What To Look For In A Gaming Monitor
So you want to buy a gaming monitor but you don’t know where to start. If you want to learn how to choose a gaming monitor, keep reading this article and we’ll tell you exactly what makes a good gaming monitor.
If you just want to see what the best gaming monitor is, then check out our gaming monitor buying guide, where we tackle a ton of different, great options-- 20-- in addition to our number 1 pick!
Either way is fine with us-- what matters most is that you’re getting helpful, accurate information so you can make informed purchases.
Panel Type: TN or IPS?
TN panels prioritize budget and speed, while IPS panels prioritize a better viewing experience. For a more detailed explanation, check out our TN vs IPS breakdown. Neither are the best type of monitor for gaming, though, they both offer their own pros and cons.
For instance, your response time will generally correspond with your display type. A good response time for a gaming monitor is at least 5ms, but most TN displays can offer 1-2ms response times, which is great for competitive gaming.
- Lower latency than IPS; cheaper support for high refresh rates
- Cheaper overall
- Worse color reproduction
- Narrower viewing angles
- Better color reproduction
- Better viewing angles
- More expensive
- Higher latency
- 60Hz - The “baseline”. Minimum required for a smooth gaming experience.
- 75Hz - Slightly better than baseline, but only a marginal difference.
- 120Hz - Big difference in playability and quality, but somewhat superseded by the more popular 144Hz displays.
- 144Hz - Not all that different from 120Hz, but the more popular standard. Probably your best bet for buying a high refresh rate display today.
- 240Hz - Despite the larger number, not quite as significant as the leap from 60 to 144. Also a bit unfeasible for most hardware currently on the market.
In general, the higher the refresh rate, the better your gaming experience. This is because refresh rate corresponds to the frame rate that you can actually see. Let’s say you’re rendering 144 FPS. On a 60Hz display, it’d be like you’re playing in 60 FPS… with the possibility of screen tearing. On a 144HZ display, however, you can actually see all those extra frames.
For more on refresh rate and how it affects your gaming experience, check out our article on the topic.
FreeSync and G-Sync
Note: In order to utilize these technologies, you will need DisplayPort ports on both your GPU and your monitor, as well as a DisplayPort cable to connect the two!
What They Are
FreeSync and G-Sync are two (essentially) identical technologies, but there are a few key differences.
FreeSync, from AMD, is only compatible with AMD GPUs and FreeSync-compatible displays. However, FreeSync only requires compliance with the latest DisplayPort standards and doesn’t require specialized hardware to function.
G-Sync, from Nvidia, is only compatible Nvidia GPUs and G-Sync-compatible displays. Unlike FreeSync, it requires dedicated hardware built into the display in order to function properly.
Both technologies seek to beat V-Sync, which is a hardware-intensive method of synchronizing your framerate to your refresh rate to prevent screen-tearing. This comes at the penalty of some input latency and pretty severe framerate dips if you ever go below your refresh rate.
Comparatively, the -Sync technologies don’t cause input lag at all and keep your refresh rate synchronized to your framerate, as opposed to the other way around. This essentially provides all the benefits of V-Sync without any of the downsides.
Which To Get
If you already have a GPU, you should just go with the one that your card supports.
If you don’t or are about to upgrade, FreeSync will do the same things as G-Sync but for much cheaper, since it doesn’t require the dedicated hardware inside the display. No need to pay extra money for an Nvidia logo, right?
Resolution and Monitor Size
Below, we’ve listed optimal sizes for each of the popular resolutions. If you want our detailed rationale, check out our article on the best monitor size for gaming. Also remember, that a larger size and/or higher resolution will cost more money, in general.
- 1080p and 24 inches - Most common, should work fine with most setups.
- 1440p and 27 inches - Less common, will need mid-to-high end hardware to make the most of.
4K and 27+ inches - Least common, will need the best hardware to make the most of.
Widescreen (16:9) or Ultrawide (21:9)?
We also discuss this in the best monitor size article, but the short version is… use a single 16:9 monitor for gaming. Ultrawides and multi-monitor setups can work, but their support for gaming is very limited, and in some cases can be outright worse, especially in multiplayer titles (where they won’t allow you to utilize a wider FOV since it can be considered a competitive advantage).
How much should I spend?
Depends on the budget for the rest of your system.
- If you’re getting a budget build (anywhere from $300 to $500 total): you probably shouldn’t spend any more than $200 or any less than $100.
- If you’re getting a midrange build (anywhere from $600 to $800 total): you shouldn’t spend any less than $200 or any more than $400.
- If you’re getting a high-end build (anywhere from $1000 and up): you can really spend as much as you want, but you want to start around $300-400.
What features are most important?
Is your priority a smooth gameplay experience or a pretty gameplay experience?
If you want smoothness above all, this is your order of priority:
- Refresh Rate - No less than 120 Hz! This means 1080p on budget builds; 1440p as you push higher.
- Response Time - No more than 3ms!
- G-Sync or FreeSync - Will be very nice and possibly very helpful!
- HDR and deep color gamut - Optional! HDR isn’t always widely supported.
- IPS - Very optional, might come at the expense of one of the others.
If you want prettiness above all, this is your order of priority (Note: this route is arguably more expensive):
- IPS - Better color reproduction and viewing angles provide a more immersive gaming experience!
- HDR and deep color gamut - Expensive and somewhat rare, but awesome where you can get it!
- 4K- 4K will give you exceptional clarity.
- Response Time - No more than 5 ms! Smoothness might not be your priority, but you still want a good gaming experience.
- G-Sync or FreeSync - Pretty optional, but still nice to have.
Those are the factors to take into consideration when you’re buying a gaming monitor of your own. If you want to go ahead and start browsing on your own, head over to Amazon and scour away with the information we’ve given you!
You’ll also want a GPU to match if you don’t have one- click here to read our best GPU roundup!
Before we leave, we want to know: what do you prioritize in your gaming experience? Do you prefer smoother gameplay for a competitive or prettier graphics because aesthetics matter most? There are no wrong answers here, and we’d love to hear your thoughts!