How to Choose the Perfect Gaming Monitor
When building or buying your dream gaming rig, the monitor might not always be on the highest on the list of priorities.
However, the monitor is one of the most important elements that go into a gaming PC, and a great display can be the factor that makes your computer go from good to great.
Monitors differ just like any other computer hardware, and since they’re the thing you’re going to be staring at, purchasing one deserves a little thought.
On that note, here are many factors to consider when choosing a gaming monitor.
Panel Size and Resolution
First, you will probably already have a monitor size in mind. Maybe you want a massive 27” monitor for your desk, or maybe you want something a bit smaller.
Some people prefer using two monitors, in which case you’ll have to consider your desk space (two 27” monitors are going to take up a lot of room!).
One thing that’s for sure: when it comes to gaming, bigger is almost always better!
If you have the room, it’s well worth it to purchase a 27” monitor, as they provide plenty of display space as well as the opportunity to go beyond full high definition, which displays a maximum resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels.
A lot of newer 27” models are Wide, Quad High-Definition (WQHD) monitors that offer a maximum resolution of 2,560 by 1,440 pixels.
This higher pixel count will display much sharper images than a screen that displays full HD, but to get the most out of these monitors, you’ll need a powerful graphics solution.
If 27” monitors aren’t going to fit in your gaming space, there are plenty of 24” monitors on the market; they will only display up to a 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, however.
If you’re looking for the biggest and the best and cost is no object, the best options on the market are 30”, 4K, or Ultra-High Definition (UHD) monitors.
These displays will offer an incredible picture with a stunning 3,840 by 2,160 resolution. Feeling extravagant?
Pick up a 34” ultra-wide monitor with (or without) a curved panel. These ultra-wide displays have a 21:9 aspect ratio (as opposed to the typical 16:9 ratio) and give a much wider field of view than a standard widescreen monitor.
They do, however, take up a whole lot of room. Looking for a bit more immersion into the game? A curved panel ultra-wide display curves around on both sides just enough to give you that higher level of engrossment.
Next, think about what you want from your panel. There are a few different types of panels out there, and each one is useful for different things.
There are three major technologies used in all displays manufactured today: In-Plane Switching (IPS), Twisted Nematic (TN) and Vertical Alignment.
Each has several variations associated with it that offer different advantages like better viewing angles, faster panel response, lower power consumption and the like.
A quick Internet search will bring up dozens of articles on the intricacies of each technology so that we won’t delve too deeply into the nuts and bolts here.
What we’d rather do is talk about how each type affects image quality and what you can expect if you choose a particular one.
Twisted Nematic (TN) Panels are the cheapest and most common type of LCD panel these days.
If your monitor doesn’t say otherwise, it’s probably a TN panel. They have faster response times and support higher refresh rates (see below), so they’re ideal for gamers, especially if you want to game in 3D.
However, their colors are the least accurate and get distorted at different viewing angles, so other panel types will be much better looking if you don’t require high refresh rates.
Vertical Alignment (VA) Panels are a good midrange option (though they’re a bit rarer than the other types).
They have better color accuracy than TN panels, and the best blacks of all the different panel types, but can still produce weird color effects if you view them at the wrong angle.
In-Plane Switching (IPS) Panels are a more expensive option but have high color accuracy and better viewing angles than TN or VA panels.
As a result, they’re ideal for graphic designers or photographers, but even if you don’t fall into that category, IPS panels are noticeably better
looking than TN.
However, they don’t come in higher refresh rates, and can sometimes have a slower response time than TN panels. This is a problem if you’re a very competitive gamer, or if you want to game in 3D (since 3D gaming requires a 120Hz monitor).
Plane-Line Switching (PLS) Panels are very similar to IPS but even better—and more expensive.
Refresh Rate and Pixel Response
Since we’re talking about the best monitors for gaming, the refresh rate is something that has to be considered. Gaming monitors should have a high refresh rate as well as a fast pixel response.
A monitor’s refresh rate refers to the time (per second) it takes to redraw the entire screen and is measured in hertz (Hz). Most monitors come with a refresh rate of 60Hz, which translate to users seeing only 60 frames per second when gaming.
