IPS Monitor Ultimate Buying Guide – the Best 4K IPS Display, Monitor, Screen, LCD and Panel
What is an IPS 4K monitor?
4K ultra HD monitors come in a number of basic display designs and not all are created equal. Some are more oriented towards gaming and others for general office work, while select, usually higher end monitors are definitely built more for the professional graphic editor crowd. For gaming monitors in particular, check out our comprehensive guide to the best 4K UHD gamer’s PCs on the market. Here we’re going to focus on IPS monitors, the best all-around PC displays.
Before we move onto the specifics of IPS PC panels, a brief rundown of all 4K monitor types:
For starters, there are TN monitors, with displays that are more ideally suited for gaming but at the same time lacking in certain higher-caliber visual specs like color accuracy and wide viewing angles in most cases. Then you have VA panels, which improve upon TN technology and offer up both great colors and deep contrast but lack the capacity to cleanly refresh fast-paced 4K visuals. After these, there is IGZO panel technology, which uses unique transistor technology to create both excellent power consumption and light build, while also delivering some excellent color controls.
Finally, most common of all and distinctly superior to the commonly used TN panel displays, we come down to IPS panel 4K monitors. With IPS, which stands for In-Plane Switching, users gain a monitor that offers excellent viewing angles, superb color reproduction and some truly ideal brightness. On the other hand, IPS monitor displays are weak on contrast due to their poor black levels and on the slower side when it comes to response times from controls like keyboards and gaming controllers.
For some of the above reasons, IPS display technology isn’t so favorable to 4K gaming in certain ways but because of its generally superior color reproduction and viewing angle characteristics, it works fantastically for graphic editing and non-gaming related UHD display needs. In basic terms, we could say that IPS 4K monitors are the best all-around 4K displays on the market today, decent for gaming and excellent for all other typical tasks.
In terms of connectivity, the vast majority of 4K monitors will have both the same connections present across the board and will also have the same connectivity needs. Thus, in the majority of 4K monitors on the market, be they TN, VA, IGZO or IPS designs, the following are going to be the main connectivity ports found:
DisplayPort: used widely for gaming needs, to connect GPUs from a PC to the monitor itself and transfer graphics at 60Hz or faster. Most modern PC monitors use DisplayPort 1.2 and all 4K monitors have this version. DisplayPort 1.3 is also coming out, offering a far larger data transfer speed.
Mini DisplayPort: much the same as DisplayPort 1.2 but miniaturized.
HDMI: HDMI is supported in the overwhelming majority of 4K monitors of all display types and though the majority of these HDMI connections are of the older 1.4 connection type that can only support 4K graphics at 30Hz, newer 2016 devices are increasingly including HDMI 2.0 for 4K at a smooth 60Hz refresh rate.
USB: Any 4K monitor worth its salt should come with USB ports but a surprising amount don’t! USB is great for connecting external data drives, smartphones, tablets and other peripherals for basic video, document and music transfer as well as for device charging. Ideally, any 4K monitor should come with SUB 3.0 ports for better charge speed and data transfer.
DVI: A digital video interface connection that’s basically the same as a low-power HDMI connection, but usually only with support for Full HD 1080p graphics and without support for audio connectivity.
USB-C/Thunderbolt 3: This is one of the very latest and most advanced connectivity types found in a small number of today’s 4K or 5K monitors. USB-C is still quite uncommon but this will likely change since the spec offers numerous benefits due to its enormous bandwidth power, which is enough to run full 60Hz graphics in 4K resolution on multiple UHD monitors through a single connection. Only a couple of the models listed below for our top picks, offer USB-C and Thunderbolt 3.
Gaming-oriented 4K monitors are of the kind in which users should pay special attention to getting a model with at least a couple of DisplayPort 1.2 ports, at least one or two HDMI ports (ideally HDMI 2.0) and at least two to three USB 3.0 ports for the sake of connecting different peripheral devices and their PC’s GPU (normally via DisplayPor 1.2).
