For years now, 4K gaming has been that big, unreachable goal that most people could only dream of, as the only way to get stable performance in such a high resolution was to invest in an overly expensive enthusiast-grade GPU or a multi-GPU setup.
However, as difficult as it may be to believe, 4K gaming is finally here, as even mid-range GPUs such as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti are capable of delivering solid performance in 4K.
So, needless to say, 4K gaming no longer carries a quadruple-digit price tag, and if you’re thinking about making that jump now, there is a number of good 4K monitors to choose from.
In this buying guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at what we feel are the best 4K gaming monitors currently available, so if you’re looking to get one, read on!
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- Quality IPS panel
- Fully adjustable stock stand
- Appealing design
- Approachable price
- Limited HDR performance
- Narrow FreeSync range
The first entry on the list comes from Asus and their TUF brand that is known for putting quality and affordability before flashy visuals, and it is probably the best budget 4K gaming monitor that you can get at the moment.
Design-wise, the VG289Q is nothing to marvel at, but it boasts a simple and effective exterior with thin bezels and a simple stock stand that is fully adjustable for height, tilt, swivel, and pivot, plus some minor details and red highlights at the base to give it some gaming flair.
As far as the display is concerned, this monitor comes with a good-looking IPS panel with a wide DCI-P3 color gamut, wide viewing angles, and it comes complete with HDR support. Moreover, the contrast is quite solid for an IPS panel, although the underwhelming peak brightness and a lack of local dimming don’t exactly make the VG289Q an ideal HDR gaming monitor. However, it definitely delivers if we’re talking SDR.
On the performance front, the panel features a 60 Hz refresh rate and a 5ms response time, complete with AMD FreeSync that works in the 40-60 Hz range. However, this version of FreeSync isn’t HDR-compatible and it works in a relatively narrow range with no LFC, meaning that FreeSync will stop working if the FPS dips below 40. Needless to say, this is far from impossible in 4K, depending on what GPU you’re using and what game you’re playing.
Overall, our only qualms with the Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q have to do with its underwhelming HDR performance which feels like it was tacked on simply for the sake of marketing, and its basic implementation of FreeSync that is both incompatible with HDR and that will not work flawlessly if the games skirt the 40 FPS mark.
In any case, this is still the best budget 4K gaming monitor that you can buy at the moment, so if you’re pinching pennies and are trying to find a 4K monitor that would fit the bill, then this is probably the best choice for you.
- Large 32-inch screen
- Great contrast and accurate colors
- Decent HDR performance
- Good value for the money
- Basic tilt-only stock stand
- Unimpressive design
- Screen may be too large for some
- Narrow FreeSync range
Moving on, we have another budget-friendly 4K monitor, although this one comes from LG and differs from the previous Asus model in a number of important respects. So, what is there to say about the LG 32UN500?
First of all, it’s worth noting that it just doesn’t look quite as good as Asus’ offering. With its simple black-and-white frame and the tilt-only stand, it just doesn’t really feel like a gaming monitor at first glance, but it more than makes up for this when we take a look at what’s under the hood.
The LG 32UN500 boasts a massive 32-inch screen that really does the 4K resolution justice, and it features an excellent VA panel with solid viewing angles and good color accuracy that, while not quite on the level of similarly-priced IPS panels, is more than good enough for gaming. An area where VA panels outperform their IPS counterparts, though, is the contrast, and this monitor can produce much deeper blacks than IPS or TN panels can.
The monitor also supports HDR, though as with the Asus model, it’s nothing stellar. Granted, the improved contrast does a great deal to help the monitor deliver better HDR content, but it’s still not that A-grade HDR that you’ll see in high-end monitors and TV sets.
Performance-wise, this is also a 60 Hz monitor with a 4ms response time and it fares quite well for a VA panel, which are known to have ghosting and black smearing issues. In the case of this monitor, they are still noticeable, but won’t be a problem for the average gamer. On top of that, like the Asus VG289Q, it supports FreeSync in the 40-60 Hz range.
