Written By
Published Jun 9, 2022 10:00 AM

Even with wireless mice and keyboards and cable ties, our desks can still turn easily into a mess of cables. USB-C promises to help clean things up by giving you just one cable to charge all of your tech. With the right setup, you can even use a USB-C cable to charge a laptop and plug it into a monitor. Who needs HDMI or DisplayPort when one cable makes everything so easy? Here’s the thing: Not every monitor with a USB-C port will get the job done. You need the right laptop and the right monitor. In this piece, we’ll lay out everything you need to know about choosing the best USB-C monitors, including our top picks.

How we picked the best USB-C monitors

I’ve been working as a tech critic for almost ten years and have tested monitors and other computing gear for The Tech Report, TechnoBuffalo, and Popular Science. In that time, I’ve used some of the best and worst options from different brands out there.

To make our selections, we drew upon our monitor testing program, sourced opinions from critics at multiple publications and user impressions from across the internet, and leveraged our general knowledge of display technology. We looked for interesting monitors to fit a few different categories. There’s no price limit on our picks, so these displays can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

Things to consider before buying one of the best USB-C monitors

Using USB Type-C—or, casually, USB-C—for anything other than charging can get more complicated than you might expect. While it was conceived as a universal cable, there are multiple versions of the technology that dictate how it can be used, which vary from device to device. On top of that, using USB-C to link a PC to a monitor requires certain technology in your computer. In other words, picking a USB-C monitor isn’t as easy as checking whether your display has a USB-C port.

Once you figure out which monitors suit your connectivity needs and which do not, you still have to pick one! That means wading through specs that may immediately make sense to the average PC user, including resolution, refresh rate, color accuracy, and panel type. We’re going to focus on the specifics of picking a USB-C monitor here, because it is complicated, but we recommend checking out some of our other monitor explainers (best ultrawide monitors, best 240hz monitors, and best monitors for color grading) where you can read thorough, but efficient descriptions of the core specs that will help you pick a fantastic monitor for yourself.

Before we start: Does your PC support DisplayPort Alternate Mode?

Not all USB-C connections are created equal. In 2022, there are 3 versions of USB-C, or 5 if you include the physically identical but more feature-rich Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 connections. The more fully-featured the port, the more expensive it is to manufacture, and USB-C ports that effectively transfer enough data to support a display are on the pricey side. As such, you’ll need to keep a sharp eye out and make sure that your PC and monitor both have the ports you need.

To connect your PC to a USB-C monitor, the computer must support a software feature called DisplayPort Alternate Mode, or DP Alt, which allows you to use your USB-C port as a DisplayPort output, transmitting video at full bandwidth. Here’s the tricky part: Not all USB-C ports support DP Alt mode; it is an optional feature that manufacturers can add if they want. There are easy ways to check whether your laptop has USB-C ports with DP Alt Mode, but you may be forced to check the specs for your laptop.

That said, there are a few visual markers that may quickly indicate if a specific USB-C port can be used to connect to a USB-C Monitor.

Best USB-C monitors of 2022
From left to right: The DisplayPort logo, the Thunderbolt logo, and the USB “SuperSpeed” logo. 

A “DP” DisplayPort logo placed next to a USB-C port specifically means the port supports DisplayPort Alternate Mode. More broadly, the lightning bolt icon indicates that the USB-C port supports Thunderbolt 3 or 4. Thunderbolt is a more feature-rich version of USB-C and guarantees support for DP Alt Mode. It’s important to recognize these two, specifically, because there are also symbols that do not tell you whether your USB-C port can connect to a monitor: The USB SuperSpeed logo, for example, refers to the connection’s maximum bandwidth. (USB, as it turns out, is extremely complicated.)

So what laptops support DisplayPort Alternate Mode? Most modern Apple laptops should, including MacBook Pros made in 2016 or later and MacBook Air models released after 2017. Among Windows laptops, there is no hard and fast rule. You can specifically check spec sheets for DisplayPort Alternate Mode, check the laptop for either the Thunderbolt 3 or DisplayPort Alternate Mode logos.

There isn’t really a standard for how this is handled, unfortunately, so it may require some sleuthing. For example, the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook doesn’t feature the markings for a more sleek look and the spec sheet just says “2 Thunderbolt 4 ports.” Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga features two USB ports that show the lightning bolt icon and the spec sheet explicitly says “2 x USB-C Thunderbolt 3 (Power Delivery, DisplayPort).” Both laptops support the mode but label it differently.

Video over USB-C support

Once you’ve confirmed that your PC can connect to a monitor over USB-C, it’s important to make sure the monitor you pick out can do the same. Not every display that has USB-C ports can transmit video that way. To make sure a display supports video over USB-C, check the display’s specs for a Thunderbolt 3 port or higher, supports DP Alt mode, or lists USB-C as a supported video connection.

