What to Look for in a Gaming Monitor

10Share
What to Look for in a Gaming Monitor

When it comes to building a gaming PC, choosing the right monitor for your setup is paramount. After all, what good is that next-gen graphics card or state-of-the-art motherboard if your display doesn't support those powerful peripherals?

In this guide, we're going to talk about what to look for when shopping for a gaming monitor: from panel type to pixel count and everything in between.

Before we get started, if you'd rather skip the specs explainer and get right to the product recommendations, be sure to check out our guide on the best gaming monitors you can buy right now.

Screen Size and Resolution

I'm lumping resolution and screen size together because they play off each other. Depending on your desk, your decision for screen size might already be made, but I'm guessing it'll be between 24-32". As for resolution, you'll have another range of Full HD to 4K. Bigger is obviously, well, bigger, while higher resolution provides a sharper, more detailed image.

ASUS VA24EHE 23.8" 16:9 75 Hz Adaptive-Sync IPS Monitor
ASUS VA24EHE 23.8" 16:9 75 Hz Adaptive-Sync IPS Monitor

Screen size will likely determine your resolution. If you need/want something smaller, a 24" Full HD display will do great. The mid-range and likely best for most people is a 27", 2560 x 1440, also known as 1440p or QHD, monitor. Then at the top end is 32" with a 4K resolution. Obviously, there are other options available, such as 4K 27" displays and QHD 32" displays and things outside these sizes and resolutions and aspect ratios, but we are trying to keep it simple.

LG UltraGear 27GK75B-B 27" 16:9 240 Hz LCD Gaming Monitor
LG UltraGear 27GK75B-B 27" 16:9 240 Hz LCD Gaming Monitor

For gaming, the 27" 1440p is best for many reasons, even compared to the theoretical improvements that come with bigger sizes and greater resolution.

  • 27" size is reasonable for most configurations

  • 1440p is sharper than Full HD and puts less strain on graphics than 4K

  • 1440p is able to hit higher refresh rates

Technically, these advantages get even better if you move down to the 24" Full HD displays, but I think the extra screen real estate of a 27" display is worth it. Also, if you do move up to a 4K display, you have to think about the extra processing you need to power it. All those extra pixels will need to be rendered and that can put a drag on any system. Keep this in mind, sometimes more pixels is not better.

BenQ PD3200U 32" 16:9 4K IPS Monitor
BenQ PD3200U 32" 16:9 4K IPS Monitor

You aren't limited to these types of displays. Among the fun upgrades are ultra-wide and curved monitors, or simply larger displays or TVs (not recommended unless you have good reason). Ultra-wide monitors introduce other potential complications, because they use less conventional resolutions and this, in turn, can result in lower refresh rates and longer response times, both of which we will get into next.

Curved and dual-screen setups:

  • If you want a larger display, curved makes a lot of sense for immersion.

  • Curved displays have unusual resolutions and not all games support wide field of view.

  • Curved displays have no seam.

  • Dual-screen setups have a seam, which is a big problem for gaming.

Refresh Rate and Response Time

Ah, now for the real gaming specs. When you look for a gaming monitor, you will absolutely want to check out the refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz). This reflects how many times the monitor will refresh the screen each second. Higher numbers are better. Basic displays and televisions hit around 30 Hz, with some going up to 60 Hz. For gaming, 60 Hz is recommended as the bare minimum.

If you want the real-world explanation, higher refresh rates benefit gamers by making sure what you are seeing on screen matches what is happening on the computer. Think about it this way: If someone is running in front of you in a game with a low refresh rate of 30 Hz, the image on screen might not be showing you where they are in the game world at that precise moment. This may seem like an incredibly short time differential—it is—but games require incredible precision to make your shot and human response times recognize the difference.

Samsung Odyssey G7 26.9" 16:9 240 Hz Curved VA G-SYNC HDR Gaming Monitor
Samsung Odyssey G7 26.9" 16:9 240 Hz Curved VA G-SYNC HDR Gaming Monitor

Now, 60 Hz is considered the bare minimum, but there are many 144 Hz displaysnow on the market. This is highly recommended for serious gaming. You can tell the difference between 60 and 144 Hz, and this difference can help you improve your own response times. There are even 240 Hz monitors if you want to go for the top of the line, though it remains to be seen whether there is a benefit for average gamers.

