Ultrawide 21:9 vs UHD 4K vs Gaming 144 Hz… Which is best?

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When it comes to monitors that are many exciting options. There are UHD 4K screens, and that high resolution is so gorgeous, especially when working with 4K video. And then we have beautiful curved 21:9 WQHD resolution screens, which have so much real estate in the wide spectrum of productivity. However, once you go 144Hz for gaming you never go back, not even for the prettiness on the ultrawide.

If you are like me and trying to decide between these three options and which one suits your purpose better, let’s talk about all the advantages and disadvantages of a 4K, 21:9, or 144Hz monitor. You usually you don’t get all three of those elements in a single display, so we will divide those into categories and see which one suits particular purpose better.

4K Monitor

Let’s start with what I have been using as my main screen for the last year, the 27-inch 4K LG 27UD88. That is my primary work monitor on which I do everything, the extra detail of text and the fantastic colour seals the deal. However, that is only after setting the scaling to 125%, because otherwise everything is just way too small. By doing this you get something similar to native 2560×1440 panel real estate wise but with a sharper image. I think we have all heard that you should get a 4K monitor if you are into any creative work, but why is nobody mentioning scaling issues in Windows in some of the most common apps used in the industry like Adobe Photoshop.

Now luckily for my work in Adobe Premiere, I have no issues with scaling and get plenty of room for the UI, but jump into Adobe Photoshop and all the UI panels received the miniature treatment that don’t scale with your Windows settings. This is really kind of weird and it’s also insulting to only have 100% or 200% scaling in Photoshop options. You either get super tiny text that is very difficult to see or too large text that occupies a lot more of the screen than I want.

Luckily, Adobe Lightroom has more customizations – like 150% scaling – to make UI panels more visible without that eye fatigue. However, again, everything at 4K at 100% scaling is just way too small so you have to scale it up. Adobe please fix this. However, if you are an Apple user you have more scaling options with your 4K display – and they actually carry over into Photoshop – making it a much more comfortable experience. You get the benefit of a super detailed image without the annoying UI scaling inconsistencies that we find in Windows. Regardless, for creative work I lean towards 4K because it’s nice and detailed, and while 21:9 looks cinematic and very cool looking it just doesn’t work for creative work.

Ultrawide 21:9 Monitor

Having said that, the ultrawide is a very unique aspect that is absolutely amazing for compatible content that fills the full screen without all the black bars on either side. However, that content is quite difficult to come by and the majority of the time you will still watch that 16:9 content with the black bars on the sides, which I despise. For video editing the only advantage I find is the horizontally expanded timeline, and because we have the extra wide real estate you can see more preview windows and comfortably have more UI panels open without overcrowding your software. In that respect it’s fantastic.

Now the majority of the ultrawides are unfortunately curved, and for me that kills the creative purpose as all of your lines on the screen are skewed. How you are supposed to know your reference composition? Also, there is the bow tie effect, and I really don’t know how people can use curved ultrawide monitors for video or photo editing. Resolution wise this WQHD panel has 40% less pixels than a 4K UHD panel, so text is not as detailed in comparison. It’s still pretty fine, but you can maybe make out some pixelation in the font when looking very close. No way can you see pixels on the 27″ 4K screen.

When it comes to productivity the ultrawide provides an amazing experience. It’s really nice to have three windows open side-by-side, it’s a very comfortable layout for multi-tasking. You can do a lot of work without having to reopen things and there is just a lot of real estate. The expansive real estate is the major advantage for ultrawide monitors, plus when you find occasional media in the widescreen cinema format that fills the whole screen the experience so worth it.

144Hz QHD Monitor

Where do 144Hz monitors fit within this conversation? Well this is where gamers should pay attention since that is where higher refresh rate panels dominate. Seriously, once you go 144Hz you never go back. And if you do, it’s just mediocre. Now it’s very difficult to demonstrate just how fluid 144Hz feels, but even cursor movements in slow motion look better. In CS:GO for example you can check around corners much better since the higher rates rate allows you to be much quicker since the screen does not blur when you do those fast movements. That is a major advantage for competitive games.

When I return to the 60Hz panel in my LG 4K monitor everything feels very sluggish. Also, 4K gaming is kind of overrated anyway in my opinion, since it’s very demanding on your system. I would always choose 2560×1440 instead, since it’s like the resolution sweet spot that lets me squeeze out extra image quality without comprising on frame rates. While 21:9 gaming is pretty unique with so much in your peripheral vision, there are still some games that stretch the sides which is not pleasant. As a result, for guaranteed solid gameplay I would recommend choosing high refresh rate and QHD resolution if possible.

Conclusion

Let’s conclude this conversation, 4K UHD is awesome on the Mac and it’s pretty excellent in Windows too, provided your applications can follow your Windows scaling settings, unlike Photoshop. I wouldn’t want to game at 4K though, I would prioritize high refresh rate and a good quality panel first, and then choose resolution as the last deciding factor based on your available budget and the capabilities of your system. And as for ultrawide 21:9, it’s a unique merge of high resolution, gaming, and also possibly high refresh rate because there are 100Hz panels available, but they are really expensive. I would focus on the ultrawide format only for productivity with something that does not intersect with creative work. I hope this article helped, let me know if you agree with my generalizations between the usage for 4K, 21:9, and 144Hz. Let me know which monitor you’re using and what would be the next element that you are excited to experience.

Buy items in this video from Amazon at the links below:

4K Monitors:
LG 27″ 4K IPS Type-C 27UD88-W http://geni.us/jzIxw7
ASUS 27″ IPS type-C – http://geni.us/Q1B4z
DELL Ultrasharp 27″ LED – http://geni.us/6dLD

Ultrawides:
LG 34″ Curved Ultrawide – http://geni.us/TTbZ
Dell 34″ Curved Ultrawide – http://geni.us/VluOM
ASUS 34″ Curved Gaming Ultrawide – http://geni.us/BqAyB0

144hz monitors:
Acer 27″ 1440p IPS (G-SYNC) – http://geni.us/xwLLlJe
Acer 27″ 1440p IPS (FreeSync) – http://geni.us/AfuBjfi
ASUS 24″ 1080p LED – http://geni.us/67b3oce
BenQ 24″ 1080p LED – http://geni.us/MLOV4

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