6 monitors worth checking out for 2021

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Welcome to our first pass at a list of the best monitors you can buy this year; progress has been held up by the inability to work in our testing lab for the last 11 months, among other pandemic-related reasons, but as it drags on we’re getting there. Slowly. But we’ve got at least a small list of choices that we’re confident about suggesting, with more still in testing.

If you need some more options at lower prices, you can also check out our list of best monitors under $200. And because shopping for a monitor can be a confusing endeavor, we’ve got some guidance that should help you make some sense of it all in our monitor-buying guide.


Although it’s part of HP’s Omen gaming line, this has become one of my favorite overall monitors of the past 12 months. HP’s 27-inch 2,560×1,440 27i features a wide color gamut (98% P3), a gaming-friendly 165Hz refresh rate with Nvidia G-Sync (over DisplayPort) and an elegant design that should pass muster with less gaming-oriented family members; it’s got some simple gaming lighting, but also a useful task light shining down beneath the bottom bezel. 

And because of the unique port arrangement — on the sides of a diamond in the back — it’s a lot easier to maneuver cables than the typical recessed, bottom-accessed design. I’ve been using it for months and I haven’t had a single problem or screen artifact issue. (Note that the wide-angle photograph makes it look curved, but it’s not.) Because of the thin-but-not-too-thin depth, it’s also suited for perching a webcam atop.

Potential drawbacks for some people are the lack of built-in speakers and the moderately high price.

Read our HP Omen 27i first take.

Lori Grunin/CNET

If you want a cheap, attractive FHD monitor with built-in speakers that don’t suck, this should be on your short list. They’re hardly audiophile quality, but they’re decent enough for watching movies, streaming music while you work or listening to podcasts, and they can get loud enough (without distortion) to hear from a fair distance away. And possibly loud enough to annoy your upstairs neighbors (who are annoying you by galloping around 24/7). 

It’s got three HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2 — most cheap monitors have two at most — though most people really don’t need that many. Other perks include 75Hz refresh with AMD FreeSync technology, audio profiles, the ability to change gamma and a mode that maps colors to compensate for color blindness. It’s not an HDR monitor, but it can fake it as well as possible given its technological constraints.

Despite all the setting options, the screen isn’t that bright and the onscreen display can be frustratingly wonky. Plus, you can only tilt, not raise or lower the screen.


If you need a color-accurate monitor on the cheap-ish, the 2,560×1,440 PA278QV is a great way to go. Its sRGB accuracy is excellent, plus it’s quite well-rounded for the money, with a 75Hz refresh rate if you need it for games that don’t have fast action — simulations, turn-based RPGs and so on — a USB hub, a full set of inputs and speakers. And the stand raises and lowers, swivels and supports 90 degree rotation into portrait mode. The speakers don’t get very loud and the connections can loosen when you move it, but otherwise I really like this one. 

If you can’t afford it, the 24-inch model, PA248QV, costs $90 less in exchange for lowering the resolution to 1,920×1,200. (See it at B&H.)


This 27-inch model isn’t cheap, but if you have the luxury of considering something that will last you a while, the EX2780Q is a good multipurpose choice for the money. In addition to its 2,560×1,440 resolution for sharper edges in everyday use than 1,920×1,080, it’s got a gaming-friendly 144Hz refresh rate, 400-nit brightness and a 95% P3 gamut for basic HDR support in games and movies, plus built-in speakers that actually sound pretty good. There’s one drawback, though: you can tilt it, but not raise or lower it. 


The Lepow is versatile for the money, with HDMI and USB-C connectivity, two built-in speakers, a built-in cover and stand combo and the option to switch between portrait and landscape modes. It works as promised and looks good for both work and gaming. While it’s not going to replace a wide-color-gamut display costing hundreds of dollars more, it’s more than fine for general use. The design is great for instantly creating a dual-display workspace with a single USB-C cable. Plus, kids can easily hook up our Nintendo Switch to it for gaming. If you need something portable or you simply don’t have room for a regular external display, this is worth the investment. 

Lori Grunin/CNET

For $100 more than the Lepow, you can upgrade to 4K and a touchscreen. Desklab’s model has the same advantages as most other portables, including a dedicated HDMI input or a USB-C connection (plus a second USB-C to power it), a USB-A port and stereo speakers with a headphone jack. My only complaint about it is the glossy screen, which can be quite reflective, but that’s what you get with touchscreens.


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