Most new gamers forget to consider their monitors when envisaging their dream set-ups. But if you just go with whatever you have lying around, you're wasting the potential of that sweet graphics card and awesome processor you have. Oh, and did we mention the disadvantage you’re putting yourself at if you intend to play any online gaming – especially fast paced ones? Well, lucky for you, TMS has your back. Whether you’re looking for a no-frills affordable monitor with crystal quality and blistering response times, or a cinema sized, 4K, curved screen, fear not, we’ve got it covered.
Let’s not be coy. Hands down, the most important factor is picture quality. We’re talking colors, contrasts and clarity. We want our games to look good. Real good. Oh, and size is important too. That doesn’t mean bigger is better, more that there’s a sweet spot where Size and Resolution perfectly complement each other, and we’ve found it.
We also want images that are perfectly in-sync with our keyboard/mouse/controller movements, so refresh rates and input latencies are a definite consideration. There are three different types of screens (panels) used in monitors, each with their own pros and cons. Last, but not least - the price. Although as a rule in PC gaming, you generally get what you pay for, we’ve managed to find a few hidden gems that compete with the high end models without the high end price tag. If you know what you need, but don’t know where to start, then check out our Buying Advice below.
Resolution: 2560 x 1440p
Refresh Rate: 165Hz
What We Like: G-Sync, thin bezel, fast refresh, affordable.
What We Don't: G-Sync requires Nvidia card.
Dell’s S2417DG is outstanding. Thanks to its average size and above-average 1440p resolution, the S24 has more pixels crammed in than the majority of 24” monitors, which means higher quality sharper images. The 165Hz refresh rates keeps things running buttery smooth, and the TN panel means that although colors aren’t totally accurate out the box, response times and input lag are low. So low, that the S24 actually came top of its class here, beating out the Asus VG24H and AOC G2460PF. Perfect for gaming, then.
G-Sync anybody? Nvidia’s proprietary solution to reducing screen tear during fast moving sequences or low frame rates, keeps your graphics card and monitor in perfect harmony by matching each frame sent by your graphics card with each monitor refresh. The effect has to be experienced to be understood, but it’s a pretty big deal. The only kicker is you need an Nvidia graphics card to access the feature. Those on the AMD train could consider the AOC VG24H with its FreeSync capabilities, but just remember it lacks the resolution of the S24. The ultra-low motion blur mode helps to reduce motion blur, although it dims the brightness more than we enjoyed, besides, G-Sync. The S24 is the King of 24” monitors producing an experience fit for royalty, without charging a king’s ransom.
See the Dell S2417DG
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 75Hz
What We Like: Bang for your buck, FreeSync.
What We Don't: Refresh rate could be higher, dim.
We’re starting to see a trend. TN panels everywhere. Not surprising thanks to their speed and price. The VG245H from ASUS is hard to beat in the former and impervious to attack in the latter. At the $180 this monitor is a serious gamer-on-a-budgets dream. The refresh rate might seem low, especially compared to Asus PG278QR, but you need a good graphics card to take advantage of those high refresh rates. Something a buyer of affordable monitors might not be in possession of.
The fast response times, strong picture and unmistakable build of this ASUS product make this monitor a real diamond in the rough. Easily the smartest money choice on our list, outshining the AOC G240PF all areas an affordbale monitor should be concerned with. The built-in speakers are a nice touch but wouldn’t be any good for a long term audio solution. Check out our Best Headsets Roundup if you need help here. It also comes with presets for different types of games: Racing, shooters and the like, which calibrates the picture for faster- or slower-moving images. A nice care-free feature for those just wanting to get on with gaming. FreeSync functionality makes an appearance, and is simply AMD’s alternative to G-sync at a much lower premium. (AMD Users: yay). Our only gripe is the brightness of the screen which in our opinion could be increased. If you’re an AMD gamer who just wants a quality monitor without the fuss or high price tag and couldn’t care less about refresh rates, then this is probably the one for you.
See the Asus VG245H
Resolution: 2560 x 1440p
Refresh Rate: 165Hz
What We Like: Affordable, fast, high-quality IPS panel.
What We Don't: GPU-intensive.
This IPS panel is a bit of a giant-killer. Not only is it $100 cheaper than the Asus PG279Q panel, but our model had less light bleed and looked just as good, if not slightly sharper out the box. Not bad from the guys at ViewSonic. It might not look as aesthetically pleasing as the Asus model, but that’s completely subjective. And every task you perform on this monitor looks amazing. Vibrant, crisps images complimented with fluid movements no-matter-what, thanks to the on-board G-Sync technology. If you have a system that can keep up, the 165Hz refresh rate means you’ll be treated to an experience not many other panels can offer, especially at this res, for this price across 27 inches.
