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An eye for detail

Buying a monitor? Go as large as the physical space and wallet allow.

The Samsung U32D970Q: The best-looking monitor in the test.

The number of brands offering super high resolution monitors, also marketed as 4K or UHD, is steadily increasing. 4K content is being made more widely available.

Netflix has a growing number of gorgeous looking 4K titles and YouTube is similarly filling its library thanks to consumer-grade 4K recording devices becoming more affordable.

On top of that, the latest generation of gaming consoles now also support mindblowing, immersive 4K gaming. The last big piece of the puzzle, is that most new desktop systems, notebooks and media players have the raw processing power to fluently move all those 3840 x 2160 pixels around. With more
manufacturers entering this new 4K-display arena, prices are slowly coming down to make these devices more readily available.

The new normal

Setting this new, ultra-high 4K resolution aside for a moment, modern-day monitors also differentiate in other interesting properties. Some of them come in true cinema (21:9) width, offer higher refresh rates for a very fluid gaming experience and some models even feature a curved design.

Although these novelties come with their own specific set of pros and cons, 4K resolution is going to be the industry-standard for every future monitor on the market over the next couple of years, and will inevitably become the new normal.

Who needs 4K?

Choosing a 4K monitor over an older model with a relatively low resolution, does come with some major advantages. Since a lot more information can simultaneously be displayed, resulting in more desktop ‘real-estate’, programmers, web developers, stock traders, video and photo editors, to name just a few professions, will greatly benefit from the high pixel count. Movie enthusiasts and gamers will absolutely appreciate the enhanced level of detail in 4K footage. Once you’ve experienced a 4K monitor, chances are that you will never want to go back.

While the resolution sounds impressively cutting edge, 4K screens aren’t only for the early adopters anymore. Anybody planning to purchase a new screen should seriously consider a 4K model to future proof their system. Given the incredible amount of information that can be shown on just one screen, you might even argue that a 4K monitor eliminates the need for a second one.

Size does matter

4K comes to life on the biggest of screens. However, taking budget into account, the 27- inch size is the current sweet spot. Choosing the size of a 4K monitor is mainly determined by the actual amount of available space on a desk, as well as what the device is ultimately going to be used for. Anything smaller than 27-inch and the 4K resolution is unworkable – to such an extent that you will be forced, through your operating system, to scale back.

A 24-inch 4K screen, for instance, can fit four times more pixels than a regular full-HD monitor. Thus, icons and text will become so miniaturised that you’d need a magnifying glass. In the end, when choosing a 4K/UHD monitor, its diagonal measurement should be as high as possible to avoid pixels, text and
icons getting too small. Bottom line, go as large as the physical space and wallet allow.

Acer S277HK Acer S277HK
Acer S277HK

RRP: R14 299

Distributor: Rectron

Product page

Screen diagonal: 27-inch

Pixel density: 163 ppi

Display technology: IPS

Connections: HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio

Adjustable height: No

Speakers: Yes

The Acer S277HK monitor uses IPS screen technology, has built-in speakers and is equipped with a decent number of connectors. However, it lacks a USB port and a second HDMI connector would have been welcome. Unfortunately, the S277HK can’t be adjusted in height. The built-in menu and navigation lacks a certain amount of intuitiveness and pales compared to the easy interface of the similarlysized LG monitor. In terms of screen quality, there’s nothing to complain about, but it also doesn’t excel. Nonetheless, its measured brightness, contrast, colour reproduction and viewing angles are quite good. It does, however, consume the most energy (39 Watt) of all the 27-inch models in this test. Build quality is also decent, but not exceptional. The design, on the other hand is very elegant because of its nice, thin bezels. It’s the only monitor tested where the mount-stand isn’t central to screen. So, if non-symmetrical things annoy you, beware.

Image quality: 7.5/10

Ease of use: 6.5/10

Ergonomics: 6.5/10

Connections: 7.5/10

Build quality: 7/10

Energy consumption: 7/10

Versatility: 7/10

Overall: 7/10

 

Asus MX27UQ Asus MX27UQ
Asus MX27UQ

RRP: R12 999

Distributor: Rectron, Tarsus

Product page

Screen diagonal: 27-inch

Pixel density: 163 ppi

Display technology: AH-IPS

Connections: HDMI (2x), DisplayPort, USB, 3.5mm audio

Adjustable height: No

Speakers: Yes, Bluetooth

The Asus MX27UQ is the only monitor in this test that uses Advanced High-performance IPS technology. AH-IPS aims to improve on regular IPS by improving
image quality and viewing angles, all at lower power consumption. And that’s exactly what our dedicated measuring equipment registered. Of all three tested 27-inch models, the Asus scores highest on pure image quality and only needs 28 Watt to do so, which is a fraction more than the 27-inch LG and considerably less than the Acer model.

On top of that, the MX27UQ supports AMD Freesync, which optimises performance when connected to an AMD video card. The monitor is fitted with two
HDMI-ports and has built-in Bluetooth speakers. Unfortunately, its height can’t be adjusted according to personal preferences. Like the Acer, this model also
has a nice, elegant design with thin bezels and delivers the best build quality of all 27-inch models included in this test.