All the monitors on this list can transmit video over USB-C, so all of our picks will set you up for success.

You need the right cable, too …

We had to talk about the port on your laptop and we had to talk about the port on your monitor. Why wouldn’t we also have to talk about the cable that runs between them? Connecting a PC and monitor is, unfortunately, not as simple as just grabbing the nearest Type-C cable out of your drawer and plugging it in. (We know you have one but some of those chargers are 10 years old and you don’t even remember what they’re for, so get rid of them!)

Like the ports, there are many kinds of USB-C cables and some are intentionally created on the cheap. The cable that will most likely come with your monitor will work fine. If, for some reason, you need to pick another, look for a Thunderbolt-certified USB Type-C cable to make sure that you’re getting something reputable and safe.

Can it charge, though?

One of the primary benefits of connecting a laptop to a monitor over USB-C is the promise that your monitor will be able to charge, or at least power, your computer while it’s plugged in. As it turns out, though, this feature is a niche within a niche. A monitor may be able to charge or power a laptop, depending on how many Watts (W) of power it delivers to power-hungry devices and the amount of power your laptop uses. Between those two factors, a simple question gets pretty complicated; even official explainers like this one from PC accessory company Belkin can be pretty vague.

Laptops typically require between 20W of charging power for a thin productivity laptop to upwards of 100W for gaming laptops with large graphics cards. Right now, the highest wattages offered on monitors with USB-C ports are 65W and 90W, which should be enough to charge most compatible laptops. Many monitors, however, feature 15W charging, which is just enough to extend your laptop’s battery life a bit if it’s running while you’re plugged in. A 15W connection is enough to charge a phone, tablet, or any other small device you might want to plug in, though.

We hope that, a few years from now, this will get much simpler. At the very least, we hope manufacturers standardize how monitor-grade USB-C connections work. For now, though, it requires a fair amount of research to predict the compatibility of a specific laptop and USB-C monitor.

Best USB-C monitors: Reviews & Recommendations

You have the right laptop and a good Thunderbolt-certified USB cable. It’s time to pick out the best USB-C monitor for you. Whether you’re looking for an all-in-one option or something more particular in mind, we’ve covered some of the most common use cases you might want to pick a monitor for. All of these monitors have a USB-C port that features DP Alt Mode: Hopefully, that will spare you the time and heartache that comes from comparing too many spec sheets.

Best overall: Gigabyte M32U

Gigabyte

Check Price

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Gigabyte M32U has a great feature set and fair price, making it easy to recommend.

Specs

  • Size: 32-inch
  • Resolution: 3840×2160 (4K)
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Max refresh rate: 144 Hz
  • Ports: 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 2 x HDMI 2.1 (24 Gbps), 1 x USB Type-C, 3 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A
  • USB Type-C power delivery: 15W

Pros

  • 4K resolution
  • IPS panel ensures bright colors and great viewing angles
  • HDMI 2.1 ports, high refresh rate, and VRR are great for console gamers

Cons

  • Contrast is not ideal on IPS screens
  • Doesn’t charge your laptop while connected

Though PC component maker Gigabyte is relatively new to the monitor game, it already has found a strong foothold in the space with some truly great gaming displays. At $799, the Gigabyte M32U delivers a 4K IPS display with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz over DisplayPort and HDMI. It’s one of only a handful of monitors right now with two HDMI 2.1 ports, making it an excellent choice for anyone plugging their PS5 or Xbox Series X into a monitor. In fact, you could connect an Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, desktop gaming PC, and multimedia laptop to the same display, turning your desk into the ultimate tech hub. 

There are some minor flaws in the formula, though. The M32U only puts out 15W of power delivery through USB-C, so it won’t charge your laptop while you’re using it. Its HDMI 2.1 connections are limited to 24 Gbps of the spec’s 48 Gbps, too, so if you use all of the HDMI 2.1 features offered by a console or graphics card with HDMI 2.1 ports, it may introduce Display Stream Compression, which can limit supported resolutions on that device.

Even keeping those in mind, this is a killer monitor for the price and a display that should last you for years easily.

Best gaming: Acer Nitro XV282K KVbmiipruzx

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: HDMI 2.1 and a suite of gaming features make this a great monitor for any type of gamer.

