8 Things to Consider When Buying a Gaming Monitor
16 October 2019
Shopping around for a gaming monitor can be overwhelming, especially when it's your first time building a state-of-the-art gaming rig. Here are some things you should take into consideration while reading marketing materials and deciphering spec sheets for gaming monitors currently available in the market.
1. Screen Size
If you own a notebook and have been using it for years, you may have noticed that the 14" or 15" display is only sufficient for casual gaming at best. While gaming laptops are offering 17" screens, esports enthusiasts know that having at least a 24" monitor is the minimum if you want to be competitive. A 27" display is typically considered the sweet spot for gaming aficionados. Going with a screen above 30" is also good, but you have to have powerful hardware that can take advantage of the above-average monitor real estate.
A monitor uses pixels to display a point of light. Generally speaking, with more pixels, you get to have more detailed images. Monitor resolutions are increasing as display technologies continue to evolve. Common current display resolutions include:
- - FHD (Full High Definition): 1920 x 1080 pixels
- - QHD (Quad High Definition/2K): 2560 x 1440 pixels
- - UWQHD (UltraWide Quad High Definition): 3440 x 1440 pixels
- - 4K UHD (4K Ultra High Definition): 3840 x 2160 pixels
While gaming in 5K or 8K UHD is possible, the cost of acquiring such a display and a graphics card powerful enough to handle the resolution is very steep. However, if you have the budget, nothing is stopping you from purchasing a 5K or 8K monitor. Just make sure your system's video card can support the monitor's resolution.
3. Refresh Rate
A monitor's refresh rate, typically measured in Hertz (Hz), indicates the number of times the image on your screen gets updated in a second. Thus, a 60Hz refresh rate means that the monitor refreshes the image you see 60 times in one second. The faster the refresh rate, the smoother the action you see onscreen. But again, before you go for a display with a 144Hz or 240Hz refresh rate, make sure your graphics card can take advantage of it.
4. Response Time
Monitor spec sheets display GTG (Gray-To-gray) response times in milliseconds. The response time is the rate at which a pixel changes from one colour to another. Choose a gaming monitor with a 1-millisecond or 2-millisecond response time for the best gaming experience.
5. Panel Type
The major monitor panel types include TN (Twisted Nematic), IPS (In-Plane Switching), and VA (Vertically Aligned).
- - Monitors based on TN panel technology are typically the most affordable and have the fastest refresh rates and response times. Due to their affordability and the fact that they work well for fast-paced games, it comes as no surprise they are so common. TN panels have their drawbacks, though. These include lower quality colour reproduction compared to others and limited viewing angles. Colours in TN panels somehow appear a bit more washed out, and you have to sit in front to be able to see things clearly without experience colour shift. This can cause issues with multi-monitor setups.
- - VA panel technology improves on TN's shortcomings. VA monitors do not have as fast refresh rates than TN screens, but they make up for it by providing better picture quality with improved brightness and contrast. Viewing images from different angles is also better, making VA panels suited for multi-display gaming immersion. Because of these improvements over TN panels, VA monitors tend to cost more than popular TN displays.
- - IPS panels address the issues mentioned above, providing more accurate colours and allowing easy viewing of images from different vantage points. Response times and refresh rates are not as fast compared to TN displays. But unless you need 240Hz for your game, you will find an IPS panel more than suited to your gaming needs. IPS panels come at a premium, but if you want to experience the best gaming visuals, go for an IPS monitor.
VGA connectors have been the standard for decades. To take advantage of ultra-high resolutions and for maximum compatibility with gaming video cards, choose a monitor with HDMI and DisplayPort connectors.
7. Panel adjustment features
If you are going to buy more than one screen, check to see if the candidate monitors allow tilting and swivelling, and come with support for landscape-to-portrait and portrait-to-landscape reorientation.
8. Gaming technologies and unique features
Technologies developed especially for gaming are what separate gaming monitors from professional and general-use displays. NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync exist to prevent screen tearing issues. Solutions like Black eQualizer featured in BenQ XL Series gaming monitors automatically make contrast adjustments to help you detect enemies waiting to ambush you in dark areas. Other unique features are worthwhile considering such as BenQ's Brightness Intelligence Plus (or B.I.+) which you can read more about on Respawn Ninja.
Gaming monitor technologies are advancing at a rapid pace. Keeping the points above in mind when you are in the market for a new gaming monitor will help you make the right decision in choosing which one is best for you.