We reviewed 10 Ultra HD monitors in 2014, and there are more on the way to our labs. HP came a little late to the party, but now it's adding three new models to its high-end Z-line of monitors.
As we know, 4K monitors aren't quite 4K because they offer only 3840 horizontal pixels. At that resolution (3840 x 2160), HP is now offering the Z24s and Z27s monitors. We've seen other 24-inch UHD screens from Dell and NEC and were impressed with their color accuracy and build quality. The Z24s is a luxury business class display with an IPS panel, sRGB color gamut, 10-bit signal path and 300cd/m2 brightness. You also get a four-port USB 3.0 hub. With a 14 MS response time, it won't appeal to gamers, but at a super-low price of $549, it is likely to be a top choice for users wanting 185 ppi of pixel density on their desktops. Expect availability sometime in January.
HP is also introducing the first 27-inch UHD monitor we've seen, the Z27s. Also based on an IPS panel, it represents a great alternative to the glut of 28-inch TN/UHD screens currently for sale. We've reviewed five of these, and they represent a great value with decent performance; but some users (us included) prefer the superior viewing angles and screen uniformity of in-plane switching. The Z27s answers that request at only a slightly higher cost. Chances are street prices will make it very competitive with monitors like the Asus PB287Q and Samsung U28D590D. Both monitors offer a full array of inputs including DVI, DisplayPort and HDMI/MHL.
If 163 pixels per inch is not enough density for you, then only the Z27q will do. At a resolution of 5120 x 2880 it offers an amazing 218 ppi. It's not quite the 326 ppi found in an iPhone 6, but it's the first monitor to break the 200 barrier. The best part is that the price is only $1299 -- far lower than that of many 4K monitors.
The Z27q is aimed squarely at professionals with an Adobe RGB color gamut, 10-bit signal path and a factory-certified calibration. You also get Rec.709 and sRGB presets so you won't have to settle for over-saturated colors if you're just watching football. Panel quality is assured with the use of an IPS part sporting 300cd/m2 brightness and a reasonably quick 8 millisecond response time. To use the Z27q at its native resolution, you'll need a DisplayPort 1.2 output on your video card, because that's the only input type available. HDMI and DVI specs fall short of the required bandwidth. Further connectivity comes in the form of five USB 3.0 ports. You should be able to buy a Z27q sometime in April.
To us, the most significant news here is not the 5K display but the lower prices of the 24- and 27-inch UHD screens. Many users are waiting to upgrade their screens to Ultra HD but have been put off by the high cost. The first 32-inch models hit the market over a year ago at prices north of $3000, which is more than many high-end computer systems. TN panels that are 28 inches helped a little when they came out at $650. Now some of those models are selling for under $500, and they perform well -- especially Planar's IX2850 and Samsung's U28D590D, both of which earned Tom's Smart Buy Awards.
We're most anxious to check out the Z24s and Z27s IPS panels. We've seen a couple of similar screens from NEC and Dell, but they sell for $1000 or more. At only $549, the Z24s represents a breakthrough for Ultra HD in this size. And the Z27s is a completely new panel part we haven't seen used by any other manufacturer. They both represent the least-expensive IPS/UHD screens we've seen so far. Hopefully, we'll get to test all three of the new Z-line screens in the coming months.
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Christian Eberle is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors.