How to buy a gaming monitor. Where to buy gaming monitors

We’ve tested over 220 monitors, and below you will find our recommendations for the best cheap gaming monitors to buy. Check out our recommendations for the best monitors for the Xbox Series X, the best monitors for PS5, and the best 1440p monitors.

How to buy a gaming monitor

Josh Goldman / CNET

Do I need 24, 27, 34 inches or more? Full HD, 1440p or 4K? Curved or flat? Does HDMI 2.1 matter? HDR? If you’ve just jumped off the battlefield with no-map gaming monitors, these are just some of the questions you may have. We hope this guide will help you orientate yourself in the environment.

Shopping for gaming monitors is much more complicated than other types of displays, at least if you’re like most of us and subject to budget constraints. This is because when calculating trade-offs to save money, you have to consider the type of games you are playing and your GPU capabilities.

The TL;DR

If you don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about it, my quick and dirty recommendation is a 27-inch IPS flat panel display with 1440p (four HD) resolution and 144Hz refresh rate or better and DisplayHDR 600 (or equivalent). You can usually find quite a few options ranging in price from $ 250 to $ 500. If you need a cheaper or smaller model, go for a 24-inch 1080p (or full HD) model with a refresh rate of 144 Hz or higher; you can find them for $ 150 to $ 250. If you want a really good monitor – 32-inch or larger with 4K-plus resolution with refresh rates starting at 120Hz and HDR at 1,000 nits or higher – typically expect to spend up to 400,000 nits.

To me, 24 inches seems small, especially if the monitor serves as a daytime display or if you play games with expansive worlds. But everyone should be able to handle most types of games. If you want to connect to both your console and computer, almost any new monitor will work, but some are optimized for the task in bulky sizes – currently 42 inches or larger – with a clear list of HDMI 2.1 features you care about. They will also cost well over 400,000.

To save money, at least in the short term, don’t buy too much. If you have a three-year-old GPU system that delivers 90fps at 1440p for your most played games, and you don’t plan on upgrading in any meaningful way anytime soon, you can save money by not opting for the 240Hz model.

Besides, you’ll see VRR technologies from Nvidia and AMD labeled G-Sync and FreeSync respectively, each with multiple levels of complexity.

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Regardless of whether you are just starting your adventure with the world of games or playing on an expert level, you will have to face hundreds of options available. But what are the most important features? Finding out this before searching all the different brands and models will save you time and money.

Here are the most important things to consider when looking for a gaming monitor that meets your needs:

  • Screen size and resolution
  • Refresh rate
  • Response time
  • Types of panels
  • FreeSync and G-Sync
  • Color
  • Production quality
  • Ports
  • How much should I spend?

While these are all important features, the order of importance will depend on what you’re looking for from your gaming monitor.

Key Features for best smoothness

If you want smoothness above all else, this is your priority order:

  1. Refresh rate – not less than 120 Hz! That means 1080p on budget builds; 1440p when pushing higher.
  2. Response time – no more than 3 ms!
  3. G-Sync or FreeSync – Variable refresh rate helps to sync FPS and refresh rate for a much smoother gameplay!
  4. HDR and deep color gamut – optional! HDR is not always widely supported.
  5. Choosing the right panel technology – IPS has come a long way in the last few years, delivering good color accuracy and great refresh rates. That said, TN panels are still widely used by gamers due to their fast response and low input lag.

Key features for best resolution and colour detail

If you want image clarity and color accuracy first and foremost, then this is your order of priority (Note: this route is probably more expensive):

IPS panel technology

Better color reproduction and viewing angles provide a more immersive gaming experience! HDR10 versus Dolby Vision

Key features of the monitor for the best 4K color resolution and detail

4K will provide you with exceptional clarity and tone of the desktop.

Screen Size & Resolution

Many people make the mistake of thinking that a larger screen size is always better. While this is mostly true for televisions, most people think that sizes 24 to 27 inches are best for gaming. You’ll typically be sitting about 3m from the screen, and monitors in this size range will still allow you to see everything at once – which is crucial in competitive gaming. That said, larger monitors are becoming increasingly popular with today’s gaming community, providing a higher level of immersion and entertainment. However, keep in mind that moving up the theoretical screen size ladder can add a bonus to the final price.

