What to Look for in a Gaming Monitor

Operating a gaming computer is similar to being a car fanatic. You want to buy the greatest components available, tweak them to your preferences, and then hit the open road. Even with the finest graphics card and CPU, a gaming PC can’t show off its full potential without a good gaming display to see it.

But what should you look for? There are many options and specifications on display shelves, including 1080p, 2160p, 4K, HDR, refresh rate, reaction time, color gamut, IPS, ultrawide, curved, and so forth.

Where do you begin with so many alternatives, and how do you know what matters most? Once you’ve decided on the resolution you want and understood how various features will affect your experience, picking the best gaming monitor becomes easy.

Here are some crucial qualities to look for in a monitor, as well as some suggestions on what to purchase.

Resolution

The first consideration is the monitor’s resolution, which is totally dependent on your graphics card’s capabilities. If your graphics card can only support 1080p resolution, for example, acquiring a 4K panel is pointless. The only exception is if you intend on upgrading soon and want to “future-proof” your system by purchasing a higher-resolution display before purchasing the new GPU.

Read our list of the best graphics cards for PC gaming at every resolution (it includes budget choices, too!) if you’re looking for a new graphics card to go with your new display.

Rate of refresh and response time

Because it is so closely linked to frame rates, refresh rate is one of the most important gaming aspects. The refresh rate of a monitor is measured in hertz and specifies how often it displays a new picture. The refresh rate provided by the monitor and the frames per second (fps) put out by the graphics card has a 1:1 connection. As a result, a monitor with a refresh rate of 60Hz can show up to 60 frames per second, which is the minimum criterion for PC gaming. A game at 30 frames per second is still playable, but 60 frames per second are always the objective.

Game action seems smoother, reacts quicker, and looks nicer in general with higher frame rates. As a result, monitors with a greater refresh rate are preferred. With the right graphics hardware, a 144Hz panel can show more than twice as many frames as a 60Hz monitor.

It’s difficult to go back to 60Hz after using a 120Hz or 144Hz, especially for productive work. If you’re an e-sports fan, you can get 240Hz and even 360Hz panels, but they’re quite pricey and only support 1080p resolution.

Response times, in addition, to refresh rate, are a significant consideration. It specifies how quickly a display switches from one color to the next at the pixel level. A smaller value is preferable in this case since a slow reaction time might result in ghosting and other visual distortions. Many displays have a 5ms or 4ms reaction time, which is good for gaming, but 1ms (or even lower) is ideal.

Adaptive synchronization

Then there’s adaptive sync. This option synchronizes the refresh rate of your graphics card and display. The theory is that if your graphics card and display are in sync, there will be less screen tearing and stuttering, resulting in “buttery-smooth gameplay.”

Nvidia G-Sync and AMD’s royalty-free FreeSync are two types of adaptive sync. The latter is by far the most frequent and least expensive to implement, which may explain why Nvidia’s GeForce graphics cards now support FreeSync. While using FreeSync with a GeForce card is OK, it is still preferable to utilize G-Sync with Nvidia cards for the best results.

Display Dimensions

It all boils down to personal opinion when it comes to computer gaming display size. Keep in mind that screen size, resolution, and pixel density are all interconnected. In general, the higher the pixel per inch (PPI) value, the better the picture. Sharpness is related to density. There are a variety of PPI calculators available online to help you figure out what to anticipate at different resolutions.

For example, if you have a 24-inch 1080p monitor, your count will be a little less than 92 PPI, which is decent for 1080p. However, at 32 inches, the PPI dips below 70. A 32-inch display with 1440p resolution has roughly the same PPI as a 1080p 24-inch monitor, while a 4K panel at 32 inches has about 138 PPI.

Any contemporary monitor with a screen size of 24 to 32 inches would suffice for gaming. A greater resolution means a larger pixel count, which improves picture quality. However, if you want a huge display but can only afford a 1080p monitor at that size, go ahead.

Extremely wide dynamic range

If you can afford it, anybody shopping for a 4K display should seriously consider adding a high dynamic range. HDR monitors are expensive. HDR provides for a far larger range of color fluctuation, resulting in a better overall image. The contrast between HDR and non-HDR images is breathtaking.

However, the quality of HDR is determined by the brightness level of the display. You’re merely buying into marketing hype if an HDR display has fewer than 1,000 nits. An “HDR-ready” monitor may have a somewhat better image than a standard 4K monitor, but genuine HDR requires a brilliant display, which is expensive.

Color gamut and panel kinds

For gaming displays, there are two main kinds of panels: TN and IPS (short for twisted nematic and in-plane switching, respectively, which describes their different underlying pixel-rendering technology.) Both may be used for gaming, so it boils down to personal preference. (There’s a third-panel type called VA—vertical alignment—that substantially bridges the gap between TN and IPS color reproduction while maintaining high contrast ratios.)

Colors on TN panels are also less vibrant than on an IPS display, giving them a “washed out” appearance. Despite the color and viewing angle sacrifices, some gamers prefer faster reaction times.

Meanwhile, IPS is a visual pleasure, but it lacks the 1-millisecond reaction speeds of TN. At least, not in most cases. There have been IPS displays with 1ms reaction times for nearly a year, but they are more costly.

Color space, on the other hand, refers to how well a display matches a set of colors, such as sRGB or AdobeRGB. Color accuracy is always preferable, but it is especially critical in content development.

Aspect ratios, curved screens, and ultrawide monitors

When you look at a typical display, you’re almost always looking at a screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. When it comes to curved panels, though, ultrawide monitors with aspect ratios of 21:9 are common. These sorts of displays are often more immersive, but they appear different from what you’re accustomed to and need a few days of “learning” before they seem normal.

Curved displays are exciting because they provide dimension to the screen simply by altering its curve. The curvature of a monitor is represented by the letter “R,” which stands for radius, or the size of the monitor if it were to form a full circle. A 1000R monitor, for example, would produce a circle with a radius of 1,000mm, or 1 meter.

Some individuals like these displays, particularly when playing games featuring huge vistas, such as driving games or flying simulators.

Curved displays and ultrawide are attractive, but they are unquestionable “luxury” characteristics. Before moving into this zone, specifications like adaptive sync, display resolution, and HDR should all be prioritized. Many of these crucial features are standard on high-end curved and ultrawide displays.


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