Q is a pricey display, but costs many hundreds of pounds less than other currently available 4K monitors of this size. It offers extremely high resolution backed up by superb image quality. However, it requires careful setup and operation at 4K and 60 Hz is fraught with difficulty.
10. BenQ PG2401PT
- Reviewed on: 16 September 14
- RRP: £1122 inc. VAT
The BenQ PG2401PT is a high-quality monitor with an 8-bit + FRC panel that goes some way to giving 10-bit performance. Its wide colour gamut, excellent colour accuracy and 16:10 aspect ratio recommend it as a professional PC monitor for more critical colour grading work, although some colour artefacts under certain conditions betray its disingenuous technological capabilities.
Read our BenQ PG2401PT review.
- Reviewed on: 20 March 14
- RRP: £600 inc VAT
The ViewSonic VP2772 sits in the semi-pro market, with relatively decent performance and a decent adjustable stand, although overall build quality and attention to detail fall a little short of that found on high-end monitors from Eizo and NEC. But if 27 inches of better-than-HD resolution appeals the ViewSonic is one of the few select monitors that will deliver.
Read our ViewSonic VP2772 review.
- Reviewed on: 23 January 14
- RRP: £235 inc VAT
There's nothing fancy or stylish about this monitor, but its ergonomic features and flicker-free backlight make it a pleasure to use. Best suited to work rather than play, it also delivers display quality of a standard high enough for graphical applications. It's not the least expensive 24in monitor you can buy, but it delivers superb performance and ergonomics for the asking price.
Read our BenQ BL2411PT review.
7. AOC U2868PQU
- Reviewed on: 24 July 15
- RRP: £330 inc VAT
The AOC U2868PQU offers a glimpse of UHD possibilities at around half the price of the current IPS and VA technology competition. But it is in some respects only half the monitor. In its favour it has fairly decent colour gamut and contrast ratio, and better than terrible viewing angles. It is more costly to run, has poorer colour accuracy, and judged subjectively we felt even after adjustment that image quality was clearly behind that found on IPS screens, admittedly at nearly half their price. We can’t see any sensible gamers getting excited about this panel though, since it would require dual top-of-the-range graphics cards to drive it to usable framerates. And anyone who can afford those will sorely be looking for a higher quality display than the budget U2968PQU.
Read our AOC U2868PQU review.
6. LG 34UM95
- Reviewed on: 21 October 14
- RRP: £912 inc. VAT
It's the subjective experience of such a super-wide panel that should help to sell this panoramic monitor to anyone who gets a chance to try it. If you're used to using two or more displays anyway, the LG 34UM95 gives an even better effect from a single expansive area of screen estate. And besides its workstation and production potential, it plays Cinemascope-width films beautifully.
Read our LG 34UM95 review.
- Reviewed on: 15 April 15
- RRP: £699 inc. VAT
The VP2780-4K is expensive for a consumer monitor at £699, although relatively cheap when set against professional monitors with full AdobeRGB colour and polished OSD menus, for which you can expect to pay closer to twice the price. ViewSonic's warranty is useful with its zero dead-pixel warranty, making the VP2780-4K an accessible UHD monitor for professionals that don't need full Adobe RGB colour gamut and are working on a tight budget.
Read our ViewSonic VP2780-4K review.
4. Acer S277HK
- Reviewed on: 31 July 15
- RRP: £499 inc VAT
The Acer S277HK makes an impact with its angular white and silver design, and offers good image quality that’s only clouded a little by the applied anti-reflective film. An adjustable height stand or even VESA mount would subtract our problems with its form-before-function ergonomics. At around £500 it is one of the cheaper 27-inch UHD IPS displays currently available.
Read our Acer S277HK review.
- Reviewed on: 29 July 15
- RRP: £1,400 inc VAT
The Samsung UD970 is a pricey display which never feels too expensive for the phenomenal image quality it delivers. Its 4K UHD resolution, combined with almost impossibly accurate colour rendition and flexible display modes make it an excellent choice for photographers and graphic artists. However, if you’re after a gaming or multimedia display, you’d be better off saving some money and going for something with better contrast.
Read our Samsung UD970 review.
- Reviewed on: 27 July 15
- RRP: £600 inc. VAT
The huge Philips BDM4065UC is a great display for anyone that needs a very large desktop monitor, or perhaps to serve as a screen in a PC home-cinema system. It has outstanding contrast ratio and good colour accuracy, a winner in almost every way although some users may find the uneven lighting and subtle flicker a little off-putting.
Read our Philips BDM4065UC review.
- Reviewed on: 29 July 15
- RRP: £699
The BenQ is an outstanding monitor which ticks almost every box as a modern high-performance UHD display. By combining the basics of uncluttered and well-constructed design and an OSD interface that doesn’t make you want to punch the screen, the display becomes far easier to live with, all sealed by the best overall image quality at the price. Our only reservation is the absence of HDMI 2.0 ports for the forthcoming raft of PCs and devices with the updated standard.
Read our BenQ BL3201PT review.