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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.