Also remember – you need to be able to fit it on your desk!

What Resolution Do I Need For Gaming?

The resolution you need to play will ultimately be determined by your computer’s GPU and the budget you’re working with. Expect to pay more if you want to enjoy the high definition game.

1080p is the most popular resolution among gamers, but with the advent of new PC games and tech, expect 1440p and 4k to be the de facto standard for casual gamers.

However, be aware that moving from 1080p to 1440p (or 4k) will have a significant impact on your computer’s performance. This will have a particularly big impact on gaming performance, reducing the number of frames your computer can handle in one game.

We’ve listed the optimal gaming monitor sizes for each of the popular resolutions below. If you’d like a detailed explanation of why, check out our article on the best monitor size for gaming. Also, keep in mind that on average, a larger size and / or higher resolution will cost you more money.

  • 1080p and 24 inch / 27 inch – the most common, should work fine with most setups.
  • 1440p and 27 inch – less common, you’ll need mid-to-high-end hardware to get the most out of it.
  • 4K and 27+ inches – Least common, you need the best hardware for full use.
  • 8K and 32+ inches – Emerging technology will require the best hardware, and currently there are no 8K native games available.

Below we take a look at the different aspect ratios available and how each is better suited to individual game setups.

Monitor differences in proportions

the article on the best monitor size, but the abridged version reads: use one 16: 9 monitor for gaming. Ultra-wide and multi-monitor setups may work, but their gaming support is limited and may even be worse in some cases, especially in multiplayer games (where they don’t allow you to use a wider field of view as they can be considered a competitive advantage).

Before you go out and buy a huge screen, make sure you have video hardware that supports these sizes, as the increased pixel count will put more strain on your GPU. When it comes to high framerates, you’re going to need a high-end system to handle the increased resolution.

You need to make sure your OS, graphics card, and monitor support HDR for it to work. And then each game will need to have its own format support. Be careful with this, but it’s highly recommended as it quickly becomes a more standard feature.

Higher Refresh Rate Alternative: ASUS TUF Gaming VG259QM

ASUS TUF Gaming VG259QM project

ASUS TUF Gaming VG259QM

If you prefer something with a higher refresh rate, take a look at the ASUS TUF Gaming VG259QM. It doesn’t have the 360-degree swivel range like the Acer Nitro XF243Y Pbmiiprx, but it still has exceptional ergonomics making it easy to adjust the screen. Its input lag is higher at 60Hz, so it’s not such a good choice for console games. However, it is better for PC games with high frame rates as it has a native refresh rate of 240Hz that can be overclocked up to 280Hz and the input lag at the maximum refresh rate is very low. It’s also a native FreeSync monitor, and NVIDIA confirms it’s G-SYNC compatible. It is also not a good choice for HDR gaming due to the low peak brightness of HDR and the lack of a wide color gamut.

If you’re looking for the best inexpensive 1080p gaming monitor, Acer is a great choice as it’s all-rounder, but if you want to play games at high frame rates, check out ASUS.

Best Budget 27 Inch 1440p Gaming Monitor: Gigabyte M27Q

Gigabyte M27Q project

Gigabyte M27Q

The best budget gaming monitor with a resolution of 1440p and a 27-inch screen is the Gigabyte M27Q. This 27-inch model provides a great gaming experience as it has exceptional response time, low input lag and high refresh rate. Rapidly changing scenes look clear and smooth and screen tearing is minimal thanks to VRR support. It is a native FreeSync monitor and is NVIDIA G-SYNC compatible.

The design is fairly simple and not very gamer oriented, so it shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb in office setups. While the stand is solid, it only allows height and tilt adjustments. It is full of extra features. It has a USB hub with two USB 3.0 inputs and a USB-C input that supports DisplayPort Alt mode. You can display two input sources simultaneously in Picture-in-Picture and Picture-by-Picture modes and control both source devices with one set of peripherals with a built-in KVM switch.

