Holiday Guides 2014: Monitors
With the holidays here, it’s time to look back on the monitors I’ve seen in the past year and determine what really stands out. This year has seen the availability of 4K displays rise while the price has fallen dramatically. Where the first 4K display we reviewed cost over $3,000, now I see a 4K monitor at Costco for under $600 when I go shopping, or you can even find them for $400 at Monoprice.
This rapid rise in availability of panels has not been without issues, as DisplayPort and HDMI hardware are still playing catch-up, while Windows continues to lag with DPI scaling. With these two issues, my advice on 4K remains to wait until you can buy a display with HDMI 2.0 and/or DisplayPort 1.3 chipsets so you are not stuck using MST and other work arounds to drive them past 30Hz. This also gives software vendors more time to bring their software up to speed with HiDPI resolutions and scaling inside of OS X and Windows.
My recommendations for displays focus on general use and not on gaming or professionals. This next year will see more gaming display reviews coming, so people after those will be happy to see more reviews in that area soon.
Monoprice Glass Panel Pro
This was technically reviewed in 2013, but in 2014 the price has dropped down to $300 and it remains a very good value for a 27” WQHD display. You can save a bit more on a Korean import, but my testing found those to have worse uniformity and image quality, as well as the inherent issues with importing something where customer and warranty support is across an ocean. 27” displays are still the sweet spot for value and usability right now though I imagine 4K panels will take over next year sometime. Dual 27” monitors have been the standard in my house for a couple of years now, and the Monoprice is where I would look to get an affordable one now.
21:9 monitors made me more disappointed than anything else their first 18 months in existence. As someone who loves 2.39:1 movies, the desktop versions of these displays just were too tight. The vertical resolution caused me to feel like there isn’t enough room to really spread out and work on multiple items at once, and the width made working on one item, unless it was a massive spreadsheet, have too much wasted space. They worked great for gaming and movies, but not for daily use.
The $900 LG 34UM95 changed this by moving from 1080p to 1440p for the vertical resolution. Now you can work on two items side-by-side perfectly. The integrated Thunderbolt ports allow it to work as a USB hub for a MacBook as well. The display quality is very good, but it is really the form factor that sets the LG apart. I’ve grown used to having two, or three or four, displays on my desk at once. If I could only have a single display, it would be the LG 34UM95 as it is the only one that really made multitasking easy to do.
While I think that 4K isn’t quite here yet, the $1,400 NEC EA244UHD is the closest to ready I have seen in a monitor. I had zero issues with MST when running at 60Hz which I cannot say for any other 4K monitor to this point. It also has the single best uniformity of any display I have seen to date. This isn’t from the NEC PA professional line, so it lacks the calibration options of those, but for most consumers it offers an incredibly accurate, totally uniform image that will satisfy almost everyone.
The 24” size is small enough that you’ll want to use DPI scaling, which will work better with OS X than in Windows at this point. I personally would still pick the LG 34UM95 because I think the larger size makes it a more usable display, but if you want UltraHD resolutions and the best performance, the NEC EA244UHD is a very good pick.