The best 4K gaming monitor may demand a lot from the best gaming PC, but if you want the level of detail a gorgeous 3840x2160 resolution can offer, then you need a mix of the top panel technology, and the latest high-end gaming features.
Now we're looking at blazing next-gen performance benchmarks from Nvidia 30-series cards like the RTX 3080 and the RTX 3090, as well as the exceptional new RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT cards from AMD, getting a good gaming monitor is one of the best things you can do to prepare.
You're going to want a VA or IPS screen, a refresh rate above the 60Hz baseline and some form of frame-syncing capability, whether that's G-Sync or FreeSync. And you also have to decide whether you might want to go really big, and bag one of the best gaming TVs instead. They offer larger screen sizes, though sometimes you might sacrifice some PC specific goodies.
4K gaming was very much a niche activity for a long time, but the best 4K gaming monitors are becoming ever more accessible to us PC gamers. No longer are they either ultra expensive or just restricted to TN displays. There is a world of high-quality 4K screens out there just waiting to have the sci-fi cities of Cyberpunk 2077 writ large across them.
The main thing to consider is whether you have a gaming PC capable of making a 4K gaming monitor worth it. Upgrading to one of the best graphics cards will ensure your machine's not just going to be rendering a gaming slideshow with the step-up to 4K. You should also aim for a larger screen size too. The first 4K monitor we ever tested was glorious, but was only a 24-inch panel, so we couldn’t quite appreciate the 8.3 million pixels we were generating.
But with a big screen 4K gaming monitor you’ll be able to see that extra level of detail. In fact, pretty much anything above the 27-inch mark will make a big difference. That might mean spending a bit more, but it's always worth stretching your budget when it comes to monitors, more so than almost anything else PC-related. It’s not like a GPU, becoming outdated every few years, this gaming monitor could see you through a decade of action-packed, next-gen gaming. It’ll span many iterations of your Theseus’ ship of a PC, so bagging the best 4K gaming monitor today will mean it's still be able to produce breathtaking quality for all those years.
Best 4K monitors for gaming
A close cousin of the Acer Predator X27, itself once the top of this pile, the XB273K is a seriously excellent 4K monitor. It harnesses everything the X27 does, trading off very little to rehouse it in a far cheaper model.
Now often found sitting just below the $1,000 mark, it is immediately more tempting than the Acer X27, and the only real change is in the HDR; the XB273K has a slightly lower quality of HDR. But that's about it. And considering the still nightmarish state of HDR gaming on PC, that's not a huge miss.
You'll still get a truly excellent picture quality, with terrific color quality, contrast, and depth; the 144Hz refresh rate means it's excellent for faster shooters or online games too. G-Sync offers the best adaptive sync technology, you're covered by an impressive array of ports, and overall it offers such a well-rounded overall experience you'll have zero regrets.
Read the full Acer Predator XB273K review.
Perhaps a little obvious, but packing lots of top-end features into a display means it’ll have a price to match its excellent quality and capabilities. The Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ follows this pattern as it is an incredible display but at great expense. The difference here is yet more features you can cram in—one in particular—that perhaps set it slightly apart from the rest. As well as the ridiculously clear, bright and detailed images that the PG27UQ’s 4K and HDR-enabled 27-inch display shows off, this monitor also incorporates Nvidia G-Sync tech, making this an absolute behemoth of a screen.
On the back, it’s a bit lean on the connections, but you should have everything you need: present are an HDMI 2.0 input, DisplayPort 1.4, 3.5mm audio, and two USB 3.0 ports. It’s also an incredibly well-designed bit of kit with the stand effectively funneling cables, as well as looking cool.
Providing you have the gutsy PC required to make the most of this beaut, it’ll give you some of the brightest, most vivid pictures going, a 144Hz refresh rate, all made smooth as anything by the G-Sync tech (provided you have an Nvidia GPU). It is an astounding end product. The list price is very high, so it might well put people off, but for those that take the plunge it will not disappoint.
Read the full Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ review.
The above Acer and Asus monitors clearly shows that 4K-resolution displays can come at a premium. Not only is it likely that 4K will cost you an arm and a leg, it’ll also demand an enormous amount of power and grunt from your machine to make the most of it.