Unfortunately, it’s not the best option for dark rooms as it has a low contrast ratio that makes blacks appear gray. It has wide viewing angles, decent reflection handling, and is bright enough to combat glare. It has a wide color gamut with nearly full Adobe RGB coverage, making it a great choice for content creators. Finally, it has flicker-free backlight and a blue light filter to reduce eye strain. Overall, this is the best budget 1440p gaming monitor.

Another important aspect of choosing a gaming monitor is how large its bezel is. If you are unfamiliar with the term, simply the bezel of the monitor refers to two things. It is a plastic edge that runs around the screen, acting as a frame, and also refers to the black (pixel-free) area surrounding the physical image.

Refresh Rate and Response Time

Ah, now let’s move on to the real game specs. When looking for a gaming monitor, you absolutely want to check the refresh rate measured in hertz (Hz). This reflects the number of times the monitor will refresh the screen in a second. Higher numbers are better. Basic displays and televisions go up to around 30 Hz and some go up to 60 Hz. For games, 60 Hz is recommended as the absolute minimum.

If you want a real-world explanation, higher refresh rates benefit gamers as they make sure what you see on the screen corresponds to what is happening on your PC. Think of it this way: if someone is running in front of you in a game with a low refresh rate of 30Hz, the screen image may not be showing you where they are in the game world. It may seem like an incredibly short time difference – it is – but games require incredible precision for your shot and human reaction time to recognize the difference.

Samsung 27

Samsung 27 “G75T 16: 9 240Hz VA curved gaming monitor

Currently, 60 Hz is considered the absolute minimum, but there are many 144 Hz displays on the market today. This is highly recommended for serious games. You can tell the difference between 60 and 144 Hz and this difference can help you improve your own response times. There are even 240Hz monitors if you want to go upstairs, though it remains to be seen if the average gamer will benefit.

To recall the previous point – if your graphics and processing can’t achieve this high FPS, you won’t feel the benefits of using a high refresh rate display. Make sure the entire graphics pipeline can support your resolution and refresh rate. You can always lower the resolution in the settings to increase the frame rate.

    • Higher refresh rates are better.
    • 60 Hz is the absolute minimum, but 144 Hz will provide a performance boost.
    • 240Hz is nice, but it’s unlikely to give as much of a jump in performance as a jump of 60-144Hz.
    • You need graphics powerful enough to run games at this framerate to take full advantage of a high-speed monitor.

    Another time specification is response time. It’s just in the name. This refers to how long it takes for each pixel to change from one setting to the other. It is typically measured in milliseconds (ms) from one shade of gray to another shade of gray (GtG). For games, you are looking for less than 5 ms, but down to 2 ms or even 1 ms is preferable.

    Response time is important because when moving fast, slower response time can lead to motion blur or ghosting as the monitor cannot keep up with the game. You want to have a nice, sharp picture at all times, and a high refresh rate combined with a fast response time will do it. These are general features that make a gaming monitor a gaming monitor.

    Things to keep in mind when it comes to response time:

      • Keep response times at 5 ms or faster.
      • 1 ms is a frequently recommended option these days.
      • Fast response times minimize motion blur and ghosting.

      Adaptive Sync, aka Variable Refresh Rate

      If you’ve seen the frame rate benchmarks for games and gaming PCs, you’ve probably noticed that the frame rate varies depending on the action on the screen. With minimal action, the frame rate goes up, while in dynamic action it can drop drastically. Without the help of smart technology, this can cause screen tearing.

      LG UltraGear 34GN850-B 34

      LG UltraGear 34GN850-B 34 “21: 9 Curved Gaming Monitor 160 Hz Adaptive-Sync HDR IPS

      Screen tearing occurs when the monitor displays part of one frame and the next frame simultaneously. You will definitely notice this as the image looks split where the sync interrupted. This is because the displays are set to run at a fixed refresh rate and they don’t always know what to do when the received frame data doesn’t match their wired settings.

