- A budget of $500 can buy an excellent monitor with image quality close to one priced twice as high.
- We considered over a dozen monitors across this price range to make our list.
- Dell’s S2721QS has 4K resolution and impressive performance at a surprisingly low price.
While $500 won’t buy the most luxurious monitors available, this budget is high enough to snag an outstanding monitor with modern features. Monitors in this price bracket offer the best overall bang for your buck.
I’ve reviewed hundreds of monitors and laptops over the past decade, keeping a log of my results. This history of performance provides a unique perspective into how monitors have improved over time. I can say with confidence that every monitor on this list is among the top five percent of monitors ever sold.
These monitors were selected through a combination of hands-on testing, which includes evaluation with a calibration tool, and comparisons with test results recorded by rigorous review websites, such as Rtings.com and TFT Central. I also compared these monitors to past versions of the same model, if previously tested, to ensure the newest version is the best pick.
Here are the best computer monitors for under $500:
- Best monitor overall: Dell 27 4K UHD S2721QS Monitor
- Best for gaming monitor: LG 27GL83A-B 27-Inch Ultragear Monitor
- Best monitor for professionals: BenQ PD2700U 27-Inch 4K Monitor
- Best ultrawide monitor: Sceptre C355W-3440UN 35-Inch Curved Ultrawide Monitor
- Best 32-inch monitor: Dell 32 S3220DGF Curved Gaming Monitor
The best monitor under $500 overall
The Dell 27 4K UHD S2721QS delivers 4K resolution and great image quality with no downside.
Pros: 4K resolution, great image quality, ergonomic stand, professional design
Cons: Poor HDR support
The Dell S2721QS is a fantastic monitor. It’s so good, in fact, it also earns the nod as Insider Review’s best computer monitor at any price point. You can spend a lot more on a monitor, but this Dell makes it difficult to justify.
4K resolution is the headline feature. It works out to a pixel density of 163 pixels per inch, twice the pixel density of a 1080p monitor. That’s the highest available aside from 24-inch and 25-inch 4K monitors which, in 2021, are rare. It also does well in color testing, covering 100% of the sRGB color gamut with respectable color accuracy. The monitor’s contrast ratio of 1150:1 is strong for the category, providing a vibrant and dynamic image in movies and games.
It’s a looker even when it’s off. Dell’s reserved but professional white-and-silver design helps the monitor blend in. The attractive silver stand is hefty and provides significant ergonomic adjustment, including 150mm of height adjustment, 60 degrees of swivel, and 25 degrees of tilt. The monitor can even pivot 90 degrees for use in vertical orientation.
This monitor has a standard 60Hz refresh rate, which may disappoint gamers, but supports AMD FreeSync. Competitive gamers should buy our pick for the best gaming monitor under $500, the LG 27GL83A-B, which has a 144Hz refresh rate. However, the Dell S2721QS provides better image quality than the LG, making it a good choice for single-player, co-op, and strategy games.
Poor HDR support is this monitor’s only flaw. However, the monitor’s measured peak brightness of 438 nits is excellent for a monitor at any price point. We can’t recommend the Dell S2721QS for HDR, but many monitors in this price range don’t offer the feature at all.
If the Dell S2721QS is out of stock, consider the S2721Q as an alternative. It lacks an ergonomic stand but is otherwise identical to the S2721QS. It even has a VESA mount, so you can add a third-party stand, or reuse one from a previous monitor.
The best gaming monitor under $500
The LG 27GL83A-B 27-Inch Ultragear is a responsive but attractive monitor that won’t bust your budget.
Pros: Fast response times, 144Hz refresh rate, adaptive sync support, great image quality
Cons: Contrast, poor HDR support
LG’s 27GL83A-B is the gaming monitor benchmark. Its excellent quality and attractive pricing make it a solid choice for players, no matter the genre of gaming they prefer. Plus, the monitor can pull double duty as a video- or photo-editing monitor.
The monitor’s high-refresh IPS panel is the star of the show. It supports a refresh rate of up to 144Hz and is compatible with both AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync. That means it can synchronize its refresh rate with the frame rate of games, providing smooth motion with no stutter. The monitor has excellent response time performance, so fast-moving objects look relatively clear and show minimal ghosting. That’s important if you play competitive games and rely on split-second decisions.
Although built for speed, the LG 27GL83A-B provides vibrant color that spans 99% of the sRGB gamut. Its out-of-box color accuracy is competitive with entry-level professional monitors, so the monitor is acceptable for content creation outside the most demanding professional environments. The monitor’s 2560 x 1440 resolution can’t match the sharpness of our top pick, but it’s high enough to look great in most situations.
