Advertisement
Advertisement

Best budget monitor 2022: The best cheap 1080p, 1440p and 4K monitors to buy

Best budget monitor
Advertisement

Looking for a monitor on a tight budget? These are the best cheap monitors that we'd recommend

Not too long ago, even the best budget monitors had a poor reputation; they were known for weak colour accuracy, wobbly non-adjustable stands and hideous-looking designs. Times have changed, however, as you can now buy a quality panel that oozes a premium look for under £300.

The trouble is, there are hundreds of products all claiming to be the best budget monitor for you. We can't stress enough how important it is to pick the right monitor, even at this end of the price spectrum: choose poorly and you'll be stuck with a screen that will irritate your eyes, test your patience and fail on you within months of the purchase.

To help you make an informed decision, our buying guide explains what you need to look out for before you splash out. Scroll past and you’ll find a list of our favourite budget monitors. If you’re an avid gamer, however, you’ll want to read our separate article on how to pick the best budget gaming monitor – gamers have a very different set of priorities.

READ NEXT: The best headsets for your next conference call

Best budget monitor: At a glance

  • Best overall: BenQ GL2780 | Buy now
  • Best home office: BenQ GW2785TC | Buy now
  • Best under £300: Philips 243B9H | Buy now
  • Best cheap 4K: AOC U32P2 | Buy now

How to choose the best budget monitor

What monitor size and resolution should I choose?

A small budget no longer limits you to a small monitor. You’ll now find plenty of options between 22in and 27in – and a few even push past the 30in mark. 

There’s more than just panel size to think about, though – resolution is a key factor. For instance, while a 22in monitor with a Full HD resolution monitor will look pin-sharp, a 27in monitor with the same resolution will look softer and more pixellated due to the lower number of pixels per inch (PPI). To put that in numbers: a 22in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) monitor equates to 100ppi, while a 32in Full HD panel is only 69ppi – 30% less.

We’d suggest sticking to 90ppi or above: a 24in Full HD monitor hits the sweet spot and similarly a 27in-32in 1440p (2,560 x 1,440) panel looks glorious, too. You can easily calculate the PPI with the help of a calculator or through this website.

One word of caution, though. Some older (read: rather elderly) computers with integrated graphics may not support higher-resolution panels. If your computer is a bit long in the tooth, then it may be wise to stick to Full HD. At the very least check we’d check the maximum resolution supported by your PC or laptop.

Which type of panel is best?

There are three main types of LCD screens, with each having its own characteristics. Twisted Nematic (TN) are the cheapest type of panel technology. This sacrifices some colour accuracy and contrast, but has the benefit of being very cheap – and it’s also more responsive for gamers.

Vertical alignment panels (VA, AVA and MVA) generally have narrow viewing angles and very high contrast levels, although they don’t always have the greatest colour accuracy.

Finally, IPS/PLS screens generally have the best colour accuracy and viewing angles, but are also the most expensive, although the price gap between IPS/PLS, VA and TN has narrowed in recent years.

READ NEXT: The best 1080p monitors to buy

Which other features should you consider?

Display inputs: Most have an HDMI input, while others still rely on VGA (D-Sub) and DVI-D inputs. You might even find DisplayPort takes centre stage on the pricier models.

An adjustable stand: Having an adjustable stand will you give you much more flexibility – and you won’t need to stuff books or magazines underneath to raise it to a comfortable height. It’s not uncommon to find a budget monitor with tilt and height adjustment. It’s not impossible to find one that can swivel and rotate, too, even if it is more of a rarity.

Low-profile bezels: Budget monitors are more elegant than ever before; most sport a three-sided borderless design, which makes them take up less space on your desk.

Built-in extras: Some budget monitors have built-in USB hubs and speakers. The former are genuinely useful, but bear in mind that the latter are almost always terrible. Most are easily bettered by a cheap pair of dedicated PC speakers.

Reduced blue light mode: Some monitors now offer a reduced blue light mode, which is normally marketed as being in the interests of eye health. This is a feature that has become more commonplace in recent years, in response to the fears that visible blue light emitted by monitors can cause long-term damage to the eye, and can cause issues such as eye strain and headaches. However, according to the UK Association of Optometrists, there are no peer-reviewed science journals to support this – we wouldn’t factor it in as part of your buying decision.

READ NEXT: The best 1440p monitors to buy


How do we test monitors?

Our monitor testing process involves a combination of real-world examination and in-depth panel performance tests. Once the monitor is set up, we can immediately assess things such as build quality, stand adjustability and the number/type of ports, comparing these things against other similar monitors to help inform our judgement. 

