Many of the most prominent sales pitch features of monitors focus on gaming. They highlight displays’ refresh rates, frame syncing technologies, and response times. As important as those are for those looking to win the next round in your favorite multiplayer title, they’re not needed by professionals. For those planning to use a display for a detailed task like photo editing, you need something a little different.
The best monitor for photo editing is one that’s large and has a great resolution, but most importantly has as-near-perfect color accuracy as possible. We took all of those factors and more into consideration in putting this list together so that you can make your next professional monitor purchase an educated one.
BenQ SW271 ($1,100)
Considering how much we loved the older SW2700PT, it should be no surprise that the BenQ SW271 tops our list of the best photo editing monitors out there. This 27-inch IPS display ticks just about every box you could hope for: 4K resolution, HDR, and great color support. BenQ claims it can handle 100 percent of the sRGB gamut and 99 percent for Adobe RGB too. At a brightness of up to 350 nits too, it should be bright enough for most users’ tastes.
Thanks to being an IPS panel it enjoys a near 180-degree viewing angle horizontally and vertically and it has a native contrast of 1,000:1 for deep blacks and stark whites. It’s not the biggest display out there, but 27-inches is a good sweet spot for pixel density and gives you enough room to appreciate the detail offered by the ultra-HD resolution and HDR support.
With a whole host of connection options too, from USB-C, to HDMI 2.0, to DisplayPort 1.4, you can have your pick of how it connects up to your system. The built-in calibration tools will make sure that it looks the part the first time you turn it on. At around $1,000 too, it’s not the most expensive monitor in the world, but if you’re happy to sacrifice resolution to save a little, the SW2700PT with its QHD display is still a solid choice.
BenQ PD3200U ($700)
Another great photo editing display is the BenQ PD3200U, which at $800 is one of the more affordable options out there — especially considering its feature set. At 32-inches diagonally with a 4K resolution, you get a lot of screen real estate for your money, making it easier to pick out individual details of your photos. It also has near perfect color-accuracy, which is easily one of the most important features of any monitor competing in this space.
With a brightness of 350 nits and a native contrast ratio of 1,000:1 (we found it more like 670:1 in our testing) this IPS panel has a lot going for it. The only real area we found it let us down was in its color gamut support. Although BenQ claims 100 percent coverage for the sRGB and Rec.709 gamuts, when it came to AdobeRGB we found it fell behind the competition and only managed 75 percent.
Still, with everything else going for this display, it’s definitely one worth considering for your next upgrade.
Read our full review of the BenQ PD3200U here.
Samsung CF791 ($800)
Although it’s technically sold as a gaming display, there is nothing stopping anyone from using the excellent Samsung CF791 Ultrawide 4K display as a professional screen — it’s that good. At 34-inches wide it blows away the other displays in this list in size alone and takes full advantage of its detailed 4K resolution. The curvature doesn’t make it perfect for those photo editing as that lends some measure of warping to 2D images, but that’s not so drastic that it can’t be used for such a purpose.
The contrast ratio is 3,000:1 delivering amazing blacks and whites and the color accuracy is excellent, with a wide color gamut support. We found the speakers to be a bit on the weak side, but if audio is important to you, you wouldn’t be using monitor speakers anyhow.
Unlike other displays on this list, this Samsung display sports a high-refresh-rate of 100Hz and a fast 4ms response time. That makes it great for gaming, but will also make for smoother looking mouse movements and other motion on desktop and in non-gaming applications too.
The CF791 is a display that can do everything and it does it well. Curved screens and ultrawide form factors aren’t for everyone, but if you like that style, there are few displays that do it better than this one.
Read our full Samsung CF791 review here.
HP Z27 ($535)
HP’s Z27 monitor has been one of our favorite 4K displays for some time and with good reason. Not only is it a decent form factor at 27-inches with a solid frame, but it’s 4K resolution to boot, and it has a fantastic 1,300:1 contrast ratio. It’s response time isn’t great at 8ms, but this isn’t a gaming display — this is a professional display and it does a fantastic job as that.
It features excellent color accuracy and is backed by HP’s Zero bright Dot guarantee, so if there are any problems with your screen post-purchase, HP is more than happy to sort it out for you. It’s also powered by just a single USB-C cable, so there’s no need for additional power connectors, making for a sleek look to your desktop space. Other options, if you prefer to use them, include DisplayPort 1.2, mini DisplayPort 1.2, and HDMI 2.0.
Despite all its high-end features, the HP Z27 is a very affordable 4K professional display too. Even when not on sale it’s not much north of $500.
LG 32UD99-W ($800)
If you want extra screen space along with great visuals, the LG 32UD99-W is an excellent choice. It comes with a beautiful display stand, impressively thin bezels, and screen clarity that is hard to match. The basic specs include 4K resolution, HDR support, and brightness that hits 350 nits, but we fell in love with its color accuracy when we tested it.
With an IPS panel, this screen delivers popping colors and great viewing angles and supports a wide color gamut for excellent representation of whatever you’re viewing. It takes a little calibration when you first receive it as the out of the box settings aren’t exactly perfect, but it doesn’t take long to get it looking its best.
HDR support isn’t fantastic with Windows at this time, but it is there and when in use it looks fantastic — just don’t expect it to be quite as bright as it is on high-end TVs with greater brightness. Overall, this is an excellent monitor for professionals and although not designed with gaming in mind, its low response time of 5ms and support for FreeSync means it will work just as well as a gaming display too.
Read our full LG 32UD99-W review here.