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The best HDR monitors for 2020

High-dynamic range (HDR) displays create deeper contrasts by reproducing a higher dynamic range of luminosity. An HDR monitor can make highlights look brighter and deliver richer shadows. Upgrading your PC with an HDR monitor is worth it if you play video games with high-quality graphics or watch videos in HD resolution.

We compared different HDR monitors to select the best with different sizes, resolutions, and features. Our current top pick is BenQ’s EX3501R, offering something for everyone for a great price.

The following list is a great place to get started if you aren’t sure which HDR display is right for you.

The best HDR monitors at a glance:

The best HDR monitor: BenQ EX3501R

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, though gamers may want something a little more tailored to their needs.

Why we picked the BenQ EX3501R:

It’s rare to find a monitor that ticks all the boxes for almost any user, let alone one that does that and has an affordable price. In BenQ’s EX3501R, 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 simply stunning. It’s fast and responsive, too, supporting a 100Hz refresh rate and a 4-millisecond response time.

Like other top-tier entries in this list, the collection of high-end features makes the EX3501R great for editing photos, watching movies, and gaming. Its combination of a great 2,500:1 contrast ratio, 300-nit brightness, support for 100% of the sRGB color gamut, and HDR makes it look fantastic no matter what you’re doing. FreeSync support even keeps screen tearing at bay without a performance hit.

Finally, this monitor helps your desk stay tidy thanks to a USB-C connection for power and data transfer, which you certainly want due to its superior speed. You can get all of this 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.

The best 32-inch HDR monitor: BenQ EW3270U

BenQ EW3270U

Why you should buy this: With a 4K resolution, four adjustable HDR levels, and FreeSync support for gaming, it’s an amazing 32-inch HDR monitor.

Who’s it for: Those who want a standard widescreen display but don’t want to pay an insane price.

Why we picked the BenQ EW3270U:

If you don’t want an expensive widescreen display, your next best bet is BenQ’s EW3270U, a 31.5-inch panel with a narrower 16:9 aspect ratio.

What’s interesting about this panel is that it has a dedicated, physical button on the front for manually adjusting HDR levels. It relies on a Brightness Intelligence Plus (B.I.+) sensor that detects the surrounding ambient lighting along with the on-screen content to adjust the color temperature, brightness, and dynamic contrast. The dedicated button allows you to manually switch between four HDR levels.

Based on a VA panel, BenQ’s HDR display has a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution at 60Hz, a native 3,000:1 contrast ratio, a maximum 300 nit-brightness, and a 4 ms response time. If you’re a gamer, it supports AMD’s FreeSync technology, eliminating screen tearing and stuttering when using an AMD GPU in your PC, the Xbox One, or the PlayStation 4.

For connectivity, BenQ’s EW3270U includes one DisplayPort 1.4 connector, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a USB-C port. A pair of built-in two-watt speakers round out a great HDR display package.

The best 4K HDR monitor: Acer ET322QK

Acer ET322QK

Why you should buy this: The Acer ET322QK is a more affordable option for those who want to save 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.

The ET322QK 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. However, they are still a great upgrade to your viewing experience, allowing you to choose between fidelity and performance as needed.

Acer’s panel has a maximum brightness of 300 nits, which is lower than some but comparable to our top entry. Still, it’s hard to ignore this monitor’s feature set and its bargain price. This might be the compromise budget-minded buyers are looking for.

The best HDR monitor for gaming: Acer Predator X27

Acer Predator X27

Why you should buy this: This is a great solution for GeForce PC gamers looking for 4K HDR visuals and G-Sync support.

Who’s it for: PC gamers with Nvidia GeForce graphics that want the ultimate experience.

Why we picked the Acer Predator X27:

We originally listed Acer’s Predator XB3 as the best HDR panel for gaming, but it’s lack of availability now sees a similar display taking its place: The Predator X27. This display includes the same shield for blocking out the surrounding light, but you’ll only find one specific configuration versus the five Acer lists for the XB3.

The big selling point with this version is its brightness. It offers a typical 600-nit brightness, but peaks at 1,000 nits. It also falls under Nvidia’s G-Sync Ultimate umbrella, meaning it’s one of the best G-Sync displays you can get for eliminating screen tearing and stuttering when gaming with Nvidia GeForce GPUs.

That said, Acer’s display is based on a 27-inch IPS panel with a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution at 120Hz, though you can overclock it to 144Hz, so screen tearing won’t be a concern if you can support high enough frame rates, no matter what GPU you have. It also has one DisplayPort connector, one HDMI port, one USB-B port that connects to your PC, and four USB-A ports for adding peripherals, flash drives, and more.

The 4 ms response time isn’t stellar, but it should be enough for the average gamer.

The best HDR monitor for Mac: Pro Display XDR

Apple Pro Display XDR

Why you should buy this: This is the ultimate visual experience for any MacOS device.

Who’s it for: Mac owners who want the best of the best at any price.

Why we picked the Pro Display XDR:

If you want the best HDR display for your Mac designed by Apple, you’ll get a premium experience for a premium price. Apple introduced the Pro Display XDR in 2019, a 32-inch display with a massive 6,016 x 3,384 resolution (60Hz max) and a sustained brightness of 1,000 nits. If that’s not bright enough, it peaks at a crazy 1,600 nits, making it the brightest desktop monitor we’ve seen to date.

XDR is short for Extreme Dynamic Range and aims to rise above the HDR standard. The display’s extreme brightness level is part of this XDR effort, along with support for 1.07 billion colors and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. It also includes a custom controller to properly handle all 20.4 million pixels and the 576 LEDs filling the backlight layer for the ultimate XDR visual experience.

Finally, Apple’s XDR panel boasts True Tone technology, which adjusts the colors for the best viewing experience in any environment using two ambient light sensors. For connectivity, it includes one Thunderbolt 3 port (via USB-C) and three standard USB-C ports.

Unfortunately, if you want the best of the best for your Mac, this display starts at $4,999. That price does not include the $999 Pro Stand or the $199 VESA mount adapter. While this is expensive, it’s still far cheaper than a lot of other professionally-targeted displays.

Research and tips

How do I know if my monitor supports HDR?
The manufacturer will tell you, as HDR is a major feature. If it’s included in the feature set, you’ll see it 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 typically offer a higher peak brightness than standard monitors, which usually rest between 250 and 350 nits. Not all HDR is created equal, however, as some screens are far better at supporting HDR than others.

Does HDR improve non-HDR content?
A monitor that supports HDR won’t provide the improved colors and greater contrast of HDR content if it’s displaying standard dynamic range (SDR) 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 need HDR?
It depends on what you plan to do with your monitor. If you’re just working, managing spreadsheets, writing emails, or taking conference calls, it’s probably not worth upgrading. 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. However, if you play games with HDR support or can access HDR movies through streaming services or UHD HDR Blu-ray discs, 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 HDR. 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 with HDR turned on.

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