When it comes to sharp image quality, 4K resolution is where it’s at in 2021. Sure, there are 8K screens and even more modest 6K ones. And lower resolutions deliver higher frame rates on even the best graphics cards. . But if we’re being realistic about what our eyes need and can perceive, how big of a screen we can fit, our budget and the media available, 3840 x 2160 sits on the upper echelon of premium viewing experiences, whether you’re gaming, watching a movie, surfing the web or getting work done. And with one of the best budget 4K monitors, you can get there without going broke.
For a while, 4K was a luxury that wasn’t quite reasonable for a PC monitor. But as these high-res screens have become more common and the bleeding edge has turned to higher pixel counts, a market segment of budget 4K monitors now allow you to take the Ultra HD experience to your desktop.
Below are the best budget 4K monitors we’ve tested. All usually go for about $400 or cheaper.
When shopping for the best budget 4K monitor, remember the following:
- What size do you need? For a budget screen, 32 inches is a good sweet spot, giving you ample space while still being able to fit on your desktop. 28-inch and 27-inch screens are also common in this price range and will be cheaper. They’re good for productivity, but you probably won’t want to share a screen that size.
- Decide the monitor’s main purpose. If it’s gaming, higher refresh rates and Adaptive-Sync (AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync) are priorities, as is a beefy graphics card. You should have a minimum of a GTX 1070 Ti or RX Vega 64 for medium settings or, for high or better settings, an RTX-series or Radeon VII. For general productivity or entertainment, look for high contrast for high image quality. Creatives should strive for accuracy. For more, see How to Buy a PC Monitor and our Best Gaming Monitors page.
- Errors under 3 Delta E (dE) are generally invisible to the naked eye. A monitor with a 5dE color error, for example, probably has colors that look visibly off. Accuracy matters more for creative work.
- Do you need HDR? A 4K monitor with the right HDR implementation makes 4K/HDR content look significantly better than it would on a regular, or SDR, monitor. While many 4K monitors support HDR, few budget ones do it with noticeable impact. If you want a monitor that makes the HDR upgrade worth it, consider upping your budget to stay in 4K or opting for a lower resolution to save money. See our How to Choose the Best HDR Monitor article for more.
- Consider ports and other features. Do you need HDMI 2.1, the latest DisplayPort (1.4)? Are USB Type-A ports important, and do you want USB-C for charging or a single-cable setup? Speakers and the stand’s ability to tilt, swivel or rise are also factors.
Best Budget 4K Monitors
The Samsung UR59C is the best budget 4K monitor, offering a 32-inch VA panel with accuracy and curves. Image quality is superb with bold, accurate colors and clear text — after calibration, that is. When we tested in sRGB mode, we recorded a color error of 4.3dE with visible errors, but our calibration (see our recommended settings on page 1 of the review) got it down to 0.9dE. Your web and games should look as intended. The UR59C also offers fantastic contrast, as expected from a VA panel, hitting an impressive 2,590.5:1 after calibration.
Ultrawide screens typically offer more noticeable curves, but despite its 16:9 aspect ratio, the UR59C’s1500R curve is noticeable and beneficial, allowing us to keep more windows in view.
This monitor isn’t fit for serious gaming, but casual players can make it work. The UR59C has a 60 Hz refresh rate, 4ms response time and no FreeSync or G-Sync to fight screen tears. You’d get noticeably better response times and input lag scores from a 75 Hz screen even. But with its high contrast and the pixel density of a 32-inch, 4K screen, games didn’t look bad. If you’re games that aren’t graphically intense or at lower settings and you have a speed enough graphics card that can consistently hit 60 frames per second (fps), you can enjoy blur-free gaming on the UR59C.
More: Samsung UR59C review
You’ll have to pay a hefty price for a monitor that can push 8.3 million pixels at a 144 Hz refresh rate. The best budget 4K gaming monitor, the Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q, is a slower 60 Hz but fights screen tears with FreeSync. Yes, input lag is significantly larger than what you’ll find on a 144 Hz monitor, as is response time. But if you’re working with a budget graphics card and want your games to look detailed and realistic, this is a great option. SDR games looked extra colorful on the VG289Q, and dynamic contrast brought subtle visual benefits, like added dimension. There are screens on this page with better contrast though.
HDR isn’t as fantastic as you’ll find on a monitor with a full-array local dimming (FALD) backlight or even an edge array backlight, but shadows and highlights looked more distinct, and we enjoyed the boost in color.
For more premium high-res gaming screens, check out our Best 4K Gaming Monitors round-up.
More: Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q review
If the best budget 4K monitor for you is in the 32-inch range, check out the LG 32UN500-W Contrast is a top consideration when it comes to image quality, and the 32UN500-W’s VA panel didn’t disappoint in our benchmarks, hitting 2,353.9:1 out of the box. The 32UN500-W’s native color gamut is DCI-P3, and it covers that color space accurately without any visible errors.
Again, as a budget 4K monitor, the 32UN500-W isn’t winning any HDR prizes. Color lacks the expected pop, and overall the image doesn’t provide a noticeable boost over SDR.
But the 32UN500-W also thoughtfully includes two 5W speakers and even AMD FreeSync to fight screen tears during casual gaming. In general, it delivered popping colors with deep blacks, making it a great fit for your favorite 4K movie and the like.
More: LG 32UN500-W review
The Dell S2721QS earns the title of best 27-inch budget 4K monitor with a bright screen, reliably accurate image and useful add-ons. Those bonus add-ons include the ability to connect multiple PCs and view them simultaneously via picture-in-picture or picture-by-picture and an optional app that makes it easy to calibrate the screen or arrange up to 6 windows in various preset layouts. The latter is a productivity boon.
HDR isn’t this monitor’s strong suit. We recorded undersaturated color in this mode, as well as as well as visible grayscale errors. And this monitor doesn’t have the speed or Adaptive-Sync (FreeSync or G-Sync) to make it an appropriate gaming screen.
But in terms of image quality, this is a bright screen, hitting 393 nits in our testing, along with strong contrast for an IPS monitor (1,101:1). You can also expect accurate colors. We recorded just a 2.6dE error with sRGB color
More: Dell S2721QS review
If you’re doing professional work, you should probably opt for a professional monitor. Pro monitors are known for offering exceptional accuracy for a premium price. But with monitors continuously improving, we’re at a point where you can find monitors with pro-level accuracy in key areas, like color, just without the pro-level price tag.
The HP U28 is one such screen and the best budget 4K monitor for creatives. None of the monitors on this page are color slouches, but the U28 stands out with its ability to accurately cover both the sRGB and P3 color spaces with just a switch in the OSD and no calibration. You also get an adjustable stand that allows height and swivel adjustments and the ability to flip into portrait mode, offering plenty of flexibility for creative work.
HP’s U28 comes at a premium though. While not as pricey as professional monitors, the U28 is the most expensive monitor on this list as of this writing.
Still, with a USB-C port letting you charge laptops (or other devices), you may be able to reduce cable clutter, and there are many other ports here too. With that bonus in mind and creative-level accuracy, the U28 is great for feeding your hobby or even career.
More: HP U28 review