Best extreme-definition 27-inch monitors

If you don't have the space (or the funds) for a 30-inch super-duper high-res display, a 27-inch super-high-res monitor should be your second choice. Here are the five best.

While most 27-inch monitors you'll find at your local Best Buy sport the perfectly capable resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, there's a growing contingent of monitor enthusiasts, like myself, who understand the real reason for the existence of 27-inch displays.

If you've never seen a 27-inch monitor running at 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution, then you've yet to be touched by a particularly affecting higher power.

Also referred to as "extreme definition" or "XD," this branch of higher-tier monitors will melt your face and not look back. However, as much as the impressive resolution benefits all aspects of computing, it is in games that it provides a particular advantage.

Most modern games support the resolution and look stunning while doing so. Just remember, you'll need an equally capable graphics card to really take advantage.

The effect of seeing a modern game running at 2,560x1,440 pixels is...well, let's just say you won't want to settle for anything less, including the 50-inch 1080p HDTV your console is currently connected to.

Keep reading for details on the easiest way to ruin the console experience you're currently settling for. Also, check out the video above for just a taste of the power you're not ready for. It features the HP ZR2740W , which didn't make the Top 5, but for those on a budget, it's the one to get.


Thanks to their (current) max resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, movies don't benefit from 2,560x1,440 as much as games do. Eric Franklin/CNET

Apple Thunderbolt Display
If you're a Mac user who doesn't own a 27-inch iMac and don't want to be left out of the face-melting party (and you don't), this is your best choice.

Thankfully, the Thunderbolt support, built-in Ethernet, USB ports, FireWire ports, and its simple Mac compatibility also make it the best choice for MacBook owners. Read the full review.


Death and rebirth have absolutely nothing to do with this monitor. James Martin/CNET

Samsung SyncMaster S27B970
The Samsung SyncMaster S27B970 earns its place on this list based on its performance, aesthetic quality, and picture customization options. Not because of its price. Honestly, of the people even remotely interested in buying a monitor, only a small percentage will ever pay more than $500 for one, let alone $1,000 (or in this case, $1,200).

But the S27B970 produces amazingly sharp images, looks like something from the future, and allows you adjust the colors, brightness, and contrast to your heart's content.

Honestly, there's not much more to say about it. Well, there is that problem with the DisplayPort. Because of a thoughtless design decision, once you connect to a PC via the DisplayPort, you do not disconnect, ever, unless you possess razor-thin fingers or a screwdriver. Also, a butter knife or an old DVD would suffice.

This is extremely annoying, but ultimately, will only affect a very small percentage of owners.

Read the full review.


Ergonomically, with all the twists and turns it offers, the 850D is like the monitor version of an episode of "24." There's even a thinly veiled reference in the video. See? Not buying it, eh? Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D
With the thinnest panel and slickest design, the S27A850D handily wins the best-dressed award. That doesn't, however, mean it has nothing to offer beyond its looks. The 850D rivals the U2711 (which I'll cover below) in OSD options, and while it has comparatively few connections, the utilitarian power brick cubbyhole is a clever feature. Read the full review.


The NEC thinks pretty highly of itself and needs to be checked from time to time. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

NEC MultiSync PA271W
If details are something that excite and inspire you, then you're a lot like me, and the NEC will likely appeal to your sensibilities.

Unfortunately, since it's the most expensive monitor of the group, most of you (also like me) will have a difficult time justifying its price.

Still, the level of detail in its OSD is staggering. Who am I kidding, though? This isn't a monitor for you (or me), but for that future version of yourself who's made smarter choices and ends up with a lot more disposable income. Read the full review.


This guy is giving a well-deserving stuntman a taste of what the awesome power of the U2711 feels like. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Dell UltraSharp U2711
The best blend of features, price, and performance, the U2711 remains the XD monitor to beat.

Not as cheap as the ZR2740W, but with more connections than any other monitor on this list and second only to the NEC as far as detailed, copious OSD options go, the 2711's $900 price is a bit easier to swallow.

The monitor is the current Lex Luger of XDs: a great total package that, thanks to its features-to-price ratio, won't elicit any "Idiot!" or "You dummy!" comments from those with whom you share your purchasing details. Read the full review.


Looking for specs and pricing? Compare these XD monitors head-to-head.

Read the full CNET Review

Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D

The Bottom Line: The Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D is a well-designed, stylish, professional monitor with great options and performance. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

HP ZR2740w

The Bottom Line: The HP ZR2740w sacrifices customization to deliver a powerful monitor at a reasonable price. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Samsung SyncMaster S27B970

The Bottom Line: The Samsung SyncMaster S27B970's excellent performance and beautiful aesthetic outweigh some thoughtless design choices. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

NEC MultiSync PA271W

The Bottom Line: The NEC MultiSync PA271W is an incredibly performing monitor that may be too expensive for what it offers. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Apple Thunderbolt Display

The Bottom Line: The Apple Thunderbolt Display is an incredible-performing and beautiful-looking monitor with a superfast connection, and we recommend it if you own a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Dell UltraSharp U2711

The Bottom Line: The Dell UltraSharp U2711 is a feature-rich monitor with incredible performance that earns its high price. / Read full review

About the author

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.

 

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