4K, HDR, IPS, LCD. The gaming monitor industry loves its acronyms and, let’s be honest, so do we. With the next generation of consoles on the horizon, this cloud of fancy talk can make it hard to understand what to look for in a gaming monitor. In reality, picking a display for gaming is all about the balance between visual fidelity and competitive advantage.
While a lot of people might tend to look at prices and display quality, there’s a lot more that you need to consider when you’re in the market for a gaming monitor.
Your first port of call when choosing the right gaming monitor is its resolution. In essence, resolution defines how many pixels can be crammed into a single frame. The more pixels you can have, the more detailed an image can be. This, of course, depends greatly on the power of your PC, especially your graphics card. A cheaper or older card will struggle to give you a 4K image without sacrificing performance. To measure performance, look at your card’s ability to maintain 60 frames-per-second (fps) Check your graphics card specs and how well it handles high resolutions (1080p, 1440p, 4K) at 60 fps. Go for a monitor that matches the highest possible resolution that can give you a consistent 60 fps.
Once you’ve nailed down the resolution, the next thing to look for in a gaming monitor is its refresh rate. This is particularly important for competitive gamers who care about their reaction time. In a nutshell, monitors translate information from your PC into rapidly moving images. The faster your screen displays these images, the quicker you can get the most up to date game state. Most reasonably priced gaming monitors aim for a 60Hz refresh rate. That means the image on your screen changes 60 times per second. This is okay if you’re aiming to play single-player games. If you’re looking to dominate in multiplayer, however, you might want to splash out for a best 1440p 144hz monitor.
Panel Type & Response Time
This one can be a bit tricky when picking out your perfect monitor for gaming. Monitors typically come in one of three panel technology flavors: TN, VA and IPS. Twisted Nematic (TN) panels tend to be perfect for affordability and response time – how quickly your monitor translates information from a game to an image on-screen. TN’s, though, tend to have the worst image quality out of the three panels. With TN panels you can get the coveted by competitive gamers 1ms response time. IPS panels have great picture quality and can be viewed by multiple angles. The downside is their response time is noticeably higher. On top of that, they’re more expensive than TNs. VA panels are generally not considered a good standard for gaming monitors. They’re more expensive and have an abysmal response rate. You’re better off picking IPS if you’re playing single-player games and care about graphical fidelity or TN if you’re a competitive gamer.
Flat or Curved?
Curved monitors seem to be all the rage these days. Naturally, gamers are wondering if they add anything to their experience. The answer – again – isn’t as straightforward. The main draw of playing on a nice curvy monitor is the added immersion. Studies are also showing that they reduce eye strain during prolonged hours of use. The curve in the monitor also reduced the amount of glare they produce. For gamers who love a good cinematic experience, a curved display could be ideal. Competitive gamers, though, want all the information right in front of them. Particularly veterans players who are used to flat screens may want to stick with tradition. There’s yet to be any indication if curved monitors improve performance. In the end, it all boils down to personal preference.
What oftentimes gets lost in the mix is the importance of a monitor’s size. The truth is, even at high resolutions, a small monitor can only fit so many pixels. We all have a limited desk size to consider as well. If you can afford both space real estate and the wallet requirement, anywhere between 27-32” is a good ballpark to shoot for. You’ll notice that 4K displays tend to start at 28”. What’s also important to note in terms of size is your actual viewing distance. Sitting up close and personal to a 40-50” not only is awkward, but it’s also not worth the investment.
The main aspect to consider when you’re wondering about what to look out for in a gaming monitor is what type of gamer you are primarily. If competition is what gets you going, then a TN panel with a high refresh rate will be your best friend. For the solo gamer, either an IPS or a TN monitor will serve you well. It will all depend on your budget in the end.