The Best Color-Critical Monitors to Buy Right Now

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The best color-critical monitors help content creators and creative professionals tackle all of their color-critical tasks, including color grading, color correction, and more. Finding the right color-critical monitor can be difficult, however, since many conventional monitors lack features necessary for color-critical work. To help make the selection process a little easier, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorites.

– Best Overall: BenQ SW321C

– Best Value: Dell UltraSharp U2723QE 

– Best for Photo Editors (PC)
: BenQ PhotoVue SW272U

– Best for Photo Editors (Mac): Apple Studio Display

– Best for Video Editors (PC): Dell UltraSharp U3223QE

– Best for Video Editors (Mac): Apple Pro Display XDR

Best Overall: BenQ SW321C

The best monitor for all of your color-critical needs

We think the BenQ SW321C is the most capable color-critical monitor overall. Featuring incredible color accuracy, expansive coverage, and a professionally calibrated panel with 4K resolution and HDR support, the SW321C can tackle virtually any workflow.

Expansive coverage, incredible accuracy, and a treasure trove of colorist-friendly features make the BenQ SW321C the best color-critical monitor overall.
Expansive coverage, incredible accuracy, and a treasure trove of colorist-friendly features make the BenQ SW321C the best color-critical monitor overall.

The SW321C delivers expansive, near-flawless coverage of multiple color spaces, including 100% of sRGB and Rec. 709, 99% of Adobe RGB, 95% of DCI-P3 and Display P3. It also supports the HDR10 and HLG video formats. So regardless of which medium you’re working with or what the final output is, the SW321C should have no problem handling all of your color-critical tasks.

Keep in mind, however, that the SW321C offers more than just wide color and HDR support. Color precision and depth are greatly enhanced, thanks to the SW321C’s 16-bit lookup table (LUT) and 10-bit panel. The LUT greatly improves color blending for color reproduction that’s surgically precise, while the 10-bit panel opens a library of more than one billion colors, shades, and luxuriously smooth gradations.

Speaking of panels: the SW321C features a high-contrast 32" IPS screen, with HDR support, 4K resolution, and a 16:9 aspect ratio that’s perfect for video. The pixel-packed panel is treated with BenQ’s proprietary anti-glare technology to eliminate bothersome reflections, and its ultra-wide viewing angles allow users to see the screen from virtually any position.

The SW321C also comes with a treasure trove of accessories and additional features, including GamutDuo Mode, which enables side-by-side previews of work using two different color gamuts. Another mode we really like is Paper Color Sync, which lets users preview their hard-copy prints using their choice of color gamut, printer model, and paper type.

The SW321C‘s only real drawback is its price. Color-critical monitors aren’t cheap, and at two grand, the SW321C is no exception. However, considering its versatility and exceptional performance, the cost seems warranted. If you’re willing to pay the most, you’ll get the most in return.

Best Value: Dell U2723QE

The best color-critical monitor for creators on a budget

Creatives looking to stretch their dollar as far as possible should check out the Dell UltraSharp U2723QE. Despite its comparatively lower price tag, the U2723QE includes plenty of color-critical features that will help creatives get the most bang out of their buck.

Despite its lower cost, the Dell U2723QE packs plenty of premium features, including high color accuracy and a wide range of colors.
Despite its lower cost, the Dell U2723QE packs plenty of premium features, including high color accuracy and a wide range of colors.

The U2723QE offers full coverage of the sRGB and Rec. 709 color spaces, and 98% coverage of DCI-P3, so users should expect a high level of color accuracy in both digital and video outputs. Adobe RGB coverage isn’t as high, so editing images for print isn’t ideal.

The U2723QE’s 27" 4K panel delivers consistently sharp images, clear text, and videos that are rich in detail. The panel was made using LG’s patented IPS Black technology, which is designed to enhance color accuracy and deliver deeper blacks than conventional IPS screens.  

Although not specific to color-critical work, the U2723QE also comes with a massive connection hub featuring five USB-A ports and three USB-C ports, so you can easily connect all your accessories. One of those USB-C inputs supports DisplayPort with 90W of power delivery, meaning you can simultaneously charge your laptop while it’s connected to the screen—all with one USB-C cable.

Offering premium performance at a less-than-premium price, the Dell UltraSharp U2723QE delivers the best value overall. Thanks to its full coverage of the sRGB and Rec. 709 color spaces, as well as 98% coverage of DCI-P3, the U2723QE should be especially appealing to anyone working with video or digital-only images.

Best for Photo Editors (PC): BenQ SW272U

The best color-critical monitor for editing photos on a PC

Featuring exceptionally high color accuracy and coverage of the sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces, the BenQ PhotoVue SW272U is the best color-critical monitor for editing and color-correcting photos on a PC.

