Photo Editing Monitor Buyer’s Guide – October 2017
December 2015 Update: News of the upcoming BenQ PV3200PT have surfaced. We will see if this monitor will fit well into one of the categories in an upcoming update.
October 2015 Update: We have added a description of each section along with brief descriptions of all the monitors.
If you work with photography, video editing or in general just graphics design, you will need a monitor that is tailored if you want the job well done. So you have to choose with care, but with all the monitors out there, which one is the best photo editing monitor for exactly your purposes?
You can always empty your pockets and buy an extremely expensive monitor designed for professionals, but you can easily find much cheaper monitors that are much better than a laptop display and can still compare with the pricier options like an NEC monitor for instance. That is why we have created this buying guide so you don’t have to pay a fortune for a monitor that will suit very well in graphics editing. We will, however, list more expensive monitors too just in case you’re a professional and you’re able to spend thousands of dollars on a display.
When it comes to photo editing, the main specs to focus on when choosing a monitor is size, resolution and the ability to see colors as they would appear in real life. Refresh rate, eg. 144Hz, is not a factor to be considering, as it is a specification tailored for gaming. There are a lot more specifications that you can consider and it can quickly become overwhelming, which is what this buyer’s guide will help combat. We have looked at the market and collected the best options out there and we update this page monthly like we do with our gaming monitor buying guide. Feel free to link to this page from anywhere you like, as it will redirect to the latest edition automatically so you can easily find the best monitors for photography or any other work that requires extremely good color accuracy. These types of monitors (especially the cheaper ones) will also fit well for business purposes, but are not suited for gamers. These monitors will fit well for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Disclaimer: Clicking on a product name link will bring to you to the appropriate Amazon.com (.co.uk, .de, etc) product listing, where you can check the price, customer reviews and more information about the product or similar products.
Note: The terms “photo editing”, “photography”, “video editing” and other similar words are used interchangeably. They all refer to monitors with very high color accuracy, extremely well color reproduction and great viewing angles.
Specifications to be considered
Before we dive into each monitor one by one, we will first get into the specifications that need to considered. There is a whole lot of specifications for computer monitors and it will be extremely hard to consider them all and choose the best based on that. Fortunately, the number of features that you have to consider for photo editing purposes are limited. We will list them in the following sections before diving in to each monitor in the recommended monitor list above. This section is for informational purposes only, so that you know what you are looking for, in case you wanted to go look for a monitor yourself. The best monitor for photo editing 2017 will have all the recommended specs discussed below.
Regarding the size of the screen, just remember: bigger is better. Be sure to get a monitor that is at least 24 inches, ideally 27-inches and above is considered great, but 24-inch monitors are do-able and can be much cheaper. A large monitor is great as it allows you do your work without having to be glued to the screen and you can have all your favorite toolbars or windows open that you find in your favorite photo editing or graphics design software. This is why a laptop simply won’t cut it, as they’re at most 17-inches and that is way too small to work with.
The aspect ratio shouldn’t matter that much, as long as it is either 16:9, 17:9, 16:10 or 21:9. The standard 16:9 (Widescreen) aspect ratio is the most common one.
You also need to pay close attention to what kind of panel the monitor has. A TN panel (TN) is the actually the most common one, but also the worst. It is considered to be the oldest technology as well. The major benefit with a TN panel is the low response time, which can be 1 millisecond or even below. They are great for competitive gaming purposes, but they are really bad for photographic use and shouldn’t even be considered. A Twisted Nematic (TN) panel can actually bring a lot of brightness when combined with LED backlighting.
There are several drawbacks with TN panels. The first one is the bad color reproduction and the second one is the terrible viewing angles, as the colors will wash out when you view the monitor from the sides, above or below. TN panels also often operate with 6-bit or 8-bit, which is often just 6-bit with FRC and not true 8-bit. They can not show the 24-bit color range that most GPU’s offers you.
What you need to be looking at instead is a monitor with an IPS panel, which stands for In-Plane Switching. It has other names too, such as:
S-IPS (Super IPS)
E-IPS (Enhanced IPS)
AS-IPS (Enhanced Super IPS)
H-IPS (Horizontal IPS)
p-IPS (Performance IPS)
AH-IPS (Advanced High-Performance IPS)
PLS (Plane to Line Switching – Samsung’s own panel type very similar to IPS)
AD-PLS (Advanced PLS)
AHVA (Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle)
Most IPS panels are either 8-bit with support for 16.7 million colors or 10-bit with support for 1.07 billion colors. 8-bit with FRC (frame rate control). They are able to reproduce colors far better than TN panels. The colors will not be washed out or shifted either when viewed from the angle, which is another very good benefit of IPS-type monitors. PLS and AHVA are also implicitly included implicitly whenever we mention IPS.
