Gaming is more fun when you have the right hardware and one of the biggest hardware considerations you’ll need to take into account is how to choose the best gaming monitor.
Not only is your monitor important because it displays everything you see, but also because it might just be one of the most expensive parts of your build – you’ll be happy that you’ve done the research required to make sure you’re getting the best monitor for your uses.
For starters, chances are you’ll need a monitor with either high refresh rates, a high resolution, maybe a mix of the two, or maybe you’ll be just fine with 1080p and 60Hz. That’s exactly what we’re going to find out by the end of this article.
As an example, a game like CS:GO which requires fast-twitch responses definitely requires a monitor with a higher than average refresh rate for the best experience. Whereas, games like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, or GTA: V might not benefit from a high refresh rate at all.
Take note that refresh rate is not the only variable to consider. There’s a whole bunch of different variables to take into consideration so you can make sure you’re going to get the best gaming experience possible.
The following is a breakdown of what to consider when you’re picking a monitor for gaming. You’ll find suggestions for monitors throughout the article, but you can also find them in a list at the bottom. Enjoy!
Resolution, Screen size and aspect ratio
When you think about screen size, I bet your first thought is “bigger is better” but choosing a monitor for gaming isn’t as simple as that. However, consider getting one that fits your budget desk space. For example, if you have space for a 27-inch screen, go for it. There are plenty of 27-inch monitors with WQHD (Wide Quad High-Definition) resolution. Remember, you will need to have a powerful graphics card if you are to get the best output of a game. Reasonable FPS in a game is what you should target. Should this be an issue, you can decrease the resolution in games.
High resolutions and large screen sizes outside of gaming offer you the possibility to work and browse better on your computer, but only to a certain extent. You should avoid getting monitors larger than 27-inch in 1080p, the same as you should avoid monitors under 25-inch for 1440p and no smaller than 27-inch for 4K. Why? Display errors, that’s why.
As an example, a 24-inch monitor in 1440p might look okay in games, but your browsing experience might be ruined by terrible display errors like text being too small or images being distorted. This is because most people don’t have a screen size that large so websites aren’t usually optimized for large screens.
If money and space is not an issue, I’m going to go ahead and assume you have an insane gaming PC put together. In that case, any 4K gaming monitor upwards of 30-inch will give you amazing picture quality and in result an amazing experience. For example, a 32-inch 4K gaming monitor like the Acer Predator XB321HK should be seriously considered, especially if you have the space for it. It is a great selection when you are looking for the best 4k monitor for gaming.
When it comes to ultra-wide, it’s all about the aspect ratio. Traditional monitors have an aspect ratio of 16:9. An ultra-wide monitor has an aspect ratio of 21:9. The extra width is beneficial as it gives you a wider field of view when you play games similar to a multi-monitor setup. Ultra-wide monitors take a lot of room, but still less than multiple monitors. You should make sure you have enough space before investing in ultra wide. Curved panels are often the go-to for ultra wide for the increased sense of immersion they tend to offer.
The response rate refers to how fast the screen updates, nothing excessively complicated. That said, just because it’s not complicated doesn’t mean that it’s not an important specification to look for when you are looking for a good screen – it most definitely is.
Lower than 5ms response rates are recommended for the best experience anywhere you look. Why? The lower the response rate, the faster the screen updates and the smoother your gameplay will feel. These rates are usually measured in milliseconds. If you want a good gaming monitor, look for one with 5ms or lower response rate. The best monitors for gaming have 1ms and 2ms response rates. However, 6ms and under will work fine.
When you are playing fast-paced action games such as first-person shooter or racing, you are likely to experience lagging or “ghosting” when using a monitor with slow response rates such as 10ms and above. Ghosting occurs when an image previously displayed on the screen is seen as a blur for seconds after the image has changed.
It’s also worth noting that the type of panel your monitor is running will roughly dictate it’s response rate. IPS panels generally have a slightly higher response rate and TN will generally be what offers you a 1ms response rate, but there are definitely exceptions in either direction.