The BenQ PhotoVue SW272U is the perfect monitor for PC users who require the highest levels of color accuracy and coverage when editing photos.
The BenQ PhotoVue SW272U is the perfect monitor for PC users who require the highest levels of color accuracy and coverage when editing photos.

Whether you’re editing your photos for print or to share online, a high level of color accuracy is paramount. With 100% coverage of the sRGB color space, and 99% of Adobe RGB and DCI-P3, the SW272U is as color-accurate as they come. Its factory-calibrated Delta E is reported as 1.5, though real-world testing suggests it’s closer to 1.0, meaning any deviation in color between the input and what’s displayed on screen is likely imperceptible to the human eye.

The SW272U features a 27" IPS screen with native 4K resolution, good contrast, and consistent brightness throughout the panel—all of which are optimal for image editing. The SW272U also makes good use of BenQ’s proprietary anti-glare panel coating, which does a good job of minimizing reflections from bothersome lights.

Despite it being a “PhotoVue” monitor, the SW272U includes plenty of features that would benefit video editors, as well, including 99% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space, and both HDR10 and HLG support.

Much like our top pick, the SW272U will set you back more than a couple of dollars. For photographers who need the highest levels of color accuracy and can take advantage of premium features like maximum coverage of Adobe RGB, then it’s money well spent. And, if you're looking for similar performance at a reduced QHD 2560 x 1440 resolution, there's also the PhotoVue SW272Q, which sheds HLG support and has slightly reduced brightness (300 versus 400 nits) but will save you a bit on cost.

If your needs don’t include photo printing, and your budget isn’t as deep, you can get comparable color performance from our value pick, the Dell U2723QE.

Best for Photo Editors (Mac): Apple Studio

The best color-critical monitor for editing photos on a Mac

The best color-critical monitor for editing photos on a macOS device is the Apple Studio Display.

Editing photos on a Mac mini or MacBook Pro? Your best bet is the Apple Studio Display.
Editing photos on a Mac mini or MacBook Pro? Your best bet is the Apple Studio Display.

While the BenQ SW272U and the Dell U2723QE work well with Mac devices, neither is as capable (or, in some instances, as color accurate) as the Apple Studio Display, which includes features that only work with a Mac—such as its dedicated sRGB mode.

The display is a 27" pixel-packed screen with 5K resolution, 10-bit color depth, and exceptional SDR color gamut, all of which help ensure images are color accurate and rich in detail.

One thing to keep in mind about the Studio Display is that it doesn’t support HDR. So even if you’re Mac user, if you’re a photographer who edit photos in HDR, the Studio Display probably isn’t for you.

The Studio Display comes in multiple variations, including your choice of glass type and adjustable stand. We recommend the tilt adjustable stand or separate VESA mount adapter, because those will improve ergonomics and make it easier to adjust to your ideal viewing position.

Best for Video Editors (PC): Dell U3223QE

The best monitor for editing videos on a PC

Featuring a gorgeous 32" screen with native 4K resolution, exceptional color accuracy, exceptional contrast, and HDR support, we think the Dell UltraSharp U3223QE is the best color-critical monitor for editing videos on a PC.

The Dell UltraSharp U3223Q is the best color-critical monitor for editing videos on a PC.
The Dell UltraSharp U3223Q is the best color-critical monitor for editing videos on a PC.

Like its smaller sibling, the budget-friendly U2723QE, the Dell UltraSharp U3223QE offers full coverage of sRGB and Rec. 709 color spaces, and 98% coverage of DCI-P3. Unlike the U2723QE, the U3223QE supports a 10-bit color depth (as opposed to the U2723QE’s 8-bit support) so users can expect greater color reproduction and depth.

The U3223QE features a 32" 4K panel made with IPS Black technology for greater contrast, enhanced color accuracy, and superior black performance compared to conventional IPS screens. The U3223QE’s high 4K resolution is complemented by a VESA DisplayHDR 400 rating, which enhances brightness for additional clarity.

The U3223QE features the same massive USB hub that comes with the U2723QE. With five USB-A ports and three USB-C ports (one of which is a DisplayPort 1.4 connection with 90W of power delivery), users can connect a wide range of external devices and accessories.

An interesting alternative to the single monitor, or even dual monitors, is an ultra-wide curved monitor that offers an immersive viewing experience and extra screen real estate to simulate working with multiple displays. Something like Samsung's 49" Odyssey Neo G9 offers a massive and seamless 5120 x 1440 working area, with a 240 Hz refresh rate, that's surprisingly beneficial to an editing setup. While this monitor is more likely to be seen on a gamer's desk, the fact that it covers 95% of the DCI-P3 space and has very low lag make it very capable for video editing needs as well.