One area the Asus PG279Q beats the ViewSonic offering in mind you, is actual view size. This is thanks to its slimmer bezels. This also means, if you were considering a multi-screen setup, that the Asus panel could be a more suitable option - if you can stomach the price. The XG2703-GS has an abundance of ports including 5x USB, HDMI, DisplayPort and a 3.5mm audio out. This accessibility in tandem with its unmatched specs at this price point, mean it is one of the best 27” 1440p panels available for gamers right now. Its TN rival, the Asus PG278QR, may have a lower input lag, but its weaker viewing angles and less accurate colors made more of a difference in our real world testing. The Viewsonic XG2703-GS is definitely flying the flag for the 27” 1440p category.
See the ViewSonic XG2703-GS
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 240Hz
What We Like: The best 240Hz monitor available.
What We Don't: Heavy gamer styling, expensive for 1080p.
Aside from the ViewSonic XG2530, the PG258Q is the only 240Hz monitor on our list. Regardless of the ViewSonic, the Asus PG258Q is also the best 240Hz monitor on our list. And if your GPU can muster enough frames, the 240Hz refresh rate will make your gaming experience smoother than you thought possible. Handy for competitive gamers and fast twitch games.
Although pricey for a 1080p panel, the PG258Q image quality is top notch, and while it can’t compete with the pixel density found on the Dell S2417DG, there’s something captivating here that’s hard to put into words. Build quality and design are second to none. The heavy gamer styling (including the downward projected LED logo) may put some users off, but the PG258Q brings a massive gamer feature-set to the table, proving there’s more to this gamer business than aesthetics. The five-way OSD joystick is used to make UI navigation easy, while flicker free tech and low blue light functionality helps with fatigue over long periods. There’s also an on-screen crosshair function available and the option to set a timer between 30-90 minutes. Handy if you’re gaming whilst waiting for the oven (we’ve all done it). You also have G-Sync and ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur) options, meaning every base is covered. Of course as we mentioned, you can get 240Hz on a 24.5” panel for less thanks to the Viewsonic XG2530, but its lack of features, underwhelming design choices, slightly ropier build quality and unquestionably poorer image quality mean the extra cost is easily justifiable. The ViewSonic isn’t bad and definitely our next goto for high refresh rates, but the Asus is just too good to pass up.
See the Asus PG258Q
Resolution: 2560 x 1440p
Refresh Rate: 165Hz
What We Like: Perfect mix of size and resolution, adjustable stand, G-Sync.
What We Don't: Very expensive.
If it wasn’t for the high price point, the PG278QR would have nabbed a better spot for sure. It’s an amazingly stylish monitor producing clear vibrant images with a 165Hz refresh rate, G-sync, low input lag and low response times. The colors will require some tweaking out of the box, however once done they are equally as impressive as the Dell S2417DG.
The 8QR has a higher price tag than theD ell, but also, an extra three inches. The sacrifice in pixel density, is offset with having more room to display what is still a great quality image, and captivates in a completely different way. It’s nowhere near as immersive as the experience an Acer Predator Z35 can provide with its huge, curved screen, but still a noticeable step up from 24” club. Its G-sync functionality only adds to the experience and once you’ve used the 8QR you’ll wish you could justify the extra dollars. The stand is completely adjustable and feels really solid. In fact the whole unit feels well-built and robust. If money is no object, and your preference is with real estate over image density, then Asus’s PG278QR could be your number one. It’s not ours though. Sorry.
See the ASUS PG278QR
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 180Hz
What We Like: G-sync, high refresh, Eyeprotect.
What We Don't: Expensive, better for competitive games.
With its hyper-aggressive styling and name, the Predator has one clear target: gamers who are serious about performance. The 1080p TN panel produced the expected speedy refresh rate and input lag figures, and even exceeded our expectations for color accuracy looking better out of the box than the Asus PG278QR. The 180Hz refresh rate crushes even our first place entrant, Dell’s S2417DG, making fast paced action as smooth and fluid as the less demanding scenes – providing you can get framerates high enough. It’s not surprising this monitor has been used at some of E-sports largest tournaments.
