Gaming over the last couple of decades has exploded in a way that many may have deemed unimaginable. Look at esports for example – the biggest event on the circuit, the Dota 2 International, offered $34,330,068 in prize money last year, with the packed-out event at the Mercedes Benz arena drawing in an impressive 1.1 million viewers on Twitch from around the world – serious stuff.
Thanks to this newfound popularity in gaming, one particular hardware product has seen a large increase in sales during this time period - that's right, we're talking about the humble gaming monitor.
Gaming monitors have evolved massively over the past couple of decades, with the latest offerings playing a huge role in the overall performance of your gaming experience. That being said (and thanks to the abundance of options available in today's market), how are you meant to know which are good, and which aren't?
Well, fear not, that's where WePC lends a helping hand. The following guide will be a comprehensive look at the fundamental factors that make a monitor good for gaming. We'll showcase the things to look out for, the aspects to steer clear of, and a general look at some of the great monitors that reside in today's market.
So, with all that in mind, let's dive straight into it!
What To Look For In A Gaming Monitor
If you've ever read one of our "best gaming monitor" pages, you'll already have a pretty decent idea of what to look for when choosing a monitor for gaming. That being said, we realize not everyone reading this will have done that. For those that haven't, we're going to outline the most important factors to consider when purchasing a gaming monitor.
The following aspects have been chosen based on; the impact they have on your gaming performance and the levels of immersion they provide.
The first thing you should look for (more often than not) when purchasing a gaming monitor, is the refresh rate. A monitor's refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz) and refers to how often the panel refreshes the image it's displaying per second. So, for example, a monitor that boasts a 100Hz refresh rate can refresh the image it's displaying 100 times per second.
In modern monitors, the most popular refresh rates (and their best usages) are as follows:
- 60Hz - Lowest refresh rate found in today's panels. Great for everyday use and general browsing. Can also be used for photo editing if paired with color and picture-oriented specifications.
- 120Hz - Not seen in that many flat monitors, but seen fairly widespread throughout the curved monitor market. At 120Hz, you start to see a clear difference over the base 60Hz. It's pretty good for gaming and offers smooth gameplay if paired with the relevant variable refresh technology.
- 144Hz - Seen as the sweet spot between price and performance in today's market. At 144Hz you will see a large improvement in gaming over the 60Hz alternative, without it costing you the premium that comes with 165Hz and above options.
- 165Hz - At 165Hz you are pretty much cooking on gas. This level of refresh will provide extremely smooth gameplay which many deem essential for top-level competitive gaming. You will see a slight difference over 144Hz, but nothing overly dramatic.
- 240Hz - 240Hz monitors are considered the pinnacle of competitive gaming monitors - especially when it comes to fast-paced FPS shooters like CS:GO and Rainbow Six Seige. At this level, you will be forking out a premium for this rate of refresh. However, it will provide you with an advantage over the competition who aren't so privileged.
Variable Refresh Technology
Whilst we touched upon variable refresh technology above, we didn't go into any proper detail. VRT, as we'll call it, is a synchronization technology that matches your monitor's refresh rate to your game's FPS output. By doing this, it immediately offers a smoother overall picture, removing visual artifacts such as screen jitter and screen tear.
Variable refresh rate comes in a few forms, with G-sync and FreeSync being the most obvious. G-Sync (Nvidia) and FreeSync (AMD) are technologies designed to work with their specific brand in mind. That being said, they can work with GPUs from the opposing brand.
It's also worth noting that both G-Sync and FreeSync offer a variety of different types that conform to different standards. Below are the options for both:
Response time is probably the second most important factor to understand when looking to purchase a monitor for gaming. Like refresh rates, the response time of a display can seriously impact its gaming experience if not up to scratch.
Response time refers to how quickly its pixels can change color, usually using the GTG (gray-to-gray) color transition. That being said, there are a couple of other alternatives that include MPRT - the standard for measuring motion blur found in rapidly moving objects.
As a general rule, gamers should be looking for the lowest possible response time they can afford. Today's monitors usually offer response times between 1m and 5ms, so finding one that offers a response time close to 1ms is the best way to go.
Monitors equipped with a slow response time are open to image blur and pixel ghosting - a screen artifact that washes out colors and leaves a ghostly trail on fast-moving images.
The monitor's resolution is what I consider as the third pillar in the triad that makes a great gaming monitor - with the other two being above. Resolution refers to the monitor's maximum resolution and is measured by how many physical pixels the monitor can display at any one time. So, for example, a 1920 x 1080 resolution will be physically displaying 1920 pixels vertically by 1080 pixels horizontally.
As you move up the resolution ladder, as it were, the physical number of pixels being displayed also increases, which in turn has a direct impact on the display's picture clarity. Ultimately, more pixels equals better picture clarity.
That being said, there are some rules to consider when looking at a monitor's resolution:
- Make sure your PC can handle the computational demand of that resolution. A 1080 resolution is much less demanding than a 1440 resolution.