IPS-type monitors used to be very expensive, but things have changed today and you can find them very cheap, even high-quality ones. So to sum it up, choose a monitor that has either an IPS, PLS or AHVA panel as they mostly produce close to 100% to the sRGB color gamut. You shouldn’t get a VA panel these days and you certainly shouldn’t get a TN panel if you care about your work. The best photo editing monitor will have an IPS panel of some kind.
The screen can either be matte or glossy. A glossy screen is good for entertainment purposes, such as watching videos or movies. This gives the monitor somewhat of a “wow factor” when you see the display at first. The glossy coating is often combined with an extra layer of protective glass to emphasize the glossy appearance. Images can look cleaner and nicer on a glossy screen as they have more vivid colors and contrast and the colors will appear more saturated, especially the deeper levels of blacks. The problem with glossy displays is that they reflect sources of light and you can see reflections of whatever is in front of the display if there are noticeable light sources. In direct sunlight, glossy displays are completely unusable.
Matte screens are often also referred to as “anti-glare”, since they are better at preventing reflections. You can see a matte display in a bright room much easier than you can see a glossy display in the same room. If you plan on using the display on a bright room, you should get a monitor with a matte screen. If not, then a glossy screen is the way to go because of the more vibrant colors. The downside with matte screens is that the colors appear more dull and you won’t be able to see much on a matte screen in direct sunlight, but it still has much less glare than a glossy display.
The color gamut is the entire range of colors available on the device, which in this case is a monitor. Most monitors have a color gamut that matches the sRGB color gamut. However, the sRGB color gamut does not cover as many colors as the Adobe RGB color gamut. If you are doing photography, then you might not see the colors that your camera can show on your monitor if the monitor only covers the sRGB color space and the colors can most likely be printed with a printer too. What you will see instead, is an estimate of these colors, because your monitor doesn’t support the colors out of the sRGB color gamut. Monitors that support Wide Gamut RGB (extended gamut) are more expensive and they support much more colors than the sRGB color gamut. If possible, you should get a monitor that has a wide gamut display. Do it only if you really know what you are doing (you’re a pro) and you know how to manage a color managed software, such as Photoshop and know about color managed workflows and you are able to calibrate your device. A lot of the more expensive NEC monitors have wide color gamut and are designed specifically for photographic use and other work that requires extremely good color accuracy.
For most purposes, a high coverage of the sRGB color gamut is sufficient and will certainly save you lots of money. Aim for at least 99% coverage of the sRGB color gamut. The best photo editing monitor will have a color gamut of over 99% Adobe RGB and they are expensive monitors from manufacturers like HP, NEC or IGZO.
A higher resolution is always better. For a 24-inch monitor, be sure to get at least a 1920 x 1080 resolution. A 2560 x 1440 resolution is the minimum requirement for a 27-inch monitor and a 32-inch monitor should have 4K resolution (3840 x 2160). An UltraWide (21:9) 30-inch – 32-inch 1440p monitor is also fine. The 16:10 aspect ratio is also good, such as a 1920 x 1200 resolution on a 24-inch monitor.
LCD monitors should always be used at their native resolution, so the one specified by that particular monitor is also the one that you will always use with it. Nothing more or less.
Another basic requirement is the ability for the monitor to be calibrated. Some monitors come pre-calibrated for photographic use out of the box and that is great for people that do no know how to calibrate their monitor. The factory calibration should be great in most cases and you can try to read some reviews of it to read what people think. If you can, aim for a monitor with integrated calibration options. If it doesn’t have those, you can still use external calibration tools. We recommend you use the Datacolor S5X100 Spyder5EXPRESS with Argyll and DispcalGUI. Follow the quickstart guide here.
Entry-level Photo Editing Monitor
You may not want to spend a high amount of money on a monitor, but still want one that is suitable for photo editing. Don’t worry, such displays actually exist and the best is currently the ASUS PA248Q. When it comes to high color accuracy monitors, ASUS actually makes high quality displays that are very affordable. For under $300, you can invest in a proper display for any work that requires high color accuracy, as the 24-inch PA248Q is equipped with an IPS panel with 8-bit color support, 100% sRGB color support and a 1920×1200 resolution, which means that this display has a 16:10 aspect ratio. Based on a huge amount of user reviews on various retailers, this display is widely used by photographers, video editors and other occupations that require consistent and accurate colors. The pre-calibration on this monitor is extremely good and you will most likely not even need to calibrate it. This display is without a doubt the top rated photo editing monitors in its price class.