On the other hand, for most IPS monitors, gaming won’t be the main function for which their users will want them and thus multiple DP 1.2 and HDMI ports aren’t as serious an issue.
Game-friendly IPS monitors certainly exist and some even come with gamer-specific technologies from their manufacturers or GPU-oriented refresh synchronization technologies like AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync, both of which are used to smoothly integrate the speed at which graphics in a GPU from each brand render with the refresh rate in your monitor.
With IPS monitors, your gaming experience might suffer from a bit of lag in terms of how well the action on the screen responds to your external controller devices but some IPS displays offer response times of as little as 4 milliseconds, making them decent for gaming, while also delivering excellent color reproduction, screen brightness and viewing angles, which are the three main strong points of any IPS 4K monitor.
In terms of price, 4K IPS PC monitors are generally more expensive than their TN counterparts and it’s much more common to see professional visual design monitors come with IPS display and price tags that can range from $600 to as much as a couple thousand dollars. Most IPS 4K monitors will cost more than $500 and less than $600 in today’s increasingly affordable market.
And, as we’ll shortly see, some superb models can be bought for well below $1000. Those who buy an IPS display for conventional PC use or for gaming might find such prices to be ridiculous but professional visual design users like architects, graphic designers, animators and others in similar professions will likely love the color accuracy and excellent detail offered by the combination of IPS display and 4K Ultra HD resolution that these PC screens offer.
The top IPS Monitors of 2016
Now, without further distraction, here is our ranking of the best IPS monitors on the market today. Many of these we’ve reviewed ourselves while others have been widely acclaimed by other reviewers and consumers alike. Ranging in price from more affordable to expensive, all of these promise excellent display specs and some great connectivity features. Furthermore, all of the monitors listed here offer up 60Hz refresh in their native 4K resolution. Most monitors today come with this but we still find a model here and there that’s stuck at 30Hz with 4K display.
LG’s UltraFine 5K PC monitor is quite possibly one of the most advanced pieces of PC display technology to emerge in 2016. Designed in cooperation with Apple for special compatibility with the company’s Macbook Pro notebooks, the 5K UltraFine not only offers some truly stunning display specs that are almost worthy of being compared to those of a premium HDR 4K TV, it’s an IPS monitor with some tremendous connectivity power through its cutting-edge USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Offering an IPS panel display and full DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut color space coverage, the UltraFine also comes with the nearly perfect picture smoothness that you could expect from having 5K worth of pixels crammed into a 27 inch display. A broad list of visual editing tools and excellent compatibility with Apple’s machines make this particular PC monitor into one superb choice for Macbook users in particular. but also for any fan of truly cutting-edge PC monitor visuals.
The LG 27UD88 is not only physically stunning to behold, it’s also one hell of a performance machine for all sorts of uses, from gaming to graphic design on a professional level. LG fully deserves second place on this list thanks to the UD88’s superb display and connectivity specs.
Starting with connectivity, the UD88 offers up dual HDMI 2.0 ports, DisplyPort 1.2, USB 3.0 and the added cutting-edge benefit of high speed USB-C as well for yet another means of channeling 4K video at 60 frames per second. Additional benefits of this powerful and rather beautiful 4K monitor include an excellent level of display brightness, deep rich blacks for an IPS monitor and a great contrast ratio. Additionally, the 27UD88 is built to deliver professional levels of color performance, with full sRGB coverage, high levels of AdobeRGB color space coverage and a 10-bit color panel which delivers 1.07 billion RGB color variations for virtully non-existant color banding. We also think it’s great that LG included AMD FreeSync tchnology into the UD88, thus making it into a great gaming monitor as well.
Dell’s P2715Q is one superb all-around piece of 4K UHD display technology for PC and comes with the specs and display quality to please a lot of different users. It’s 27 inch screen isn’t huge but it offers up enough viewing real estate to deliver a happy result for both graphic designers and gamers alike. Furthermore, the whole monitor simply looks good. It’s utilitarian but not in an ugly way and its mix of silver and grey looks both professional and lightly stylish.
