Best 4K Monitors for Creatives in 2023
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Creatives are a special breed. We’re constantly thinking outside the box to come up with new and innovative ideas. And we need the best tools to help us do that. That’s why I’m excited about the following 4K productivity monitors. They provide you with the crystal-clear images you need to get your work done with the brilliance you deserve—and all without breaking the bank! What is the best 4K monitor for graphic design to buy in 2023? Keep reading…
In Search of the 4K
If you’re anything like me, you love to have the latest and greatest technology. So, when it comes to monitors, you want the best of the best. But you also want the best bang for your buck.
How do you survive as a cutting-edge creative in search of the best 4K monitor in 2023 and beyond? There are so many options, so many specifications, and so many aggressive HDMI cables wanting to grab your hard-earned dollars.
That’s why I’ve decided to research some of the best 4K productivity displays for us geeky creatives—without having to rob a passing space pirate of all their intergalactic credits.
I’ve been using an LG 35″ curved monitor for some time now and I have to say it’s absolutely amazing. I was curious as to how an ultrawide would actually look and feel in person, but after using one for a while I appreciate the huge workspace when working on large projects.
However, one thing I still wanted as a graphic designer and coder is greater clarity/sharpness of text and better color reproduction. The panel on the LG is a VA display, it was fine for a while, but now I am shifting more in favor of an IPS panel (these reasons are explained below).
First, if you’re new at all this and wondering what on earth is a 4K monitor, then I try to explain some of the key concepts with a decent portion of humor. Are 4K monitors all sparkles and giggles or will my old monitor from the 18th century still get the job done?
A quality 4K screen is a high-resolution (see below) monitor that is perfect for creative professionals, designers, and content creators who want the best image quality without spending $20 million dollars for a display that might be overkill in the long run.
What is a Pixel?
Pixel is an abbreviation originating from the words picture-element.
A pixel is the smallest controllable element of a picture represented on a screen. By itself, it isn’t much. But when you put a bunch of pixels together, you can create some pretty incredible images. Just think – without pixels, we wouldn’t have Facebook, Netflix, or Minecraft!
You can also think of the pixel as a tiny dot that makes up what you see on a computer screen. Imagine you took a bunch of tiny little cupcake sprinkles and put them together to make a delightful snack while watching Stranger Things. The more sprinkles, the bigger the cupcake, and the longer you snack.
All those tiny
sprinkles of squares of color on your screen are so small; you can barely see them unless you look so close or become a biophysicist named Hank Pym (the Ant-Man) and fight crime at a microscopic level. But despite their small size, pixels play a significant role in how we see images and text on our screens.
Let’s make it super simple:
5K means roughly 5,000 pixels wide.
4K means roughly 4,000 pixels wide.
4K displays are used in professional content production by creatives and digital cinemas and feature a screen resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels. It is all most of us will ever need, and it is more than adequate for most use cases with those on a budget.
My preferred setup these days is two 4K displays, side by side.
One monitor is set to landscape orientation and is my main display; the other is swiveled to portrait mode to make me feel very special as I work on my next magazine project. (I really want to use 12 in a circular pattern so when I swivel in my chair I have no loss of vision at all, but that is for another day.)
But what about the old curved screen ultrawide? I still appreciate those bigger-than-life wide-screen setups, but being able to swivel one monitor 180 degrees so I can design and code in portrait mode is perfect for my workflow.
Being able to swivel one monitor 180 degrees so I can design and code in portrait mode is perfect.
Monitor Resolutions For The Uninformed
We all know that monitors come in different shapes and sizes.
But have you ever stopped to wonder what all those numbers and letters mean when you’re looking at the specs of screen size and resolution?
Are they evil pharmaceutical scribbles to plan the next global pandemic?
Have they discovered a set of new Fred Astaire dance routines with an umbrella and hidden them in confusing glyph sequences?
What if they are a new spreadsheet formula to destroy all Google Sheets and Excel files on the planet?
As a creative in the market for a new monitor, or even if you’re just curious about what all those numbers mean, read on!
When it comes to monitors, resolution is everything.
So what exactly is monitor resolution?
Resolution is the number of pixels that make up an image on your screen. The higher the resolution, the more detail you’ll be able to see.
