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Ask Engadget: Is a 4K monitor the best choice for my desk?

If you don't want a multiple-monitor setup, is there a solid 4K choice that will do the job?
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The support shared between readers in the comments section is one of the things we love most about the Engadget community. Over the years, we've known you to offer sage advice on everything from Chromecasts and cameras to drones and smartphones. In fact, our community's knowledge and insights are a reason why many of you participate in the comments.

We truly value the time and detail you all spend in responding to questions from your fellow tech-obsessed commenters, which is why we've decided to bring back the much-missed "Ask Engadget" column. This week's question comes from a reader who is interested in a 4K monitor purchase but unsure of where to start. Weigh in with your advice in the comments -- and feel free to send your own questions along to ask@engadget.com!

I'm considering buying a budget (sub-$500) 4K monitor for desk work. I am not concerned about color quality, refresh rate or any flashy gaming features. I just want a 4K monitor between 32 and 40 inches to avoid a multiple monitor computer setup. I'm aware that I won't find top-tier brands in that price range, but do you otherwise have any advice? Are there brands I should absolutely avoid? I know in this price range a lot of brands are essentially the same with a different label. And what about manufacturers' warranties?


Devindra Hardawar

Devindra Hardawar
Senior Editor

You're in luck, dear reader. 4K monitors are a lot cheaper now, compared to just a year or two ago. You can find plenty of great 27-inch options in your price range, like the LG 27UD68P-B and Dell P2715Q.

Things get a bit trickier when you bump up to 32 inches, though. On Newegg.com, there are a few larger 4K models from Acer and LG on sale for under $500, but you'll have to act quickly to lock in those prices. Personally, I'd trust an LG panel more than Acer's. I'd also suggest you avoid no-name brands, which typically don't have great build quality or support.

But, you might also want to ask yourself if you actually need a 4K monitor. They're great if you want that extra resolution for photo or video editing, but they don't exactly replicate a multi-monitor setup. And while Windows 10 does a much better job of supporting higher resolutions than before, its 4K handling is still a bit wonky. You'll likely have to scale up the contents of your screen to make text and apps legible. Depending on the size of your screen, native 4K rendering can sometimes make everything too small to read.

Another option: Consider an ultra-wide monitor. These models offer a 21:9 aspect ratio, compared to the 16:9 on normal widescreen monitors. They make it seem like you have two monitors side-by-side, except you don't have to worry about annoying bezels separating them. I've found ultra-wide monitors to be far more useful for desktop computing than 4K models. Being able to have multiple full-sized windows on my screen at once, or use extra-wide windows for audio and video editing, feels like a genuine upgrade over traditional monitors. They also make gaming more immersive, since they offer a wider field of view.

The only downside to ultra-wide monitors is price. Typically, you'd have to spend around $650 to get a 34-inch screen with a 3,440 by 1,440 resolution. There are cheaper and smaller models out there, typically with a lower 2,560 by 1,080 resolution, but I wouldn't recommend those since they have less workable screen space. If you really want a single screen to give you the benefits of a multi-monitor setup, an ultra-wide monitor is the way to go.

All products recommended by Engadget were selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company, Oath. If you buy something through one of our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

In this article: askengadget, av, gear, opinion, thebuyersguide
A writer and editor based out of San Francisco, Amber has worked for The Wirecutter, PCWorld, MaximumPC and TechHive. Her work has also appeared on InfoWorld, MacWorld, Details, Apartment Therapy and Broke-Ass Stuart. In her spare time, she takes too many pictures of her cats, watches too much CSI and obsesses over her bullet journal.
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