Last Updated: Nov 21, 2018
Read on to learn everything you need to know about choosing the best gaming monitor which includes a breakdown of the important specs and features you should be aware of when shopping (in plain English) as well as our top gaming monitor picks on the market right now in terms of overall value for money. Your display plays an important part in your overall gaming experience, and it would be a let down to build an expensive, high-performance higher-end gaming rig only to hook it up to a low quality screen that limits the overall experience.
I would say in general that the more powerful your gaming PC build, the more important it is to pick a quality monitor that will allow you to take full advantage of your expensive hardware to view your games in clear, crisp detail minus any annoying screen lag. By lag I'm referring to ghosting which is when the screen can't keep up with fact-action - not to be mistaken by lag from your machine not being powerful enough. We'll cover ghosting in a second in more detail for those interested.
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing the best monitor for gaming is that you're quite likely to keep your monitor for years and so you want to make sure to get a decent-quality, reliable one from a good manufacture that will last to allow for a great immersive gaming experience for as long as possible. Ok, let's get into the more important factors to be aware of when choosing the best gaming monitor, and then to wrap up we'll cover the current best bang for your buck gaming monitors on the market right now for 1080p, 1440p, and 4K (IMHO).
The response rate of your gaming monitor refers to how quickly the screen updates and is one of the most important specs to look for when on the hunt for a good screen. The lower the response rate the better (lower response rates mean that the screen updates faster), and for fast-paced gaming you don't want to get a monitor that has a response rate any higher than 8ms.
6ms and under is even better, with 2ms and 1ms being the perfect situation. If you are playing fast-paced action game such as a racing or first person shooter, and your monitor has a slower response rate such as 10ms or above, you'll likely experience what is known as "ghosting" or lagging. Ghosting happens when the previous image displayed on the screen can still be seen as a blur for moments after the image has changed. The better the response rate, the less noticeable it becomes.
The size that you choose all comes down to your own personal preference, and how much you're willing to cough up for your new screen. Massive displays can cost an arm and leg, especially the high quality ones with great specs. Another consideration is how powerful your gaming system is, because larger screens are viewed at larger resolutions and they require more powerful hardware to be able to be rendered quickly and smoothly.
Most gamers will be happy with the nice sweet spot of 23 or 24 inches which is large enough to be very immersive, but if you want an even better gaming experience then go for a nice 27" screen which is quite a popular size too. Just a word of warning though: if you ever start gaming on a huge display it's very hard to ever go back!
As for the resolution of your monitor, these days you don't want to go for anything less than full HD 1080p (which is 1920 x 1080). Most monitors will have this resolution but just make sure in case. The next step up is 1440p (2560 x 1440, also known as Quad-HD) which you'll find in screens 25 inches and bigger, and will require better hardware to run your games smoothly.
Then there's 4K (3440 x 1440) resolutions which requires even more power from your gaming PC so it's not for everyone. Plus, 4K monitors cost a ton and most people would do well to wait until they become more affordable, unless you have a ton of cash to splash right now of course. Also keep in mind that not all gaming graphics cards support 4K resolution.
Another thing you'll want to be aware of when choosing the best gaming monitor is the refresh rate, which is not to be mistaken for the response rate which we covered already. A higher refresh rate allows you to enjoy higher frame rates in your games without graphical tearing, which can happen when there's a discrepancy between your graphics card's frame rate and the refresh rate of your screen.
Standard monitors have the standard 60 Hz refresh rate, and that is fine if you're gaming on a budget and can't afford a more expensive monitor, but if you want the very best gaming experience you'll want to fork out a little more for a faster refresh rate screen such as 120 Hz or 144 Hz.
The difference between 120 Hz and 60 Hz is definitely noticeable, but if you do settle for a typical 60 Hz monitor then it's not the end of the world and you can still enjoy fast gaming so long as your response rate (explained above) is fast enough. But yeah, if you can, get 120 Hz or more and you won't look back! The only real downside to a higher refresh rate monitor for gaming is that you're going to need very good hardware to be able to reach those higher frame rates, and in demanding games this can require seriously beasty setups.
LED monitors are the exact same as LCD monitors, except they use LED backlighting which provides some advantages such as a brighter and sharper display, thinner screen, and lower power usage. LED monitors cost a little more than a standard LCD, but if you want the best gaming monitor then definitely make sure to get one. They're pretty much the standard these days anyway.
The contrast ratio of a monitor can be a helpful spec to generally compare picture quality between different monitors. In general, the higher the contrast ratio, the better the picture quality. With high contrast ratios your screen can produce deeper black levels, which creates a more immersive and visually sharp experience. Keep in mind that the contrast ratio isn't always an accurate measure of image quality, so don't use it solely to compare two monitors as there's more to it than that.
If you look at an LCD monitor from an angle, you will notice that the image appears dimmer and the colors can look weird. At extreme angles the entire image can even disappear. The viewing angle of an LCD monitor is the angle at which you can still view the screen clearly, and is usually listed in the monitor's specifications list.
The greater the viewing angle, the better, but for gamers the viewing angle doesn't really matter because you are looking directly at the screen the whole time. But there are some people who will consider the viewing angle important, for example if you need to show presentations with your LCD monitor.
When it comes to buying the best gaming monitor you'll typically get what you pay for, but remember to be sure to get one that has a fast enough response rate (5ms and under is best for gamer's), has LED lighting (ideally), and do your homework to check varied customer reviews (and professional reviews if you can) before buying to make sure things like image quality and reliability is solid.
The following are our picks of the current best gaming monitors for different budgets to help you in making a wise choice. Either of these screens will serve you well and have been proven to be high-quality and reliable for high-end gaming, and choosing between them comes down to your budget, size preference and resolution.
1080p, also known as full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) is the most common resolution for gaming today and what you're limited to anyway if your PC isn't a high-end beast as you'll need a very capable video card if you wanna play higher resolutions smoothly. So if you're building a budget or mid-range gaming PC under $800 or so, here are our top picks of the best gaming monitors for the money:
1440p resolutions (2560 x 1440 pixels) are becoming more common each and every year, but not recommended unless you're spending at least 200-300 dollars on a very nice graphics card to be able to handle it. These are our top picks of current best bang for your buck 1440p monitors for gaming right now:
As you can imagine you'll be needing some serious hardware to run 4K resolutions in a respectable manner. Don't think about it unless you're running at least a GTX 1070 card - ideally a GTX 1080 or more.
A hobbyist game programmer turned hardware enthusiast, Julien "cyberjulz" is the founder of BGC and has kept a keen eye on the latest in DIY gaming ever since starting BGC back in '06 as an almost laughably-basic and brief 20 page site with the aim to make building PCs more accessible to the average gamer since most resources weren't too noob friendly. Over countless reinventions and reiterations to the quality, depth and usefulness of the content over many years the site has steadily grown into the expansive, comprehensive and ever-updated first-time PC builder resource that it is today that now reaches and helps thousands of gamers and power users each month to more easily plan optimal setups for their exact needs. You can learn more about the BGC mission and ways to support it here.
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