All in all, while it may be a tad more expensive than the Asus VG289Q, we feel that the LG 32UN500 more than makes up for it with its panel quality and a larger screen. Granted, the stock stand is nothing special, the design is quite basic, and FreeSync is quite limited, but for those who are placing panel quality first and foremost, you’re unlikely to get better value for your money in this price range – as long as you don’t mind the hefty diagonal.
- Large 32-inch screen
- Great-looking VA panel
- Good HDR performance
- USB hub
- On the expensive side
- May be a bit large for desktop use
- Narrow FreeSync range
Moving on, we have yet another model from Asus, and it’s a much more serious monitor that focuses greatly on the visuals and on console gaming – the Asus CG32UQ.
Looking at it, the matte black plastic exterior and the unusual stand design can make the CG32UQ come across as somewhat cheap at first glance, but is a feature-packed monitor with a built-in USB hub that’s useful for convenient charging of controllers and other peripherals, RGB lighting on the back, a stand that’s adjustable for tilt and height, and even a remote control.
Like the LG 32UN500, this monitor features a 32-inch VA display that has a great contrast ratio but doesn’t disappoint in the other departments either, as it’s very bright, with a wide DCI-P3 color gamut, and good viewing angles. However, the monitor fares quite well in HDR compared to the more affordable options listed above.
Namely, the CG32UQ is HDR600-certified, meaning that it can reach peak brightness of 600 nits which, combined with its great contrast ratio and local dimming, provides for a much better HDR experience. Sure, it’s not comparable to what HDR1000 displays can do, but for a 32-inch monitor at this price point, it’s more than good enough.
Now, as far as the performance is concerned, we still have the standard 60 Hz refresh rate, a 5ms response time, and a basic implementation of FreeSync that works in the 40-60 Hz range. It’s obviously not a performance-oriented monitor and won’t be good for competitive gaming, but for those who focus on the visuals, it definitely ticks all the important boxes.
With all of the above in mind, the Asus CG32UQ is a superb monitor for those who want to enjoy 4K gaming and 4K content in all its glory. However, a good 4K panel isn’t cheap, and at $800, the CG32UQ is quite a bit pricier than some other alternatives.
- Massive screen
- Top-notch VA panel
- Excellent HDR
- High refresh rate
- G-Sync compatible
- USB hub
- Very large and heavy
- Basic stock stand
- Very expensive
Up next, we have yet another model from Asus, and this one is quite something. Remember how we said that a 32-inch display may be a bit too large for comfort when it comes to desktop use? Well, the Asus ROG Swift PG43UQ is a 43-inch monstrosity that you definitely won’t want to be viewing up close at a desk.
Sure enough, the PG43UQ looks more like a TV than a monitor, though the patterned background and the projected ROG logo at the base make it readily apparent that you are indeed looking at a gaming monitor. It comes complete with a USB hub on the back and is VESA-compatible, although the stock stand is only adjustable for tilt. Plus, like the previous monitor, it even comes with a remote control.
Inside, you’ll find yet another VA panel, and as you might expect, it is a marvel to look at. Like the previous monitors here, it has a wide DCI-P3 color gamut and good viewing angles, although it truly shines when it comes to HDR – no pun intended. Namely, this is an HDR1000 monitor, meaning that it can reach peak brightness of up to 1000 nits, and combined with the VA panel’s naturally great contrast ratio and local dimming, it can deliver HDR as it is meant to be.
Now, this monitor isn’t just about the looks – it delivers on the performance front, too. At 144 Hz, it can display triple-digit framerates, which is bound to appeal to those who also intend on playing competitive games, especially since the new consoles also support triple-digit framerates in some games. As before, ghosting and smearing is an issue with VA panels, but the monitor can reduce those with the help of backlight strobing. On top of that, it comes with FreeSync Premium and is G-Sync Compatible.
With all that said, the Asus PG43UQ is one of those “have-your-cake-and-eat-it” monitors, but as you might expect, this also means that it’s very expensive. With an MSRP of $1500, this isn’t a monitor that everyone will be able or willing to buy. Moreover, as mentioned above, it is really not meant for desktop use, as a 43-inch diagonal is simply too large for a standard 16:9 display.
