This is a guide on how to choose a gaming monitor in 2021.
As graphical fidelity continues to reach incredible new heights in video games, a great display for your setup is vital these days.
However, if you’re thinking about getting a new gaming monitor, things can get a bit overwhelming.
You’re going to be doing a lot of research, and there is a lot to contemplate.
As the market is oversaturated right now, it’s not difficult finding a decent gaming monitor.
But you probably want the most value for your money.
That’s why we are here to explain things and make it a lot less complicated.
We’ll help you figure out what makes a gaming monitor different, and what is the best gaming monitor in 2021 for you.
Size does Matter when it Comes to Monitors
These days most monitors can range from 20 to more than 49 inches in size.
However, 24 inches and 27 inches appear to be the most typical sizes.
24” monitors provide a decent amount of screen real estate, and they’re conventionally one of the more affordable options out there.
On the other hand, 27” gaming monitors offer you more room to play with.
For enthusiast gamers or even power users, this is a common choice.
Depending on the resolution, they do tend to be a bit pricier than 24” monitors but that is to be expected.
Ultrawide Monitors have amplified in popularity over the last few years.
The reason might be that enthusiasts and productivity minded folk appreciate the wider aspect ratio. Instead of your conventional 16:9 monitor, Ultrawide monitors utilize a 21:9 aspect ratio. This is about the same aspect ratio in which most movies are shot.
They offer more screen real estate, hence the name “Ultrawide”, and that improves the immersion in almost everything you do on your PC. Games look more immersive, Movies look stunning, and with that extra real estate, you can have more than one window open for productivity.
Ultrawide monitors are commonly found in 29” and 34” variants, although a select few go above and beyond that. They also have increased horizontal resolution, but we’ll touch on that later.
Once you’ve decided on the size, the next factor to consider is resolution.
Resolution refers to the number of horizontal pixels and vertical pixels on the screen.
As you can assume, the higher the number, the sharper the image.
- Full HD (FHD) Resolution: Most 24” monitors use a Full HD (FHD) resolution, more often than not. That’s 1920 pixels horizontally, and 1080 pixels vertically. However, a few 27” gaming monitors use the same resolution, but the pixels are spread out over a larger screen. That’s why you’ll notice a drop in visual quality.
- Quad-HD (or 1440p): The definite solution to this is choosing a higher resolution. A mid-range 27” gaming monitor will usually have a 2560 x 1440 resolution, also known as Quad-HD (or 1440p). We also have a lot more 4K screens these days. You’ve probably heard that term before in TV commercials.
- 4K UltraHD or UHD: 4K has 3840 pixels horizontally and 2160 vertically. It’s also called UltraHD or UHD. 4K is 4 times the resolution of 1080p, so it’s considerably sharper. However, they are still a tad bit overkill, as you’ll need a beefy graphics card to get decent framerates at 4K.
Those are the 3 common resolutions you’ll find in 16:9 gaming monitors these days. Of course, you can go lower than 1080p and find a 720p HD monitor, but we wouldn’t recommend that in 2021.
What Resolutions Do Ultrawide Monitors Have?
As we mentioned before, ultrawide monitors have a higher amount of horizontal pixels as compared to the standard 16:9.
Therefore, the common resolutions are 2560 x 1080 or 3440 x 1440.
Of course, there are selected monitors that can go even higher. You can even find massive 32:9 monitors with a resolution of 5120 x 1440. But if you have that kind of money, you would have already bought it by now and wouldn’t be reading this guide. So we’re going to stick to the more common themes in this one.
Panel Types: Which is the Best?
If you’re pondering over what makes a gaming monitor different, it comes down to the panel type most of the time.
There are 3 common panel types:
- IPS Panel
- VA Panel
- TN Panel
Let’s quickly break down what makes them different.
IPS screens deliver the best overall quality with improved brightness, contrast, and much better color accuracy. The viewing angles are also superior compared to TN panels, the difference is night and day.
IPS panels are best for the pixel peepers out there, who want the very best looking display.
However, they are a bit more expensive compared to their TN counterparts. They also generally have more input lag and higher response times, but that’s an issue that’s been fixed on a lot of monitors.
VA screens are a very good compromise between TN and IPS, but there aren’t many monitors out there with this panel technology. They have good contrast and color accuracy. It’s not quite as good as IPS, but relatively better than TN.