To assess a monitor's panel, we run a series of tests that cover things such a colour accuracy, gamut coverage, peak brightness/contrast and motion handling. Motion handling tests can be done using a web application – we use BlurBusters' suite of monitor testing tools – but for the rest, we use a colorimeter and professional display calibration and characterisation software. We use an X-Rite i1Display Studio colorimeter and DisplayCal software to generate our results.

You can always find the results of our in-house tests in our full-length monitor reviews.

READ NEXT: The best 4K monitors to buy


The best budget monitors to buy

1. BenQ GL2780: The best budget monitor

Price: £159 | Buy now from Amazon

BenQ features on this list more than once, and for good reason. The GL2780 is a sturdy 27in TN panel that ticks every crucial box without breaching the £200 mark. Performance is relatively impressive across the board, with solid image quality bolstered by good colour accuracy and contrast; it might not be the sharpest monitor resolution-wise, but you'll struggle to find any real problems with the panel. 

Better yet, the GL2780 is brimming with features. It has HDMI, DVI-D, D-SUB and DisplayPort ports; an automatic brightness mode; and blue light reduction functions to prevent eye strain. And with a 75Hz refresh rate, it's no slouch in the gaming department either.

Read our full BenQ GL2780 review for more details

Key specs – Screen size: 27in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: TN; Video inputs: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DVI-D; Speakers: Yes; Refresh rate: 75Hz

2. Philips 243B9H: The best monitor under £300

Price: £300 | Buy now from Amazon

The Philips 243B9H sits right at the top of the budget monitor range, but for around £300, we reckon there’s not much better out there. If you want a 24in, 1080p monitor with a versatile stand, a built-in webcam and a panel that performs well, the 243B9H is the one for you.

sRGB gamut coverage came in at around 90% in the default mode, with an average variance (delta E) of 2.09 and a near-perfect colour temperature of 6600K. We measured max luminance at 320cd/m² and contrast at 1,230:1; both of these figures are very good and are higher than those quoted by Philips. The results indicate that the 243B9H is an accurate, vibrant monitor with enough brightness for well-lit environments and no noticeable blue/red tint.

Panel aside, the 243B9H is a great little monitor. The stand offers pivot, swivel and tilt plus an impressive 150mm of height adjustment, but if that’s not enough the monitor is VESA mount compatible too. We were also immensely pleased to see a USB-C port that supports video and file transmission adorning the rear of the monitor alongside the HDMI 2.0 and DP 1.4 ports and three-port USB hub. And then there’s the Windows Hello-compatible 2MP webcam that retracts into the body of the monitor when not in use; it’s nothing special, but it’s great for Zoom calls.

Read our full Philips 243B9H review for more details

Key specs – Screen size: 24in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: USB-C, DisplayPort, HDMI; Refresh rate: 75Hz

3. BenQ GW2785TC: The best budget home office monitor

Price: £220 | Buy now from Box

We often talk about monitors offering unbeatable value for money, and the BenQ GW2785TC is far and away the best example we’ve come across. This 27in 1080p panel has a huge feature set and a jaw-droppingly minuscule RRP.

The stand is fully adjustable, with portrait mode support, 130mm of height adjustment, 45 degrees of swivel left/right and 20 degrees of backwards tilt. There’s a USB-C port on the rear alongside one HDMI 1.4 port, one DP 1.2 “in” port and a DP 1.2 “out” port with which you can create a daisy-chain arrangement using a second monitor.

The panel is accurate and colourful, producing 95.6% of the sRGB colour gamut with a Delta E small enough to make any inaccuracies very hard to spot. You won’t struggle with a dim, washed-out picture, either: the GW2785TC reached a peak luminance of 272cd/m² with a contrast ratio of 1,165:1. We could go on, but the point is a simple one: Everything about this monitor is made all the more remarkable by its ridiculously good price.

Oh, and if you want something similarly well-specced but a bit smaller, we recommend BenQ's 24in GW2485TC. It's identical in every way apart from the screen size and the price tag, which is a tiny bit less.