Most monitors today have a resolution of 1920 × 1080, which is also known as Full HD. This means that there are 1920 horizontal pixels and 1080 vertical pixels making up the image on your screen.
Being the creative wonder worker that you are, you’re looking for even more detail than that—which is why a screen with 4K resolution, which has a revolution, oops, resolution, of 4096 × 2160 pixels is the best way to go.
A summary of all you ever need to know about monitor resolutions and their weird codes till the year 2099 (HD in all the below stands for High Definition):
|Weird Display Name||Even Weirder Pixel Dimensions|
qHD may sound similar to QHD, but it stands for quarter-HD, hence the lowercase “q.” This was popular around 2011
|960 × 540 pixels|
720p isn’t considered very sharp for today’s monitors, in fact, it might be better to buy a magazine on how to create an omphalos garden ornament.
|1280 × 720 pixels|
|1080p (Full HD / FHD)|
The ubiquitous display resolution found in every nook and cranny of the planet
|1920 × 1080 pixels|
Popular in the movie projection industry. For television and consumer media, 1920 × 1080 is the most common 2K resolution, but this is normally referred to as 1080p.
|2048 × 1080 pixels|
|1440p (QHD / QuadHD / WQHD)|
Known as ‘Quad HD’, 1440p is 4 times stronger than the base HD variant. Not all that popular, so next.
|2560 × 1440 pixels|
UHD stands for “ultra high definition”. Practically all 2160p display resolutions are also 4K, but there are slight nuances – google it.
|3840 × 2160 pixels|
This is the one you want to buy when the moon is full and your mouse is fully charged. 8 million active pixels for your creative delight.
|4096 × 2160 pixels|
Okay, you can also buy this one if you really want to, but most of the time they are very expensive, ranging in price from $1399 to over $5000.
|5120 × 2880 pixels|
Sure, it brings even sharper and more vibrant colors, but usually, you need a backpack of ‘Uncle Sams’.
|7680 × 4320 pixels|
WOW stand for Wigglenuts of Wonder. Wigglenuts replace pixels in the year 2086. The 39K WOW-HD will be available in August of 2099.
|40,080 × 22,545 pixels|
Is there a 32K? There are plans by some companies, and even a few cameras can shoot in 32K, but the main issue for 32K monitors concerns current technology with screen resolution and the CPU/GPU capability to drive them.
Yikes! Screen Technology
Oh dear, more mumbo jumbo.
It can all get a little confusing when looking at the large capital letters on marketing propaganda describing the variations in screen technology.
What is the most prevalent screen tech on the planet?
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) is a type of flat panel display that uses liquid crystals (not related to the New Age movement) in its primary form of operation.
LCDs are as ubiquitous as oxygen and replaced that old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) screen that gave us the classic monitors (circa 1994 X-Files) that were as thick as the Dark Lord’s helmet as he contemplated the destruction of Alderaan.
Shh, don’t tell anyone, but LCDs have also begun being replaced by new display technologies such as OLEDs (Organic Light-Emitting Diode).
Here are the main types of LCD panel technology available today:
TN, IPS, and VA. (oh dear, not more capital letters)
TN stands for twisted nematic. Sounds like twisted neurotic and is probably a gesture of anarchic defiance against all other screen technologies.
IPS stands for in-plane switching. If you want to leverage liquid crystals aligned in parallel universes and quantum jump world at the speed of thought, then IPS is the way to go.
VA stands for vertical alignment. Does this mean you can only use a VA monitor if you have a standing desk? Not really, but the blacks are so deep that the Kraken enjoys holidaying in their pristine obsidian depths.
TN panels are the most common type of LCD panel. This is because they are cheap to produce and give a fairly decent image quality. Gaming monitor manufacturers tend to opt for TN panels due to their current faster response times.
However, as a creative, you want to aim for the best image quality and display as many colors as possible. Perhaps stay away from TN tech if you are geeky and serious about producing the next world-class New York Times magazine cover art.
IPS panels are more expensive than TN panels, but they have much better image quality and allow for wider viewing angles, but they are more expensive.
VA-based monitors also offer much higher contrast, better color reproduction, and wider viewing angles than most TN panels, but they tend to have slower response times.
Do I Even Care About the Aspect Ratio?
Another term you may have heard around the grand interwebs when shopping for a new 4K monitor is the aspect ratio. So what is the aspect ratio and should I even care?