- Good-looking, high-performance IPS panel
- Appealing design
- FreeSync Premium Pro and G-Sync Compatible
- USB hub
- Good value for the money
- No swivel adjustment
- Poor local dimming
- Underwhelming HDR
- On the pricey side
The next monitor we have lined up comes from LG, and it is yet another model that will appeal to those who would want to have both great visuals and great performance in a single package. So, what can you expect of the LG 27GN950?
Well, unlike the LG 32UN500, one look at this monitor is enough to make it abundantly clear that it is indeed a gaming monitor. With the angular stand, the red highlight at the base, and the big RGB ring on the back, LG definitely doesn’t want you to mistake this product for your run-of-the-mill office monitor. The stand is adjustable for tilt, height, and pivot, and the monitor has a USB hub on the back, which is always welcome.
As good as it may look on the outside, the LG 27GN950 only gets more impressive when we take a look at the hardware. It boasts a high-performance 1ms 144 Hz IPS panel that delivers on both the visuals and the performance front, making it a great choice for those who want to have both in a single package. It also comes with FreeSync Premium Pro and is G-Sync Compatible.
However, no monitor is perfect, and in the case of this one, the main concerns are its mediocre contrast and poor local dimming. This is an issue particularly when it comes to HDR. As we’ve mentioned before, brightness and contrast are both crucial to delivering a proper HDR experience, and even though this monitor is HDR600-certified, the bad local dimming simply doesn’t help and it leads to some questionable black uniformity.
That said, the LG 27GN950 may not be the ideal monitor if you want to play games in HDR or watch HDR content, but as far as SDR is concerned, it is a great monitor that delivers excellent visuals and the kind of performance that you simply couldn’t get with an IPS panel a few years ago. So, if you don’t mind the limited contrast and are willing to dish out $800 on a proper, high-performance 4K gaming monitor, you wouldn’t regret getting this one.
- Stunning quantum-dot IPS display
- High-performance panel
- G-Sync Ultimate
- RGB-heavy design
- Fully adjustable stand
- Extremely expensive
And last but definitely not least, we have another monitor from Asus’ ROG Swift lineup – the PG27UQ, and it’s a serious top-of-the-line solution for enthusiasts with deeper pockets.
The PG27UQ adheres to the same design philosophy as the PG43UQ that we’ve taken a look at above, although these two monitors are very different, despite the apparent similarities. With its patterned back, the massive RGB-lit ROG logo, and two RGB projectors, the PG27UQ looks exactly what you’d expect a high-end ROG product to look like. The stand is, of course, fully adjustable, and the monitor has a USB hub.
As you might expect though, it’s the panel that’s the most impressive part: a quantum dot IPS panel, wide color gamut, 4K resolution, 144 Hz refresh rate, HDR1000-certified, superb full-array local dimming, complete with Nvidia’s G-Sync Ultimate that ensures lag-free, tear-free gaming with ultra-low motion blur, even with HDR enabled.
With all that said, the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ is as close as you’ll get to a perfect monitor at the moment, but naturally, it’s also extremely expensive, more so than the PG43UQ. Seeing as how it costs more than your average gaming PC, this is obviously not a product meant for everyone, and as mentioned above, it will mainly appeal to enthusiasts with very deep pockets who are willing and able to drop a ton of cash on a gaming monitor.
How To Pick The Best Monitor For Your Needs
Now that we have gone over some of the best 4K gaming monitors currently available, it’s time to take a closer look at some of their features and see what you should pay attention to if you want to find the best monitor for your needs.
Should You Go 4K?
As we’ve mentioned in the introduction, 4K hasn’t exactly been accessible over the past few years as it started going mainstream. And today, even though there are GPUs that are capable of running games in this resolution, it still isn’t quite mainstream.
If you’re aiming at a stable 60 FPS in 4K when it comes to the latest AAA games, you’d still have to invest in a high-end GPU such as an RTX 3070, an RX 6800, or better. While there are many other GPUs that can deliver serviceable performance in 4K (30-60 FPS), they wouldn’t fare as well nor would they be as future-proof.