We currently do not have any recommendations for larger displays in this category, but if you have one in mind that you think we should add, then feel free to mention it in the comments below and we’ll take a look at it.
If all you want is a good photography monitor, then the ASUS PA248Q is certainly the best choice right now. Just take a look at the various reviews on Amazon and B&H Photo Video and see for yourself. Alternatively, you can get the similar Dell UltraSharp U2412M, which is also a very budget friendly 24-inch IPS monitor with true 8-bit colors and 100% sRGB color gamut support. However, it does not come pre-calibrated, so you need to do that yourself to ensure persistent colors.
Budget Wide Gamut Display
The entry-level photo editing monitor is not a wide gamut display, which means that it does not support more than the sRGB color space. Thankfully, ASUS got us covered in this category too with the the ASUS PA249Q. This affordable wide gamut display can be found for under $500 in various retailers around the world and is equipped with an IPS panel of A+ quality. The A+ quality tag simply denotes the quality of the panel itself and not the panel technology. A+ panels are of very high quality and are subject to a Zero Dead Pixel policy. The panel covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut, 99% support for Adobe RGB and has support for 10-bit colors. A total of 1.07 billion colors are therefore supported and the display also supports a 12-bit internal lookup table (LUT), which can be used to get a smoother transition between hues and a better gradation. All this ensures that the colors will be reproduced faithfully and consistently, which is something that you can rely on a display with sRGB color space only.
The maximum supported resolution is 1920×1200, which results in a 16:10 aspect ratio. The display is also pre-calibrated very well, which means that do not have to calibrate it unless you need to. Furthermore, you can find 4xUSB 3.0 ports, D-SUB (VGA) connector, DVI connector, DisplayPort and HDMI ports. This monitor is certainly one of the best monitors for photography, but we haven’t found any suitable candidates for larger displays in this specific category. Do you have a suggestion for a 27-inch or a 32-inch monitor that you think is the best photo editing monitor in this category? Let us know in the comments and we’ll make sure to add it if we find it suitable.
Gaming and Graphic Design Monitor
Having a graphic design monitor does not neccesarily mean that you have to sacrifice gaming experience if you choose the right one. Thankfully, several of these displays already exist and we are not talking NEC or EIZO professional-grade displays, but great all-around multi-purpose monitors that allows you to do use Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator or other graphic software while still being able to perform great in games and give you a good overall experience. Some people prefer multiple monitors, where one of them is a great gaming monitor and the other is a good photo editing monitor
In this section, we have two monitors. As we, 144HzMonitors.com, specialize in 144Hz monitors and we can’t have a list of gaming monitors without a 144Hz being one of them. The 27-inch ASUS MG279Q is currently the best choice right now if you want a 144Hz monitor while still wanting great colors to do your work. Other than the 144Hz refresh rate, this 27in display features an IPS panel, 4ms response time and support for AMD FreeSync technology, which effectively eliminates screen tearing artifacts without the cost of any performance. Not only that, but the 2560×1440 resolution allows you have more screen real estate than a standard 1920×1200 resolution that a lot of graphics design monitors have. The Ultra-Low Blue Light technology, which this monitor is equipped with, will filter harmful blue light and ensure that your eyes are well protected. The 350 cd/m2 brightness should also be sufficient for most users and the Flicker-Free technology will also ensure that you get a comfortable gaming experience without experience eye strain.
The MG279Q also features an ergonomic stand with all the adjustment options you could wish for, such as tilt, swivel, pivot and height adjustments. The slim profile combined with the narrow bezels also makes this display suitable for multi-display setups if you are after one of those. 100 percent of the sRGB color space is also covered in this display.
If you on the other hand want to sacrifice refresh rate for a 60Hz display in return for a higher color accuracy, then the 27-inch ASUS PB278Q widescreen monitor is the one to go after. This monitor is only 60Hz, but offers a 2560×1440 resolution, a PLS panel and 100% sRGB color gamut support. The response time in this video editing monitor is 5ms, which is very acceptable. In case you wanted speakers built in your monitor, this monitor features two 3W stereo speakers. Both monitors in this section supports 16.7 million colors, and they are certainly the top recommended monitors for photo editing and gaming.
