HDR, or high-dynamic range, is a display technology that delivers stunning contrasts thanks to a wider color and brightness range. Investing in an HDR computer monitor is worth it if you watch a lot of high-definition videos or want to enhance your gaming experience.
We’ve compared different HDR monitors to select the best monitors with different sizes, resolutions, and features. Read on to find out more about the HDR monitors we recommend and learn more about HDR technology.
The best HDR monitors at a glance:
- Best HDR monitor: BenQ EX3501R
- Best 32-inch HDR monitor: LG 32UD99
- Best 4K HDR monitor: Acer ET322QK
- Best HDR monitor for gaming: Acer Predator XB3
- Best HDR monitor for Mac: LG 34WK95U-W
Why you should buy this: BenQ’s HDR monitor has something for everyone, including ultra HD and a 100Hz refresh rate.
Who’s it for: Just about everyone, although gamers may want something a little more tailored to their needs (read on for better gaming picks).
Why we picked the BenQ EX3501R:
It’s rare to find a monitor that ticks all of the boxes for almost any user, let alone one that does that and has an affordable price tag. In BenQ’s EX3501R though, we may have found such a unicorn. At 35 inches of beautifully curved VA paneling with an ultrawide resolution of 3,440 by 1,440, it is stunning to look at. It also supports a 100Hz refresh rate, 4ms response time, support for 100% of the sRGB color gamut, and most importantly for this buying guide, an HDR mode.
Like some of the other top-tier entries in this list, the collection of high-end features BenQ has packed into the EX3501R makes it great for editing photos, watching movies, and gaming. It’s fast and responsive and thanks to the combination of a great contrast ratio (2,500:1), a brightness that hits 300 nits, and that HDR support, it looks fantastic no matter what you’re doing. FreeSync support keeps screen tearing at bay without a performance hit and the monitor even helps your desk stay tidy too, thanks to a USB-C connection for power and data transfer: Thanks to the superior speed, you certainly want a USB-C connection if possible.
You can get all that for an excellent price, which puts some of the other entries in this list to shame. If the additional screen real estate gained from an ultrawide monitor entices you, our best ultrawide monitor roundup could provide some additional options for your desk setup.
Read our full BenQ EX3501R review
Why you should buy this: It’s a more traditionally sized monitor that’s comfortable at home in the office or spare room.
Who’s it for: People ready to upgrade their old monitor to a 4K powerhouse.
Why we picked the LG 32UD99:
The top BenQ monitor we recommended above is a curved ultrawide — great for gaming and movies, but not everyone’s first choice. If you want a more traditional, 16:9 screen, the LG 32UD99-W is a great pick. It offers a 31.5-inch, 4K panel, along with HDR10 support and a wide color gamut.
Our testing found it offered decent contrast and good color accuracy straight out of the box. Yet the LG 32UD99-W seems best for people who don’t mind getting their hands dirty with technical details. It offers a wide range of settings, and its color accuracy goes from good to outstanding after calibration.
LG also promises a maximum luminance of 550 nits. In our testing, we saw up to 360 nits. That’s better than average and it means the LG can handle detail in HDR content better than most HDR displays. It’s a 4K screen too, so you can view 4K HDR films just as you would on a television. The downside is the price, which gets rather high, depending on the retailer.
Read our full LG 32UD99-W review here.
Why you should buy this: The Acer ET322QK is a more affordable option for those who’d also like to save some money.
Who’s it for: Savvy buyers looking for HDR on a budget — and those who need a good FreeSync monitor.
Why we picked the Acer ET322QK:
Most of the great monitors on this list are expensive, which can present a problem: Many people can’t spend as much on a monitor as they would on a television. Luckily, the new Acer ET322QK offers an affordable choice. With a delightfully low price at most retailers, you might expect compromise on size and pixel count, but not with this monitor. This Acer is a 32-inch, 4K display with AMD FreeSync support for gamers, though the panel refreshes at the usual 60Hz. The HDR features cannot be used with FreeSync and aren’t the full HDR capabilities that some displays offer today, but they are still a great upgrade for your image, allowing you to choose between image and performance as needed.
So, what’s the catch? We haven’t tested the ET322QK in our office, so we can’t say whether its color accuracy or gamut match its contemporaries in this list. What we can say, though, is that Acer only quotes a brightness of 300 nits. That’s lower than some, but comparable to our top-entry so it’s perfectly passable. Still, it’s hard to ignore this monitor’s feature set and bargain price. This might be the compromise budget-minded buyers are looking for.
