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Monoprice CrystalPro 44522 review: Cheaper 4K without killing features

Monoprice CrystalPro 44522Image: Matt Smith

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Sharp, clear imageStrong color performanceFunctional ergonomic standIncludes USB-C despite low price

Cons

Generic designLimited image quality adjustmentsNot a great choice for viewing games and movies

Our Verdict

The Monoprice CrystalPro delivers a sharp, colorful 4K image alongside decent ergonomics and connectivity, though mediocre contrast can cause issues in movies and games.

Price When Reviewed

$299.99

Best Prices Today: Monoprice CrystalPro 44522

RetailerPriceMonoprice$219.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

Budget monitors have improved drastically over the past half-decade. Humble 1080p monitors with limited connectivity are on the out, replaced by a new generation of 1440p and 4K monitors with USB-C. The Monoprice CrystalPro (Model #44522) isn’t perfect, but it’s a good example of what inexpensive monitors can deliver in 2023.

Further reading: See our roundup of the best 4K monitors to learn about competing products.

What are the Monoprice CrystalPro 44522’s specs and features?

The Monoprice CrystalPro’s headline feature is shared between its 4K display resolution and inexpensive $300 MSRP. Neither is unusual on its own, but the combination places the CrystalPro near the bottom of the 4K monitor world. And this actually undersells the monitor’s value. Monoprice routinely slashes the price of its monitors during frequent sales, and the monitor’s price has already been cut to as low as $220.

Display size: 27-inch widescreenNative resolution: 3840×2160Panel type: IPSRefresh rate: 60HzAdaptive Sync: FreeSyncHDR: HDR10Ports: 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x DisplayPort 1.4, USB-C with DIsplayPort Alternate Mode and 65 watts of Power Delivery, 2x USB-A 2.0 downstream, 3.5mm audioVESA mount: 100x100mmSpeakers: YesPrice: $299.99 MSRP

Shoppers should be careful to note the monitor’s model number (44522). Monoprice sells a similar 28-inch 4K monitor (model 43019), which we previously reviewed. It’s an older model with slightly inferior image quality and a less impressive stand.

How is the Monoprice CrystalPro 44522’s design?

Matt Smith

Monoprice is no stranger to generic design—in fact, well-executed generic alternatives to more expensive tech gear is kinda their whole thing. Still, the company’s latest 27-inch CrystalPro monitor is mundane even by those standards. Slim black bezels frame a basic matte-black plastic rear panel, supported by a simple circular stand. Nothing about the monitor’s design offends, but nothing stands out.

What it lacks in looks, it has in functionality. The 27-inch CrystalPro monitor has a decent ergonomic stand that adjusts for height, tilt, swivel, and rotation. The stand connects to a standard 100x100mm VESA mount and includes a loop for routing cables. It’s a compact stand, too, with a flat base that won’t take up much space on your desk.

None of this is luxurious but, given the monitor’s bargain-bin price, it shouldn’t be taken for granted. These perks give Monoprice an edge against inexpensive 4K monitors like the Sceptre U275W-UPT and Philips 276E8VJSB.

How are the Monoprice CrystalPro 44522’s connectivity and menus?

Matt Smith

The monitor’s connectivity includes HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C with DisplayPort Alternate Mode, for a total of three video inputs. A weak set of speakers are included, but they’re not great. Fortunately, a 3.5mm audio-out is provided for passing audio-out to external speakers.

Using the USB-C port provides access to two USB-A 2.0 data ports, both on the back of the monitor. That’s a slim selection of USB connectivity but, given the price, it’s fine. The USB-C port also provides 65 watts of USB Power Delivery for charging a connected laptop. That’s a great feature to have in a 4K monitor priced at $300 (and often sold for less).

If your computer doesn’t support USB-C, though, don’t fret. The monitor also has a USB-B upstream port which connects to the USB-A 2.0 data ports. Though not uncommon, I have noticed new monitors are beginning to ditch this option. Its presence is appreciated in a budget monitor which, I suspect, is less likely to be used with a modern laptop capable of USB-C.

Matt Smith

While the CrystalPro’s connectivity is strong, the on-screen menu is merely okay. It’s controlled with a responsive, intuitive joystick on the right flank. The menu system’s font is rather small, though, and offers few useful options. There’s a handful of questionable image quality presets, a few color temperature adjustments, some toggles for basic features (like FreeSync and HDR), and that’s about it. To be fair, this is typical for a budget monitor—but I would have liked to see a way to adjust gamma.

How is the Monoprice CrystalPro 44522’s SDR image quality?

Budget monitors aren’t meant to set a new standard for image quality, but they should still provide some eye candy. The CrystalPro does this through resolution—4K on a 27-inch monitor looks plenty sharp. But it has other tricks up its sleeve.

A wide color gamut makes the CrystalPro an attractive option for content creators on a tight budget.

Matt Smith

Brightness, however, is not one of those tricks. The monitor’s maximum SDR brightness of just 226 nits is rather low and, while still plenty bright for use in most situations, it might look a bit dim in a sunlit room.