Reiterating an earlier point—if your graphics and processing can't reach these high frame rates, you won't see the benefit by using a high-refresh-rate display. Make sure the entire graphics pipeline can support your resolution and refresh rates. You can always bump down resolution in settings to boost frame rates.

The notes:

  • Higher refresh rates are better.

  • 60 Hz is the bare minimum, but 144 Hz will give a boost to performance.

  • 240 Hz is nice but is unlikely to give as large a jump in performance as the 60-144 Hz jump.

  • You need graphics powerful enough to run games at these frame rates to benefit fully from a fast monitor.

The other time-related spec is response time. It is right there in the name. This refers to how long it takes each pixel to change from one setting to the next. This is commonly measured in milliseconds (ms) from one shade of gray to another shade of gray (GtG). For gaming, you are looking for sub 5 ms, but getting down to 2 ms, or even 1 ms, is preferred.

Response time is important because during fast motion a slower response time can lead to motion blur or ghosting, since the monitor isn't keeping up with the game. You want a nice, crisp image at all times, and a high refresh rate combined with a fast response time will do it. These are generally the features that make a gaming monitor a gaming monitor.

Things to keep in mind for response time:

  • Keep response times at 5 ms or faster.

  • 1 ms is a now-common option that is advised.

  • Fast response times minimize motion blur and ghosting.

Adaptive Sync (Variable Refresh Rate)

If you've seen any frame-rate benchmarks for games and gaming computers, you've likely seen frame rates fluctuate depending on the action on screen. With minimal action, frame rates shoot up, while in high action, they can drop dramatically. Without any smart technology help, this can result in screen tearing.

LG UltraGear 27GN800-B 27" 16:9 Adaptive-Sync 144 Hz QHD HDR IPS Gaming Monitor
LG UltraGear 27GN800-B 27" 16:9 Adaptive-Sync 144 Hz QHD HDR IPS Gaming Monitor

Screen tearing is when the monitor displays a part of one frame and the following frame at the same time. You'll notice it, for sure, since the image looks split where the sync is broken. This happens because displays are set to run at a set refresh rate, and they don't always know what to do when the frame data they receive doesn't match up with their hard-wired settings.

One option has been VSync, which is simplistic because it tells the monitor to wait for the entire next frame before switching. This isn't a perfect solution since it can introduce lag, which is very bad for gaming.

AMD and NVIDIA have both developed adaptive sync, or variable refresh rate solutions, to help monitors maintain smooth playback even when the graphics cards are putting out non-standard frame rates. AMD has FreeSync while NVIDIA has G-Sync. Both do a great job of eliminating tearing but require compatible hardware to do so.

AMD's FreeSync is more widely available and is cheaper to implement, meaning you will often find it on more affordable monitors. NVIDIA's G-Sync, on the other hand, requires certification and goes through quality control to guarantee performance and usually results in a premium on the display. You'll likely have to choose based on your graphics cards. If you have an AMD card, get a FreeSync monitor. If you have NVIDIA, get G-Sync.

Is one better than the other? Well, you could argue that G-Sync is technically better since it has additional certifications and guarantees of performance compared to the open FreeSync that allows for inconsistencies from monitor to monitor. However, G-Sync displays are more expensive.

Takeaways:

  • NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync help fix screen tearing with adaptive sync tech.

  • Screen tearing happens when the frame rate doesn't match the monitor's refresh rate, causing two frames to load on top of each other.

  • G-Sync monitors require NVIDIA GPUs and are more expensive, but can be more reliable.

  • FreeSync monitors require AMD GPUs and are affordable, but can have major differences from one display to another.

  • Adaptive sync, or variable refresh rate, is great for gaming.

HDR

  • A lot of people think that more resolution is the best move for better quality. I would argue that High Dynamic Range, or HDR, will make a bigger difference to your image quality than more resolution. The extra pop and more vivid colors available in HDR imagery represent a huge jump compared to older display systems. If you haven't seen an HDR display yet, you really are missing out.

