A good gaming monitor can improve your gameplay right away. They have key features that can help you see and react to your opponents faster, but they’re also useful for any activity. Here are the specs to look for.
Resolution and Image Quality
Nothing beats gaming on a high-resolution monitor that delivers stunning visuals. The higher the resolution, the better your graphics will be (assuming your other hardware is up to the task). For higher-end graphics, go for a monitor with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 or higher. These can be very expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for.
Most gaming monitors, however, are 1080p, which means they have a resolution of 1920 x 1080. These monitors still offer great visuals, and they’re a lot more affordable than high-resolution models. If you’re not looking to spend too much money, a 1080p monitor will suffice.
Regarding image quality, you’ll want to look for a gaming monitor with a wide color gamut. These are usually measured in Adobe RGB, DCI-P3, and sRGB. The closer these numbers are to 100%, the more vibrant and accurate the colors will be.
You’ll be able to see all the colors in your games the way they were meant to be seen. This can make gaming and other graphic activities appear more lifelike and vivid. Gaming monitors with HDR-capable displays are valuable because they have wider color gamuts and higher peak brightness.
For the size of your screen, it’s mostly up to what you prefer but it is important. If you want to really feel engaged in your gaming, go for a 24-inch monitor or larger. Anything smaller and you might have a harder time spotting your opponents or noticing small details.
You can also opt for a curved monitor to create an immersive gaming experience. These monitors wrap around your field of vision, allowing you to take in more of your screen using your peripheral vision. This is helpful in games where you need to be aware of your surroundings, as you’ll be able to see more of what’s happening around you.
To take the immersive experience up a notch, you can get an ultrawide monitor instead. These are extra-wide curved monitors that give you the widest field of view possible. Some go as wide as 49-inches, such as Samsung’s Odyssey Neo G9.
Samsung Odyssey Neo G9
Top of the class 49-inch ultrawide gaming monitor with a resolution of 5120 x 1440, 240Hz refresh rate, and excellent HDR performance.
Your monitor’s refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz), is how often the image on your screen is refreshed. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother your gameplay will be, and vice versa. For gaming and regular use, always go for monitors with at least 120Hz.
The reason being is that older monitors with a 60Hz refresh rate feel much slower and choppy compared to 120Hz monitors. You’ll experience noticeable lag and motion blur, which doesn’t feel great to game on and can lead to eye strain. The difference going from 60Hz to 120Hz is night and day.
You’ll notice how fluid and responsive everything feels, whether you’re playing games, surfing the web, or watching movies. For gaming, in particular, you’ll be able to see your opponents faster, allowing you to react accordingly. You’ll have the competitive edge you need to compete at higher levels.
However, going above 120Hz will be overkill for most people. You won’t notice a huge difference in how things look and feel, and you’ll be spending a lot more money for marginal gains. Unless you’re a professional gamer or you’re looking for the absolute best gaming experience, 120Hz will be more than enough.
Variable Refresh Rate Technology
Variable refresh rate (VRR) technology, such as Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync is a must-have for any gaming monitor. The technology makes your monitor wait or duplicate frames to refresh the screen only when your graphics card is ready. This syncs your monitor’s refresh rate with your graphics card’s frame rate to eliminate screen tearing and stuttering, making your games feel even smoother.
If you get a monitor that doesn’t support VRR, you’ll likely experience the tearing, which is when the image on your screen gets split into two. The result looks like your monitor is cracking, which can be very distracting and disrupt your gameplay. To avoid this, make sure your monitor has either G-Sync, FreeSync, or VESA Adaptive-Sync.
Response Time and Panels
Your monitor’s response time in milliseconds (ms), is how fast your monitor renders each pixel and transitions color. The most accurate way to measure response time is the motion picture response time (MPRT). It’s the duration of a pixel appearing on your screen. The longer a pixel stays on your screen, the more blurred the image will be.
Monitors with a high response time will have trails of moving images that look like they’re “ghosting,” which can be unsightly and make your games look blurry. A lower response time means the image will change faster, resulting in a sharper, smoother image. For gaming, you’ll ideally want a monitor with an MPRT of two milliseconds. This will give realistic visuals that make your game feel incredibly responsive.
You can also measure a monitor’s response time in gray to gray (GTG) instead of MSPT. However, GTG is a less accurate representation of whether your monitor will have blurry or ghosting images, as it’s defined by the duration of a pixel changing between colors rather than its visibility on screen. Like MPRT, a longer GTG response time will make your screen appear blurry, while a shorter time will make it look sharper. If you’re looking at GTG, you’ll ideally want one millisecond or less, but under four milliseconds is still good.
For the type of gaming monitor to go for, you’ll want a vertical alignment (VA) screen panel. Gaming monitors are commonly produced with a VA panel because it combines the fast response time of twisted nematic (TN) panels with the great color reproduction of in-plane switching (IPS) panels. You get the best of both worlds!
However, if you don’t care much about image quality and you’re strictly looking for the most responsive monitor, then a TN panel might be the better option since they have the fastest response times TN panels are also the cheapest of the three, which leads us to the final factor.
Now that you know the main features to look for in a gaming monitor, you can set a budget. You need clearly think about what you’re looking to get out of your monitor. Is it performance? Or is it the best visuals? Maybe it’s a balance of the two?
As a casual gamer, you don’t need to spend as much money on your monitor as someone who’s looking to get the best gaming experience possible. You can find plenty of viable options around the $400 mark with amazing visuals and solid performance, such as Sceptre’s 32-Inch C305B-200UN1. With 200Hz, one-millisecond response time, and a 2560 x 1080 resolution, the monitor’s priced very competitively.
However, if you’re willing to spend more, you can get a gaming monitor with even better specs, such as the MSI 31.5-Inch Optix MPG321UR-QD. It’s a 4K gaming monitor that also has a 144Hz refresh rate and a low response time of one millisecond. If it doesn’t suit your needs, though, you can check out our entire list of recommended gaming monitors below.