There are a number of display technologies and each has its merits and demerits. TN (Twisted Nematic) panels are the most popular and affordable in terms of gaming monitors. Their popularity stems from their fast refresh rates and pixel responses. However, when viewed at an angle, they are often prone to color shifting and blurring.
VA (Vertical Alignment) panels are known for their ability to display deep blacks, robust colors, and high native contrast ratio. At the same time, they are known to show noticeable ghosting effects that can sometimes negatively affect gaming performance.
IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels offer the best wide viewing angles*, strong gray-scale performance, and best all-around color quality. Unfortunately, they are often subject to motion artifacts and not able to match pixels response found in TN panels. Personally, I prefer IPS panels over TN or VA.
*Viewing angles is the angles that you can reasonably look at a monitor and see the display
We explained what is IPS monitor as well as in-plane switching vs twisted nematic panels. However, there are lots of other proprietary panel-types that are only found among certain manufacturers. These “custom” panel types are often built on previous technology and will generally offer the same pros and cons as their predecessor. If you want to learn more about the different panel-types available, check out my post on TN vs VA vs IPS monitors.
FreeSync vs G-Sync
Both FreeSync and G-Sync offer major benefits to most monitors for gaming. What are they? They are similar synchronization technologies that smoothen gameplay by synchronizing your monitors refresh rate with your GPU – think Vsync or adaptive sync. However, they might do a similar job but are not the exact same and definitely have some major differences, primarily implementation but with variances in some features as well. If you want to learn more about the different sync techs check out my post that addresses the question of “what is VSync?”
FreeSync monitors use standard display scalers giving them more connectivity options compared to G-Sync monitors. Options include legacy connectors like VGA and DVI, as well as HDMI and DisplayPort. G-Sync monitors have a proprietary scaler module and DisplayPort is the only option supporting adaptive sync in G-Sync monitors. When using any monitor, I always suggest using either HDMI or DisplayPort, additionally, most new displays are limited to HDMI and DisplayPort anyways.
FreeSync is AMD’s proprietary tech and is the cheapest option of the 2. Unlike with G-Sync, AMD was able to make FreeSync work over standard HDMI cables and connectors. There are even some slight benefits associated with running adaptive sync over HDMI instead of DisplayPort; One of them is DisplayPort cables cost more than HDMI cables. The added accessibility means devices with limited ports such as laptops have the option of using HDMI. This way, you can use HDMI without worrying about losing support for adaptive sync.
G-Sync also has advantages over FreeSync. For instance, it is capable of tweaking monitor overdrive in a bid to eliminate ghosting on the fly wherever possible. This has been shown to offer decreased ghosting artifacts when compared to FreeSync displays. However, monitor and driver tweaks over the past several years have improved displays in FreeSync.
A G-Sync feature known as ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur) has been integrated by NVidia into every G-Sync supporting monitor. ULMB effectively improves clarity and reduces motion blur in high-motion situations by strobing backlight in sync with the refresh rate of the display. It works at high refresh rates (fixed), usually at 85 Hz or more. Take note that it comes with a slight reduction in brightness in most cases.
It should be noted that FreeSync and G-Sync only work when paired with the proper graphics card. Nvidia’s G-Sync requires an Nvidia card and as you’re probably already assuming FreeSync requires an AMD card. These aren’t features found on every single monitor and a monitor that supports one will likely not support the other.
In my opinion, the only real time you absolutely need a Gsync or FreeSync monitor is when you’re gaming with a high refresh rate (let’s say 144Hz) but you’re unsure if your system can maintain the 144fps required for a smooth experience – that’s when G-Sync and FreeSync really come in handy.
Video inputs and other features
The gaming monitor of your choice needs to be fitted with the required input options. For instance, if you want to hook the monitor to different units at the same time, you will need at least two ports on your monitor. If you are going for a 144Hz+ monitor, your options to connect the monitor are basically limited to DisplayPort (Or DVI-D if you have no DisplayPort option). This is because HDMI can only support up to 120Hz and VGA/DVI-I generally can’t support high refresh rates either.