And this leads us to our only issue with the monitor. It’s much better for competitive game experiences than single player immersive ones. 1080p is starting to look very standard, and for the price, standard is not a look we’re interested in. Especially true when for an extra $50 you can pick up the 28” 4K Acer B286HK. 24” is optimal for online competitive play, as you can see everything in front of you and high framerates are easier to maintain at 1080p, but it doesn’t lend itself to the immersive panoramic vistas we love exploring on our single player endeavors. For the price, we’d need it to cover more bases. That said, if you’re serious about E-sports or competitive shooters and play little else, this monitor is a great investment.
See the Acer Predator XB241H
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 240Hz
What We Like: Obtainable high refresh rate
What We Don't: Lacks versatility for the price
This monitor is ideal for gamers who do just that: game. The 1080p resolution on the 24.5” panel not only gives gamers the current gold standard they expect, but also utilises the main feature of this monitor, the 240Hz refresh rate. 1080p is the best HD resolution for generating high framerates, and without a framerate the equals your refresh rate, it’s kind of pointless. You really can feel the difference with a 240Hz refresh rate over the current 144Hz and 165Hz competition. Even the Acer Predator XB241H with its 180Hz wizardly couldn’t quite match-up. Granted, the Predator (above) is cheaper, has better styling and build quality, but here, you’re paying a premium for the highest refresh rate available on the market. The inclusion of FreeSync is nice, but as this monitor is targeting users who want high frames specifically in competitive scenarios, it seems slightly unnecessary, especially with the possibility of increased input lag.
Like other overtly gaming-centric monitors, the XG2530 comes with some cool features. The cable management clips and built-in handle are a nice touch, but it would have been cool to see a remote with preset image settings or the ability to download popular settings, a la the BenQ XL2430. We prefer the image quality of the ViewSonic, but for the price, some extras would have been appreciated. Due to its size and TN panel tech, there are more versatile monitors available, but none with such a high refresh rate (read: buttery). If you’re a big Overwatch or CSGO gamer, and that’s all you do, this monitor will deliver one of the best experiences possible. For more a more versatile panel, check out the Acer B286HK.
See the ViewSonic XG2530
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
What We Like: Sharpest pictures we’ve seen, cheap 4K.
What We Don't: Needs a powerful graphics card to get the best out of.
The first 4K monitor in our list. Not ideal for competitive online gaming, due to having a larger size to “monitor” (get it?) and slow-ish response times, but this screen from Acer delivers a quality of picture which is hard to describe. The 4K resolution on such a big screen really adds an extra dimension to gaming, and once you’ve seen it, you instantly notice the difference coming back down, even if it’s to the fractionally smaller 27” Asus ROG Swift PG279Q at 1440p.
As with all the other TN panels, color accuracy is slightly compromised compared with IPS, however during our time in Fallout 4 we were too enchanted by the depth of detail to notice any discrepancy in color accuracy. The B28 makes up its colourful history with the level of adjustment it provides in terms of fine tuning the overall image quality including additional saturation and hue settings. The navigation of the menus is refined and made simple by clearly labelled buttons. A cue we wish the AOC G2460PF could take hints from. A bevy of ports are on stand-by including HDMI, Display Port, and DVI as well as 4 USB 3.0 connections. Oh and speakers. It has speakers. The refresh rate may seem low, but having hardware that can get 60 frames per second on a 4K resolution is tougher than it sounds, so seems a logical choice. Definitely the cheapest and most solid Midrange solution to 4K gaming right now.
See the Acer B286HK
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 144Hz
What We Like: Affordable, FreeSync, cable management feature.
What We Don't: Colors slightly off.
Another great addition for affordable gaming monitors. Although not quite as affordable or attractive as the Asus VG245H, AOC’s G24 is a solid, fast, responsive monitor with a high refresh rate and FreeSync technology. It may cost more than the entry from Asus, but with that increase in price you’re getting a refresh rate that’s twice as high, and a completely adjustable monitor position - you can even turn the monitor from landscape to portrait. The design is pretty slick, and AOC have even included a cable management bracket on the back of the stand. The 1080p display means you're achieving the standard in high-definition resolution, and most hardware configurations will be able to take advantage of its potential without breaking the bank.
Performance was impressive across games like Grand Theft Auto and Metro 2033, with the monitor’s fluidity really shining with FreeSync enabled. G-Sync users may want to check out the slightly slicker Acer Predator XB241H, but be prepared to pay a premium for it. As with all TN panels the colors were slightly off out the box, however, even after tinkering we weren’t completely happy with the results. That said, for the price the AOC is a brilliant solution for the 24” 1080p range coming second only to the VG245H from ASUS in terms of affordability.