The monitor’s main weakness is its contrast ratio of 900:1, which is towards the low end of monitors in this price range. That’s bad news for HDR support, which falls way short of even the most affordable HDR televisions.
LG has an upgrade to this monitor, the 27GL850-B, which includes a Nano IPS panel. This improves color gamut and accuracy, making it an awesome choice if you want to combine the qualities of a professional monitor and a gaming monitor in one display. Unfortunately, the 27GL850-B is $100 to $120 more expensive. It’s not worth the extra cash, if you’re only interested in gaming.
The best professional monitor under $500
The BenQ PD2700U 27-Inch 4K Monitor delivers the best color performance you’ll find for less than $500, then throws in 4K as a bonus.
Pros: Excellent color performance, 4K resolution, ergonomic stand, anti-glare panel, plenty of ports
Cons: Poor HDR support, low contrast
BenQ’s PD2700U is a stunning monitor that is certain to please anyone who needs a high-quality monitor for color-critical work. This monitor can cover over 100% of the sRGB and up to 100% of the Rec.709 color gamut. While I didn’t test this model for color accuracy, I’ve tested multiple monitors from BenQ including the larger, more expensive BenQ PD3220U and older SW2700PT. BenQ professional monitors consistently provide excellent out-of-the-box color accuracy.
While great out-of-box performance is important, professionals also need customization. The BenQ PD2700U delivers with multiple adjustments for color temperature, saturation, and hue, as well as several gamma presets between a gamma curve of 1.8 and 2.6. These settings let you change the monitor’s image to better match the type of content you’re creating.
4K resolution is a nice perk, as it lets content creators view 4K media at full resolution, something not possible on a 1440p monitor. 4K also improves the sharpness of every web page you visit and document you open.
This monitor shares flaws with LG’s 27GL83A-B. Although it can hit nearly 400 nits of brightness, the BenQ PD2700U isn’t bright enough to properly display HDR. Its real-world contrast ratio of 900:1 is acceptable for content creation but is noticeable when you take a Netflix break. The Dell S2721QS is a better monitor for entertainment despite its lower price.
The BenQ PD2700U has a solid ergonomic stand with 140mm of height adjustment, 90 degrees of swivel adjustment, 25 degrees of tilt, and 90 degrees of pivot. It’s hefty and has a large base, so the monitor stays planted while you move it. The PD2700U has plenty of connectivity, including not just HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 but also the less common Mini-DisplayPort 1.4.
The best ultrawide computer monitor under $500
Sceptre’s C355W-3440UN 35-Inch Curved Ultrawide Monitor has a huge, immersive display at a low price.
Pros: Large display, high resolution, good image quality, 100Hz refresh rate
Cons: Poor build quality, cloudy image in dark scenes
A quality ultrawide monitor is hard to find under $500, but the Sceptre C355W-3440UN is a reliable pick that is often in stock at major retailers. That alone is the monitor’s largest selling point. Many 34-inch, ultrawide monitors with 3440 x 1440 resolution typically sell north of $500, and some models approach $1,000. They’re also frequently out of stock.
The C355W-3440UN has good image quality despite aggressive pricing. Unlike other monitors on this list, which use a panel technology called In-Plane Switching (IPS), this monitor has a Vertical Alignment (VA) panel. What’s that mean for you? A great contrast ratio of nearly 3000:1, with deeper, more realistic black levels. The C355W-3440UN can’t match the color accuracy or gamut of other monitors on this list, but its superior contrast provides an immersive sense of depth in games and movies.
The monitor’s 3440 x 1440 resolution is important, too. You can find less expensive ultrawide monitors or price-comparable monitors from big brand names, but they reduce resolution to 2560 x 1080. That resolution is low for a monitor of this size. The Spectre’s 1440p panel provides a sharper, clearer image.
Gamers will be happy to hear this monitor has a 100Hz refresh rate and supports AMD FreeSync. Owners also report it will work with Nvidia G-Sync, though its lack of official support means you could encounter bugs, like image flicker.
What’s the catch? Sceptre isn’t known for its quality control. The monitor looks and feels cheap compared to alternatives from LG, Samsung, and Dell. You may end up with image uniformity issues, like significant backlight bleed in one corner of the screen, though this problem seems to vary from one monitor to the next. These problems are balanced by the monitor’s good image quality and extremely low price.
The best 32-inch computer monitor under $500
The Dell 32 S3220DGF Curved Gaming Monitor has great image quality and a large display, making it ideal for movies and games
Pros: Large display, great image quality, 165Hz refresh rate, sturdy build quality
Cons: Poor HDR support, only 1440p resolution
Do you want a big, curved monitor for entertainment? Dell’s S3220DGF is easily your best option for less than $500. This 32-incher is sold as a gaming monitor, but its image quality and sturdy design make it a great general-purpose pick.
