Choosing the best monitors for gamers

There are so many different monitors on the market. There are even curved monitors! So how on earth do you select the right one for what you need? The most frequently asked questions regarding monitors are: What’s the difference between a normal monitor and a gaming monitor? And: What do the specs mean? Well, ask no more! We’re going to answer these questions, and more, in our simple guide to choosing the best monitor for gaming.

One of the most important things to remember is that you should aim to buy the monitor which is best suited to the system you are using. For example, if you’re using entry level graphics, then 144hz and high resolutions will be features which you’ll pay for, but which are unlikely to be used.

What sort of a gamer are you?

It’s no good buying a monitor which you presume is right for what you need – only to then find you can’t get the most out of all of the games you want to play. Are you an AAA fan? Role player? eSports specialist? The type of games you play will dictate what sort of gaming experience you’ll want and need. And this will affect which monitor is best for you.

AAA gamers

Most AAA gamers want that immersive experience, which is one of the biggest pleasures of gaming. They love spectacular picture quality which draws you in to another world – and keeps you there. If this is you, then you’ll probably want to go for a big monitor – something high in resolution and high in colour saturation.

Players of competitive gaming titles usually need to move quickly between scenes or rapidly rotate perspectives to track moving enemies. For this you need a fluent picture. If this is you, then the thing to do is not go for a huge screen but instead focus on specs such as the refresh rate and response time.

What size are the best monitors for gamers?

When you think about size, remember that the size given in inches is the distance diagonally across the monitor screen – eg. from the left-hand bottom corner to the top right-hand corner.

The most popular monitor sizes are 24 inches to 32 inches – proving that biggest isn’t always best. Bear in mind how much space you have on your desk for a monitor, then think about what games you play. These are factors which should really influence your decision.

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If you’re a player of MMORPGs (Blade & Soul, World of Warcraft etc) then you’ll want the full immersive experience whilst you solve those quests. If you have space, a 27 – 32 inch monitor could well be perfect. But remember that if you do opt for a bigger monitor, make sure you go for one with high picture quality or the games won’t look as good as they should.

Sometimes a relatively smaller size is the best monitor for gamers. If you play competitive games such as Rainbow Six Siege, League of Legends and Overwatch, then a monitor approximately 24 – 27 inches will work effectively. Why? Because there are quite a few games that display information (skill status, mini map etc) in the corner or at the edge of the monitor. If you use a large monitor, this can mean you have to swing your head all the time to keep abreast of that info – and this can hinder your gaming efforts as well as hurting your neck!

Resolution – how important is it?

The lower the resolution, the grainier the picture looks. A higher resolution means the picture will look sharper and clearer.

Most monitors have a 16:9 aspect ratio, the main specs of resolution are:

1920 x 1080 (FHD/ 1080p)

2560 x 1440 (QHD/ 2K)

3840 x 2160 (UHD/ 4K)

The higher the resolution, the more expensive the monitor will be. You will also need a more powerful graphics card so that your computer can deliver the images to your monitor effectively.

We suggest gamers with budget concerns go for a 1080p (1920 x 1080) monitor up to 27”.

Consider 2K resolution (2560 x 1440) if the monitor is above 27”. If your budget is flexible, then go for the higher resolution. You’ll notice the difference.

Refresh rates – what’s that all about?

Aim for 144Hz, then all will be well!  Okay, let’s make this easier. Refresh rate in Hertz (Hz) means how many pictures can be updated per second.

If your graphics card can render 100 frames per second but you have a 60Hz monitor, you will only see 60 pictures at most from your monitor, so basically: the more pictures you can see, the more fluent your game will be.

On the other hand, if your graphics card can only render 60 frames per second but you have a 144Hz monitor, you’ll only be able to see 60 pictures per second. So, in this case you’ll need a graphics card which can maintain 144Hz or above while gaming.

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Always go for a monitor with high refresh rates and you’ll see how amazing gaming is when you upgrade from a 60Hz to 144Hz. If you play FPS (first person shooter) games you’ll see a massive difference and it’ll be so much easier to track down your enemies – and dispose of them!