- A lot of competitive gamers will utilize the old school 1080p resolution, mainly because it offers smoother gameplay.
- Find the right balance between performance and image clarity.
In modern-day monitors, panel type isn't as important as it once was. That being said, it should still play a major role in your decision purchase.
Below, we've outlined the main difference between the three main panel types (IPS, VA, TN):
As you can see, each of the panel types has a unique set of pros and cons which tailor it towards bespoke usage scenarios. Generally, TN panels are the most responsive and quickest. IPS offers the best color and picture accuracy. Leaving VA somewhere in the middle.
Thanks to modern-day technology, however, the difference between the three in terms of gaming is much less apparent, with IPS panels having similar response and speed as the TN alternative. That being said, they are more expensive, so keep that in mind.
For the most part, the above specifications are the most important factors when considering a gaming monitor. That being said, a monitor has a whole bunch of further specifications, some of which could affect your decision-making process.
- Color Gamut - The color gamut is a range of colors used in order to determine how accurate or vast the monitor's range of colors is. When looking to purchase a gaming monitor, if you want better levels of immersion, purchase one with a high percentage of a wide color gamut.
- Size - Many will probably dismiss size and just buy a monitor they feel looks great. However, most of the time, larger-sized monitors come equipped with higher resolutions, meaning you could see a big drop in FPS. Most gamers choose between 24" and 27" for their gaming needs.
- HDR - You'll probably see a lot of today's monitors branded with HDR support. This stands for high dynamic range. HDR is the physical difference between how bright and dark the monitor can go. HDR's range is much wider than non-HDR, meaning it can theoretically have brighter brights and darker darks. This, in turn, gives images a greater sense of realism and accuracy. Keep in mind, however, it can add quite the increase to the monitor's price tag.
- The Stand - The monitor's stand might not be one of the most important factors in terms of gaming performance, but it certainly can not be overlooked. Not only does it provide you with the perfect viewing angle to decrease neck strain and fatigue but it also adds versatility and functionality to your gaming setup.
How Much Are Gaming Monitors?
So, at this stage, you're probably asking yourself - how much is a good gaming monitor then? Well, the answer is, it depends.
You can get good gaming monitors that range from $300 up to over $1000. It all comes down to your personal needs. That being said, below we'll showcase three monitors from different price ranges, explaining why they're great for gaming:
The ASUS VG279Q is one of the best monitors for $300 on the market. It comes to the table with excellent specs which include a 144Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time (MPRT), and a bunch of ASUS eye-care technology built-in. It also makes use of the IPS panel which, as we've already said, is key in color accuracy and picture quality. A fantastic monitor at a great price point.
The mid-range pick goes to the hugely-popular XL2740 gaming monitor from BenQ. Not only does this monitor come with a 1ms response time and sun-blocking flappy panels, but it also offers a 240Hz refresh rate which is considered the pinnacle for FPS gaming.
This 4K 27" monster offers up beautiful picture quality and a tonne of features to make your gaming life blissful. It's the most expensive in this list, but what can you expect from a monitor that offers it all.
FAQs On Gaming Monitors
Below we have outlined some of the frequently asked questions that haven't been answered in the content above.
What monitor size is best for competitive gaming?
Strictly speaking, a 27" monitor seems to be the go-to size when it comes to most gaming scenarios. However, if you're into hardcore competitive FPS shooters, many people still use 24" and find it to be the sweet spot between price and performance.
How do I optimize my monitor for gaming?
Nine times out of ten you won't need to optimize your monitor at all, it'll be preset right-out-the-box. That being said, we have had occasions where monitors haven't been set to the highest refresh rate. Just check in your Windows display settings to see if the refresh rate is set to its maximum.
Apart from that, the only thing left to do is set your contrast, brightness, and color preference in the monitor's control panel.
Is there a performance difference between flat and curved monitors?
If you're willing to fork out the right amount of cash, you can get a curved gaming monitor that has similar, if not the same specs as a decent flat gaming monitor. That being said, most of the time, curved monitors fall ever so slightly short of their flat counterparts - losing out on refresh rates and response times.
If you're interested in finding a monitor that resides in a bespoke category, why not check out some of our best gaming monitor related pages below:
- Best 27" monitors
- Best PC monitors
- Best monitor size for gaming
- TV vs Monitor for gaming
- Best 4K 144Hz gaming monitors
- What to look for in a gaming monitor
So, there you have it, our comprehensive guide to what makes a good gaming monitor. Whilst we tried to cover all the basics and some of the more technical aspects of a gaming monitor, it's safe to say we didn't cover every last detail. Unfortunately, monitors are pretty damn technical when you get to the nitty-gritty internal features. However, as general guidelines, this article will serve you well in your quest for a great gaming monitor.
Leave us a comment in the section below if you have any questions regarding gaming monitors or this article's content. Better still you can now head on over to our Community hub and discuss everything monitor related with like-minded individuals!