Specs

  • Size: 28-inch
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K)
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Max refresh rate: 144hz
  • Ports: 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 2 x HDMI 2.1, 1 x USB Type-C, 4 x USB 3.2 Gen1
  • USB Type-C power delivery: 65W

Pros

  • HDMI 2.1, DisplayPort, and USB-C connectivity
  • IPS means great color and viewing angles
  • Charges your laptop while its plugged in

Cons

  • HDMI 2.1 ports are limited to 24 Gbps

Similar to our top pick, the Acer Nitro XV282K can serve incredible visuals for gaming, work, and everyday computing across all kinds of connections, including USB-C. This 4K, 144Hz IPS panel features DisplayPort for your desktop PC and HDMI 2.1 for consoles and recent graphics cards. It features VRR in the form of Nvidia G-Sync compatibility for most Nvidia graphics cards and AMD FreeSync Premium for AMD cards and the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles. The USB-C port offers up 65W of USB power delivery, so it can charge your laptop while you use it as a secondary display.

It also shares some of the Gigabyte M32U’s flaws—namely that its HDMI 2.1 ports on this display are limited to 24 Gbps and may compress high-resolution images when using certain niche HDMI 2.1-specific features. On the other hand, the Nitro XV282K can send up to 65W of power over USB-C, so laptop users connecting that way will be able to keep their computers charged while using the display. 

It also costs more—$100 more on average than the M32U at launch. You could argue that the Acer Nitro XV282K delivers the complete dream of a USB-C gaming monitor, allowing you to route an entire gaming laptop set up through a single cable. The question is, are you willing to spend an extra $100 to achieve it?

Best for creatives: Dell UltraSharp 27 PremierColor (UP2720Q)

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: Bold, accurate 4K and a built-in colorimeter make this display a standout for creative professionals.

Specs

  • Size: 27-inch
  • Resolution: 3840×2160 (4K)
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Max refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Ports: 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x USB Type-C Upstream (Thunderbolt 3), 1 x USB Type-C Downstream (Thunderbolt 3), 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1
  • USB Type-C Power Delivery: 90W

Pros

  • Built-in colorimeter
  • 90W USB power delivery
  • Tons of ports

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Low brightness

Professional artists, photographers, or video editors, have a separate set of priorities when picking out a monitor for creating their work. Everyone wants a bold, beautiful monitor with vibrant colors, but creatives need the fullest, most accurate colors possible. That pursuit may lead them to consider a specialized display like the Dell UltraSharp 27 PremierColor, which is made—and priced—for professionals. This 27-inch IPS panel covers 100% Adobe RGB and 98% DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut for incredibly deep and reliable color. Unlike most creative monitors, it features a built-in colorimeter, a piece of equipment you normally purchase separately to help you maintain that high color accuracy. Having it built in means you can schedule regular calibrations to run while you’re away, and check the results when you’re ready to work.

Like many other creative screens, the UltraSharp 27 PremierColor comes with a shading hood to block out glare and reflections. It also offers picture-in-picture, allowing you to view the same image in different color spaces or compare images from two different sources. Even better, it features two Thunderbolt 3-certified USB Type-C ports with 90W power delivery, allowing you to plug in two laptops, charging both while you compare and contrast.

At well over $1,000, this is an expensive piece of professional equipment made for people who need to achieve this high standard. If you’re one of those people, this is one of the best options out there.

Best ultrawide: Gigabyte M34WQ

Gigabyte

Check Price

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: There aren’t a ton of ultrawide displays out there with USB-C connectivity, and the Gigabyte M34WQ is affordable and solid.

Specs

  • Size: 34-inch
  • Resolution: 3440×1440 (21:9)
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Max refresh rate: 144 Hz
  • Ports: 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x USB Type-C, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A 
  • USB Type-C power delivery: 15W

Pros

  • High refresh rate and low input lag
  • FreeSync Premium support
  • Vibrant color even at sharp angles

Cons

  • IPS contrast is somewhat limited

If “ultrawide” and “USB Type-C” are both on your monitor checklist, Gigabyte’s M34WQ should be your go-to option. There aren’t too many options combining the two relatively niche categories, and Gigabyte’s option stands out for both its performance and price. 

The $500-on-average M34WQ features a strong set of gaming features and lots of ports. The IPS display means vivid colors and the screen offers an above-average 400 nits brightness to back that up. That also means limited contrast, with blacks looking closer to grays in a dark room as they would with any other IPS display. 

With DisplayPort and HDMI options, as well as two USB Type-A ports and, of course, the required USB-C port, you can plug a ton of stuff into this screen to make it the center of your desktop. On the other hand, its USB-C connection only delivers 15W of power, so it won’t charge your laptop. Likewise, the screen technically supports HDR, but its VESA DisplayHDR 400 doesn’t guarantee a tangible difference in games.

Like our best overall and budget screens, this is more of a generalist’s screen, albeit with a high refresh rate for gaming. It will serve its purpose well no matter how you use it. 

Best portable: Asus ROG Strix (XG16AHPE)

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: A large battery and great gaming performance make the Asus ROG XG16AHPE a second display worth carrying around.

