Register
A password will be e-mailed to you.

Finding the best gaming monitor can be a challenge. Most PC users will want to play games at full-screen to catch all the action but it's important to know which one will give you the best gaming experience possible. 

Depending on how much money you are willing to spend, a good gaming monitor to start with is one that is 27 inches diagonally. Currently, the largest popular size for a single gaming monitor is 34 inches which is much larger and lets you see all of your favorite games in much more detail (assuming, of course, that you have a good graphics card).

We'll start with an overview of our recommendation for 2016's best gaming monitor and then delve into a helpful in-depth guide about the specs to look out for when purchasing your monitor. The reviews for each of the products can be found at the end of the article. We recommend that beginners read the article in its entirety.

More advanced users can skip down to the reviews by clicking here

Specs To Look For In A Gaming Monitor

​There are a few monitor specifications that are applicable to gaming. Most manufacturers list them on their websites. You'll see some bloggers talk about input lag, and that's great, but monitor makers don't list that spec, and most people don't have the hardware to measure it.

The main factors gamers should consider when investigating a monitor are resolution, refresh rate, response time and synchronization support. Nowadays, 4K resolution and syncing are popular features among PC gamers.

What is 4K?

When monitor manufacturers list resolution, they are referring to full-screen. The monitor industry kind of mixes and matches UHD and 4K definitions for marketing purposes. According to Stephan Jukic of 4K.com, ultra-high definition or quad HD is 3840 pixels x 2160 lines. True 4K is four times the resolution of full HDTV, so it's 4096 x 2160. Full HDTV is 1920 x 1080 pixels. If you define by height, UHD is the same as 4K.

It's debatable whether those seeking 4K resolution are doing it to improve game performance, or they just want to brag about having a 4K rig. The need for an expensive graphics card and maybe even two setups in parallel to power a game running at 4K while maintaining a descent frame rate can be a turnoff for many gamers. For those gamers who can afford it, however, having an amazing gaming monitor with all of the highest specs is a dream come true.

Refresh Rate

If a monitor has a refresh rate of 60Hz, it can display 60 frames of information per second. There is a slight gap between frames, but that spec is hard to find when comparing monitors. The higher the refresh rate the better. A 144Hz refresh rate would deliver 144 frames per second.

Refresh rate determines how responsive a monitor feels to a gamer, says Adam Simmons of PC Monitors. A faster refresh rate reduces blur and increases response to user inputs from a keyboard or mouse. For competitive gamers, this can make a big difference during first-person shooter games.

Response Time

The response time definition originally referred to the amount of time it took a pixel to change from black to white in miliseconds. Currently, most monitor makers measure response time as the time it takes a pixel to change from one shade of gray to another.

For users, a faster response time means a monitor will be able to display video with less ghosting or blur, according to John R. Delaney of PC Mag. A monitor with a response time spec of 1 ms is faster than a monitor with a 2 ms spec.​

Syncing Support

Nvidia G-Sync is technology that syncs display refresh rates with the graphics processor in Nvidia graphics cards. For Radeon enthusiasts, AMD FreeSync is similar technology that is available on AMD graphics cards. The idea is the relative graphics card software (driver) reduces tearing, stutter and input lag. The effect is a smoother gaming experience. If you're looking for the best gaming monitor, a crisp, responsive system is crucial.

Linus Sebastian of LinusTechTips made a video comparing how well FreeSync and G-Sync decrease input lag: 

Like many of these brand comparisons, the differences in who wins depends on other settings and different gaming situations.

To use syncing technology or watch certain movies, you'll need to pay attention to which connectors your monitor has on the back. DVI cables by themselves don't support HDCP copy protection, so you'll need an HDMI port. To use G-Sync, the monitor will need at least DisplayPort 1.2. (The 1.3 version came out in 2014.) For AMD FreeSync cards made before 2016, a DisplayPort is needed. 2016 AMD FreeSync cards only need an HDMI port to connect to a monitor.

Calibration

If you're going to spend hundreds of dollars on a top-tier gaming monitor, it makes sense to calibrate it. Factory settings are notorious for being too bright. There are various software solutions. SpectraCal is popular. To get a little more use out of the software, you could temporarily hook up a laptop to your televisions and calibrate those. Buying a meter might be a little extreme.

When calibrating a gaming monitor, it is good to do it at the time of day or night you normally play games. Even if you have window blinds or curtains, sunlight will still get in and affect how colors are seen on the monitor.

If you normally wear special glasses when gaming to reduce eye strain, you probably should wear them when performing monitor calibration. There are several other actions gamers can take to reduce eye strain, which Tyler Wilde discussed for PC Gamer. He actually consulted an ophthalmologist. Beware of eye strain articles on the internet that were written by the makers of gaming glasses. They may be a little bias.