The Dell S3220DGF, like the Sceptre ultrawide, has a VA panel that delivers an excellent contrast ratio of nearly 3000:1. That’s outstanding for a computer monitor of any size at any price point, and it gives the monitor a sense of depth and realism that can rival budget HDTVs. The monitor has a resolution of 2560 x 1440, which falls short of the 4K resolution offered by some competitors. Its color performance doesn’t deliver the accuracy needed for professional work but does provide a vibrant, enjoyable image.
This is a gaming monitor, so it has a 165Hz refresh rate and supports AMD FreeSync. Owners report that Nvidia’s G-Sync works, though this support is unofficial. The Dell S3220DGF can’t achieve the intense clarity of the best gaming monitor under $500, LG’s 27GL83A-B, but it’s a huge leap over a 60Hz monitor. Most gamers will be impressed.
Like other monitors, the Dell’s S3220DGF has trouble with HDR. It’s VESA DisplayHDR 400 certified and can deliver slightly more than the 400 nits of brightness that certification requires, but it lacks local backlight dimming. The monitor has trouble when displaying a wide range of contrast in a single scene, such as stars in a night sky, because the entire backlight must remain on.
Build quality is a highlight. Although its design is basic, the Dell S3220DGF feels solid and has a robust ergonomic stand that attaches via a standard VESA mount. The stand offers 150mm of height adjustment, 25 degrees of tilt, and 30 degrees swivel.
What else we considered
There are hundreds of monitors that qualify for possible inclusion in this guide and dozens that are serious contenders. These alternatives didn’t make the cut, but they could be worthwhile if they’re on sale.
- Acer Nitro XV272U ($449.99): This is an excellent gaming monitor that also could work as a professional display for many content creators, but its standard price is a bit high. The LG 27GL83A-B is nearly as good and generally more affordable. However, the Nitro XV272U occasionally receives discounts as low as $299.99, making it a great option for gamers.
- LG 27UK850-W ($449.99): This LG is a 27-inch, 4K monitor that splits the difference between Dell’s S2721QS and BenQ’s PD2700U, landing between those picks in price and overall performance. It’s a good choice for content creators who want excellent color accuracy but don’t need the extreme precision and wide range of features found on the BenQ PD2700U.
- HP U27 4K ($499.99): This monitor isn’t a good value on paper, and we’ve not yet had a chance to test it. However, it could be a good pick if you want a luxurious, super-thin design.
- Asus TUF Gaming VG27AQ ($429.00): The Asus TUF Gaming VG27AQ is a great gaming monitor but, at $429, it’s not a great value compared to alternatives from LG and Acer.
Our testing methodology
I benchmark monitors with Datacolor’s SpyderX, a professional calibration tool that generates a detailed monitor quality report. This report objectively tests a monitor’s contrast, color gamut, color accuracy, brightness, black level, gamma, and uniformity.
These results are placed into a log of monitor quality data compiled through a decade of experience testing monitors and other displays, including those on laptops and smartphones. I pay close attention to a monitor’s contrast, color accuracy, and gamma accuracy, as these have the most dramatic impact on image quality in normal, day-to-day use.
There’s more to a monitor than image quality, however. A great monitor should include a VESA-compatible stand with height, tilt, and swivel adjustments, at the least. This lets you place the monitor in a comfortable position. All monitors sold between $300 to $500 should have this feature and, in fact, it’s included with every monitor we picked.
Of course, a monitor is no use if it can’t connect to your devices. That’s why I prefer monitors with HDMI and DisplayPort. That, thankfully, is easy to find on a $500 budget.
I also prefer monitors with multiple USB ports, which makes them useful as a hub for your wired keyboard, mouse, or any other USB device you might use with a PC. USB-C with DisplayPort and Power Delivery, is a rare but great feature. Unfortunately, none of the monitors on this list include it.
Build quality, though noted in my rankings, carries the least weight. A monitor is rarely handled, and most look the same from the front. Still, I prefer monitors that feel ready to handle a decade of use, and this becomes the tie breaker when comparing models with similar performance and connectivity.
What we’re looking forward to testing
This guide was last updated in January of 2021, and there’s a long list of new models available. Here’s what we have on the way or plan to test.
- ViewSonic XG3220 ($499.99): This 32-inch, 4K monitor holds promise as a challenger to our 32-inch pick, the Dell S3220DGF. It swaps out a high refresh rate for 4K resolution, a trade that might prove better for most people.