As for connectivity specs, the 60Hz P2715Q offers blend of HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, mini DisplayPort 1.2 and a whole hub of USB 3.0 ports. Furthermore, the P2715Q is fully VESA mountable and designed for a whole range of physical adjustment options, as is Dell’s monitor manufacturing style. The 9ms response time is definitely on the slow side for 4K gamers but office users will love the P2715Q.
The Samsung U32D970Q is one of the manufacturer’s pricier 4K monitors but with that added cost, it comes packed with some excellent specs. In fact, we’d argue that for all that it offers, this particular 4K PC display is almost a bargain even now given the professional working tool it really is. The matte finish of the U32D970Q’s display ensures minimal glare and the brightness of the IPS panel technology still shines through, even in brighter rooms. Full physical adjustability options are a given and tilt, swivel, height and orientation can all be tinkered with to your satisfaction.
Furthermore, the 32 inch display offers a truly large amount of display real estate that’s perfect for all sorts of professional design work. What further boosts the U32D970Q’s visual design work chops is its 10-bit color coverage, high brightness, and excellent 4K resolution. As for connectivity, all the essentials are covered, with 2 DP 1.2 ports, an impressive 5 USB 3.0 ports and one HDMI 1.4 port.
LG’s 34UM95 is in fact not a 4K UHD monitor with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels but instead a 1440p device with a resolution of 3440 x 1440 pixels. That said, the difference to the naked eye is barely if at all notable and the 34UM95 makes up for it by being a truly aesthetically pleasing and cinematically designed piece of PC display hardware. It’s also one of the few UHD PC monitors on the market which also comes with Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, something more often found in Apple computing devices.
This massive monitor delivers beautiful visual specs while also offering up an extra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio that gives users a huge working area for specialized graphic design tasks. Furthermore, the whole monitor is simply attractive. Unlike many more utilitarian models, it looks downright stylish in true LG fashion, with more of a resemblance to a miniature LG OLED TV than a typical ultra HD PC display. Furthermore, the 34UM95 offers up some excellent brightness, a very decent 5ms response time, great viewing angles and a rich, deep contrast generating capacity. In addition to its dual Thunderbolt connectivity, it delivers2 HDMI 1.4 ports and one DP 1.2 connection. On the other hand, we don’t much like the lack of adjustability in the 34UM95, with no controls for swivel, tilt, height or orientation.
The 10-bit color coverage and particularly robust color controls of the ViewSonic VP2780-4K make it into an excellent 4K monitor for professional photographers and graphic editors. This particular monitor offer some truly superior color accuracy and manages to do so at an excellent and remarkably affordable price for its caliber. Furthermore, unlike many other displays on this list, the ViewSonic VP2780-4K also includes HDMI 2.0 ports, dual MHL connectivity, a hub of 4 USB 3.0 ports, DisplayPort 1.2a and 60Hz refresh. At 27 inches, the VP2780-4K’s display isn’t massive but still deliver plenty of working room for scroll-free image editing in ultra HD resolution. The VP2780-4K has a 5ms response time.
Overall, the ViewSonic VP2780-4K delivers a lot of bang for its relatively moderate price tag and is one of the 4K monitors we’d most recommend for photography or budget-minded graphics editing professionals.
Philips BDM4065UC 40″ Class 4K Monitor UHD Monitor
The display space of the Philips Brilliance BDM4065UC 4K monitor is truly stunning, almost rivalling the size of some actual 4K TVs at 40 inches. For this and a couple of other reasons, this particular 4K display is great not only for the work and photo/graphics editing applications IPS displays are best suited for but also decent for some truly immersive gaming in ultra HD.