Specs

  • Size: 16-inch
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Max refresh rate: 144 Hz
  • Ports: 1 x DP Alt/Charging USB Type-C, 1 x Charging USB Type-C, 1 x Micro HDMI
  • USB Type-C power delivery: 0W

Pros

  • 7800mAH battery
  • Excellent gaming performance (input lag, response time, refresh rate)
  • Acceptable viewing angles

Cons

  • Low brightness

Our favorite portable monitor, the Asus ROG Strix XG16AHPE is an excellent 16-inch IPS panel that you can carry around wherever you go. Backed by a 7800 mAh battery, you can use it untethered from power for up to 3 hours without draining power from your device. It’s a no-compromise display with 100% sRGB color gamut coverage for bold colors and a gaming-grade 144Hz refresh rate with 3ms response time—and all for under $400. 

This is a display for gamers first, so it features a variety of connectivity options. Throw this and your Xbox Series S in a suitcase, along with the laptop your presentation is stored on, and you can set up a mobile workstation for productivity and gaming. There are cheaper portable USB Type-C displays, but the Strix XG16AHPE does everything perfectly.

Best budget: Dell S2722QC

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Dell S2722QC is a great 4K monitor for a laptop-centric work-from-home setup.

Specs

  • Size: 27-inch
  • Resolution: 3840×2160 (4K)
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Max refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Ports: 2 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1, 1 x USB Type-C
  • USB Type-C power delivery: 65W

Pros

  • 65W of USB Type-C Power Delivery means you can charge your laptop while you use it
  • 4K resolution will be ultra-sharp on a 27-inch display
  • Ergonomics include tilt, rotate, swivel, and VESA 100mm mounts

Cons

  • No DisplayPort ports
  • Limited color accuracy

Compared to the other displays on this list, the Dell S2722QC is a more straightforward but still luxurious 4K IPS display. At 27 inches, it pushes the limits of how much detail you can show and offers strong 350 nit brightness. It also features great adjustability and full USB-C compliance, including 65W of charging power and DP Alt mode, so you can plug a laptop in and use the monitor as both a secondary display and a charging station. With two other USB ports, it can also act as a USB hub for your other devices—just plug that one cable in and get to work.

With a $600-plus starting price, the S2722QC doesn’t seem like a “budget-conscious” option at a glance, but considering that both 4K resolution and USB-C support for DP Alt Mode and 65W charging are considered “luxury” features, it is a good choice for price-conscious PC users looking for a sharp-looking display in a sea of very expensive options.

FAQs

Q: Is it worth buying a USB-C monitor?

That’s a good question! A USB-C connection simplifies the process of plugging a laptop into a monitor and, in some cases, can power any laptop plugged in that way. On the other hand, finding both a laptop and monitor that support such a connection can be painstaking and expensive.

If you are building a home office or gaming battlestation built around a laptop, using a USB-C monitor can clean up your desk’s cable clutter while making the laptop itself that much more portable when you have to get up and go. Just one cable to unplug and you’re on your way. For desktops and “desktop replacement”-style gaming laptops, you’re probably better off sticking with DisplayPort.

Q: Can USB Type-C do 144Hz/4K/etc.?

As long as your display’s USB Type-C port supports DP Alt Mode, the connection will allow for the monitor’s maximum refresh rate and resolution. All of our picks output at 4K and/or 144Hz via USB-C.

Q: Can USB-C support dual monitors?

Some, but not all USB-C monitors allow you to connect multiple displays using that connection. You’ll want to consult your PC’s manual and manufacturer to find out whether you can, and how it will work with your specific display. For example, Apple says you can connect a display to both of a 2021 MacBook Pro‘s USB-C ports. With Windows PCs, some displays also allow you to “daisy chain” USB-C monitors, plugging your PC into one monitor, then connecting a second monitor to the first.

If you want to use multiple monitors, but don’t care specifically about using a specific type of port, you can always connect one monitor via USB-C and another via DisplayPort, HDMI, or any other connections you have on your PC and monitor.

Final thoughts on the best USB-C monitors

As your needs get more specific, it can become difficult to find a great monitor that fits the bill. Finding a monitor with a USB-C port isn’t too tough but finding one with a USB-C port that supports DP Alt Mode and delivers enough power to charge a laptop limits you to a pretty small group of displays. It’s so small, in fact, that we’re not quite ready to make 65W a prerequisite for making our list. Add to that the fact that you need to check your laptop to make sure it’s compatible and picking a USB-C monitor becomes a fairly complicated task. Make sure to search for information about your particular laptop and USB Type-C before splurging on one of these. If you have the right setup, though, plugging your monitor in via USB-C will make your workspace more convenient and flexible.

MORE TO READ