Three-panel Configuration

Is it worth it to line up three gaming monitors? Depends, how important is field of view to the games your're playing? The main advantages are a more immersive gaming experience and more control while playing a flight simulator or driving game. Three amazing gaming monitors can definitely be three times the fun, especially if they're three of the ones we recommend.

Thaddeus Vale made a video demonstrating the feel of playing games with three monitors:

To use three monitors for gaming, it is necessary to set your PC to treat all three as one. Both Nvidia and AMD drivers support this setup, but there are many complications to consider.

Linus Sebastian made a video last year explaining the relevant software configurations:

If you have AMD graphics cards in parallel, a three-monitor setup may be difficult.

For the three-panel display to work at it best, users should choose three monitors of the same size and model. A triple-monitor-mount stand can make lining up the screens easier and require less software tweaking. Not all games support three-panel play, and in some gaming situations, your personal performance may suffer because the side panels can be distracting especially with a first-person shooter.

Back to top

Best Gaming Monitor Reviews

Below are the top five best gaming monitors covering a variety of sizes and price points. They are all good for gaming, but individual users may have preferences when it comes to speed and graphics card compatibility. One spec monitor makers have made laughable is native or dynamic contrast ratio, as John Brownlee of Geek.com explains. It is included in the reviews here but just for superficial comparison purposes. Contrast ratio should not be a deciding factor in choosing a gaming monitor.

BenQ XL2720Z

Overall Rating:

This 27-inch monitor is priced pretty low compared with the others on the list. It has an extensive menu for screen size and eye-strain adjustments and it has a blur-reduction mode. One unusual feature is a remote control for on-screen display access. There also is a dust cover.

The monitor comes with three USB ports and a headphone jack. The stand is highly adjustable with height, tilt, pivot and rotation. Because it uses TN (twisted nematic) panel technology, it has a super fast response time.

The downside of TN is you have to be looking directly at the monitor, or the picture quality will suffer. The high refresh rate of 114 Hz can help make up for the TN shortcomings. If your primary objective is to play first-person shooters in competition, this monitor is a good choice. If you want to use the monitor for other things such as video editing or watching movies, this monitor may not be the best choice.

PROS:
  • Response time: 1 ms
  • Refresh rate: 144 Hz
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Native contrast: 12M:1
  • 2 HDMI connectors
  • Relatively inexpensive
CONS:
  • No FreeSync/G-Sync
  • Colors not as well represented as IPS
  • TN panels have bad viewing angles

Acer B286HK

Overall Rating:

For about $100 more than the above BenQ, the Acer B286HK includes 4K resolution. As mentioned earlier, 3850 x 2160 is really UHD or QHD. Regardless of what you call it, this monitor beats standard HD by a lot.

Yes, it does use TN technology, so the negative angle issues are present. Because of the response time, it's a fast monitor for gaming. The monitor comes with four USB 3.0 ports. By the way, USB 2.0 vs. 3.0 for most peripherals is no big deal. It's doubtful a gamer would plug in a keyboard, mouse or external hard drive to a monitor. The only thing sillier than that would be using the speakers on any monitor.

You'll need to use the DisplayPort to get 4K at 60 Hz. Information about the HDMI port on this monitor is a little squirrelly. You need HDMI 2.0 to get 4K. It's the same shape connector as previous versions of HDMI, but it's faster.

The Acer B286HK bezels are thin, and the color is subdued. The stand is highly adjustable, but it might bounce a little when people are walking by. There are VESA mounting holes on the back, so you could put it on a wall, arm or another stand.

PROS:
  • Response time: 2 ms
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160
  • Native contrast: 1M:1
  • DVI with HDCP
CONS:
  • Don't count on HDMI 2.0
  • 1 DisplayPort
  • The built-in speakers arern't great
  • No FreeSync/G-Sync
  • The stand is a little wobbly

Acer Predator X34

Overall Rating:

This is an expensive monitor as in more than $1,200. The biggest selling point and most noticeable feature is the curved sides. Acer is calling this a QHD, widescreen monitor. At 34 inches, 22 pounds, it's huge for a monitor. The stand looks like a Predator claw, and the Acer Predator X34 should deliver some serious bragging rights.

Part of the premium price comes with the advantages of IPS (in-plane switching) technology. Colors will look better than monitors with TN, and viewers should be able to sit at off-center angles and not suffer. Gus Tech made a video discussing the differences between IPS and TN.