Please note that in order to take advantage of the 2560×1440 resolution at 60Hz you need to use a HDMI, Dual Link DVI-D or DisplayPort cable, and for 2560×1440 at 144Hz you need to use a DisplayPort cable.
UltraWide 1440p 10-bit IPS Monitor
An increasing amount of photographers, video editors, graphic designers and others alike are demanding more screen real estate. You can do that by upping the standard 1080p resolution found on many monitors to a 1440p resolution or even a 4K resolution. You could also do something completely different and just increase the width, but not the height, and thus increasing the ratio between the number of pixels in the width and height. A 1440p resolution has an aspect ratio of 16:9, but an UltraWide 1440p resolution (3440 x 1440) has an aspect ratio of 21:9, which is commonly referred to as “UltraWide”. If you wish to learn more about screen resolutions, then you might find our article about resolutions (720p, 1080p, 1440p, 4K, 8K and so on) useful.
UltraWide monitors have been out for quite some time now, which means that panel manufacturers have produced high quality displays that monitor manufacturers can use in their displays. We currently recommend the LG 34UM95, which was the world’s first 34-inch UltraWide QHD monitor. With a massive 3440×1440 resolution, IPS panel and a 34-inch size, this monitor could very well be the only monitor you would need. It covers 99% of the sRGB color gamut and has 10-bit color depth, which is achieved with true 8-bit + FRC. A total amount of 1.07 billion colors are supported by this particular model. The brightness is 320 Nit and response time is 5ms, which should be sufficient for most people.
Connection options include HDMI, DisplayPort, 2x ThunderBolt and a headphone jack. This display for sure is the best photo editing PC monitor out there right now in this category and price class.
High-end 10-bit Color Accuracy Monitor
For the people wanting a 10-bit display with 16:9 aspect ratio, we got a whopping 4 recommendations in this section. We will start off with yet another ASUS monitor on this list, the 27-inch ASUS PA279Q. With an AH-IPS panel and an amazing coverage of the color space with 99% support for the Adobe RGB color gamut, you are ensured a phenomenal viewing experience for your highly color-dependent work and art. The product page of this monitor speaks for itself and you can view all the specifications there in case you really want to see for yourself.
Like with the ASUS PA249Q, this display is also a 10-bit display (8-bit + FRC), but this model is larger and has a bigger resolution, just to name a few key differences. The PA279Q also comes pre-calibrated out of the box. Just have a look at the image below and see just how much of the color space this display supports.
Connection options are rich: DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4 and Dual-Link DVI-D connectors and ports are found on the back, and there are 4 fast USB ports to replace your docking station. The USB Super Charging technology also allows you to charge your phone or other mobile devices 3 times faster than regular USB 2.0 ports.
For those wanting a larger display, we highly recommend the 32-inch Samsung S32D850T. With a 2560×1440 resolution and an AMVA+ panel that supports 100% sRGB, this display is a high-end photo editing monitor for the people that are willing to spend some extra money on their display. If you for some reason you are unable to find this monitor near you, we also recommend the similar 32-inch BenQ BL3200PT. Yes, BenQ also makes photo editing monitors and not just gaming monitors and they are quite good at it. We still recommend the Samsung over the BenQ, though.
If you are looking for NEC monitors for photo editing or other graphic-oriented tasks, we got you covered. NEC is a professional high-grade brand that produce monitors with very high color reproduction. In this category, our recommendation is the NEC PA272W, a 27-inch expensive photo editing screen. It covers a whopping 99.3% of the Adobe RGB color space and has an AH-IPS panel with a native resolution of 2560×1440, also known as WQHD. Like all the other monitors in this category, 10-bit color is supported through the use of 8-bit color with Frame Rate Control (FRC).
Best 4K Photo and Video Editing Monitors
The BenQ BL3201PH is currently our top 32-inch 4K photo and video editing display recommendation as of right now. With a stunning 3840×2160 resolution, you get four times as much screen real estate than a 1080p resolution. Everything in this LED monitor will be crisp, clear and highly accurate as this monitor supports 100% of the sRGB color space and supports 1.07 billion colors. There is also an integrated USB 3.0 hub with four USB 3.0 downstream ports, one USB 3.0 upstream port and a mini USB for the OSD controller.