See the AOC G2460PF
Resolution: 2560 x 1440p
Refresh Rate: 165Hz
What We Like: Amazing picture quality and colors, G-Sync.
What We Don't: Expensive.
The second IPS panel on our list is good, just not unbeatable. If you missed it the first time round, IPS means unprecedented color accuracy; combine that with a (surprisingly) low input latency, 1440p resolution and 27” screen size, the PG279Q is a real class above. It looks sleek without being overly aggressive and the build quality is second to none. That said, the ViewSonic XG2703-GS is equally as impressive, but slightly cheaper, although slightly less attractive as well. The screen is very heavy, but once attached to the included stand, it feels secure and robust. Adjustments on the stand feel tight and precise, but thanks to the great viewing angles you’ll rarely need to mess with it. The price is the only real dampener especially when Viewsonic offer a similar experience for less. That said, the PG279Q does have smaller bezels, a higher dynamic contrast and just feels like a higher-end product.
The onscreen display for the menu is intuitive and easily-accessible from a clickable joystick on the back of the monitor. Navigating it is a dream. G-sync again creates an unbelievable experience, however as always is limited to those who own an Nvidia card. Without a doubt one of the best 27” monitor for Nvidia users; it’s just a shame not everyone can afford it.
See the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 144Hz
What We Like: Great color accuracy, low input and response times, FreeSync.
What We Don't: Curve doesn’t work on 24”.
OK, so this curved monitor from Samsung had us all curious. We wanted to see if the curve worked as well on a smaller screen as it does on larger ones. In short, it doesn’t, and we feel for gaming a more conventional panel like the Asus VG245H could be a better choice for less. That is, if you don’t want the extra refresh rate, or mind that color accuracy is infinitely more impressive on a VA panel than a TN.
Easily beating out some of our higher priced TN panels. It’s menu comes with three gamer presets, accessible using the joystick on the back of the unit, as well as individual adjustments for gamma, RGB, refresh rate and response time. AMD’s FreeSync is supported with this card for tear-free gaming. Another thing we noticed with the monitor over the TN panels was its increased brightness - supremely beneficial, especially for those gaming in light areas. The monitor’s performance was equally as impressive avoiding blurry images whilst maintaining fluid motion. With its current price drop and cleverly-engineered VA panel, Samsung have created a top contender for the 24” 1080p range. Although slightly more expensive than the similarly spec’d AOC G2460PF, Samsung’s product delivers much better color accuracy and brightness so long as you’re willing to pay for it.
See the Samsung C24FG70
Resolution: 1920x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 144Hz
What We Like: High refresh rate, great color accuracy, gaming modes.
What We Don't: Expensive for its size.
Some readers may be surprised at the rank we’ve given the XL2430 considering its performance, styling and features. However, the 24” 1080p bracket is bustling at the moment and competition is tight. Don’t get us wrong: the XL2430 is gorgeous, and we absolutely love the styling; it’s equally as geared towards gamers as the Acer Predator, whilst avoiding its juvenile feel. The remote used to quick load gaming presets and navigate the menus is a brilliant idea and really aligns with the gaming accessibility ethos behind the brands XL range.
Color accuracy was brilliant for a TN, but again lacking that IPS vibrancy found on the Viewsonic XG2703-GS and others like it. The 144Hz refresh rate makes gameplay deliciously smooth and the ability to download professional gamer’s settings was a nice touch although slightly gimmicky. Build quality is top notch, putting the previously mentioned monitors in this range to shame and goes someway to justifying the slightly more expensive unit. Just not all the way. Although a brilliant monitor with amazing performance and ideal for gamers to use at tournaments or LAN parties, we feel you can get equal performance for less. For example, the AOC G2460PF gives very similar performance and even includes FreeSync for nearly half the price. If you’re not fussed about gamer-centric features, then maybe check that out.
See the BenQ Zowie XL2430
Refresh Rate: 100Hz
What We Like: Immersion is second to none.
What We Don't: Expensive, like so many curved sets.
If immersion is your only concern then look no further. This curved 34” 4k monitor from Samsung delivers an experience unlike any other for similar money. Movies and games instantly become more cinematic and the way the screen wraps around your desk is hard to convey into words. With a headset on, it’s easy to forget you’re not actually fighting demons and saving princesses. It might not be able to match the refresh rate of the equally oversized Acer Z35, but that’s only 1440p and costs $200 more.