If you're worried about the slow response time with IPS, the G-Sync overclocking option can significantly make up for it.

The back of the unit has VESA wall mounting holes, but the curved sides may make a wall-mount configuration a little hazardous.

The monitor includes four USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack. There are nine LED lights on the bottom edge of the unit that are customizable. You can turn them off after they start bugging you. The stand only allows height and tilt adjustments. The X34 has a handle on top.

If you were going to buy three monitors and a triple-monitor-mount stand for a three-panel setup, the X34 might be a less expensive solution and a lot less hassle. Three-panel users normally have to reset their Windows display when switching from a game to other uses, and it just looks kind of weird when one or two monitors are blank.

Although the increase in productivity while using two monitors is debatable, the X34 at least gives users the space to work with multiple applications open on the screen simultaneously.

PROS:
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz, Overclocked up to 100 Hz with G-Sync
  • Resolution: 3440 x 1440
  • Native contrast: 1M:1
  • Display colors: 1.07 billion, which is a lot more than most monitors
  • No need for a three-panel configuration
  • IPS panel
CONS:
  • Response time: 4 ms
  • HDMI 1.4
  • 1 DisplayPort
  • No FreeSync
  • It will take up a lot of space
  • Stand does not allow swivel

Asus MG278Q

Overall Rating:

​It's only 27 inches, but the resolution on the ASUS MG278Q is definitely better than standard HD. It uses TN panel technology and has a 144 Hz refresh rate, so the response time is optimal for fast gaming. This monitor costs about $150 more than the BenQ XL2720Z, but the higher resolution and FreeSync option could be worth it for competitive gamers.

The stand allows tilt, height and swivel adjustments. The monitor's features of having two HDMI ports and two DVI ports are unique among the five monitors reviewed here. FreeSync enthusiasts, see the previously mentioned caution about parallel AMD graphics cards in regards to three-panel setups.

Asus offers a cool feature in the form of a blue light filter, which can reduce eye fatigue. Activating this option also decreases the accuracy of color representations. With FreeSync enabled, users can choose from three overdrive settings: 0, 60 or 100.

The Asus MG278Q is at a sweet spot. It has lots of speed and better than average resolution for a TN panel monitor but is still less expensive than IPS panel monitors.

PROS:
  • Response time: 1 ms
  • Refresh rate: 144 Hz
  • Resolution: 2560 x 1440
  • Native contrast: 1M:1
  • 2 HDMI, Dual-link DVI-D
  • FreeSync
CONS:
  • No G-Sync
  • 1 DisplayPort

LG 34UM67

Overall Rating:

A big draw for the LG 34UM67 is it's ultra wide as in 21:9. Of course, it you want a three-panel setup, you'll need an ultra-wide desk. Another unusual offering with this monitor is the LG Black Stabilizer. It senses dark scenes in games and automatically makes them brighter. That could make killing opponents easier.

If color quality is a priority and speed is secondary, for a little more than money than the Asus MG278Q, you can own a big, IPC panel technology monitor in the LG 34UM67. It also has FreeSync compatibility and two HDMI ports.The stand is not ergonomic, but it is stable. There is a VESA wall-mount option. There is a joystick under a panel on the bezel for adjusting OSD settings, and users can turn off the distracting LED power indicator. There are no USB ports on this monitor, so you'll have to charge your cellphone somewhere else.

Overall, the LG 34UM67 offers a lot of versatility for users who want to do more than just run games on the monitor. It would be easy to multitask with three windows open. Video and photo editing would be much more accurate than on a monitor with TN panel technology.

PROS:
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Resolution: 2560 x 1080
  • Native contrast: 5M: 1
  • IPS panel
  • 2 HDMI
  • FreeSync
CONS:
  • Response time: 5 ms
  • 1 DisplayPort
  • Stand has no adjustments
  • No USB ports
  • No DVI ports

Conclusion

Eventually, the war between TN and IPS probably will end with IPS the victor. Monitor makers either need to speed up the response time of IPS, or graphics card manufacturers need to offer more tweaks that will compensate for the lag.

Someone must still be using the speakers on monitors; otherwise, manufacturers would have stopped including them. For gamers, they are something to ignore like USB ports. But like buying a car, there usually are features on monitors you have to pay for but will never use.

Although it's not a big deal, it can be annoying. Check to make sure which cables the monitors you are considering include. It would suck to pick up your new monitor at a store, take it home, try to set it up and realize you don't have a necessary, DisplayPort cable.​

More Posts Like This:

About The Author

Matt Becker

Tech enthusiast. Providing the best, reviews, news, and rumors on the latest technology and PC gaming.

Related Posts