Having a good gaming monitor handy is essential to fully experience the potential of your gaming rig. While the type of display screen might not have as direct an impact of gameplay performance as the PC hardware components, it does help alleviate or aggravate the overall experience.
At one hand aspects like panel type, resolution and contrast ratio define how good the picture appears. While on the other hand, refresh rates, response times and other technical measures help you be more on point in games like first-person shooters and others requiring quick reflexes. Hence, it is a decided fact that you will need only the best to accompany a gaming rig that means business.
Things To Look For In A Gaming Monitor
It can be argued that the six aforementioned aspects are the most important. But there are other things to consider while buying a computer monitor. Picking a display with G-Sync or FreeSync can take everything from lackluster to blockbuster. How you connect with the monitor, or mount it is also important, just as important it is to know which is the best monitor size for gaming.
With the AAA games becoming more and more demanding, 4K resolution is becoming all the more relevant. Long gone are the days when you’d be fine with a 720p gaming monitor. Even when you talk about refresh rates, you’d want a 144Hz monitor. Although only recently getting as good as 60Hz would have been fine while playing Call of Duty: Black Ops IV.
How much does the screen resolution matter?
Before we dig into the level of attention you need to give to display resolutions, we first need to get up to speed with different types of available screen resolutions. Things aren’t as simple as they used to be when 1080p was the go-to mark. As denoted by the diagram below, there are various presets available among displays. And the field keeps evolving beyond the 4K resolution!
So basically, the now commonplace 1080p is the smallest, darkest box on the top left. This compares to the entire diagram representing the 4K resolution that is commonly sold in display monitors. It is important to note, that with everything else being maintained at good quality, even a 1440p monitor would stack up nicely while you play the most demanding games.
Apart from the three more frequented presets i.e. 1920 x 1080, 2560 x 1440, and 3840 x 2160, there are a few others if you like curved monitors. If you buy a 1080p ultrawide monitor, it would mean getting a display with 2560 x 1080 pixels. While 1440p would measure 3440 x 1440. However, it all boils down to preferences when you go out to choose between standard monitors or ultrawide ones.
Which panel type suits your games.
Primarily, you will be choosing between VA, IPS or TN panels. Each one of these suits a given genre of games, which is why most hardcore games should consider which technology they decide to rely on.
A Twisted Nematic (TN) panel would give you faster response times, usually measuring between 1ms to 2ms. This is considered quite fast even for the most demanding shooter video games. However, in comparison to a different technology like Vertical Alignment panels, TN panels would have a rather restricted viewing angle. VA panels also have more vibrancy in their colors and a visible smoothness among them.
The color quality of a TN panel is relatively lower than that of an IPS (In-plane Switching) panel too. The latter boast of impressive color reproduction as well as viewing angles. In fact, the color retention and visibility maintained at wide angles by IPS panels is better than TN and VA both.
But some of us might not like slower models because they already have higher response times. Ranging from 4ms to 10ms, this can be a hurdle for high-end gamers who fashion the most notorious settings on FPS games. But with everything else going well, the slower response time would usually go unnoticed. In comparison with these two, the Vertical Alignment (VA) panels argue for better colors and overall picture quality due to higher contrast ratios. However, their viewing angles aren’t as good as IPS ones, and the response times are worse.
The bottom line is, if you want a no-compromise super responsive screen for first person shooter games, you should not get a VA panel. Nonetheless, there is a choice between IPS and TN panels, especially because of the shortcomings of the latter. On the other hand, if you are prone to playing slower games like turn-based strategy games, you’d have the luxury to focus more on the color and picture quality of the display panels than the response time or refresh rate.
Talking of refresh rates…
This is the measure of how many times the screen can load a new image of a moving picture per second. For the uninitiated ones, the monitor’s refresh rate is measured in Hertz. And it compares to how frames per second (FPS) is the measure of images being loaded per second by the GPU.
Commonly, you’d come across 1080p, 1440p and now 4K resolutions running at 60Hz. While this is considered satisfactory by most usage preferences, a quicker 144hz monitor suits the most notorious quick reflex games better. You can also find middle grounds between the two refresh rates. But the bottom line is, for fast paced games like first person shooters you should go for a 144Hz monitor while for role playing games and other slow paced genres you should not require more than a 60Hz monitor.