To explain it to a small baby hippopotamus with a penchant for spatial geometrics—the aspect ratio of something is the relationship between its width and height.
For example, a square (like a 24th-century Borg starship) has an aspect ratio of 1:1 because it is equally wide and tall. A rectangle might have an aspect ratio of 4:3, which means it is four units wide for every three units tall.
In monitor jargon, the aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and height of the screen. I know you’ve always nodded off when your friends speak about 16:9, 21:9, and 4:3 aspect ratios, but nod off no more intrepid one, the Borg have started to assimilate you into their 4K collective.
The aspect ratio of most monitors and TVs today is 16:9 (widescreen), and we are seeing more and more content being produced in this format. There are a few reasons for this shift.
First, widescreen monitors and TVs are way more common, so there is a larger market for content that is produced in this format.
Second, widescreen offers a more immersive experience for the viewer, as it allows for a wider field of view.
Most 1080p and 4K monitors are 16:9 aspect ratio.
16:9 aspect ratio and the associated screen resolutions (in pixels) include:
1280×720, 1366×768, 1600×900, 1920×1080 (1080p), 2560×1440, 3840×2160 (4K), 5120×2880, 7680×4320
Quick Designer Tip: Say you have a photo that is 1600 x 1200 pixels, but your blog only has space for a photo 400 pixels wide. To find the new height of your photo—while preserving the aspect ratio—you need to perform astounding feats of shadow magic or….use this Aspect Ratio Calculator. This is one of the go-to secret tools I have used for years.
What is Color Gamut?
A color gamut is a range of colors that can be represented by a professional monitor.
Don’t get all your USB-C ports clogged with utter confusion, even though you will see it all over advertisements when buying a new 4K. It simply means a range of colors, like all the colors of the rainbow.
Think of it as a gourmet meal (as opposed to a gamut meal) at an exclusive restaurant on Mars. Your plate is filled with a myriad of exotic tastes from around the universe, including the Iagulan Charms from the Omniverse Gateway (kinda like spicy chocolate, but with a one-two punch that causes you to see the entire range of colorful creatures that dwell outside the normal range of site for humans).
What the Iagulan Charm is for taste-sensational delight, the color gamut is for visual sensational delight.
How is it pronounced? Like ‘damn-it’ but with a G — but if you want to say it like a flamboyant pâtisserie chef creating a few pink pâte feuilletée at a gourmet celebrity hob-nob, then feel free.
The sRGB color gamut includes all the colors that can be represented using the RGB color model. The sRGB color gamut includes approximately 35% of all visible colors.
Other color spaces you may have heard of around the internet when trying to choose ‘the best budget monitor ever’, include the wide color gamut (WCG) which is wider than that of Rec. 709 (mentioned below in the BenQ IPS monitor for example), along with DCI-P3 or Adobe RGB color space.
The term “gamut” can also refer to the complete range of colors that can be seen by the human eye. The gamut of an LCD screen is limited to the emitted spectrum of its backlight.
The better the guts of the computer monitor, the better the color accuracy and color reproduction of the color space.
And for a later quiz when you could win over $50,000: The term gamut was adopted from the field of music, where in Latin “gamut” meant the entire range of musical notes of which musical melodies are composed.
Top 4K Monitors That Won’t Break the Bank
So, you’re planning on making the switch to a 4K monitor. You are so thankful to have gleaned some of the above factoids and now understand the difference between the aspect ratio of a Borg spacecraft and what a 720p display is. Don’t worry if you are still a bit sketchy on refresh rate, no point in jamming up your brain canyon with techy subplots.
Although 4K TVs are now the norm for the average household, 4K monitors are also poised to become as popular as sliced artisan bread as well—and will most likely replace the old 1080p displays in the near future.
Here are six of the best 4K monitors on the market for 2023, perfect for most creative professionals, graphic designers, coders, and strange wizards that phase in and out of our reality on tiny pink bicycles.
Chock-full Of Features
Moonpixel Dragon Rating: 4/5
Overall the Philips 27″ 4K Brilliance Monitor is a solid performer with a brilliant display, good hub connectivity, and power delivery to charge any attached notebook. It is everything you didn’t know you needed.