The design of the monitor itself is impressive with the stand fully supporting the immense bulk of the monitor and looking classy doing it. A handy clickable joystick on the back, as seen on models like the Asus PG279Q, allows you to swiftly navigate the menu screens, while a cable management design appeases the OCD’ers out there. The color accuracy is sublime and so good it can be used for professional level photo editing as well as kick ass gaming. Gameplay felt and looked amazing, and when we could hit those high refresh rates the C34 delivered something that really felt the next generation of gaming. It’s just a shame it will take a generation to save up for it.
See the Samsung C34F791
Resolution: 2560 x 1440p
Refresh Rate: 144Hz
What We Like: FreeSync, image quality, extensive feature set.
What We Don't: Expensive compared to other TN panels.
This monitor from BenQ delivers a crisp 1440p image across a 27” screen whilst packing more features than a hip-hop artist’s comeback album. Sporting the same remote as the XL2430 was a welcome reminder of the direction BenQ take with their XL range aimed specifically at gamers. They want the gamer’s needs centric to their design choices. We like.
Unlike the XL2430, the XL2730 comes with FreeSync capabilities which will be great news to AMD owners out there. On top of that a 144Hz refresh rate and super-fast response time combined with decent color accuracy really contribute to a gorgeous final image. It doesn’t quite match the ViewSonic XG2703-GS, but that’s an IPS panel and costs $150 more. Features such as black equalization, which boosts gamma in darker areas on screen, as well as blur reduction are handy, but only for specific gamers at specific times. We also noticed that because of the size combined with the TN panel, viewing angles occasionally compromised image quality. For the price though, this 27” 1440p monitor is competing alongside some big players including the Asus PG278QR, and for significantly less. It might not quite have it dead to rights, but it does have some features that gamers will find useful for a much more agreeable price.
See the BenQ XL2730Z
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
What We Like: Image quality, build quality.
What We Don't: Colors not the best, underwhelming design.
Another solution for those interested in relatively affordable 4K gaming. The Viewsonic comes in at around $540 at the time of writing, which although half the price of some bigger brand monitors with similar specs, still falls short of the Acer B286HK. Plus it’s smaller. That said the IPS panel provides greater color accuracy than most TN panels, although this isn’t the greatest IPS panel at this pricepoint either. Still, if you’re looking for an affordable, no fuss 4K gaming solution and need good connectivity and performance, this entry from Viewsonic could be ideal.
The build quality, like on its more expensive sibling the ViewSonic XG2703-GS, is solid with everything feeling firm and weighty. Unfortunately, the design is underwhelming, and the menu systems feels lacking for the price point. The connectivity of the monitor is there, however, with 3x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, a Mini-DisplayPort and 4 USB ports. The actual clarity of the image is great, and the brightness more in line with our expectations. The screen also has multiple custom settings presets, and although some work well, others are terrible. We much preferred to tinker with them ourselves. A good choice for 4K if you aren’t keen on the Acer B286HK’s TN panel, but don’t want to pay heaven and earth for Samsung’s C34F791.
See the Viewsonic XG2700
Resolution: 2560 x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 200Hz
What We Like: Big curved screen, fast refresh rate, G-Sync.
What We Don't: Hugely expensive, average performance.
The largest and most expensive monitor in our list. The Z35 from Acer is similar to the Samsung C34, in that it’s a big screen looking to deliver big experiences. We like the idea of a smaller resolution in order to take advantage of a higher refresh rate, and the Z35 certainly delivers. The curve really adds to the experience with a 35” monitor and although the picture doesn’t look as striking as the Samsung C34F79, when combined with the substantially larger refresh rate, hits a level of immersion only possible with this panel
Unfortunately Acer’s color accuracy is average at best and while the Z35 looks good, it’s not quite as good as the C34; which is a shame considering its higher price tag. In a similar vein to the BenQ XL2730Z, the Z35 comes with some handy features for gamers including ambient under-lighting, on-screen crosshairs, customizable presets you can quick load for specific games and a set of surprisingly good 9-watt speakers. The best we’ve heard on any monitor in fact. Connections include HDMI and display ports as well as 4x USB ports. Although not a scratch on the Samsung C34 in terms of image quality, greater image smoothness is achievable due to the higher available refresh rate and lower resolution. Combine that with some handy onboard features, G-Sync and an immersive curve feature, and we’ve one of the best 1440p gaming monitor on our list. Just a shame about the price.
See the Acer Predator Z35
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Refresh Rate: 144Hz
What We Like: FreeSync, zippy response rate.