This means that even if your game is getting 100 frames per second, you’ll only see 60 of them on a 60Hz monitor. A 120Hz monitor, on the other hand, provides a much smoother gaming experience and allows for 3D gaming at 60Hz for each eye.
When buying a monitor, make sure to pair it as closely as possible to your video card’s performance in your favorite games. In other words, if your GPU can only render your games at around 60FPS (frames per second), don’t drop $600 on a 144Hz monitor.
Likewise, if your beast of a PC renders your games at over 100FPS, don’t cheap out on a 60Hz monitor. If you don’t have adaptive sync technology (discussed later in this album), you may experience visual glitches such as screen tearing and image stutter.
Even if you do have it, mismatching your monitor to your video card still, leaves you with a lot of wasted money and untapped potential.
Pixel response time is how fast a colored pixel on the screen turns from one color to another color.
The most common used pixel response specification is gray to gray, which is measured in milliseconds (ms) and signifies the time it takes a pixel to transition from one shade of gray to another (a few monitor companies still use the older and outdated black-to-white measurement).
A low pixel response aids in eliminating the blurring of moving images and provides a smoother and cleaner overall image than a monitor with a higher pixel response.
A gray-to-gray pixel response time of 2ms or less is ideal, although a gray-to-gray pixel response of 4ms is adequate for most types of gaming.
An insanely fast response time is often seen as an attribute that makes or breaks one’s decision to buy a monitor. In reality, the small difference between 1 and five milliseconds is not going to cause you any trouble.
However, before you buy, make sure to check out third party reviews and tests of the monitor. Sometimes a fast response time is rendered useless by a laggy monitor that is slow to recognize input.
Many monitors now come equipped with an anti-glare coating which prevents glare from light coming behind. If you game is a well-lit room or has a window behind you where you sit, an anti-glare coating can be quite convenient.
It can, however, make the picture look somewhat fuzzier and duller. Glossy screens without anti-glare coating look sharper but can hinder gaming if used in a room with lots of light.
There is another option: semi-glossy screens provide a compromise between the two.
FreeSync and G-Sync
Today’s games often push video cards to their absolute limits, and as such, seemingly random framerate drops occur. These fluctuations in FPS can be as drastic as a momentary 30+ FPS drop, which is painfully noticeable when playing games below or at 60FPS.
Adding insult to injury, often when your FPS drops well below the refresh rate of your monitor or rises well above it, a glitch known as “screen tearing” may occur.
An example of this can be seen in the image above. Screen tearing happens when multiple frames arrive at the monitor at once, and it is due to the game’s frame rate and the refresh rate of the monitor being out of sync.
Newer gaming monitors utilize “synchronization technology” that aids in reducing tearing and other motion artifacts while lowering the input lag.
If equipped with AMD’s FreeSync technology or Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, monitors can give the control of the screen’s refresh rate to the GPU (instead of the monitor), which allows the display to operate with a variable refresh rate.
If a monitor has these modules, the result can be a very smooth gaming experience with decreased input lag. Monitors equipped with either FreeSync or G-Sync monitors will require a compatible graphics card with a DisplayPort 1.2 or HDMI 2.0 output.
Stand and Swivel Options
It’s important to consider that every display has a different type of stand. Some can be very solidly built, while others can be cheaply made and very flimsy.
Different monitor stands have the ability to swivel from side to side, and others tilt vertically. Some displays can even flip the screen 90 degrees into portrait mode.
And, of course, some monitors don’t move at all; wherever you put them, that’s where they’ll stay. While it’s certainly not the most important consideration in purchasing a gaming display, it can enhance your monitor’s functionality.
A well-built monitor will be much more easy to tweak to your personal liking than a cheap one. After all, it’s the details that can make a good monitor great.
Video Inputs and Connector Types
This is a pretty straightforward factor in considering a new gaming monitor. Obviously, you’re going to want to make sure the monitor you buy has the type of connector you want to use.
If your video card outputs in DVI, it will be much easier (and convenient) if the monitor you purchase has a DVI port (although you can always buy an adapter).
