Picking a gaming monitor is exciting….and overwhelming, with a ton of ever-expanding options (G Sync? IPS? HDR?) and constantly climbing refresh rates.
Just shopping around makes you really want to throw caution to the winds and empty your bank account for the most expensive 4k display. Just imagine playing on one of those, though?
Never fear, we’re here to help you sort through the specs and find a dream monitor within your budget.
First, let’s breakdown the main specs you need to look out for in gaming monitors:
4k is one of the best resolutions right now, so it’s future-proof, and 4k gaming is popular. However, you’ll pay a lot extra to get this, and bear in mind you’ll need a stellar GPU to enable comfortable 4k gameplay, such as a Vega 64 or 1070 Ti.
FHD (Full High Definition) is 1080p, so the resolution isn’t as sharp but it’s much cheaper, only requires a mid-range GPU, and you’ll get higher refresh rates.
However, image quality is going to suffer if your 1080p screen is above 27 inches.
QHD (Quad High Definition) is 1440p, and UHD (Ultra High Definition) is 2160p. They’re both in between 4k and FHD, and make a good compromise for a lot of gamers.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is kind of a separate add-on that can be applied to any of the resolutions above. It uses an imaging technique to improve the range of color and contrast.
With refresh rate, it’s simple: bigger is better.
Refresh rate is how often your monitor refreshes per second, updating it with new information. It’s measured in Hz. For gaming, you want at least around 80 Hz. However, obviously the higher it is, the smoother the gameplay. But the larger the res, the more likely it is to dip.
This is the type of panel the monitor uses.
IPS and VA panels are generally considered superior to TN, however it’s not so simple.
TN has the poorest visuals, but the fastest response times (and is the cheapest).
IPS has the best visuals, but slightly slower response times.
VA has almost as good visuals as IPS (in terms of color reproduction and viewing angles), and also has better contrast. However, it has the slowest response times of all three.
It all depends on the types of games you play. If fast-paced competitive games are your thing, refresh rates might be your priority.
But if you want the best visuals for your open-world games like Final Fantasy XV, then you might prefer VA or IPS. Night scenes also work best with VA since it has the best contrast.
Monitors can support G-Sync or FreeSync, which sync up to your GPU for smoother frame rates. G-Sync is Nvidia only, whilst FreeSync is AMD. So, you used to have to go for the one that supports your GPU type.
However, thanks to Nvidia’s recent driver updates, FreeSync is now supported by Nvidia graphics cards.
G-Sync is more sophisticated and FreeSync monitors tend to be cheaper.
Curved monitors are more immersive for gaming, but they’re pretty pointless below 30 inches, and you obviously have to pay extra.
Specs are important, but testing is even better. You need to actually test out things like the color gamut and viewing angles.
You also need to actually game on it to see what the experience is like: how bright, rich and realistic the colors and lights/shadows are, how it copes with night scenes, and what kind of frame rates you get.
We always bear the user purpose in mind, instead of just going for the highest specs. Different types of gamers want different types of monitors, there’s no one-size-fits-all.
Monitors vary wildly in price, so don’t spend more than you need. And the most important question is, can you get more for your money elsewhere?
Image Source: Dell
Screen Size & Aspect Ratio: 32 inches, 16:9
Resolution: 2560 x 1440 @ 165 Hz
Panel Type: VA / W-LED, edge array
Refresh Rate: 165 Hz
Response Time (GTG): 4ms
A very affordable, crisp QHD screen enables you to go up to a large 32 inches without loss in quality, and on top of that, it’s 1800R curved, for the perfect immersive gaming experience.
It tops our list due to the extreme value for money. You’re getting a premium-calibre TV from a great brand at an economical cost.
The QHD means you can get away with a mid-range GPU to get high frame rates on your games. Pixel density is a solid 93 ppi, meaning so long as you don’t sit less than 3 feet away, you’re not going to see any jagged lines.
The look is clean and the stand is rock-solid. It’s just 2.5 inches thick, with a super-thin 7mm bezel, except for the bottom which is 19mm. It even appears bezel-free when switched off.
It’s very adjustable with a 30° swivel, 21° tilt, and 6-inch height allowance.
There’s 12 picture modes, 8 for different gaming styles and four custom ones. No sRGB mode, though.
Gameplay is super-responsive with a strong 165Hz refresh rate.
The DCI-P3 means colors really look vibrant, and it has one of the highest-contrast displays at over 3,300:1 in SDR and over 18,000:1 in HDR. Screen quality is also top-notch compared to competitors with no areas of bleed or glow.
The contrast is perfect for Call of Duty night scenes, clearly rendering the finest of details with rich shadows.
To give you an idea, Tomb Raider and Call of Duty: WWII ran at 60-80fps with a Radeon R9 285 using FreeSync.
Overall, a great value high-contrast, curved QHD monitor for incredible gameplay visuals.
Razer Raptor 27 – another popular model with a higher pixel density, but smaller screen and much higher cost.
Image Source: Acer
Screen Size & Aspect Ratio: 24 inches, 16:9
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Panel Type: TN / W-LED edge array
Refresh Rate: 144 Hz
Response Time (GTG): 1ms
This 1080p 24-inch screen offers ultra-high frame rates for even the most intense action game sequences, without having to fork out on a high-end GPU.