Image quality: 8.5/10

Ease of use: 7/10

Ergonomics: 6.5/10

Connections: 8/10

Build quality: 7.5/10

Energy consumption: 7.5/10

Versatility: 7.5/10

Overall: 7.5/10

 

Dell UP3216Q Dell UP3216Q
Dell UP3216Q

RRP: R17 999

Distributor: Tarsus, Pinnacle, Axiz, Drive Control

Product page

Screen diagonal: 31.5-inch

Pixel density: 140 ppi

Display technology: IPS

Connections: HDMI, DisplayPort, USB, 3.5mm audio

Adjustable height: Yes

Speaker: No

This huge 31.5-inch 4K screen from Dell delivers stunning image quality, but can’t match that of the 31.5-inch screen from Samsung. The slightly larger 31.5 screen, when compared to the 27-inch models, is a warm welcome when planning to use the monitor for desktop applications with loads of text,
menus and icons. The UP3216Q is comfortably adjustable in height therefore increasing ergonomics. It features an integrated USB hub to connect a
keyboard and mouse, but unfortunately has no internal speakers present.

Energy consumption is also quite high (75 Watt), but slightly less than that of the Samsung monitor. Build quality is good, but the UP3216Q has some pretty
thick, black bezels.

Image quality: 8/10

Ease of use: 7.5/10

Ergonomics: 8/10

Connections: 7/10

Build quality: 7.5/10

Energy consumption: 6/10

Versatility: 6/10

Overall: 7.1/10

 

LG 27UD68 LG 27UD68
LG 27UD68

RRP: R8 599

Distributor: Pinnacle

Product page

Screen diagonal: 27-inch

Pixel density: 163 ppi

Display technology: IPS

Connections: HDMI (2x), DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio

Adjustable height: No

Speakers: No

LG’s 27UD68 isn’t adjustable in height, has no integrated speakers and has a noticeably lower build quality than the rest. It does, however, come with an
excellent and intuitive way to navigate through all the options, presets and menus.

The 27UD68 is also fitted with two HDMI connectors and can handle AMD Freesync technology to optimise any games you might run on it. Image quality is also very good, mainly because of its contrast and colour qualities. This LG monitor requires the least amount of energy (27 Watt) of all tested devices and is elegantly designed with very thin bezels around its edges.

Image quality: 8.5/10

Ease of use: 7/10

Ergonomics: 6.5/10

Connections: 8/10

Build quality: 7.5/10

Energy consumption: 7.5/10

Versatility: 7.5/10

Overall: 7.1/10

 

Samsung U32D970Q Samsung U32D970Q
Samsung U32D970Q

RRP: R23 999

Distributor: Rectron

Product page

Screen diagonal: 31.5-inch

Pixel density: 140 ppi

Display technology: PLS

Connections: HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, USB, 3.5mm audio

Adjustable height: Yes

Speakers: No

This 31.5-inch Samsung monitor differentiates itself from the rest because of its use of PLS (Plane to Line Switching) technology instead of IPS. Although both technologies are quite similar, Samsung’s PLS can deliver even better viewing angles, brightness and general image quality. That advantage does come with a drawback, though.

According to our measurements the U32D970Q requires a massive 85 Watt of energy, which is considerably more than the Dell 31.5-inch monitor.

For that price, you get the best-looking monitor in this test. The fact that the U32D970Q comes completely calibrated when leaving the Samsung factory, plays a major role in that aspect. In addition to outstanding image quality, it features an integrated USB hub, can be adjusted in height and even pivots. It doesn’t have built-in speakers and has just one HDMI port. Build quality is also excellent, best of all devices in this test. Although
the U32D970Q has some pretty thick bezels they’re slightly more subtle than those of the Dell monitor.

Image quality: 8.5/10

Ease of use: 7.5/10

Ergonomics: 8/10

Connections: 7.5/10

Build quality: 8/10

Energy consumption: 5/10

Versatility: 6.5/10

Overall: 7.3/10


In conclusion

All tested monitors can produce stunning visuals because of their 4K support. In the 27-inch range, Asus takes the lead as it offers superior image quality, plenty of connectors and integrated Bluetooth speakers. On top of that, it has the least energy consumption. Anybody looking for an intuitive, affordable and easy to use 27-inch 4K monitor, should consider the LG 27UD68.

Between the two tested 31.5-inch models, the more expensive Samsung is our preferred product since image quality, ergonomics, design and build quality are slightly better than its Dell competitor. However, if Samsung’s high energy consumption bothers you, the relatively energy efficient 31.5-inch Dell UP3216Q is a fabulous runner-up.

Test information

For this test, five major brands provided their most suitable 4K monitors, with a minimum diagonal of 27-inch and no maximum RRP.

All tested models make use of LED-backlight technology, have a 16:9 display aspect ratio, feature a 60 Hz refresh rate and offer at least one HDMI and DisplayPort connector.

Although most brands offer curved designs, none of those tested were. Also, none of the monitors tested is specifically geared towards professional gamers, where response time and input lag play a much bigger role. However, because each model uses IPS (In-plane switching) screen technology, they remain great gaming monitors for amateurs.

We thoroughly tested relevant product aspects like image quality, ergonomics, ease of use, connections, build quality, energy consumption and general versatility. Overall image quality was measured with dedicated equipment by primarily focusing on brightness, contrast, viewing angles and colour quality. To
make comparisons fair and rule out any form of optimisation, all five monitors were manually reset to factory defaults before commencing with the actual test run and further settings were mostly left untouched.

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