  • HDR on computer monitors is a bit unusual, still. True HDR requires a specific maximum brightness and minimum brightness to guarantee the dynamic range it promises, but many affordable displays can't hit these targets. That has led to the introduction of DisplayHDR standard with alternative maximum brightness. If you are shopping, DisplayHDR 400 or higher is likely a reasonable purchase and will give your images a more vibrant feel.

LG 34WL550-B 34" 21:9 UltraWide FreeSync HDR10 IPS Monitor
LG 34WL550-B 34" 21:9 UltraWide FreeSync HDR10 IPS Monitor

You will need to make sure your OS, graphics card, and monitor all support HDR to get it working. And then, each game will need to have its own support for the format. Be careful with this, but it is highly recommended because it is quickly becoming a more standard feature.

What you should know:

  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays offer greater contrast with brighter highlights and deeper shadows while still maintaining detail in each. Also, they support more vivid colors.

  • HDR requires a compatible imaging pipeline, including the operating system, graphics card, display, and game, to function properly.

  • HDR has many standards, so make sure you have supported options, such as HDR10. Having a monitor rated with the DisplayHDR standard helps here, as well.

  • HDR is highly recommended because it is becoming more and more popular.

Inputs/Outputs

This one should seem relatively straightforward; luckily, computers have so many standards! This is good in this case, because we seem to be moving toward a few specific standards that are objectively better nowadays. Those are DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB Type C/Thunderbolt™ 4. The tricky thing is that each one has multiple versions, and the latest are what you want.

Starting with the most popular monitor inputs, we have HDMI and DisplayPort. Practically everyone has seen HDMI—it's everywhere these days—though DisplayPort is a very close neighbor. Historically, DisplayPort has been more efficient because it has granted better refresh rates and resolutions. The latest versions of HDMI have caught up, although DisplayPort does have an advantage with its locking connector to prevent accidental disconnects. Anyway, most monitors come with both.

What to know:

  • HDMI and DisplayPort are common standards and safe bets.

  • HDMI 2.0 is solid, but 2.1 is best if you want to future-proof.

  • DisplayPort 2.1 is the current generation, though few monitors support this interface. If your monitor supports DisplayPort 1.4 (or higher), you should be good to go.

  • USB Type-C and Thunderbolt™ can offer support for DisplayPort and HDMI via adapters.

  • Think about how many connections you need.

  • Don't forget USB and audio connections.

  • Cables matter here; you'll need compatible cables to match the versions of the connectors you have.

This should be a solid guide to help you go from knowing nothing about gaming monitors to finding one that is the best fit for you. If you want more help or specific recommendations, please contact our sales team or stop by the Comments section, below.

10 Comments

When it comes to choosing the best monitor for your gaming PC, there are a plethora of factors that come into play. If you're looking for the best possible screen for playing games in 4K, then check out the Dell UP2718Q. It's an 27-inch IPS monitor with 10-bit color depth and a 60HZ refresh rate which will certainly keep any gamer satisfied. The best monitors for a gaming PC are called "gaming monitors." They feature fast refresh rates, low input lag, and large resolutions to provide the best graphics for your game. The latest gaming monitors come with Nvidia's G-Sync or AMD's Freesync technology. These technologies minimize screen stuttering and tearing so you get the smoothest picture while playing your favorite game.

 

what monitor would you recommend for editing stuff ?

What monitor do you recommend for a ps5 and playing call of duty 

I totally agrees with your blog and this is the fact that PC gaming experience can be boost by a decent monitor.

Thank you for your comment, Anam T. We are in complete agreement about the importance of a really good monitor for gaming.

I’m looking for a monitor for shooting kind games and streaming  what monitor do u recommend

 

I am looking at getting a 27" or 32" monitor to use for video/audio editing with adobe creative cloud on a 2020 Macbook Pro 065-C96H Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU and 8- core GPU and 16GB of RAM. I am looking for a monitor that can also be used for esports type gaming. What do you recommend?

For esport competitive, I recommended ASUS ROG Swift PG259QN 24.5" 16:9 G-Sync 360 Hz IPS Gaming Monitor. 24 inches size is excellent for eyes to capture full screen with radar or mini map on a corner.