Panel technology is IPS (In-Plane Switching) which, like almost all the other monitors on this list, provides superior colors and viewing angles. If you are in to integrated speakers, then you will not be disappointed by the two 5W speakers in this display. It’s a fair sound output and will help you keep your desk clear.
BenQ also has a screen for those wanting a smaller display, which is the 27-inch BenQ BL2711U. This 27in display is packed with a 4K UHD resolution, resulting in a 0.155 mm pixel pitch or 163.18 PPI (pixels per inch). This results in a very detailed overall on-screen viewing experience, which looks stunning to put it mildly. The BL2711U display has a typical contrast ratio of 1000:1 – standard for IPS models, although some higher contrast ones are being released these days. Over 1 billion colors are supported with the 10-bit color depth support and 100% sRGB color space coverage. Also, two 3W speakers are built in this PC screen and it also features a USB hub with four USB 3.0 ports.
Both the BL3201PH and BL2711U are equipped with the proprietary BenQ Flicker-Free technology to prevent eye-strain after longer periods of use and they have Low Blue Light modes to protect your eyes from harmful blue rays. Picture-in-Picture (PiP) and Picture-by-Picture (PbP) technologies are also supported by them both and they will allow you to compare two or more pictures or two different display sources from multiple computers for a more efficient workflow. All-in-all, these monitors are some very solid IPS monitors for photo editing and our top recommendations for 4K photo editing and video editing monitors, unless you want to move several price classes up. If so, then you may want to have a look at the top choices listed in the section below.
Professional True 10-bit Monitors for Photography
Okay, so you’re a professional and want the best monitor for your highly detailed photos or videos. You have a big budget and you want true 10-bit, which a big budget certainly allow you to purchase. We have two recommendations for a 27-inch display and one specific display that we found to be the best true 10-bit photo editing monitor 2017 with a 32-inch size.
The 32-inch NEC MultiSync PA322UHDis the best choice for you right now. We have looked at and analyzed hundreds of displays and found this one to be the best. It covers 99.2% of Adobe RGB color space and has a 3840×2160 resolution with IPS panel technology. This display is simply amazing. It has a 350 cd/m2 brightness, 10.000:1 contrast ratio and a 140 PPI at its native resolution, which is 4K UHD. 1.07 billion colors are supported and it comes with a 14-bit (3D) lookup table. Connectivity options are rich: DisplayPort, DisplayPort OPS, 4x HDMI, 2x DVI-D Dual Link and a USB 3.0 hub with DisplaySync Pro support. We find this monitor to be the best photo editing monitor 2017 for its size.
For those wanting a smaller display, we found the Eizo ColorEdge CX271 to be the best choice right now, followed closely by the HP DreamColor Z27x. Both displays are 27-inch and they cover 99% and 100% of the Adobe RGB color space, respectively. Both of them are equipped with a 2560×1440 resolution, and the ColorEdge CX271 has an IPS panel, whereas the DreamColor Z27x has an AH-IPS panel. The EIZO ColorEdge CX271 has a built-in SelfCalibration Sensor and 10-bit simultaneous color and a 16-bit color look-up table (LUT). This allows the display to support more than 64 times the colors that an 8-bit monitor is capable of displaying. True 10-bit monitors will look much better and you will get smoother gradations and a reduced delta-E value between any two adjacent colors.
Please note, however, that you need a graphics card that supports 10-bit in order to utilize 10-bit colors on your 10-bit display.
17:9 True 10-bit 4K Monitor
You probably the aspect ratios 16:9 (Widescreen), 16:10 and 21:9 (UltraWide), but there are actually 17:9 monitors out there too and the best one is currently the LG 31MU97. The 31-inch screen has a 17:9 aspect ratio, which gives the display a slight boost in its width and since this is a 4K monitor, you end up with an incredible 4096×2160 resolution on this display. With a 99.5% Adobe RGB color space support, this is without a doubt the best in its class, but not necessarily the best photo editing monitor 2017. It all comes down to one’s preferences and then choosing the best monitor in that category, which is what we are trying to do every month.
Which monitor do you have or and would you recommend it to a friend? Or which display have you bought and did our article help you in any way? Please let us know, we are up for all suggestions in our buying guide. Also, if you’re serious about your health (and you should be), be sure to get the best gaming chair 2017 so that you can rid of these annoying lower back problems due to extended hours of sitting in front of the PC with a bad office chair. Our guide contains regular office chairs as well, as these are well-suited for every purpose.
Note: Comments are moved every month to the newest buying guide so a lot of comments may be old.