The elephant in the room when considering the move to 4K is that it will, almost without fail, mean a tradeoff between resolution and refresh rate—and we’ll see that here with this monitor’s sitting at 60Hz. However, given this, the Acer Predator XB321HK comes to the show delivering an impressive prospect. It’s a 32-inch, IPS panel, so its colors are bright, and it has enough screen to put its 3840x2160 4K UHD resolution to good use—but without deploying HDR tech. The Predator XB321HK’s price tag is high, but it is cheaper than the old Acer Predator X27 that ruled the roost for so long, and so offers decent value for a 4K gaming monitor.
And while the compromise in refresh rate and the lack of HDR may appear a bit of a miss at first, this is still a luxury monitor that’ll perform exceptionally well. If you’ve spent a chunk on powerful graphics cards, and maybe can’t quite warrant stretching even further to the X27, it's a good alternative.
If you're on the lookout for a quality way into the field of 4K gaming monitors, but haven't got a huge pile of ready cash to throw at the situation, then the BenQ EL2870U is one for you to seriously consider. The overall picture quality is surprisingly good, especially considering it's a TN monitor. There's also a delicate balance to the capabilities and offerings of the EL2870U. Crispness and detail are beautifully presented, with good contrasts and tones. It performs well in the most vibrant of on screen environments, right down to the dingiest.
As a budget-level monitor, it does top out the refresh rate of its glorious 4K resolution at 60Hz, but that's fine for most and indeed excellent for the price and the 4K-entry point it represents. Unfortunately there's no G-Sync, but FreeSync is present to help smooth out the experience, while a 1ms response time gives it a speedy edge.
Also present are BenQ's original screen technologies incorporated to aid users' eyes when using the monitor for long periods. These consists of the Low Blue Light Technology, which removes harmful blue light that can damage eyes, and Brightness Intelligence + (B.I.+), which changes the brightness and color temperature of your on-screen images based on your surroundings.
We can confirm that these are not just gimmicks and do truly benefit you. Combine these with the brilliant picture quality and speeds the EL2870U offers as a whole package, and this is an impressive point of entry to 4K monitors and offers fantastic value with an impulse-purchase good price point.
Read the full BenQ EL2870U review.
Very much appearing more like a TV than a monitor, the 43-inch 4K HDR Philips Momentum 436M6VBPAB is almost cumbersome, but still very much worth a look. Being so big may present a challenge when it comes to setting up safely and in terms of practical use on your desk, but it is also weighty enough that you should have no reservations about its stability.
A little more expensive than a regular 4K HDR TV of the same size, but it puts gaming—and PCs—first. It has a good haul of ports covering HDMI 2.0, USB-C, DisplayPort, and Mini DisplayPort, it has a backlight that glows according to what's shown on the front of the screen (called Ambiglow), and it's an MVA-type panel that boasts a 4ms response time. Still, its 4K and HDR qualities are undeniable and, teamed with its TV-size, the accessible price tag will be very appealing. And with that 43-inch screen size you really get a feeling for the actual fidelity improvements of 4K gaming.
The LG 27UL650 is another killer 4K gaming monitor you can find for under $500. This IPS panel display has improved color and contrast over its predecessor and offers lower input lag for gaming.
If you do more than gaming, this LG display sports wildly precise color accuracy and HDR10, which makes watching movies and editing a worthwhile endeavor. The only real downside is standard 60Hz refresh rate and the fact the monitor has no built in speakers, so you'll have to invest in a good pair of headphones and/or speakers, as well. But generally we'd recommend that over pretty much any tinny display speaker anyway.
How we test: gaming monitors
There are two main ways to test out a screen to determine whether it's best gaming monitor material. The first is by playing games on it. Subjectively testing the gaming performance of each panel isn’t necessarily going to give you the lowdown on the specifics of a particular screen. Still, it will let you test the functioning aspect ratio, native resolution, and any specific gamer-centric technologies they’re sporting.
Side-by-side comparative testing in this manner is also incredibly valuable for keying into the sometimes subtle differences between each panel. When you use a screen in isolation, it’s easy to become blind to its comparative faults as you simply get used to them. Testing screens back-to-back allows us to discover and highlight specific issues between them.
We also use a heap of standardised tests produced by Lagom in order to ensure levels and saturation are visually up to our standards.