Are you looking to invest in a new piece of gaming tech but don’t know where to start? A dedicated gaming monitor should be top of your list. No matter what your gaming style is or whether you prefer consoles over PCs, a good monitor will dramatically improve your gaming experience.
With manufacturers seemingly churning out model after model, it can be difficult to know where to begin, especially with all the specifications that you have to consider. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to choosing gaming monitors.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.
What Features to Prioritize?
Beginners to experienced gamers alike can quite rightly be baffled by the sheer choice of gaming monitors that are now available. Even those with low-end budgets can be overwhelmed by the hundreds of models that even a quick Google search can generate. Once you’ve set a budget for how much you’re willing to spend, the most important features that you should be looking at are:
- Screen resolution
- Refresh rate
- Panel type and response time
- Color range
- Brightness level and contrast ratio
- Input lag
- Input devices
- Viewing angle
The resolution of a monitor determines the number of pixels that can be displayed on the screen, which directly impacts the visual quality of a game. Consider the type of games you like to play when taking into account screen resolution. If you’re a keen online roulette player on websites like PokerStars, for instance, you’ll want to see every detail in the numerous digital variants you’re likely to play, so a high resolution should be a priority.
The ideal resolution also depends on your GPU (graphics card) capabilities. The higher the resolution, the more powerful the GPU needs to be.
For most games, 1080p or Full HD resolution is the standard, while 1440p or Quad HD offers an edge for premium gaming.
A refresh rate tells you how many times per second a monitor screen can update with new visuals. In monitor specs, it’s displayed as a number measured in hertz, i.e 140Hz. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother and more responsive gameplay becomes. As you can imagine, the more fast-paced a game, such as a driving simulator or battle royale multiplayer, the higher the refresh rate needs to be.
Most modern games require monitors with a refresh rate of at least 120Hz. Competitive gamers shouldn’t settle for less than 144Hz, while those with a higher budget can go up to 360 Hz.
Now that you’ve gotten a handle on the basic requirements for a solid gaming monitor, it’s time to look at panel types. Today’s monitors are typically built using LCD technology. Several manufacturers are beginning to drop OLED monitors into the mix, but the tech itself is still in its early stages and the models that are available tend to come with eye-watering price tags.
There are three types of LCD panels: Twisted Nematic (TN), Vertical Alignment (VA) and In-Plane Switching.
TN panels are found in older monitors and offer the worst performance in terms of viewing angles and colour reproduction. They do, however, typically feature a fast response time of 1ms and they’re cheap to produce, ensuring low RRPs.
VA panels are a step up from twisted pneumatic LCDs thanks to better contrast ratios and wider viewing angles. Compared to the older tech, they do perform worse when it comes to response times, averaging in at around 2-3ms.
IPS panels deliver the best performance when it comes to colours and viewing angles. A drawback of IPS tech is that it can reduce the amount of black level detail you’ll see on screen and it also lags in the response time department.
For casual or everyday gamers, you’re unlikely to notice the differences in response times between the three types of panel tech, so base your decision on cost and what the most important factor is between colour reproduction and viewing angles. Multiplayer gamers would get the most out of IPS panels, while TN panels are ideal for gamers intending to stream their sessions.
This is mainly about how well colors display in different environments. Higher-end monitors tend to use brighter colors and cover a wider range of the spectrum compared to their mid-range counterparts. What you want to avoid is having to constantly adjust the brightness and contrast settings of your computer just to get the right balance of colors. A good color gamut is going to make sure everything looks natural and vibrant without needing any special tweaking. Unfortunately, cheaper displays tend to be quite limiting when it comes to color accuracy, so always try to get something higher-end.
Brightness level & Contrast ratio
The contrast ratio refers to the relationship between the dark parts of a picture and the bright parts. The larger the contrast ratio, the easier it is to read black text on a white background. Most displays these days feature pretty decent brightness levels and high enough contrast ratios to ensure legibility. However, some gamers prefer brighter screens since they find them easier to use in certain situations. Make sure to check out the reviews before buying to see where people have trouble reading their PC screens. Also, you should test out the actual brightness level on your device before purchasing the monitor. We suggest testing the brightness setting on each program to confirm the optimal settings.
Input lag refers to how long it takes between when you press a button and when the action occurs. Ideally, we would all hope for zero input lag, but sadly, this isn’t realistic. Instead, you should aim for around 20 milliseconds or less. Again, this will vary depending on the type of game you play and your personal preference.
You might already know this, but you want to choose a monitor that supports whatever input device you plan on using. Most modern mice and keyboards allow you to plug them directly into the port rather than needing separate adapters. On the other hand, if you plan on using a PS4 pad or Xbox One wireless adapter, you’ll need to pick a model that’s compatible to go along with it. Generally speaking, you’d want a TN panel if you plan on using wired peripherals since these types of panels are usually faster and deliver a crisper picture. However, IPS panels are great if you plan on playing games with a wireless headset due to the wide viewing angles they provide.
This last category is entirely subjective, but you still need to decide how big of a monitor you want based on personal preferences. Do you want a small screen? Then go with a 14-inch model. Perhaps you want a bigger 21-inch model instead. We’ve seen both work well depending on your usage. Ultimately, it’s all about what works best for your specific situation.
If you’re planning on hanging it on the wall, then you shouldn’t worry too much about size, but if you plan on placing it on a desk instead, you’ll want to opt for something that fits comfortably under your elbows. There’s no hard and fast rule regarding height, but something that hangs below eye level will suit best for reading content.
The viewing angle is quite literally the direction you can view the monitor from. While you can always view a monitor from various angles, the smaller the viewing angle, the sharper the image becomes. On average, we’d recommend having a 90-degree viewing angle. More specifically, you should keep the distance between your face and the monitor around 15 inches.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to look for in a gaming monitor. If you’re looking for more information, be sure to check out our guide on choosing the right monitor for gaming.