Best for Video Editors (Mac): Apple Pro XDR

The best monitor for editing videos on a Mac

Featuring a 32" screen with 6K graphics, 10-bit color depth, support for a wide range of color spaces and workflows (including P3-DCI), and both HDR10 and HLG support, the Apple Pro Display XDR is the best monitor for editing videos on a Mac.

6K video resolution, P3-wide color gamut, and 10-bit color depth make the Apple Pro Display XDR the best color-critical monitor for editing videos on a macOS device.
6K video resolution, P3-wide color gamut, and 10-bit color depth make the Apple Pro Display XDR the best color-critical monitor for editing videos on a macOS device.

Along with high color accuracy and wide color support, the Pro Display XDR also features exceptional lighting precision, thanks to its miniLED backlighting technology and 576 LED zones of local dimming. Combined, these 576 LED zones can deliver up to 1600 nits of peak HDR brightness and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio to truly emphasize the differences between light and dark.

Like the Studio Display, the Pro Display XDR lets you choose between a standard and nano-texture glass type. Both are designed to minimize reflectivity, but the nano-texture finish provides additional glare reduction, which is useful if you’re working under harsh light.

Because it’s geared toward a professional audience, the Pro Display XDR carries a fairly hefty price tag. The stand alone will set you back a grand, which is more than the cost of its PC counterpart, the Dell U3223QE. However, it is cheaper than many true reference-quality monitors, and yet provides similar performance. In that respect, the juice is well worth the squeeze.

Finding the best color-critical monitor is all about knowing which features are the most beneficial to your workflow. Our list includes some of the best color-critical monitors on the market, but by no means is it definitive or exhaustive. If none of our selections seem like a good fit for you, tell us what you’re looking for in the Comments section below, and we’ll get back to you with a personalized recommendation.    

10 Comments

This article is a thinly veiled promotion of a couple brands where in the method is ad copy speak: "talk up the product but seem fair by pointing out some relatively worthless differences" (like power output for recharging items as nobody chooses an editing monitor based on power output). I'd have preferred an article that speaks to work principles not features of brand's models. If first principles are understood any prospective buyer can use BH filter system to find everything they sell that fits those principles.

There are some questionable passages: 1. "In general, it should be said that matte screens, while easy on the eye, do not always provide the reflective glare and sharpness as compared to displays with a glossy screen." In what world of nonsense is providing reflected glare a good thing? 2. Re the Lenovo ThinkVision P32p-20 BH writes; "This is a great monitor to consider if you are a new student who is still unsure about pursuing a creative discipline." It's $1000! This price-range is proper for a new student to dabble?

 

 

"This price-range is proper for a new student to dabble?"



Yo who actually talks like this? take yer 1920s railroad tycoon sounding ath elsewhere.

Im a fan of most these choices myself. Snagged the Lenovo couple months ago based off the rec and have been very happy, though admittedly its probably a bit more monitor than i actually need. but im happy with it.

I do agree with person who said NEC deserves mention. after reading around the web and seeing how popular a brand it was, surprised it wasn’t mentioned here. 

 

All seem to to be 16:9 monitors.  Without question, 16:10 is more useful for photo editing.

How is it you see the aspect ratio as so important? Given the huge pixel dimensions of all of these it would seem aspect ration is a minor considerate. Curious why you think it does.

Maybe this is a bit silly, but for those on limited funds but do re-work old images back to life what is wrong using those screen calibration hardware devices which I have used to setup my dual ViewSonic versions. Also have NEC monitors as well which were not covered.- John T. had excellent questions.

Would like to know why Eizo and NEC aren't in here. Do you consider the monitors in the article to be as good as or better than Eizo and NEC monitors? If not, what's different? I appreciate having less expensive monitors included but would like to know what's lost or gained at different price points. Just labeling the monitors you've included as "best" doesn't give any real information. An article explaining all of the aspects of a monitor that are important in color critical work would help. An example would be how much variation in brightness there is across the screen. Minimal variation across the screen is critical when working with photographs.

I'm curious why you didn't mention Eizo? Im trying to find the best balance between price and performance and I realize Eizo is probably the most expensive. But according to other reviews, they claim it holds up best for uniformity, accuracy, light bleed and such. Thoughts?

They likely weren't mentioned because they didn't pay/sponsor to be included in the article. ;-) 

great read and article. really like that you guys give a wide selection instead of all pricy picks. looking at that lenovo display as a possible buy. im gonna consider it some more but this is helpful..

Hi Cam, 

I am so glad you found this article helpful, and that I could point you in the direction of a potential monitor for your needs. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have about the Lenovo, or any other display that piqued your interest. Thank you for your comment!