We’re talking 80-100fps here with a pretty good GPU, or a crazy 144 fps with an Nvidia GeForce 1080 Ti FE.
Tomb Raider and Call of Duty WWII ran at 75-90fps with a AMD Radeon R9 285 GPU.
The only downside is the pixel density is a little on the low side, at 92ppi. Ideally we’d like 109ppi.
It supports FreeSync and, unofficially, G-Sync as well.
The default color settings are awesome with good contrast and excellent color accuracy in the sRGB range, so you won’t need to tinker around if you don’t want to.
But if you do, it’s got amazing calibration options for the price, including 5 picture modes (1 custom), and detailed color management.
In color gamut testing, the Acer beats most similar competitors, which just goes to show the value you’re getting.
Viewing angles aren’t great but it’s good enough that sitting slightly off-centre won’t ruin your experience.
The response rate is 144Hz, which is more than enough.
The parts are light but the build quality is high, with metal cores and a large, stable circular base. It remains cool even after long hours of play. The styling is basic, the only embellishment a red ring around the base. The thickness if average and the bezels are 14mm, not the narrowest, but the screen is anti-glare, a useful feature.
It’s extremely adjustable, with a 60° swivel, 5° forward tilt and 35° back tilt, and 5 inches height allowance. But you can also rotate it a full 90° to portrait mode, perfect for office use.
There’s no USB ports sadly, but there are 2 speakers, headset jacks, and DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI inputs.
Overall, this monitor hits the perfect budget sweet spot and delivers lightning fast gameplay.
BenQ Zowie XL2540 – another 24 inch monitor with a better refresh rate, but slightly lower pixel density.
Image Source: ViewSonic
Screen Size & Aspect Ratio: 35 inches, 16:9
Resolution: 3440 x 1440
Panel Type: VA
Refresh Rate: 100 Hz
Response Time (GTG): 3ms
A 35-inch curved QHD with both VA and HDR for well under $1000? Sign us up.
The VA ensures high contrast, but this model boasts an insane 2,500:1 contrast, allowing excellent image depth in SDR and HDR. The image depth is incredible.
There’s a strong 100 Hz refresh rate, and FreeSync gives 48-100 Hz. G-Sync is also unofficially supported.
The build comes with a sturdy base, and is fairly slick-looking in all black.
The curve is tight at 1800mm, achieving a real wrap-around effect.
It comes with Elite RGB lighting across the back that works with Razer, Thermaltake and Cooler Master, so you can hook up your keyboards, fans and PSUs.
We just would have liked to have seen narrower bezels, which are 13mm except for the bottom.
The OSD options are numerous, though it has such good default color that you probably don’t need to calibrate. HDR is slightly disappointing since there doesn’t seem to be much visual difference compared to SDR mode, plus FreeSync isn’t HDR-supported.
Overall, it seems better to use FreeSync and go without the HDR. You can get around 100fps playing Call of Duty: WWII with a GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition GPU with no screen tearing.
This model is sRGB rather than DCI-P3, but the colors are so vivid, warm and high-contrast you don’t miss it. Even skin tones looked dead-on natural so that characters look eerily realistic. Color gamut accuracy measured 1.81dE, equal to many more expensive models.
A joystick is included and there’s two HDMI ports, one DisplayPort, one USB 3.0 and two downstream.
Plus, speakers. These are incredibly loud and of a much higher quality than the norm.
Overall, an extremely good value mid-range ultra-wide monitor.
HP Omen X 35 – a similar 35-inch model, but not as many features
Image Source: Samsung
Screen size: 49-inch
Aspect ratio: 32:9
Resolution: 5,120 x 1,440
Brightness: 600cd/m2 – 1000cd/m2
Refresh rate: 120Hz
Response time: 4ms
Viewing angle: 178°(H)/178°(V)
Contrast ratio: 3,000:1
Color support: 1.07B
If you want the ultimate gaming experience, have a big desk and around $1000 to burn, you can’t get better than this.
This 49-inch monitor is an absolute beast, a QLED with a whopping 5,120 x 1,440 resolution and HDR 1000. It also supports FreeSync. For all that you’re getting, we think it’s pretty cheap.
It’s one-of-a-kind, equivalent to two 27-inch monitors tied together, or almost as tall as a human.
The screen is just bright and beautiful right out of the box; you really don’t need to change anything. The stats speak for themselves; a staggering 1,000 nits peak brightness and 125% sRGB.
It’s also extremely responsive with a 120 Hz refresh rate, incredible at this res, and a 4ms response time.
For the best of monitors, you need the best GPU such as an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti to have an adequate gaming experience.
It’s attractive looking with all-black bezels except the bottom which have a metallic finish. Buttons are on the bottom. However, oddly there’s no hole in the stand for cable routing.
You can even divide the screen in two (which makes sense given the size), so you can have a game on one side and a guide on the other.
Image Source: Asus
If ‘budget’ isn’t in your vocabulary, this is the best 4k 27-inch monitor around.