More than anything, we love the sheer size of the BDM4065UC. It’s by far the largest 4K monitor on this list and one of the largest on the market today, meaning that you get TV display-sized visuals with all the technology found in a true PC monitor. Furthermore, the combination of VA and IPS display in the display ensures some rather great contrast, brightness and very decent graphics rendering. Furthermore, there is a split screen mode that can divide the BDM4065UC’s display into four quadrants. Normally, this would mean four small viewing areas, but with this 40 inch screen, each segment is more than good enough for decent display of work, text and videos. Finally, the connectivity specs on the BDM4065UC aren’t bad at all, with 2 HDMI 1.4 ports, a DP 1.2 port a Mini DP 1.2 port, a VGA connection slot and a 4K slot USB 3.0 hub.
We can’t really go through this list without mentioning Dell’s 45 Ultrasharp monitor from late 2014. As one of the only PC displays on the market with a resolution that goes well beyond even 4K, it might seem like a bit of overkill for many users but it does have plenty of its own charms to offer.
For starters, when you combine 5K resolution at 5120 x 2880 pixels and a 27 inch PC display, you’ll get a pixel density that creates some truly spectacular, essentially seamless graphics. Native 4K video content, upscaled to fit the 5K screen, looks spectacular and images with megapixel density more or less equivalent to 5K resolution looks basically seamless, with pixels hard to see even at very close observation. In terms of other visual specs, the UP2715K is also a winner. Its IPS panel technology delivers all the usual qualities of great brightness, excellent contrast and superb viewing angles. On top of this, You get the same fully flexible adjustability options that are typical of Dell monitors, with the ability to easily adjust swivel, tilt, height, orientation and with VESA mounting capability.
Connectivity-wise, the UP2715K delivers a decent package, including dual Display Port 1.2 connections, HDMI 1.4 and a total of 5 USB 3.0 ports for all sorts of peripheral devices. One thing we don’t so much like about the UP2715K on the other hand is the fact that both of its DP 1.2 ports have to be used for generating a 5K signal from your PC.
The Asus ROG Swift PG27AQ may be on the slightly pricey side for a gaming monitor but we have to love it anyhow. It’s the only one of its kind that features IPS and is also designed with gaming specifically in mind. Thus, those of you who want the display qualities of IPS panels over what the more typical TN displays of other 4K monitors offer can be satisfied with the specs of the PG27AQ. 178 degree viewing angles, G-Sync adoptive sync technology for Nvidia GPUs, excellent color delivery (10-bits), a 60Hx refresh rate and the cool feature of a joystick for easily controlling on-screen menu items instead of buttons all serve to make the PG27AQ from Asus into one of the best 4K gaming monitors on the market today. Furthermore, its stylish matte black build is simply awesome.
Connectivity-wise, the ROG Swift offers a bit of a limited package however, with only 1 HDMI 2.0 port, a single DisplayPort 1.2 slot and dual USB 3.0 ports.
Finally, we come down to the very expensive but very impressive Eizo ColorEdge CG318-4K monitor. This is an IPS 4K display that has been truly built for professional users in mind, and its very steep price reflects this quality.
The ColorEdge CG318-4K delivers a DCI 4K resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels across a very ample 31.5 inches of display space at a 60Hz refresh rate. Furthermore, its IPS panel offers up some of the best color accuracy in its class, considerably beyond the normal levels of most IPS 4K monitors. In addition to this, some serious hardware and display calibration tools are included right inside the CG318-4K. With 99% AdobeRGB coverage, 100% sRGB coverage and even 98% DCI P3 color coverage with 10-bit color that’s taken from a 16bit look-up table, the ColorEdge CG318-4K is truly a visual arts and design professional working tool, and even comes with a monitor hood included.
Specs-wise, the CG318-4K offers a single DisplayPort 1.2 port, a MiniDP 1.2 port, 2 HDMI slots, a VGA port and a 4K port USB 3.0 hub, so it’s fully decked out in connectivity as well.
A Final Note
Our choices of 4K IPS monitors above might generate some debate but we consider them to be a round-up of the best on the market as of this writing or any subsequent updates. The 7 models above offer a wide spectrum of professional, gaming, general office work and visually superb monitors that all offer their own distinctive features that set each of them apart from competitor models of a more generic nature.