Gaming monitors mostly have a refresh rate of 144Hz and these are absolutely fine for most gamers. If you’re a hardcore gamer then you could go for a 180Hz monitor – but anything above this will not be noticeable, so set your limit at 180Hz!

What is a response time?

This is how fast a crystal in the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panel can spin into the correct position. Basically, it means how fast can the panel change from one picture to the next one. If the picture changes too slowly – and we’re talking fractions of a second here – then you’ll see the shadow of the last picture (which is referred to as ‘ghosting’ by gamers). In a fast-paced game ghosting will make your target look slightly blurry, and thus will make your task a little harder. A monitor with a faster response time which will give you a much sharper image and won’t be a distraction.

For gamers intent on tracking their enemies super-effectively in fast-paced games, we recommend you go for a monitor with a response time of less than 1ms. For gamers who require high-quality colour for their gaming, then a monitor with a 4ms response time should do the trick.

You would think that the faster the response time the better – but, actually, response times are related to what type of panel the monitor uses. So there are certain things to consider. Some panels have beautiful colours but response times are a little lacking. Some panels are really responsive but perform less well when it comes to colour.

Remember that response times determine how sharp you see a moving object.

What’s high-colour saturation?

The market usually uses sRGBs (standard red, green, blue) to describe colour coverage. Some monitors are 100% sRGB, some 125% sRGB… the higher the number, the more colour the panel can show – so the better the colour impact. The thing is that people all see colour in slightly different ways, so in the end colour coverage stats don’t always mean that much.

Do you need a curved monitor?

Curved monitors not only look great, but they provide an immersive experience which flat screen monitors can’t match. A curved monitor really seems to wrap-around you, and you feel like you’re right in the game rather than simply playing it.

Games are designed for flat screen monitors, simply because the vast majority of gamers are used to that – but curved monitors are becoming much more popular. Some gamers says it takes a little while to adjust to a curved screen. Imagine looking at a photograph in its flat state, and then look at it when it’s curved. That gives you an idea of the adjustment you’ll need to make. If you sit centrally in front of a curved monitor, the experience is superb. If you sit to one side, there will be slight issues at the edges of the screen.

The market spec is mainly 1800R, which means the curve is cut from a circle that has an 1800mm radius. The smaller the number, the curvier the monitor will be.

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What is screen tearing?

The reason to sync your monitor is to prevent screen tearing. The main reason for screen tearing is that the monitor and graphics card are not running in sync. This means that while the monitor is still updating the first picture, the second picture has already been delivered to the monitor via the graphic’s card, which means you get two pictures at the same time in a single frame. Usually, the top half is from the first picture and the bottom half from the second. This is what we call screen tearing.

So, to solve screen tearing, you need to sync the monitor and the graphics card. The question is, which is syncing which? When the graphics card is syncing up with the monitor (graphics card following the monitor), it is called V-Sync. There is an issue with V-Sync: The graphics card will only go ahead and render the next picture when the monitor has told it to, so can create input lag and other issues. Don’t worry about this for now.

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AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync both use different technologies to sync-up the monitor with the graphics card. These let the monitor show the picture only once the graphics card has completed the render. Whichever technology you use, you’ll need the monitor to support technology and you’ll also need to use their graphics card.

If your refresh rate is high enough, and your graphics card is powerful enough, you’ll hardly notice the difference between one picture and the next. So, if screen tearing happens, the high refresh rate will probably not be noticeable. It’s possible that FPS gamers may see a slight difference as they are continually changing their perspective – and so the difference between the first and second picture could be noticeable. We’d recommend FPS gamers get a monitor which supports FreeSync or G-Sync.

Monitor depth Often monitors are returned to where they were bought because the buyer hasn’t taken into account the physical depth of the monitor. Think about the amount of desk space you’ll need for your new monitor, and thoroughly check the dimensions before making your decision and spending your money. This may sound like an obvious thing to mention, but it’s important and can make the difference between winning and losing if you’re uncomfortable and your set up isn’t perfect. It’s the little things which make the difference.

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