A lot of HDR monitors use VA technology. This is because VA panels tend to be generally brighter than IPS panels. They even have the potential to have higher refresh rates than IPS.
The downside here is that response times can be a bit higher, and viewing angles aren’t the best here either.
TN panels tend to be the more affordable options. However, that can be at the expense of image quality at times. TNs offer fast response times and a lower input lag. This means that they are perfect for fast based gaming, especially for professional Esports players.
The downside is that they have poor contrast and poor viewing angles. Things are better on the more premium TN panels, but they still don’t compare to IPS.
There is also the case of OLED panels, the same technology we see in higher-end smartphones. These have amazing contrast, deeper inkier blacks, and just overall better image quality. However there are very few of these out there in the wild, and they’re mighty expensive at that.
So, If you need an affordable and fast display, TN is the way to go. However, if you would benefit from a more color accurate and better-looking display, spending a bit more money on an IPS or VA panel would be ideal.
Up till now, what we’ve talked about could apply to any monitor in general, gaming-oriented or not.
But if you’re still asking yourself “Do I need a gaming monitor?”, then refresh rate should help you decide.
Apart from lower response times and input lag, the refresh rate is what separates a gaming monitor from any other display.
The refresh rate of a monitor is the number of times the screen image is updated every second. (The higher the number, the smoother the images will appear.)
Refresh rates are represented by “Hertz (Hz)”. The standard is usually 60Hz.
However, if you are a competitive gamer, you will benefit from a higher refresh rate. Now, this might not automatically make you better at the game but will have an advantage if you’re playing at 120Hz or 144Hz.
Just keep in mind that the refresh rate also affects the cost. You also need a relatively powerful system to fully maximize the potential of a 144Hz monitor.
In 2021, Adaptive sync has pretty much become an industry stand now. This feature allows the monitor to reduce the refresh rate to match the frames your GPU is putting out in the actual game. This method is quite effective in removing stutter and provides an overall smoother experience.
Depending on the graphics card, you’ll either be using AMD’s Freesync or Nvidia’s G-sync technology. Both adaptive sync methods work quite well, and Nvidia GPUs now work with Freesync monitors. This is great because previously if you had an Nvidia video card, you pretty much had to buy a G-sync supported display, which is more expensive.
If you care about a great experience while gaming, we highly recommend you to keep adaptive sync in mind.
This is the time your monitor takes when shifting from one color to another. This is frequently expressed in “grey to grey”. Some gaming monitors have a response time as fast as 1ms. The lower the better. Lower response times will prevent image issues like blurring or ghosting.
However, most of the time this isn’t as big a deal as some aficionado claim it to be. In day to day use, the difference is difficult to point. But if you’re spending a decent amount of money anyway, it’s worth to check a monitor’s response time before buying.
What Are Professional ESports Players Using?
This is something a lot of people overlook. If you are a competitive gamer, it won’t do you any harm learning from the best. This also includes finding out what equipment they’re using. The pro players don’t care about image quality when they’re in a heated match.
They also don’t care about having the largest screen either. You’ll notice a lot of CS: GO players use a 24” monitors. These are seen in most of Esports tournaments as well. A 24” monitor is small enough that you don’t have to turn your head every time to look in every corner. In a match where every single second matter, this could be vital.
The BenQ Zowie XL2540 is probably the best 24-inch gaming monitor for competitive gaming right now. This is what the folks over at the Navi CS: GO team are using. It has a 240Hz refresh rate, a 1ms response time and it also has Freesync. Thanks to Nvidia’s recent GPU driver update, it’s also G-sync compatible.
What Monitor Is Best For You?
In the end, it’s not easy to give an objective answer, especially to a wider audience. Different people might have read this guide and made different decisions. If you are a video editor who casually plays games, you’ll prefer a color-accurate panel with a higher resolution rather than one with the highest refresh rate. And vice versa for the competitive gamers out there.
We also don’t want to leave out our console users out of the conversation. Some of you might be thinking about what you should look for in a gaming monitor for PS4 or what’s the best monitor for an Xbox. Well, we wouldn’t recommend a high refresh rate panel, since both of those consoles are locked to 60fps titles most of the time.
If you have the budget for it, you’ll want to get a great color-accurate IPS panel. Since you can’t get the most performance as compared to PC, you might as well get that visual clarity. Just look out for input lag and response times, as regular displays or even TVs don’t exactly do well in those areas.