What We Don't: Color accuracy, viewing angles.
Another worthy addition from Viewsonic, this time in the 1080p 24” range. With its 1ms response rate and 144Hz refresh rate, you couldn’t ask for more. Well, if you’re going to be demanding, take FreeSync as well - Providing you have an AMD graphics card, of course. For $80 less (at the time of writing) you could get the Asus VG245H, but you’d be sacrificing a higher refresh rate that’s easily obtainable at this resolution. Depends on your budget.
The menu comes with a full array of customizable options including brightness, contrast, and color temperature, as well as a blue light filter option and six preset settings for movies, games and internet browsing. Input lag came back slightly behind the BenQ XL2430, but nothing you’d notice in real world testing. Colors were decent but slightly off, although this can be easily calibrated and is a common issue amongst TN panels. Build quality and design aren’t bad but aren’t up to scratch with competing products in the same range. Which is strange, considering the AOC G2460PF comes in at around $60 dollars cheaper too. Not a bad monitor by any means, but with competition so fierce in the mid-range bracket there’s bound to be casualties. Definitely one of the top 24” 1080p solutions, just not the best in terms of performance and value.
See the ViewSonic XG2401
|Dell S2417DG||$380||24"||2560 x 1440p||TN||165Hz|
|ASUS VG245H||$180||24"||1920 x 1080p||TN||75Hz|
|ViewSonic XG2703-GS||$700||27"||2560 x 1440p||IPS||165Hz|
|Asus PG258Q||$550||24.5"||1920 x 1080p||TN||240Hz|
|ASUS PG278QR||$597||27"||2560 x 1440p||TN||165Hz|
|Acer Predator XB241H||$350||24"||1920 x 1080p||TN||180Hz|
|ViewSonic XG2530||$400||24.5"||1920 x 1080p||TN||240Hz|
|AOC G2460PF||$199||24"||1920 x 1080p||TN||144Hz|
|ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q||$745||27"||2560 x 1440p||IPS||165Hz|
|Samsung C24FG70||$250||24"||1920 x 1080p||VA||144Hz|
|BenQ Zowie XL2430||$359||24"||1920x 1080p||TN||144Hz|
|BenQ XL2730Z||$499||27"||2560 x 1440p||TN||144Hz|
|Acer Predator Z35||$840||35"||2560 x 1080p||VA||200Hz|
|ViewSonic XG2401||$260||24"||1920 x 1080p||TN||144Hz|
- Gaming Monitor Panel Types Explained: TN vs. IPS vs. VA
- Resolution Explained
- Response Time And Input lag Explained
- Refresh Rate vs. Framerate
- G-Sync vs. FreeSync
- Gaming Monitor Connections Explained
- Multi-Display Setups Explained
- Low Blue Light And Flicker Free Explained
There are three main types of panel used in monitors.
TN – which stands for Twisted Nematic. TN panels are the most common found in serious gaming monitors because they produce the fastest response times and refresh rates (see below). They are also significantly cheaper which is reflected in their pricing. The downside to them is they don’t accurately represent color as well as IPS or VA panels, and they have narrower viewing angles. Not an issue if you’re sat in front of it, though. And on that note, you may want to look into a good pair of computer speakers, too.
IPS – which stands for In-Plane Switching. IPS panels are the most expensive, but also the best at displaying accurate colors. No surprise that they’re a favorite amongst graphic and web designers. They also have fantastic viewing angles when compared to TN and even some VA panels, so if you’re looking at a 30”-plus monitor you may benefit from going with IPS. Just be prepared to pay through the nose. Unfortunately, the compromise they make is surrounding their speed. Significantly slower than TN panels, IPS aren’t always the best choice due to their limited refresh rates and increased input lag. This means fast moving images can leave a trail behind them called motion blur and the input lag can result in a delay between your mouse movement and the character moving on your screen. So not ideal if you play any fast online actions games where your response times really matter.
And finally, VA – which stands for Vertical Alignment. VA panels are the middle ground. Better color accuracy and viewing angles than TN but not as good as the more premium IPS panels. They do cost less, and also have faster response times and less input lag than IPS panels but can’t beat the TN tech in this regard.
Resolution refers to the number of pixels on your screen at any one time.
Pixels are tiny individual dots on your monitor that alternate between colors to produce an image. More pixels equals more detail. So higher resolutions equal great visual fidelity. The current standard resolution amongst gamers is 1920 x 1080 or (1080p). This is called FHD or full high definition. The 1920 refers to the number of pixels wide your monitor is and the 1080 refers to the height. If we multiply the two together we get the total amount of pixels on screen. Other popular resolutions include 2560 x 1440 or (1440p) and 3840 x 2160 or (4K).