Matt Smith

The CrystalPro’s maximum measured contrast ratio of 900:1 is mid-pack, but solid. This level of contrast provides a reasonable sense of depth, dimensionality, and realism, though it falls way short of more expensive OLED and Mini-LED monitors.

You could spend several hundred dollars more and not see a better result—as evidenced by monitors like the Asus ProArt PA279CRV which, although a great monitor by most metrics, doesn’t meaningfully defeat the Monoprice CrystalPro in this test.

Just be warned: This is an IPS monitor and suffers the familiar “IPS glow” problem found in most similar displays. This problem creates a hazy gray sheen across dark scenes. It’s not usually noticeable in productivity apps, but it’s obvious in games and movies.

Matt Smith

Now we get to the CrystalPro’s strengths. The monitor presented an excellent color gamut that spans 100 percent of sRGB, 98 percent of DCI-P3, and 90 percent of AdobeRGB. This is far beyond many alternative monitors and excellent for the price.

A wide color gamut makes the CrystalPro an attractive option for content creators on a tight budget. Very few budget monitors exceed even 90 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut (which is often used as a standard for photography and online videography), so this is a great result. It means you’ll be able to see colors that aren’t present on other budget displays.

Matt Smith

Color accuracy is another win, as the CrystalPro unexpectedly provides a level of color accuracy that beats even more expensive monitors that promise factory calibration—something the CrystalPro doesn’t advertise.

I’m somewhat skeptical of this result. Monoprice is a budget brand, and that tends to come with a lower level of quality assurance. I may have won the “panel lottery,” and received an unusually good example. Still, the results speak for themselves, and reinforce the CrystalPro’s potential as a budget monitor for content creators that need accurate color. Color temperature was excellent, too, hitting the exact target of 6500K.

Gamma, on the other hand, is a problem. I found a default gamma curve of 2.4, which is off the target of 2.2. This variance means content can appear darker than intended. Photos, videos, and games all looked a bit too dark, which in turn reduced detail in dark and shadowy areas of the image and made low-light scenes more difficult to view. The CrystalPro doesn’t provide a Gamma option in its on-screen menu, either, so you’ll have to use a calibration tool or other third-party software to correct for the issue.

The monitor’s sharpness is stellar. The 27-inch 4K panel provides roughly 163 pixels per inch. That’s a big upgrade over a 1080p monitor’s 82 pixels per inch. Small fonts look crisp, while 4K videos appear razor sharp. It’s remarkable to see this level of sharpness on an inexpensive display.

On balance, then, the Monoprice CrystalPro provides good image quality with a few caveats. It scores well in sharpness and color performance, and does well enough in contrast, but has some issues in brightness and in gamma presentation. It’s a good budget pick for home office productivity and content creation, but can look muddled in games, movies, and other entertainment—especially when displaying dark scenes.

How is the Monoprice CrystalPro 44522’s HDR image quality?

The Monoprice CrystalPro supports HDR10 input but doesn’t promise any level of VESA DisplayHDR certification.

That’s due to its brightness. I measured a maximum brightness of just 348 nits in HDR. That’s less than what many monitors achieve in SDR. Lackluster luminance directly reduces the quality of HDR, reducing the detail in bright scenes, and the overall HDR presentation doesn’t provide a benefit over viewing content in SDR.

None of this is a surprise. All budget monitors fail to provide a passable HDR experience. Still, it’s important to know this before buying the monitor. It can handle an HDR signal, but you may as well stick with SDR.

How is the Monoprice CrystalPro 44522’s motion performance?

Matt Smith

A 60Hz refresh rate is the maximum available from the Monoprice CrystalPro, and the monitor’s overall motion clarity is mundane. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Fast-moving objects can appear indistinct and quick camera pans in 3D games make your surroundings difficult to see. Gamers on a budget will probably want to stick with a 1080p or 1440p monitor that provides a higher refresh, but the CrystalPro is fine if you prefer games with a slower pace like Civilization VI or Crusader Kings 3.

The monitor does support FreeSync, at least, and it worked well in my testing. Games rendered with smooth frame pacing and didn’t show screen tearing artifacts.

Is the Monoprice CrystalPro 44522 worth it?

The Monoprice CrystalPro is a strong budget 4K monitor that generally beats its competitors. It provides an extremely sharp image, good color performance, and useful ergonomics at a MSRP of $300 (which, at time of this writing, is already reduced to $220). It also provides handy USB-C connectivity with Power Delivery for charging a laptop. These strengths are slightly soured by the modest contrast ratio and some problems with gamma that can make dark movies and games difficult to view. Still, the Monoprice CrystalPro is an inexpensive pick for home office productivity and content creation.

Best Prices Today: Monoprice CrystalPro 44522

RetailerPriceMonoprice$219.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

Matthew S. Smith is a freelance technology journalist with 15 years of experience reviewing consumer electronics. In addition to PCWorld, his work can be found on Wired, Ars Technica, Digital Trends, Reviewed, IGN, and Lifewire. Matthew also covers AI and the metaverse for IEEE Spectrum and runs Computer Gaming Yesterday, a YouTube channel devoted to PC gaming history.

Recent stories by Matthew S. Smith:

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