      One option is VSync, which is simplified in that it tells the monitor to wait for the entire next frame before switching. This is not ideal as it can introduce lag which is very bad for games.

      Both AMD and NVIDIA have developed adaptive timing or variable refresh rate solutions to help monitors maintain smooth playback even when graphics cards generate non-standard refresh rates. AMD has FreeSync while NVIDIA has G-Sync. Both are great at eliminating tearing but require compatible hardware to do so.

      AMD’s FreeSync is more widely available and less expensive to implement, which means you’ll often find it on more affordable monitors. On the other hand, NVIDIA’s G-Sync requires certification and undergoes quality control to guarantee performance and usually results in a premium on the display. You will likely have to choose based on the graphics cards you have. If you have an AMD card, get a FreeSync monitor. If you have NVIDIA, download G-Sync.

      Is one better than the other? Well, it could be argued that G-Sync is technically superior as it has additional certifications and performance guarantees compared to the open source FreeSync which allows for inconsistencies between monitors. However, G-Sync displays are more expensive.

        • NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync help fix screen tearing with adaptive sync technology.
        • Screen tearing occurs when the frame rate does not match your monitor’s refresh rate, causing two frames to load on top of each other requires NVIDIA GPUs and is more expensive but can be more reliable require AMD GPUs and are inexpensive but can vary greatly depending on the display.
        • Adaptive sync or variable refresh rate is great for gaming.

        FreeSync and G-Sync

        FreeSync (left) and G-Sync (right)

        Many people think that higher resolution is the best way to get better quality. I argue that High Dynamic Range or HDR will affect the image quality greater than the higher resolution. The extra pop and more vivid colors available in HDR images represent a huge leap over older display systems. If you haven’t seen an HDR display yet, you’re really missing out.

        HDR on computer monitors is somewhat unusual, however. True HDR requires a certain maximum brightness and minimum brightness to guarantee the dynamic range it promises, but many inexpensive displays cannot achieve these goals. This led to the introduction of the DisplayHDR standard with an alternative maximum brightness. If you’re shopping, DisplayHDR 400 or later is probably a sensible purchase and will give your images a more lively impression.

        Before you go out and buy a huge screen, make sure you have video hardware that supports these sizes, as the increased pixel count will put more strain on your GPU. When it comes to high framerates, you’re going to need a high-end system to handle the increased resolution.

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        For example, I’ve found that I can’t read text well enough to even go through a 1440p tutorial on a 32-inch monitor from more than about 4 feet away.

        Response Time

        Pixel response time is measured in milliseconds (ms) and represents how long a single pixel takes to switch from black to white or change shades of gray.

        But what does this mean for games?

        which makes a gaming monitor good

        Basically, the shorter the response time, the smoother the camera movement will be. On the other hand, long response times lead to motion blur as the pixels do not have enough time to switch between colors when the camera is moving rapidly. Another possible problem is ghosting, but that’s really just an issue with today’s televisions.

        Now, as mentioned above, TN panels support 1ms response times, while IPS panels can only drop down to 4ms. Which one you choose depends entirely on whether you prefer responsiveness or visual quality. Moreover, you may not even notice the difference between 1ms and 4ms, unless you compare them side by side or are already used to shortening the response time.

        Screen Size

        The screen size is not that big with monitors as you will be viewing them up close and the differences are quite minor.

        Today, gaming monitors stick anywhere from 21 ” to 27 ” as they represent the perfect balance between picture clarity and viewing comfort. Everything is higher and you would have to watch them from a distance, and everything smaller, and they would not benefit so much from high resolutions.

        The choice of size is entirely up to you. However, if you go for a 1080p monitor it’s best not to go over 24 inches as lower pixel density will inevitably lead to unsightly aliasing.

        Flat monitors, however, are not without their drawbacks. The first is that not every game supports the 21: 9 aspect ratio. This means that the edges of the screen can remain blank and unused, which is called “black bars” in the gaming world. Although we anticipate this is unlikely to be a problem for very long.

        ASUS TUF FHD 280hZ gaming monitor – 30% off

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