The specs are as high-end as you can get. It’s got a tight 163ppi pixel density, and the inclusion of a full-array backlight with HDR10 really sets it out from the crowd.
Another rare feature is its true 1,000-nit brightness capability with 61,000:1 contrast, combined with over 90% DCI-P3 color space to really make the visuals shine.
The refresh rate is 120Hz which is the only ‘meh’ spec, but it overclocks to a snappy 144Hz.
And of course, G-Sync is supported, but it’s a shame there’s no ultra low motion blur for the price.
The OSD has tons of options, the best of which is Variable Backlight, which improves black levels for record-high contrast ratios for both SDR and HDR.
Build quality is exceptional, and it’s got a great anti-glare screen.
A monster of a GPU is required to game with this baby, such as a GTX 1080 Ti.
But it’s worth it; Call of Duty: WWII is a mind-bender, making textures such as clouds, razor stubble and wet uniform extremely life-like, as well as incredible rendering of sunlight reflecting of metals.
Expect frame rates of 80-90fps for COD, and 70-80 fps for Tomb Raider.
It’s one of the best for Ultra HD movie viewing too. Put on Planet Earth II and be blown away.
It’s prohibitively expensive for most, of course, but definitely future-proof.
Acer Predator X27 – extremely similar to the ROG Swift
Image Source: Acer
Screen Size & Aspect Ratio: 27 inches, 16:9
Resolution: 4K @ 144 Hz
Panel Type: IPS
Refresh Rate: 144 Hz
Response Time (GTG): 4ms
A very affordable 27 inch 4k gaming monitor.
It’s fairly slick-looking in our opinion, with an elegant silver stand that’s robust. It’s fairly adjustable, with a 20° swivel, 5° forward tilt and 25° back. The height variability is 4 inches.
It comes with a black plastic clip-on hood which isn’t so stylish, but is pretty great for reducing glare.
The panel is IPS with a maximum refresh of 144Hz. The pixel density is stand-out, a super-sharp at 163 ppi, and it’s got vibrant DCI-P3 color and even HDR.
Since it’s 4k, with so many pixels packed into just a 27 inch screen, the result is outstanding detail with a razor-sharp image. The quality isn’t far off it’s much more expensive Acer Predator XB3 cousin.
The color balance is vibrant, though the default calibration could use some tweaking in the black and white scales. The viewing angles aren’t bad.
For gaming, you get a winning combination stunning, vibrant visuals and a high refresh rate with the IPS panel (as long as you have the GPU to match, of course – we recommend a GeForce GTX 1080 minimum). With this, you can get around 100fps in 4k.
There’s FreeSync support and Nvidia works too, though unfortunately it’s limited to 120Hz in FreeSync mode, which is a bit of a bummer. However, in practice you can’t really notice a difference.
It’s also a shame there’s no USB-C here.
Acer Predator XB3 – more expensive, but with G-Sync with HDR.
BenQ PD3200U – another affordable 4k monitor that’s a bit larger at 32 inches.
Image Source: Acer
Screen size: 37.5-inch
Panel type: IPS
Aspect ratio: 24:10
Resolution: 3840 x 1600
Response time: 5ms
Refresh rate: 75Hz
Weight: 23.61 lbs
If you want to turn heads and enjoy a completely immersive gaming experience, try this ultrawide 38-inch curved Acer with gorgeous visuals.
At 20-30 feet, this will completely fill your field of view and to top it off, it’s got a completely bezel-less screen.
It’s between QHD and UHD at 3840×1600 resolution, since the aspect ratio of 24:10 is so wide. It’s 2300m curve radius is perfect, gentle enough to avoid image distortion. The refresh rate is 75Hz, which is strong for the res.
The screen has a very effective anti-glare layer made of 3H-hardness plastic, and includes customizable LEDs on the bottom. It even comes with a joystick.
There’s 8 picture modes, but overall the OSD is less customizable than most.
For comparison, a mid-range GPU like the AMD Radeon R9 285 can handle Tomb Raider on normal, but Far Cry 4 really struggled, so for the latest games you’re probably going to have to go bigger.
FreeSync is supported.
Despite its gigantic size, the aluminium stand manages to stay fairly small and sleek, with a satin finish.
It includes 2 speakers, which are a bit above average. You can easily connect with Ultra HD streaming boxes, and it includes a USB-C.
The only major downside is the lack of HDR and blur reduction.
Acer Predator Z35P – only 35 inch, but with G-Sync and blur reduction
The Dell S3220DGF is a great choice for most, an affordable 32-inch QHD curved VA monitor with DCI-P3 and a 165Hz refresh rate. Mid-range GPUs work well with this.
If you’re on a tight budget, the Acer XFA240 is a quality 24-inch 1080p offering zippy gameplay, including both FreeSync and G-Sync.
For those who want to go bigger and curved for full immersion, we recommend the ViewSonic Elite XG350R-C for 35-inches, the Acer XR382CQK for 38-inches, and the Samsung CRG9 for insane 49 inches.
If your heart is set on 4k, the Acer Nitro XV273K is an affordable option, or if you’ve got extremely deep pockets, the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ is the best of the best.