The best HDR monitors for 2019

HDR monitors are better and more affordable than ever. These are the best ones.

The best HDR monitor is the BenQ EX3501R, a gorgeous ultrawide monitor with a 1440p resolution and 100Hz refresh rate. It’s what we point people to first, but we’ve included several alternatives that are also a great buy.

We’ve reviewed hundreds of computer monitors over the years, including some great (and not so great) screens with HDR support. If you want an excellent HDR monitor, any of these will be worth your money.

The best HDR monitors at a glance:

The best HDR monitor: BenQ EX3501R

best hdr monitors ben q ex3501r monitor mainfull2 800x534 c

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 all 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 x 1,440, it is stunning to look at. It also supports a 100Hz refresh rate, 4ms response time, support for 100 percent 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.

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

The best 32-inch HDR monitor: LG 32UD99-W

LG 32UD99-W review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

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 monitor we recommended is an 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 good 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 get rather high, depending on the retailer.

Read our full LG 32UD99-W review here.

The best 4K HDR monitor: Acer ET322QK

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. Most people can’t justify spending as much on a monitor as they might 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. 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.

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.

The best HDR monitor for gaming: Acer Predator XB3

Acer Predator XB3 Gaming Monitor review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

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 you think.

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

The best HDR monitor for Mac: LG 34WK95U-W

LG 34WK95U-W ultrawide monitor review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

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:

A 34-inch ultrawide always seems like overkill until you see it and LG’s 34WK95U-W can do that to anyone thanks to its astounding image quality. 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 tonnes of flat screen space and an 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?
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, and turning it on full-stop makes non-HDR content in Windows look very dull. That’s why HDR mode should really only be used in specific games and applications.

Do you really need HDR?
It depends 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 to 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. Good examples include No Man’s Sky, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat 11, Anthem, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. For these, you’ll see a fairly dramatic benefit in visual quality when you’ve got HDR turned on.

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