If you are pursuing a creative discipline, you have likely encountered moments in which, despite your best efforts, your physical prints looked different from what you saw on your screen. For a burgeoning graphic designer, photographer, or videographer, investing in a color-critical display is a great way to prune the review process by producing accurate colors at the onset. A superb color-accurate display will cut down on time, stress, resources, and strain while yielding quality results, all of which we have considered for our top recommendations.
The SW321C from BenQ is a solid monitor choice for students and professionals, one that has no issue keeping in step with the more expensive color-critical displays on the market. With native 4K resolution, this display features 99% Adobe RGB, 95% DCI-P3, and 100% sRGB coverage, making it compatible for work with film and photography. The included hot-key puck makes switching around these profiles a breeze and is attractive for creators who like to toggle between them while reviewing color edits.
Sporting a 32" display, this monitor affords users plenty of space to edit work. The SW321C can be used in vertical and horizontal orientations and features a matte screen to eliminate glare with or without the included shade hood.
Working with this display, even in a bright room, is a pleasure, and is well suited for a creative who spends extended amounts of time in front of their screen or who frequently deals with eye strain. Even if you only opt for one of these, the impressive size, in tandem with its powerful resolution and color tonality, can fundamentally shift the quality of your work and overall productivity.
BenQ DesignVue PD3220U
Building upon the SW321C, BenQ offers the PD3220U DesignVue, a lower-priced monitor that compromises very little in terms of color accuracy and quality. This 31.5" 4K HDR display offers many of the same features as the SW321C—namely the matte screen, hot-key puck, and a screen big enough to view dual pages side by side. In color performance, the PD3220U covers 100% of the sRGB and Rec, and 95% of the DCI-P3 and HDR10 color gamut—a swath that is certain to satisfy the demands of students and professionals alike.
This monitor is notably Mac ready and includes a USB-C hub to eliminate superfluous wiring. Those who prefer MacBooks can transition from a day of work to editing with ease, especially with the puck that can be programmed to switch quickly between setups. Like the SW321C, the PD3220U utilizes an anti-glare screen. This display additionally includes easily accessible blue-light options for extra protection against eye strain, making it a great option for a student who tends to work at night or in dark spaces.
With these strong positives in mind, the PD3220U only has 140 ppi, a typical brightness of 250 cd/m2, and a peak HDR brightness of 300 cd/m2 with the matte finish, meaning that it is noticeably darker than the other monitors we have discussed thus far. For its amazing attributes, this display might not be the best for HDR work and is most effective for color grading in darker rooms. However, these compromises might not bother everyone and are well worth it for a display that offers so much at the price point, especially if you are a student who already prefers to color grade in the dark.
Lenovo ThinkVision P32p-20
The ThinkVision P32p-20 from Lenovo is one of the best spec’d monitors at its price if you are looking for a solid color-accurate display. At 32", this monitor features a 4K IPS screen with crisp text and graphics and a wide field of view. Like our other recommendations, the P32p-20 sports a matte screen finish for low glare but is noticeably brighter than the PD3220U. It also has a USB-C hub with 90W power delivery that can supply your Mac devices all day alongside other peripherals. As far as color performance, the P32p-20 covers 99% of the sRGB and Rec, and 90% of DCI-P3, slightly less than the PD3220U, but certainly nothing to sneeze at in terms of capability.
For its price, you will be hard pressed to find a solid 4K monitor with this color gamut. Like many of our recommendations, the P32p-20 can rotate for vertical use and is reasonably sized, providing a beautiful 16:9 screen ratio while remaining easy to transport. This is a great monitor to consider if you are a new student who is still unsure about pursuing a creative discipline. While it might not provide exhaustive profiles like the pricier alternatives, it is still a solid display for color grading and an excellent monitor for general use.
ASUS ProArt Display PA32UCG-K
Rounding out this assemblage is a monitor that walks in toe with the serious monitors prescribed earlier. The PA32UCG-K from ASUS is a beautiful, professional-grade display that offers HDR 4K color resolution covering 98% DCI-P3, 99.5% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB, 100% Rec. 709, and 85% of the Rec. 2020 color gamut. This display is feature-rich, as it should be for its price, with support for Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG formats. Like the P32p-20, the PA32UCG-K offers a variety of inputs including USB-C. The touted color representation on this display is truly incredible—while 100% of sRGB range is to be expected for a high-caliber monitor of this price, 99.5% of AdobeRGB is worth considering if you are someone who requires accurate and consistent color accuracy every day. If you anticipate working with 4K HDR content or will be working alongside highly skilled technicians who also have upper-echelon monitors, investing in a display like the PA32UCG-K is a smart move.
For its perks as a color-accurate display, the PA32UCG-K sacrifices some of the niceties of a regular monitor. For example, its 60W power delivery is notably less than the P32p-20 and will lead to a slower charge if you plan to use your MacBook in tandem. But if you are looking for a workhorse that will give you rich, consistent color, this display is worth considering.
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. Images might have less “pop” when viewed on matte screens, so a glossy screen is worth taking for a spin before you dole out some serious cash. Overall, each of these monitors is reliable, powerful, and can bring something unique to your color grading and editing work.
If you have prior experience with color-critical monitors, did others notice a shift in your work when you made the switch? Have you ever thought about getting a color-critical monitor despite not working in a field that requires it? We want to hear your thoughts, tips, and tricks in the Comments section, below.
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?
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..
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!