As such, 4K gaming is still an investment in 2021, so if you feel like your budget doesn’t yet allow you to make this jump in resolution, then a 1440p monitor might be a better option, as you wouldn’t have to spend as much and would likely get better value for your money, both on the monitor and on the GPU front.
Apart from the resolution the size of the screen also plays an important role when it comes to the image quality. So, what’s a good diagonal for a gaming monitor?
Well, in general, most agree that a 24-inch or a 27-inch diagonal is ideal for desktop use. However, with 4K, the pixel density is significantly higher than with 1080p or 1440p displays, encouraging OEMs to make monitors larger in order to make this resolution truly shine. As a result, 4K gaming monitor smaller than 27 inches are relatively rare.
That said, screen size is more important to keep in mind when it comes to lower resolutions, as a large screen with low pixel density can look quite bad when viewed up close. In the case of 4K, though, it’s mainly about what you’re comfortable with when it comes to desktop use.
As mentioned above, we’d say that 27 inches is ideal for desktop gaming, but you might opt for a 32-inch model instead, although it would really be pushing the limits of what could be considered comfortable.
Refresh Rate and Response Time
When it comes to panel performance, the two most important factors to keep in mind are the refresh rate and the response time.
The refresh rate, expressed in Hertz, indicates how many times the panel can refresh the displayed image each second, and, by extension, how many frames-per-second it can display. So, a monitor with a 60Hz refresh rate can only display a maximum of 60 FPS, whereas a 144Hz monitor can display up to 144 FPS. Monitors with even higher refresh rates do exist, but so far, 144Hz is as high as it gets when it comes to 4K monitors.
Now, what a high refresh rate/framerate gets you is a more fluid and responsive gaming experience that can be particularly useful if you’re playing competitive multiplayer games, although some do simply prefer gaming in higher framerates even if it means lowering some graphics settings.
As to whether 144Hz is worth it for 4K, that’s entirely up to your budget constraints and preferences. Naturally, you won’t be able to push stable triple-digit framerates in the latest AAA games even with the likes of the RTX 3090 or the RX 6900 XT without toning down the graphics.
Then, there’s the response time, expressed in milliseconds, and it indicates how long it takes for pixels to change color. High response times can lead to unsightly ghosting and motion blur, but it’s not as big of an issue today as it used to be in the past, as modern gaming monitors either have very low response times to begin with or they utilize various technologies such as backlight strobing in order to minimize said ghosting and motion blur when needed.
IPS vs VA
One of the notable aspects of any monitor is the type of panel that it uses, as the panel technology can tell a lot about a monitor’s capabilities. If you’re shopping for 4K gaming monitors, the two panel types that you’ll most commonly encounter are IPS and VA, so how do they differ from one another?
IPS, short for in-plane switching, is a very popular type of panel known for top-notch color reproduction and great viewing angles. And while their response times are usually a bit high, some IPS panels now come with 1ms response times, although high-performance IPS panels also tend to be a bit pricey. Their main drawback lies in their limited contrast ratio and backlight bleed issues.
VA, short for vertical alignment, is a type of panel that can usually compete with IPS in terms of color accuracy and viewing angles, although they aren’t quite on the same level in that respect. However, they more than make up for that with their superior contrast. As for the downsides, as mentioned before, they can often have ghosting and smearing issues that you’d be unlikely to encounter with IPS panels.
In any case, these are just generalizations, and panel quality has a lot to do with the overall performance and image quality, especially when it comes to comparing IPS and VA panels.
Is HDR Worth It?
A feature that started gaining traction in the mid-2010s, mainly when it came to TVs and consoles, is HDR. So, what is HDR, and is it worth considering for a gaming monitor?
HDR, or High Dynamic Range, improves image quality by increasing the peak brightness, deepening the contrast, and making the colors appear more realistic and natural than what’s possible with an SDR image. As such, it’s easy to see why it’s such a sought-after feature in modern TVs and monitors, but is it really worth it in a gaming monitor?