- Acer Predator XB253Q GW ($279.99): This 24.5-inch 1080p gaming monitor has a 144Hz refresh rate and DisplayHDR 400 certification, a pair of features rarely found in monitors of this size.
- HP E27u G4 ($339.00): Announced at CES, the HP E27u G4 will be the company’s new mainstream premium monitor. It has 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, but it supports USB-C with power delivery and has multiple USB ports. (Editor’s note: There’s no link available for this product yet.)
What to look for in a computer monitor
What’s the difference between TN, IPS, and VA panel technology?
You’ll frequently see the terms TN, IPS, and VA while shopping for a monitor. These terms describe the basic panel technology a monitor uses. Panel type impacts many aspects of image quality, including color gamut, contrast, and black levels.
TN stands for Twisted Nematic, and it’s the oldest type of LCD panel technology still used today. Although inexpensive, TN panel technology struggles with color accuracy, color gamut, contrast, viewing angles, and maximum brightness. The falling price of newer technology has crowded TN panel technology out of the market. I recommend avoiding any monitor that still uses a TN panel.
IPS, or In-Plane Switching, surged in popularity after the turn of the millennium and is now the most common option in PC monitors and PC laptop displays. IPS panels have a solid color gamut and good color accuracy, and some are very bright. However, they can’t display deep, inky blacks and instead depict dark scenes as a hazy gray. This is called “IPS glow.” It’s a problem if you intend to watch movies on a monitor but is much less noticeable in other situations.
VA, or Vertical Alignment, has surged in popularity over the past five years. VA panel technology is roughly equal to IPS in color gamut and accuracy but far superior in contrast ratio. A monitor using this technology can offer darker, more convincing black levels, eliminating the “IPS glow” problem. VA panels have a limited viewing angle, however, which can be a problem if the monitor is not always viewed straight-on.
Most monitors on this list use IPS panel technology. That doesn’t mean IPS is superior, however. In general, IPS panel is best for productivity and general use, while VA is best for gaming and entertainment though there’s significant overlap. In many cases, a monitor’s recommendation is influenced by other factors that aren’t connected to panel type, like resolution, brightness, and, of course, price.
Do you really need a 4K display?
Our pick for best computer monitor under $500, the Dell S2721QS, has 4K resolution. To be precise, it provides a resolution of 3840 x 2160. This is identical to any 4K television. Computer monitors are much smaller than televisions, so even 1080p resolution is tolerable on a 27-inch monitor. A 4K monitor is far superior in sharpness, however, which does improve day-to-day use.
You might expect this only matters for movies or games, but the opposite is true. A sharp, clear image is most important for day-to-day use. A 4K monitor can display details, like small fonts or tiny interface buttons, without losing clarity. The result is a more versatile display. You can decrease the size of fonts or windows to fit more on your monitor or blow them up to make them more readable. Either way, the results will look better than 1080p or 1440p.
4K isn’t a necessity, but it’s a great feature to have.
Do you really need HDR?
HDR, or high dynamic range, is a standard designed to improve the contrast in movies, games, and other content. It can make bright areas of a scene brighter, and dark areas darker, creating a more dramatic, brilliant, and realistic image. But you don’t need HDR on a monitor in 2021.
Unfortunately, the computer monitor market is struggling to embrace HDR. Even the best monitors achieve a peak brightness level below budget HDR televisions. Computer monitors also rarely offer effective local backlight dimming, a feature that lets an LCD display selectively turn off portions of its backlight.
HDR content is more difficult to find and use on a computer than on a television. The PC versions of popular streaming services, like Netflix, often have limitations on HDR, and graphics hardware that’s more than a few years old may not support the standard. Even the best HDR monitors struggle because of inconsistent software support.
What is contrast ratio, color gamut, color accuracy, black level, and gamma?
These terms are often used to describe a monitor’s image quality. They might sound intimidating, but they describe basic traits that anyone can appreciate.
- Contrast ratio: This is the range between the darkest black and brightest white. A higher contrast ratio leads to an image that appears more realistic and provides a greater illusion of depth. The higher, the better.
- Color gamut: This describes the total range of colors a monitor can display. The display industry uses several standard color spaces, like sRGB, as agreed benchmarks. A monitor’s performance is described by the percentage of a color gamut the monitor can show.
- Color accuracy: This is a monitor’s ability to show colors precisely as they should appear according to industry color standards. Here, a lower result is better, with higher results indicating a larger variance from the agreed standard.
- Gamma: This describes how a monitor handles luminance, with various gamma curves described by numbers. An image will appear darker as the gamma value increases. Monitors designed for everyday use generally target a gamma value between 2.0 and 2.4.