Other features like speakers and USB ports are not that important in most cases. However, if you do need a monitor with built-in speakers, make sure you double check that the one you want has them – only some monitors come with built-in speakers.
Make sure you consider the stand and mounting options of your gaming monitor as well. Do you need a centrally located base? Legs near the edges instead of the central base? Do you need VESA mounting? These are all points to consider when checking out different monitors.
The width of the bezel, or frame, of your gaming monitor, is also important in some instances. If you’re going to be running a multi-monitor setup, ideally you want monitors with the thinnest bezel possible – look for frameless monitors. If you’re only going to be running a single monitor, the size of the bezel is entirely subjective – pick what you feel looks best.
Best monitors for gaming
Here you’ll find suggestions of which monitors are the best to choose for gaming at each performance level. I’ll include one suggestion for various levels and from there you should have a pretty good idea of what to look for within that category.
- 60Hz: Asus VS247H-P – A basic 23.6-inch 60Hz 2ms response time monitor, very affordable. Great for under $150
- 144Hz: Acer GN246HL – Best value 1080p 144Hz monitor with a 1ms response time and a 24-inch TN panel
- 240Hz: Acer Predator XB252Q – Supports G-Sync, a 1ms response time and a 24.5-inch IPS panel. Great choice for around $400 and for those looking for top 240 hz monitors
- 60Hz: BenQ GL2706PQ Black – 1ms response time and a 27-inch TN panel. Great choice under $200
- 144Hz: Dell Gaming S2716DG – Supports G-Sync, a 1ms response time and a 27-inch TN panel
- 165Hz: ViewSonic XG2703-GS – Supports G-Sync, a 4ms response time and a 27-inch IPS panel
- Ultra-wide: Acer Predator X34 – Supports G-Sync, a 3440×1440 (21:9) resolution, a 60Hz refresh rate, and a 34-inch curved AMVA panel. Great ultra-wide option.
- 60Hz: LG 27UD58-B – Supports FreeSync, a 5ms response time and a 27-inch IPS panel
- 144Hz: Acer Predator XB271HK – Supports G-Sync, a 4ms response time on either a 27-inch or 32-inch TN panel
Frequently Asked Questions
- Does a monitor make a difference for gaming? A monitor makes a big difference for gaming compared to a TV. This is because there are less display issues and lag. Additionally. monitors typically have higher refresh rates that are required for you to react to what is happening in the game.
- How do you know if a gaming monitor is good? You’ll want to make sure the contrast ratio is good, a high number of viewing angles, high pixel density, color range, and most importantly, a high refresh rate of at least 60 hz, but ideally 120+.
- Is a curved monitor bad for gaming? Curved monitors are not bad for gaming, and are actually preferred by many gamers. This is because it gives games a more realistic feeling since the world isn’t flat and so having a non-flat screen gives you more video game immersion.
- Is it better to play XBox on a TV or monitor? It is better to play Xbox on a monitor with high refresh rate as it’ll give you better reaction times and visual updates to what is happening in the game. TVs update slower which means you’ll have less time to react to the gameplay, which can often be the difference between a kill or be killed.
- What’s better for ps4 TV or monitor? Monitors are better for PS4s than TVs because they allow you to react quickly. TVs have lower refresh rates than monitors which means the visual display doesn’t update as fast, which means you won’t be able to see what is happening as fast. When you’re gaming you want fast displays so that you can react appropriately and have the best gaming experience.
There it is! My guide on how to pick the best monitor for gaming. I hope you found the information useful and enjoyed reading through. If there’s anything you feel I missed, let me know in the comment section!
When you’re looking for the best gaming monitor, whether that’s console gaming or PC gaming, you should consider all of these features before finalizing your decision.
One of the best ways to make a decision is considering the types of games you like to play. For example, high-speed first-person shooters will warrant a higher refresh rate than an RPGs like The Witcher 3 which might look better with a higher resolution in comparison.
If you need a hand picking the best monitor for your usages, simply let me know in the comment section and I’ll do my best to assist!