At this point, it is essential to keep in mind that refresh rates, as well as resolution of the monitor, needs to be in line with how much potential your graphics card has. Buying anything way over the top would only get you a mismatch. The idea is to get the refresh rates and the FPS close or equal to each other.
It is in this regard that adaptive sync technologies like Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync come into play. More on these down the line.
What exactly is Response Time and how much “should” it matter?
Apart from everything that has already been discussed about response times with display panels, there are but a few other things you should know. Literally, the response time of your gaming monitor is the time one pixel will take in changing from one color to another. Firstly, keep in mind that the measure given by manufacturers is calculated by pixel transitions from grey to grey. This is the fastest among colors, and hence misleading.
Also, the measure of response time is mere milliseconds (ms) which is hard to catch by a layman at least. In fact, we’d be more concerned about the input lag if the new models weren’t already doing well in that regard.
Contrast ratios impact picture quality the most
More often than not, the contrast ratio maintained by a computer screen is one of the first two things you will check. This is because image quality depends more on this one aspect as compared to all related factors like saturation, resolution and so on.
Agreed, things are slightly different when you are buying yourself a gaming monitor specifically instead of a general use display unit. Things you focus on more are different for the type of use. And contrast ratios is one of those things you will worry about more if you are concerned with the picture quality more than you worry about things like input lag, refresh rates and so on.
The contrast ratio is basically the difference between the darkest and the brightest pixel a screen can carry. So the greater the difference is, the better the image quality will be thanks to brighter lights and darker blacks. Technology wise, VA panels have the best contrast and hence picture quality, although IPS panels have a better overall standing.
When you go buying yourself a gaming monitor, you will find the contrast ratios being denoted by figures like 1000:1. While this is a very basic level of contrast, a measure like 4000:1 will surely make its presence felt.
Are G-Sync/FreeSync monitors worth it?
An intended reduction in screen tearing is at the core of both AMD and Nvidia’s adaptive sync technologies. Basically, tearing occurs when the refresh rates of a monitor and the frames being generated per second (FPS) by the GPU mismatch. And it goes both ways i.e. whether the FPS is lower or higher than the refresh rate.
A proprietary technology. G-SYNC only works with Nvidia GPUs and is often found adorned by comparatively expensive computer monitors. But that is not always true and we have come across multiple mid budget monitors that have G-Sync enabled. Keep in mind that you will need a DisplayPort connection for this to work. And if you already have an Nvidia GeForce graphics card, the choice is already made.
Unlike G-Sync, FreeSync technology is an open standard, which is the reason why more FreeSync monitors have a lower price tag. The technology will work with HDMI 1.4 and a DisplayPort both. Also, if AMD had their way both technologies would work on either AMD or Nvidia GPUs, but the latter isn’t open towards cross-platform compatibility.
Coming to the question of whether adaptive sync technologies are worth spending extra bucks. You will find the frame rates bouncing around much more frequently in online multiplayer games. In such games, you will benefit greatly from adaptive sync doing its best to stabilize things around. However, we are not saying it is a must-have, because you won’t notice a difference most of the times.
Screen sizes and ultrawide, curved monitors
While the standard size computer monitors would be close to 24 and 27 inches, personal preference can always come into play. For that reason, you could be juggling between disputed forays like a 27-inch monitor with bad 1080p or a smaller 24-inch monitor screen that is unable to handle a 1440p well. As a prerequisite, when you go for bigger screen sizes, you should also look for better resolutions. And the bigger screens are expensive! Therefore, we’ll suggest you go for a quality 24″ screen instead of anything over the top like curved monitors.
Ultrawide or Curved Monitors
There are two common resolution presets being used by ultrawide and curved monitors. The 2560 x 1080 resolution can run screen sizes ranging from 24 to 29 inches. On the other hand 3440 x 1440 pixel resolution is used for bigger screens measuring to the tunes of 34-inches and above.
So why exactly are these unexpected aspect ratios used so frequently these days? Well, apart from personal preferences like multitasking and large screen gameplay, there are a couple of technical reasons too. It is a fact that due to the curved ends of the screen, viewing angles are greatly improved. As a result, more of the screen is able to fit inside the optimum field of view of your naked eye. Check out this helpful diagram below to understand.
But not everything is peachy here. Ultrawide monitors are a newer technology which is why they are quite expensive. Even 4K monitors have gone cheaper over the recent months. But on average a curved monitor can still cost 50 percent more than a value model with 4K resolution.
Ports and Connectivity
If you look at the back of your rig you will see a horde of ports on the I/O panel. This is slightly different in the case of displays as the ports are there to just get the output display running on the screen as it comes from the CPU. There are mainly four types of connecting ports that the latest releases carry:
Video Graphics Array (VGA)
This is the oldest technology of the lot and it keeps getting less relevant day by day. VGA ports are used to carry analog signals which are comparatively weaker than all other digital signals being transferred. However, VGA has been quite popular in its time.
Digital Visual Interface (DVI)
Just like the VGA, DVI is also a common medium of connection for monitors as well as projectors and these were developed to handle then higher resolutions of 2560 x 1600 pixels. However, only some of the DVI ports can carry video as well as audio signals. This is the reason why HDMI is still more commonly used with TVs.
High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)
The most common medium of connection between displays and computers, HDMI is still getting better – we already have HDMI 1.4 and HDMI 2.0. Not only is it less costly than the other digital connection i.e. DVI, butit is also able to transfer audio as well as video signals together. Although, the most demanding FPS rate might shame it. Standard HDMI can only manage to 720p and 1080p while High-Speed HDMI will go beyond Full HD to 4K – at least on videos. There also are variants that come with Ethernet, adding further support for 100Mbps transfer rates.
DisplayPort technology is the latest that we have in open standard connectors. They are similar to HDMI ports and connector insofar as the audio signal transfer is concerned. With just the DisplayPort 1.3 and DisplayPort 1.4 in action, these are currently the best choice for PCs. Even with the DisplayPort 1.3, you can transfer 4K (3840×2160 pixels) easily. While at such a resolution the HDMI would drop the FPS to below 30, a DisplayPort can retain a stable 60FPS due to greater bandwidth.
But it isn’t free of limitations: there is no audio return channel and there also is no ethernet data support. Which means HDMI is a more all-round product although a DisplayPort 1.4 is faster and more efficient.
Audio jacks and USB ports
There are two types of audio jacks that you can always find at the I/O panel of your motherboard. But in some cases, these are also present on the monitor you will buy. Whether you have a 2.5mm jack, a 3.5mm jack, or both. They are similar and the primary difference is in the size of the jack itself. The 3.5mm audio jack is the standard for calls as well as audio.
Aesthetic sense isn’t a topic we can cover like the rest. Primarily because it isn’t as cardinal to the value of the gaming monitor as its technical specifications. Additionally, design elements are a luxury that you will afford when you are not on a low budget. And if you are not bound by a small budget, there is no limit to how aesthetically pleasing you can make your computer table.
From thin bezels to slimmer profiles; and from metallic finishes to LED lit nooks and corners. There is a lot that manufacturers add to a product just to give it the cosmetic touch of an expensive product. Physical features like VESA mounts is a different story, though.
VESA mounting, arms and multiple monitor stands
While these might not cross your mind on the first purchase, but they will on the second. It is always handy that you own a monitor with a VESA mount that complies with the international standards. As a result, you are able to buy one of the countless monitor arms online and use it with the monitor.
This is especially important if you are going to use more than one displays with your gaming rig. And we are all very well aware of the advantages of using additional mounting arms. Not only do they let you add extra adjustments to the height, angle, swivel, and tilt but also give you a more sturdy solution.
For those who do not know, VESA mounts aren’t a brand of monitor mounts. In fact, VESA is the display’s Mounting Interface Standard (MIS) of the latest grade. And usually, the monitor is fastened with four screws vertically and horizontally. All you need to do is make sure that your monitor has international standard VESA mounting compliance.
It is under this regard that you should also ask yourself will you even need a multi-monitor computer unit. Some people are content with a single large screen with higher resolution so that greater data can be stuffed on it. Most of the games will play identically well on single monitor and multi-monitor rigs – all things granted.
There is a wide range of aspects that you need to keep in mind when buying a new gaming monitor. However, it is not possible to always keep a check on each and every one of them. Therefore, we are not even suggesting that you get a green-light for all of them as per your requirements. In fact, we suggest that you first double back to consider which factors will actually affect how well you play games. Once you have done that, you will understand which features you can ignore and which are a must have for you. It gets easier from there.