The best 8K monitors are the bleeding-edge way to get yourself the ultimate detail for creative work. But they are, to put it mildly, niche right now – as is the need for them. The best 5K monitors offer something a little more mainstream, though, bringing a notable resolution boost that anyone can use, without getting too specialist or difficult to drive from your computer.
While the best 8K monitors are currently very limited for options, there’s more variety among the best 5K screens, with different shapes and specs varying from those aimed at a creative work specifically, to elite gaming monitors, and some great in-between options.
With 8K and 5K, the name refers roughly to the horizontal number of pixels. The first notable 5K display was the iMac 27-inch, which offers a resolution of 5120×2880 – it’s about 5,000 pixels wide, so it’s 5K. 8K follows that same naming convention, with displays coming in at around 8,000 pixels wide.
8K TVs are actually currently more common than 8K monitors, though their huge sizes and image processing make them unsuitable for most creative work, and the fact that there’s almost no native 8K content means they also remain niche. However, if you’re considering an 8K screen as a monitor to view edited 8K footage, a TV could be suitable. However, we won’t be covering them here – we’re focused entirely on displays you can do all your work on.
The best 5K and 8K monitors available now
The Phillips 499P9H is a monster of a monitor: it’s a 32:9 screen, which means it’s effectively two regular 16:9 monitors in one big display. That makes it a whopping 49 inches – but for those who had a two-screen setup, it should save you space overall on your desk, even if it sounds intimidating. It reaches 5K resolution thanks to its double-size width, though its height is QHD resolution, so it’s not as sharp as most 4K monitors overall. However, when it comes to visible working space, little can touch it.
There are plenty of connectivity options, including a USB Type-C interface, so it’s one of the best monitors for MacBook Pro. Overall, when you consider quality and price, this 5K monitor offers outstanding value.
As pretty much the only commercially available 8K monitor, it’s no surprise that the Dell UltraSharp UP3218K carries a large price tag – but when it comes to detail, there’s no denying that it’s in a class of one. It was made before HDMI 2.1 and its 8K support arrived, so it requires two(!) DisplayPort connections to power all of its pixels. It’s definitely specialist.
It’s not just the number of pixels that impresses here – it’s also what they can show. Dell boasts 100% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB, 100% Rec. 709 and 98% DCI-P3 coverage, making it a dream for creative pros needing great colour support. And at 31.5 inches, it’s not a totally ridiculous size – and being a pro Dell monitor, it’s built extremely solidly, and with full ergonomic adjustment options.
If you need something that isn’t a gigantic size, and that has plenty of features geared specifically for great colour accuracy, this could be the ideal pick. The MSI Prestige PS341 is pretty much a 4K monitor that’s been stretched from a 16:9 aspect ratio to 21:9, meaning that it hits 5K in width. It’s a pretty handy resolution: you can play an Ultra HD video at full size, and still have space left over for some colour grading controls, say.
Video is definitely a strong suit, thanks to 98% P3 colour support (and 100% sRGB) and HDR600 rating. The build quality doesn’t feel premium, but beyond that, it’s a really impressive monitor. Connectivity is great, it has height, tilt and swivel adjustments, and image quality is exactly what you need.
With a 240Hz refresh rate, this is an ultra-fast monitor for gamers who want peak performance. But speaking of peaks, Samsung’s QLED technology is used here to make it an HDR wonder, hitting 1,000 nits for its HDR peak – more like what a high-end TV delivers than most HDR PC screens. It’s also curved to 1000R, which is the same curve as our eyes, meaning it should be tip top for comfort.
QLED is also great for colour, and there’s P3 support here, and generally really good colour accuracy. As a 5K 32:9 screen, this is effectively two QHD screens merged into one – if you like a lot of horizontal space, that’s great. But it means pixel density isn’t the focus here, and the likes of the MSI Prestige above may be preferable for those working with non-HDR stuff for that reason.
If you’re thinking this seems extremely similar to the model above then you’ve been paying attention, because the Samsung CRG90 is. Most of the image quality advantages we mentioned above apply here, including the HDR1000 rating and excellent QLED colours.
What you’re losing is the 240Hz, which is a ‘mere’ 120Hz here – which is still fairly high-end for gaming – and the curve is 1800R instead of 1000R. Again, that’s fairly typical for curved screens, so it’s not a big problem, even if 1000R is nicer.
But you do get to save money by choosing this one, and it’s actually brighter for SDR content than the model above, which may make you prefer it overall.
What is 8K resolution?
8K images are 7,680 pixels horizontally by 4,320 vertically. It’s not quite 8,000 pixels wide – hence the 8K name – but it’s close enough. Like 4K (3,840 by 2,160) has double the pixels but four times the resolution of Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), 8K has four times the resolution of 4K (and double the number of pixels). So therefore, 8K is 16 times the resolution of Full HD.
All this means that the pixels on 8K displays will be indistinguishable to your eyes because there are over 33 million of them.
Like 4K, 8K will also be referred to under the umbrella name of Ultra High Definition (UHD) although it will be interesting to see how manufacturers distinguish that for consumers.
So what’s out there? 8K monitors will hit the market over the coming years but Dell fired the starting gun early – in 2017 in fact. Dell is still arguably the leader in the segment.
Talking about graphics, there aren’t a huge number of graphics chips that currently support 8K – you’ll need a latest-gen AMD Radeon Pro or Nvidia GeForce card to make full use of the resolution.
The main problem with using a computer with 8K at the moment is that user interface elements aren’t geared up for such a high resolution – an app like Photoshop CC will only scale its user interface to 200 per cent, which isn’t enough for comfortable use.
Dell’s 8K display is clearly ahead of its time, but it’s not looking as futuristic as it did a year ago. That’s because TV manufacturers are also starting to release the initial batch of 8K sets. There are several reasons why manufacturers like Samsung are keen to leap and not just because they like to say they were first.
They also want to pull the market with them, so all manufacturers will currently be looking at their options for 8K. Another reason is that 8K content isn’t necessarily required from the off; the powerful image processors inside these TVs will be able to upscale content – so 4K content to 8K.
It’s also true that 8K will have impact in the Far East far earlier than in Europe and the US; Japan will have an 8K TV channel in time for the Tokyo Olympics, for example. But it’s clear that easily-available 8K content is a way off. There’s also a problem with the delivery of it – it will need a lot of bandwidth to deliver it, potentially 80-100Mbps, so streaming 8K via broadband connections is also a way off.
So we’ve put together a short buying guide to the 8K display that’s available now plus a couple of 5K options if you want to upgrade your existing display.