4K is considered the next generation of gaming but in order to display images on your monitor at that resolution you will need a pretty powerful graphics card. It’s also worth mentioning that some resolutions suit certain screen sizes better than others. For example a resolution of 1080p on a 30” monitor would look blurry and stretched compared to a 24” monitor. Equally a 4K resolution on a 22” monitor would be overkill, and a lot of the detail would be unnoticeable. In our opinion the sweetspot for maximum quality without spending mountains of cash is a 27” monitor sporting a 1440p just like the ASUS PG278QR.
Response time refers to the time it takes for your monitor to change the color of its pixels. Measurements are either taken using the time it takes to change color from black to white or from one shade of grey to another. Many manufacturers will report the grey to grey times as they are always lower. This is because the change from black to white includes the transition from black to white the back to black again, which covers more of the colour spectrum than simply changing between shades of grey. However as long as you compare like for like it doesn’t really matter which value you choose.
The benefit to a fast pixel response time is clearer images during fast moving sequences. A slow response time will create a motion blur or “ghosting” effect, which can be quite off putting if you play a lot of fast paced games.
Input lag refers to the time it takes for your mouse movement or keystroke to be represented by the pixels on your monitor. Many fast-twitch gamers like extremely low input lag, as it gives them more precise information to make their decisions off of during fast paced exchanges. For casual gamers, it’s not really such a big deal, and 99% of you won’t even notice. Manufacturers rarely advertise input lag, but it’s definitely worth researching before you make a purchase if you are serious about playing any fast paced online games.
Monitor refresh rates refer to how often the image on screen updates, or refreshes. It’s worth mentioning at this point that images on a monitor are never static: they are either on or off. They just switch between images so quickly that your eye is tricked into believing there is movement. Kind of like how if you draw static images on the corner of multiple pages in a book and then flick those pages really fast you can create little cartoons. Each page would represent an image being “on” and the gap between pages represent “off”.
The standard for monitors used to be 60Hz (Hertz), or 60 refreshes per second. However, as gaming advanced and more emphasis was placed on graphical fidelity companies pushed their products to the current standard of 120Hz and 144Hz. Some companies have even gone as far as 240Hz but in our opinion the hardware requirements to take advantage of this feature aren’t realistic for most users.
The highest refresh rate we’ve included in our list is 180Hz on the Acer Predator XB241H. The benefit is an extreme smoothing effect where moving images seem to glide across the screen. There truly is no better feeling as a gamer than having a high refresh rate.
But there’s a problem. Frame rates.
In order for a monitor to refresh it must have an image, or frame, being sent to it from a source. In this case the source is your graphics card. “No problem” you say, “I’ve got a graphics card”. Yes, but can your graphics card meet the demands of your refresh rate?
In order to supply a 144Hz refresh rate with enough images or frames to achieve the desired effect, the source must be sending – you guessed it – 144 frames per second. This is no easy task, with modern games especially if you’re a fan of the higher graphics settings. If you have a high resolution on top of that it’s even more difficult for you graphics card to keep up. That’s why you’ll find most 4K monitors with significantly lower refresh rates than 1080p or 1440p screens. It’s just too expensive for your average person.
So your frame rate and resh rate don’t match exactly? What’s the big deal? Well nothing if it’s only 10-30 frames under, but the further you go the more jumpy the image will become – a situation called screen tear. This is where the “off” position is held too long (as a frame is not provided quick enough) and by the next “on”, the images aren’t exactly where the monitor (or your eyes) expected them. Now this wouldn’t be such a huge issue if all games ran the same on your computer. You could just pick a monitor that matched your computer’s performance. Unfortunately they don’t. So you can’t.
You might well be getting high frame rates on some games, but not others. So do you buy a monitor with a high refresh rate or not? Well luckily there’s a solution.
G-Sync and FreeSync are exactly the same thing. However they are exclusive to Nvidia and AMD graphics cards respectively. So G-Sync monitors such as Dell’s S2417DG, only work with Nvidia graphics cards and FreeSync monitors like the ASUS VG245H, with AMD ones. That’s not to say the monitors won’t work at all, just the sync tech behind them.