Read our full BenQ GW2785TC review / BenQ GW2485TC review for more details

Key specs – Screen size: 27in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: 1 x USB-C, 1 x DisplayPort 1.2 out, 1 x DisplayPort 1.2 in, 1 x HDMI 1.4; Refresh rate: 75Hz

Buy now from Box


4. AOC Q27V4EA: The best budget 1440p monitor

Price: £230 | Buy now from Box

The AOC Q27V4EA is a no-fuss 1440p monitor that’s 27in across the diagonal. The feature list isn’t particularly expansive, but the monitor certainly looks like a more expensive product, with three bezel-less edges and a slim side profile that’s just 40mm thick at its widest. Adjustment options are limited to 21.5 degrees of backwards tilt, so you might need to prop it up if you prefer a monitor that sits high up.

It’s the panel that earns the Q27V4EA its place here, however. The monitor produced 88.7% of the sRGB colour gamut in default mode with little colour variance, a contrast ratio of 850:1 and peak luminance of 250cd/m². These figures are good for a budget monitor, and they mean that colours look natural and content appears bright, even in well-lit environments. With a response time of 4ms G2G, a refresh rate of 75Hz and AMD FreeSync support, moreover, casual gamers will find that the Q27V4EA is great for a couple of rounds of Apex Legends after work.

If you can deal with the non-adjustable stand, the Q27V4EA is a lovely all-purpose monitor for anyone who works and plays in the same place.

Read our full AOC Q27V4EA review for more details

Key specs – Screen size: 27in; Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: HDMI, DisplayPort; Refresh rate: 75Hz

5. AOC U32P2: The best budget 4K monitor

Price: £475 | Buy now from Amazon

The AOC U32P2 represents extraordinary value for money. This 32in 4K monitor make the most of its high resolution with a large MVA panel that manages to swerve the kinds of viewing angle issues you'd normally associate with vertical alignment panel tech. This panel is bright, reaching over 400 nits on test, and it's pretty accurate, too: we measured a high of 99% sRGB coverage with an average Delta E of just 1.09. Those are very good results for a monitor that usually costs under £379 (sadly, scarcity has driven the price up).

Elsewhere the U32P2 continues to impress. The stand offers all four main forms of adjustment and does so in style: with 90 degrees of pivot, 150mm of height adjustment, 22 degrees of backwards tilt and 180 degrees of swivel in either direction (meaning you can spin the screen all the way around) this is one of the most ergonomically friendly monitors we've tested.

The port selection is equally impressive, with only USB-C making its absence known on the rear of the display. You're left with a four-port USB-A hub plus two HDMI 2 ports, one DP 1.4 port and a headphone jack for good measure. Yes, gamers might not drool at the thought of a 60Hz peak refresh rate and 4ms response time, but for pretty much anyone else, this 4K monitor is unbeatable value.

Read our full AOC U32P2 review for more details

Key specs – Screen size: 32in; Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160; Screen technology: MVA; Video inputs: 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x DisplayPort 1.4; Refresh rate: 60Hz

6. BenQ GW2280: The best small budget monitor

Price: £120 | Buy now from Amazon

This small-sized monitor from BenQ is ideal for those on a tiny budget. The 21.5in VA-based panel boasts a great contrast ratio and has good viewing angles, too. Despite having a slightly wobbly plastic stand that’s limited to tilt adjustment, its three-sided borderless design is extremely attractive.

If you’re looking for something slightly bigger, consider its sibling, the GW2480, instead. It has a 24in IPS panel that runs up to Full HD and can be found for just £158.

Key specs – Screen size: 21.5in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: VA; Video inputs: VGA, 2x HDMI; Refresh rate: 60Hz

7. Asus BE24EQK: The cheapest monitor with a webcam

Price: £226 | Buy now from Ebuyer

While it might not be the most remarkable monitor in the world, the Asus BE24EQK fills a valuable niche. Mounted on the top of the 24in 1080p panel is a 2-megapixel webcam complete with 315 degrees of rotation, a small amount of upwards and downwards tilt and a physical cover for those concerned about privacy. If you often work in suboptimal places around your home – at the kitchen table, say – and you need both extra screen real estate and a webcam/microphone for Zoom calls, the BE24EQK is a ridiculously well-priced solution.

Panel performance is merely okay, but viewing angles are good thanks to IPS screen technology and a peak luminance of around 275cd/m² is more than acceptable for all but the sunniest outdoor environments. Anecdotally, the display looks plenty crisp enough for daily use, and the high pixel density produced by the combination of a 1080p, 24in display keeps things from looking rough-edged. You might hope for a more adjustable stand, but the monitor is at least small and light enough to be propped on just about anything and it won’t get in the way when not in use.

Read our full Asus BE24EQK review for more details

Key specs – Screen size: 24in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: VGA, HDMI, DP; Speakers: Yes; Refresh rate: 60Hz