Sometimes, certain video cards can even put restrictions on certain port types. For example, some video cards can only power dual monitors via DisplayPort.
The ideal gaming display should be equipped with a variety of video inputs so one can stay connected to multiple PCs and other gaming consoles such as the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One.
Ideally, a monitor will have dual HDMI ports, as major video game consoles use HDMI, while some high-end graphics cards offer both DisplayPort and DVI connectivity.
USB ports are also a great inclusion on displays, as they make convenient to connect mice, thumb drives, gaming controllers, and other external USB peripherals. Side-mounted USB ports make it simple to plug and unplug peripherals without having to awkwardly reach around to the back of the display.
LED vs. LCD
LED monitors are the same as LCD screens, except they use LED backlighting which provides some advantages such as a brighter and sharper display, thinner screen, and lower power usage.
LED monitors cost a little more than a standard LCD, but if you want the best gaming monitor then definitely make sure to get one. They’re pretty much the standard these days anyway.
If you look at an LCD monitor from an angle, you will notice that the image appears dimmer and the colors can look weird. At extreme angles, the entire image can even disappear.
The viewing angle of an LCD monitor is the angle at which you can still view the screen clearly, and is usually listed in the monitor’s specifications list.
The greater the viewing angle, the better, but for gamers, the viewing angle doesn’t matter because you are looking directly at the screen the whole time. But some people will consider the viewing angle necessary, for example, if you need to show presentations with your LCD monitor.
The contrast ratio of a monitor can be a helpful spec to compare picture quality between different monitors. In general, the higher the contrast ratio, the better the image quality.
With high contrast ratios, your screen can produce deeper black levels, which creates a more immersive and visually sharp experience. Keep in mind that the contrast ratio isn’t always an accurate measure of image quality, so don’t use it solely to compare two monitors as there’s more to it than that.
Warranty and Support
Make sure your chosen manufacturer offers a money-back guarantee. Most displays will show any problems right out of the box or within the first month or two of use, so you want to be able to return it for a refund or exchange with a minimum of hassle.
A 90-day return policy is standard, but this varies among retailers (many online retailers give you only 30 days). Also, beware of restocking fees.
Next, consider the warranty coverage. Most companies offer two to three years of parts-and-labor coverage; anything less is suspect. Make sure that the backlight is covered by the warranty.
Also, note a company’s policy on defective pixels; one or two defects are to be expected, but if there are many, you should be able to return the unit for exchange or a refund.
You’re far less likely to need technical support for a monitor than for a computer system or a software program. Still, it’s good to know that there’s someone you can call if trouble arises; look for toll-free support numbers and weekend coverage.
Be sure to keep all of the packing material for your monitor. If you should ever need to return it or ship it back for warranty service, you’ll need the packaging.
Monitors can be bulky, fragile, and tough to protect adequately. You don’t want to end up improvising when shipping it.
Price is obviously one of the most important factors in choosing the right gaming monitor, as not all of us have an unlimited budget. Screen size, panel technology, and other features are all determinants in how much one would consider paying for a gaming display.
It’s easy to buy a 24” gaming monitor with TN technology with a fast pixel response time for around $200, but it won’t come with a bevy of extra features.
If you’re looking for a monitor with extra features like a UDB hub, adjustable stand, multiple digital video inputs, and either G-Sync or FreeSync technology, expect to pay quite a bit extra.
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line 27” inch gaming monitor with all the bells and whistles, including 3D and either G-Sync or FreeSync technology, you can expect to pay more than $500. A 34” UHD monitor will easily run more than $1000.
Want a big-screen, ultra-wide monitor with a curved panel and all the top-of-the-line features, plan on spending much more.
As you may have seen above there are many things to consider when finding the perfect gaming monitor, sure you can buy any monitors and it will probably to a great job, but maybe it won’t fulfill your specific gamer needs.
This is why we wrote this guide to help people get a better vision on important features and the differences between them. Plus if you buy an expensive gaming monitor and it does not meet your requirement concerning gaming you might regret it.
We hope our guide on how to choose the perfect gaming monitors has helped you make the big decision. Don’t forget to leave us a comment below.