So what is it? Well, going back to our refresh rate/frame rate dilemma, if we have a monitor with a high refresh rate but our graphics cards can’t supply the monitor with enough frames, we get a jittery image thanks to screen tear. What G-Sync and FreeSync do is allow your monitor to match or “sync” up the refresh rate with your graphics cards frame rate, replacing screen tear with that buttery smoothness we all desire. We’d advise definitely going for a monitor with one of these features if you can afford it, as the benefits are impressive.
As you’ve no doubt noticed, the gaming monitor market is a hugely varied place. There are huge differences in screen size, resolution, refresh rate, adaptive refresh technology and even panel types among models and manufacturers. No surprise then that there’s also differences in how you connect your monitor to your computer and other peripherals.
The main connection type you’ll come across is HDMI. Those of you with TVs should be pretty familiar with HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), as it’s the proprietary connection used. The reason it’s the most popular with gaming monitors, is that is supports resolutions up to 4K, can carry both audio and video signals and is supported by most graphics cards.
Sounds great, right? Well kind of. Although HDMI supports resolutions up to 3840 x 2160p (4K) it’s only able to support refresh rates of 60Hz at 1440p and 2160p. No good if you’ve got a 144Hz+ refresh rate monitor. HDMI 2.0 has increased bandwidth over 1.4, allowing it to support 144Hz at 1440p, however 99% of gaming monitors don’t support HDMI 2.0. So what next?
This is where DisplayPort comes in. The technology DisplayPort grants is a larger bandwidth to transfer data with. This extra bandwidth over HDMI means DisplayPort is able to support 144Hz+ at 1440p and 2160p resolutions.
The only downside is older graphics cards don’t always have the port present. Another advantage of using DisplayPort over HDMI is the ability to use G-Sync and FreeSync. Both Nvida and AMD decided that DisplayPort was the future of video/audio connectivity between monitors, and designed their adaptive technology’s to work on the platform. DisplayPort also has a cool feature called Multi-Stream Transport (MST), which allows multiple monitors to run from a single output by daisy chaining them with DisplayPort cables. Obviously, you are restricted by bandwidth, but DisplayPort is definitely first choice for Multi-Display set-ups.
One of the biggest criticisms of smaller monitors such as the ViewSonic XG2530 is their lack of versatility, especially surrounding productivity. Simply put, you really only have enough real estate to focus on one task/application at a time.
On larger monitors, like the Acer Predator Z35, you have plenty of screen space to have a web browser, word processor and graphic suite open and visible simultaneously. This allows you to complete multiple tasks at the same time, increasing your productivity.
There are a couple potential issues though. First off, if you want to play a game and watch Twitch, you can only play the game in Windowed mode so it can be aligned next to Twitch. Not always ideal. The second issue is that the cost of the larger monitors is often more than most people are looking to spend. This is where Multi-Display setups come into their own. Imagine buying three ASUS VG245H monitors for a total cost of $540. This is still significantly cheaper than most 30”+ monitors and it alleviates the issues caused by having a single (albeit huge) monitor. It’s commonplace nowadays for most set-ups to include at least two monitors, and provided you have a graphics card with multiple outputs or at least one DisplayPort output you’re set.
From a health perspective, sat in front of a computer staring at a screen all day probably isn’t a combination that will promote 20/20 vision. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to damage your sight either. In fact monitors like the Asus PG258Q and ViewSonic XG2401 have taken steps to make sure the time you spend in front of your screen is as harm-free as possible by implementing a feature called Low Blue Light.
Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to blue light from sunlight, monitors and florescent lights causes’ eye degeneration, eye dryness, headaches and sleep disorders. So the clever engineers behind the monitors listed above have created a technology that reduces the emission of blue light, whilst still preserving the image quality and color accuracy we all love. This is done by implementing presets which alternate the amount of blue light created dependant on the task you’re carrying out. These pre-sets can reduce the blue light released anywhere from 20-70%. Thanks, guys.
As we explained in the Refresh Rate and Framerate section, although it looks like it, monitors don’t display a constant image. Instead they alternate between hundreds of images per second. In between each image, there is a blank space. This continuous change in brightness causes a great amount of stress on the eyes pupils as they expand and contract. Monitors like the Asus PG258Q combat this potentially harmful scenario by implementing a dynamic backlighting feature that maintains a constant brightness, relieving your eyes of their constant expansion and contraction duties. This reduces eye fatigue, irritation and strain.
A cool way to test your monitor for potentially damaging flickering is to grab your mobile phone, go on the camera, switch to video mode and point it at your monitor. If you can see the image on your screen flickering, it could be a wise investment to purchase a new monitor sooner rather than later.