Why you should buy this: Acer has given this Predator some excellent gaming features, including an overclocked refresh rate and G-Sync.
Who’s it for: Gamers who are ready for an important upgrade, and don’t need an ultrawide.
Why we picked the Acer Predator XB3:
The 27-inch Predator XB3 offers an excellent gaming experience complete with 4k resolution and HDR support. If you’re a gamer looking for a top-notch display — and a 27-inch screen sounds like the ideal size for you — we recommend taking a closer look at this particular Predator.
Acer’s model comes with G-Sync and a refresh rate that’s overclockable to 144Hz over the DisplayPort (otherwise 60Hz to 120Hz, depending on your connections). While the color accuracy is solid, we were particularly impressed by the high brightness levels this monitor can reach. Gamers may end up dimming the screen more than they expect.
However, if you do choose this Predator model, keep in mind that the design itself has some flaws. Yes, you get some RGB strips to play with if you like colors, but the menu buttons are poorly placed and difficult to work. The speakers are also nothing impressive, so, by all means, prepare your headset of choice.
Read our full Predator XB3 review
Why you should buy this: Few displays can approach the image quality and ease of use of this excellent 34-inch monitor.
Who’s it for: Professionals and image-conscious Mac users.
Why we picked the LG 34WK95U-W:
LG’s 34WK95U-W is another ultrawide model, but has a great affinity with Macs and is a particularly good choice for designers. With a resolution that hits 5,120 x 2,160 and fantastic color support and accuracy right out of the box, this is a display that image and videos editors should love, with tons of flat-screen space and overall clean design. The HDR support with a strong brightness of 409 nits really helps the whole screen pop, too.
It doesn’t come with some of the more modern gamer-focused features, like high refresh rates or adaptive sync technologies, but this isn’t a screen we’d recommend for gaming on. You can, if you have a hefty graphics card to pump out all those pixels, but there are displays better suited to that job. These are our favorites.
Beyond the excellent screen, this monitor has a number of well-thought-out physical features too. Ports are easily accessible at the rear with no covering flap or lip (although that doesn’t make it the best candidate for wall mounting) and it has a clean and minimalist stand. The bezels are also beautifully thin, with soft, rounded corners.
Although this is our favorite HDR display for Macs, we do have some other great Mac-focused displays to recommend. Here’s the full list.
Read our full LG 34WK95U-W review
Research and tips
- How do I know if my monitor supports HDR?
- Does HDR improve non-HDR content?
- Do you really need HDR?
- Is HDR good for gaming?
How do I know if my monitor supports HDR?
The simplest answer to this question is that the manufacturer will tell you. HDR is a major feature for any display developer and if it’s included in the feature set for your screen, it will be proudly displayed on the packaging, in the list of specifications, and perhaps even with a sticker somewhere on the monitor itself.
One factor to look out for with HDR displays is that they will typically offer a higher peak brightness than standard monitors, which usually rest between 250 and 350 nits. Not all HDR is created equal though, and some screens are far better at it than others, even if they both support it.
Does HDR improve non-HDR content?
A monitor that supports HDR won’t be able to provide the improved colors and greater contrast of HDR content if it’s not running HDR content. That said, HDR monitors do tend to have greater brightness than non-HDR displays, so it’s possible that the overall improved quality of the technology inside the screen, outside of its HDR support, will provide a better image. However, that is not guaranteed.
Windows 10’s support of HDR has been lackluster in the past, but its approach has grown better recently, with more options for control and better image improvement. Still, it’s always smart to experiment with disabling and enabling HDR features for your favorite activities so you can see the difference firsthand and make your decision.
Do you really need HDR?
It depends on what you plan to do with your monitor. If you’re just working on it, managing spreadsheets, writing emails, or taking conference calls, it’s probably not worth upgrading for. However, if you like to watch a lot of movies and TV on your display, or if you’re a gamer, HDR holds much more promise.
There are other features worth considering, like higher resolutions and high refresh-rates, but if you play games with HDR support or can access HDR movies through streaming services of UHD HDR Blu-Rays, it’s arguably one of the most important factors for any new screen upgrade.
Is HDR good for gaming?
Yes. Alongside high refresh rates, HDR can make the greatest impact on your gaming visuals when done right. It’s not supported by all games, so make sure to check that the ones you want to play do support it. Common recent examples include No Man’s Sky, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Days Gone, Mortal Kombat 11, Red Dead Redemption 2, and DMC5. For these, you’ll see a fairly dramatic benefit in visual quality when you’ve got HDR turned on.
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