Why You Need This Dell
Moonpixel Dragon Rating: 4/5
The Dell 27″ 4K UltraSharp Monitor is an excellent display for the price, with exceptional contrast and enhanced connectivity, along with an impressive array of additional features.
Like The Other Dell, But Better
Okay, This Is Cool
Moonpixel Dragon Rating: 5/5
The ViewSonic 32″ 4K Monitor gives the Dells a run for their money with its amazing colorimetrically accurate IPS panel, Pantone validated, with ultrathin bezels. I am seriously looking at getting two of these to replace my ultrawide LG.
It Gets More Awesome
Moonpixel Dragon Rating: 4/5
The BenQ 32″ 4K monitor drops one dragon only because it is slightly older than the other displays. Apart from that, designers and developers should certainly take a look at this display.
Clear, large, and beautiful
But What About 5K?
What about a second breakfast? And other concluding remarks.
5K Versus 4K?
What about I skip the 4K and nab a 5k instead and be done with it?
For some, it may mean the best investment dollar for maximum benefit!
The Apple 5K display is super clear, but they are certainly not cheap.
They draw you in with spectacular detail and they are packed with a phenomenal set of features so everything you do springs to life.
For instance, on a Samsung 4K monitor, you can still see single pixels, but on an iMac 5K display, you can’t distinguish single pixels anymore.
A 5K display has roughly 33% more pixels than a 4K display.
4K displays have around 8.3 million pixels.
5K displays have around 14.7 million pixels.
With an aspect ratio of 16:9:
- a 4K display has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels
- a 5K display has a resolution of 5120 x 2880 pixels
If you really try to look, you may be able to find a difference in the two displays (and they are there), especially if you put them right next to each for a direct comparison.
But at the end of the day, my preferred choices are still one of the following 32-inch monitors (if you can afford that extra desk space for a slightly larger screen size, it is well worth it I think):
- Dell 4K UltraSharp — Best monitor for digital artists.
- ViewSonic 4K Premium — Best value monitor for design.
- LG 4K UltraFine — Best all-round monitor for content creation.
Most quality 5K monitors generally carry a much higher price tag, usually US$1500 and upward.
If you are interested, one recommendation for a top-quality 5K monitor would be the LG Ultrafine 5K
The purpose of this article is to source a great monitor for an equally great price—and a quality 4K screen can do just that.
Do I Need an Ultimate 8K Wonder Box?
Like warp drives for interstellar travel—when it comes to monitors, size really does matter.
That’s why an 8K monitor is an amazing slice of pudding. It’s the perfect size for watching movies or working on multiple projects at the same time. Plus, the resolution is incredible. Every image is crystal clear and sharp.
These displays will not only deliver incredibly sharp and highly detailed images. It’s like having a real-life window into another world.
8K monitors sound like an amazing purchase for creatives, graphic artists, and designers who need sensational levels of detail, but they may not be worth sinking ALL your cash into.
But if you do have a spare US$5,000, then this may be the way to go, especially if you won the Lotto, but for most of us, a quality 4K monitor (even a 5K screen) is still the best option at the moment. I believe they come with a free stand!
Striking a great balance between specs and price is like creating the perfect cup of tea—water, temperature, tea bags, milk, and stand time before consuming, these all play a part.
If you would prefer to make your own tea with lemonade, strawberries, and 18th-century dried banana skin, that is your decision—and just like the 4K monitors recommended here and the one you end up purchasing – will also be your decision.
I keep reminding myself to be careful not to get too caught up in the details.
Most 4K monitors are good enough to please most people, most of the time, and a detailed graph on the luminosity of pixel number 104,322 on a stormy night in June might not mean much in the big scheme of things.
These days you can upgrade to a 4K screen without spending a year’s wages, but still, even the best 4K monitors can still be expensive if you want pro-level calibration, the best color accuracy, and the ability to detect incoming mad squirrels pilots.
10-Point Checklist for Purchasing a New Monitor
I know you’ll still do hours of research, so here is a final 10-point checklist to help you pass the time on your intergalactic journey to discover the best monitor in existence:
Steve Roberts is a full-time blogger, digital marketer, and freelance designer who also helps young Jedis make informed lightsaber decisions. Join Steve on this incredible journey, learning how to scale your business and entrepreneurial vision. His clients include organizations and businesses from Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA.