Visually Appealing Monitors and TVs for Gaming

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Whether you’re a casual player or a hardcore gamer, playing your favorite games on a high-res display is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. To get the most out of your games, you’ll not only need a decent gaming build, but also a monitor that complements your graphics card to reduce screen tearing, ghosting, and motion blur. Before you decide which display to get, here are a few things you should look out for.

Screen Resolution

Let’s start with the most obvious: the screen resolution. Plain and simple, the higher the resolution, the more detailed the image. You can build an entry-level gaming rig to run games at 1080p (which will be totally fine for most gamers), but don’t be surprised by the higher system requirements (and the cost) if you want the UHD 4K experience.

Aspect Ratio

Directly related to the screen resolution is the aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is determined by the ratio between the horizontal and vertical resolution. For example, a screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution has a 16:9 aspect ratio, while a display with a 1920 x 1200 resolution has a 16:10 aspect ratio. Ultrawide aspect ratios, like 21:9 and 32:9, have seen a rise in monitors. With resolutions like 3440 x 1440 or 2560 x 1080, the ultrawide display shows you more of the game you’re playing (if it’s supported), allowing for a unique gaming experience. UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) is 16:9, but DCI 4K (4096 x 2160), which is the cinema standard, has an unusual 1.9:1 aspect ratio.

Forza Horizon 3 in 16:9
Forza Horizon 3 in 16:10

Response Time

Arguably one of the most important specs to a gamer when it comes to monitors, the response time refers to how fast the pixels can change from one color to another. A quick response time will help reduce the effects of ghosting, which is when remnants of the previous image stay on screen because the pixels haven’t fully changed yet. Generally, it is best to get a monitor with a low response time (ideally less than 5 ms), especially if you like to play fast-paced games, such as first-person shooters (FPS) and racing.

Long Response Time
Low Response Time

Refresh Rate

The refresh rate refers to the number of times per second an image is refreshed on a screen. Unlike response time, you want the number of the refresh rate to be higher. While most monitors are usually set to 60 Hz, there are gaming monitors that can do 120 Hz, 144 Hz, 165 Hz, and even 240 Hz. A higher refresh rate helps reduce motion blurs and screen tearing, which is when the monitor shows sections of multiple frames on a single screen at the same time.

Contrast Ratio: Static versus Dynamic

Let’s be honest: the contrast ratio you want to focus on is the static one, which tells you how the monitor performs on a consistent basis. The dynamic contrast ratio can get insanely high (1,000,000,000:1 anyone?), but that refers to dynamically dim or brightening the entire screen in response to the images on it. At any given time, the contrast ratio is static, but the display can give the impression of having a higher one. Some find this distracting, while others think it is cool. Your mileage will vary.

Panel

  • TN (Twisted Nematic)
    • Monitors with TN panels tend to be cheaper, due to their lower manufacturing cost, and have a relatively high level of responsiveness, which means some of them can push for faster refresh rates. Unfortunately, TN panels don’t have the best viewing angles. The colors will look washed out, especially vertically, if you don’t position the monitor just right. This also means you should avoid getting a large monitor (stick to 24" or lower) if you’re going with a TN panel, since the top or bottom of the screen may be affected. Also, if you were planning to use your TN monitor for something other than gaming, such as photo editing or anything that requires color accuracy… don’t.
  • VA (Vertical Alignment)
    • VA panels have better viewing angles than their TN counterparts. The contrast ratio is also noticeably better than TN panels. VA panels used to have poor response times, but advancements in technology have made them viable for gaming. Some VA panels can also offer a static contrast ratio of up to 3000:1.
  • IPS (In-Plane Switching)
    • IPS panels offer better viewing angles than TN or VA panels. Like VA panels, IPS panels used to suffer from high response times, but manufacturers did reduce them to make them viable for gaming. Something to keep in mind when using IPS panels is “IPS glow,” which is when darker content sometimes produces a pale glow when viewed from an angle. The color reproduction tends to be better on IPS than VA or TN.

G-SYNC and FreeSync (Also Why V-Sync is not Ideal)

V-Sync (Vertical Synchronization) is like an overbearing parent. It means well, but it ends up being overprotective and ultimately limiting. To prevent screen tearing, V-Sync waits for the frame rate of the GPU to match the refresh rate of the monitor, which can result in fps drops, screen stuttering, and increased input lag. Fortunately, NVIDIA and AMD introduced technologies to improve the communication between the graphics card and the monitor.

AMD introduced FreeSync. Built upon the industry-standard DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync, FreeSync2 enables GPUs to control the refresh rate of a FreeSync-enabled monitor directly. This allows the GPU and the monitor to work together to provide a smooth, responsive, tear-free gaming experience.

NVIDIA has its own technology to provide variable refresh rates, called G-SYNC. G-SYNC is different from FreeSync because it utilizes a proprietary G-SYNC module to help facilitate the process. With a G-SYNC monitor and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti GPU or better, you’ll be able to reduce or eliminate screen tearing, input lag, and eyestrain-inducing stutter.

Without G-Sync
With G-Sync

However, at CES 2019, NVIDIA introduced “G-SYNC Compatible” for monitors. G-SYNC Compatible is NVIDIA’s attempt to bring in third-party monitors, mostly FreeSync, into the G-SYNC ecosystem. For a monitor to become G-SYNC Compatible, the display must provide a baseline Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) experience on an NVIDIA GeForce 10-series or 20-series graphics card. This means the monitor can’t have blanking, pulsing, flickering, ghosting, or other visual artifacts at any frame rate by supporting a minimum VVR range of 2.4:1 (i.e. 60 – 144 Hz). NVIDIA stated that it tested 400 monitors, and only 12 have passed at CES 2019, although that number may change in the future (if it hasn’t already).

Even if a monitor hasn’t yet been certified as G-SYNC Compatible by NVIDIA, you still have the option to test it with a new NVIDIA Control Panel option. Of course, there’s no guarantee that it’ll work because they haven’t been certified. If you’re looking for a true G-SYNC Compatible monitor, you should take a look at the Acer XG270HU, AOC G2590FX, ASUS MG278Q, ASUS VG278Q, ASUS ROG Strix XG32VQ, ASUS ROG Strix XG258Q, and ASUS ROG Strix XG248Q.

ASUS 23.8" Republic of Gamers Strix XG248Q 16:9 240Hz FreeSync Gaming Monitor

Inputs

Most modern graphics cards come with DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs. Make sure your monitor has the proper inputs to support your graphics card so you don’t have to deal with a boatload of adapters. If you’re going to get a 144 Hz monitor, you’ll have to make sure you connect via DVI-D or DisplayPort, because most HDMI outputs and standard DVI can’t handle such high refresh rates. Generally, you want to connect your gaming build with DisplayPort or DVI-D instead of HDMI for the fastest performance.

DisplayPort 1.3 can support 4K UHD at 120 Hz. DisplayPort 1.4 can also support up 4K UHD at 120 Hz with the addition of 10-bit color and HDR support. HDMI 2.0b can support 4K UHD at 60 Hz with HDR. The new HDMI 2.1 specification has a 48 Gb/s bandwidth and will support 4K UHD at 120 Hz, as well as 10K at 120 Hz.

1080p is Good Enough for Me

If you’re looking to complete your entry-level build, a simple 1080p monitor should suffice, such as the Acer GN246HL Bbid 24" Monitor. It has a TN panel, so the viewing angles aren’t the best for those looking from the side, but it does have a 1 ms response time and a 144 Hz refresh rate—not bad for a sub-$200 monitor.

Acer GN246HL Bbid 24" 16:9 LCD Monitor

Diving into the cold, unforgiving world of online multiplayer FPS games, like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, will require a faster refresh rate and response time. A good option would be the BenQ ZOWIE XL2411P 24" Monitor, which has a 1 ms response time and a 144 Hz refresh rate. There is also a 27" variant if you want a bigger screen. Is 144 Hz not enough for you? How about the G-SYNC Compatible BenQ ZOWIE XL2740 27" Monitor? It can do 240 Hz… natively.

BenQ ZOWIE XL2740 27" 16:9 240 Hz LCD Monitor

1440p: Not Quite 4K, but More Pixels

If you built a mid-range gaming rig with, say, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070, you should consider bumping up to a monitor with a 2560 x 1440 resolution. The added pixels with provide more graphical detail than a 1080p monitor, but it won’t be as taxing on your system as a 4K UHD monitor.

Samsung offers the unique SR75 27" Space Monitor. It has a 144 Hz refresh rate, a 4 ms response time, and a 27" VA panel. Instead of a stand, it comes with a mounting arm, which allows you to create more space on your desk. If you’re looking for a monitor with a traditional stand, you can opt for the ASUS ROG Swift 27" Monitor, because it has G-SYNC, a 165 Hz refresh rate, a 4 ms response time, and a 27" IPS panel.

Samsung SR75 27" 16:9 LCD Space Monitor

4K UHD: Top Tier

So, you built the ultimate gaming rig, but are you ready to put your GeForce RTX 2080 Ti to work? If you are, I see a 4K UHD monitor in your future, since there’s really no need to hold yourself back.

You’ll need the full power of that NVIDIA GeForce 2080 Ti to even attempt to take full advantage of the ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ 27" 4K Monitor, thanks to its 4 ms response time and fast 144 Hz refresh rate. The Dell UP3216Q 31.5" Monitor is a good alternative choice, although it has a slightly slower response time, which clocks at 6 ms, and only a 60 Hz refresh rate.

Dell 31.5" UltraSharp 4K UHD IPS Monitor

21:9 and 32:9 Ultrawide Gaming

Some gamers like to use two monitors. While getting identical monitors, and placing them next to each other works quite well, you still must deal with those annoying bezels in the middle of your point of view. With a 21:9 monitor or a 32:9 monitor, you get the benefit of two monitors in a single display. A 21:9 or 32:9 monitor can also be useful for video editing. You’ll be able to see more of the timeline in Adobe Premiere. It also makes watching movies better because the aspect ratio plays well with most film releases (good-bye, black bars).

The ASUS ROG Swift PG348Q 34" 21:9 Monitor features 3440 x 1440 resolution and a curved IPS panel. While curved panels on TVs are kind of odd, since they’re meant to be viewed from a variety of angles, they’re quite good for a computer monitor, where you’re stationed right in the sweet spot. This one offers 5 ms response time and a respectable 100 Hz refresh rate.

ASUS Republic of Gamers Swift PG348Q 34" 21:9 Curved Ultra-Wide G-Sync IPS Monitor

Go bigger with the Samsung CHG90 49" 32:9 Monitor. This enormous display is curved to give you a better view of its 3840 x 1080 resolution. It also has 1 ms response time, a 144 Hz refresh rate, HDR support, and Samsung’s Quantum Dot technology. When gaming on this display, it’ll be hard to miss what’s going on in the game.

Samsung CHG90 49" 32:9 Curved 144 Hz FreeSync HDR LCD Monitor

HDR: High Dynamic Range

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is the ability for a screen to display a wider, richer range of colors, as well as brighter whites and deeper, richer blacks. When put together on a screen, HDR displays provide a much more vibrant and realistic appearance than non-HDR displays.

We highly recommend that your next TV have HDR support. A good starting point would be the Sony X900F Series. Available in a wide variety of screen sizes, you get 4K UHD resolution with built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity as well as Android TV. You can hook up your Xbox One X or PS4 Pro and play compatible games in HDR (be sure to turn on HDR for each input through the TV’s settings since it’s off by default).

Sony X900F 55" Class HDR UHD Smart LED TV

The LG C8PUA 4K TV features an OLED panel for enhanced black levels and a much higher contrast ratio. It also has HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG support, so you’ll be able to see a wider range of color with compatible content.

LG C8PUA 55" Class HDR UHD Smart OLED TV

Is 4K not enough for you? Samsung introduced a line of 8K TVs. While it’ll probably be a bit difficult to find something that can run at 8K right now, there’s nothing wrong with a little future-proofing. The Samsung Q900 Class 8K QLED TV has insane 7680 x 4320 resolution on a QLED panel. It is available in 65, 75, and 82" screen sizes. It also has HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG support. If you want max pixels, this is the TV for you.

Samsung Q900 65" Class 8K UHD QLED TV

Which monitor or TV do you prefer for your gaming system? Tell us below, in the Comments section.

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