Many monitors today support the HDR10 standard, but the fact is that not all of them are actually capable of offering a proper HDR experience due to a number of reasons that we’ve already mentioned in the article. First, there’s the intensity of the backlight, and second, there’s the contrast.
There is a range of VESA certifications that indicate the kind of quality that you can expect from a display, and you can see those below.
In addition to being able to support high brightness, an LCD monitor will also need to have good local dimming so as to be able to achieve the necessary contrast. What local dimming does is it turns off portions of a monitor’s backlight, thus making dark areas of the screen appear darker.
The general consensus is that anything below HDR600 is not worth it if you’re after good HDR, and that HDR1000 is a must if you want to experience HDR as it’s supposed to be seen. Moreover, HDR isn’t just about the hardware but also the software, so both games and media need to support HDR in order to be able to be displayed in HDR, and not all games support it.
That said, HDR still isn’t exactly a fully mainstream feature when it comes to gaming, as you will still have to invest in a rather pricey monitor if you intend on experiencing true HDR, as the cheaper HDR10-compatible monitors simply won’t be capable of offering the full HDR experience.
FreeSync and G-Sync
For years, gaming monitors utilized two distinct VRR (variable refresh rate) technologies in order to ensure tear-free, stutter-free gaming in high framerates – AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync. So, what are these two technologies and how do they differ?
Well, both FreeSync and G-Sync utilize scaler modules to keep the monitor’s refresh rate and the in-game framerate in sync, thus efficiently eliminating screen tearing and stuttering no matter how much the FPS might fluctuate. The key difference between the two lies in the fact that FreeSync is an open-source technology whereas G-Sync is a proprietary Nvidia technology.
What this means is that FreeSync is more popular and cheaper to implement, as G-Sync monitors have to go through a certification process and OEMs have to buy scaler modules directly from Nvidia. However, things did change somewhat in recent years, and both AMD and Nvidia are now offering three distinct types of FreeSync and G-Sync respectively.
For FreeSync, you’ll encounter:
- FreeSync – Standard VRR (screen tearing and stutter elimination with low latency)
- FreeSync Premium – Adds LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) that helps in the case that the framerate drops under the lower limit of the supported FreeSync range
- FreeSync Premium Pro – Also has LFC but adds HDR support
Meanwhile, for G-Sync, you’ll find:
- G-Sync – VRR with the added benefits of motion blur reduction, overclocking, and variable overdrive
- G-Sync Compatible – Basic VRR without the extra features available in G-Sync certified monitors that have Nvidia’s scaler modules
- G-Sync Ultimate – Added HDR support with low latency
Overall, FreeSync and G-Sync Compatible monitors tend to be more budget-friendly, but for those of you with deeper pockets who want to take advantage of the extra features G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate offer, they are worth the extra expense.
So, with all that out of the way, it’s time to take a look at the winners i.e. what we feel are the best 4K gaming monitors that you can buy right now!
As is always the case with computer hardware and peripherals, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so we’ve highlighted several picks.
For those who are on a tight budget but are still hoping to upgrade to 4K, we feel that the Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q would be the best option. It has a solid panel, a fully adjustable stand, and it looks good, too. Granted, the performance isn’t stellar and the HDR is far from great, but at its current price point, this monitor is a great pick for those who can’t afford to spend too much.
On the other side of the spectrum, for those who are willing and able to spend a ton of cash on a top-of-the-line gaming monitor, the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ is the obvious choice. It pretty much has it all – a beautiful, high-performance panel, complete with stunning HDR, G-Sync Ultimate, and standout design.
Finally, if you want something that would offer good value for your money, then the LG 27GN950 would undoubtedly be the ideal pick. Much like the PG27UQ, it features a high-performance IPS panel and a bunch of useful extra features that present a great deal at its current price point. Granted, the HDR leaves a lot to be desired, but apart from that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a monitor that strikes such a good balance between the visuals and the performance at this price point.
Keep in mind that the above three monitors are only our overall best picks and that any of the monitors listed here would undoubtedly prove to be a good fit for your needs, provided that you keep your requirements and their capabilities in mind.