If you’re looking for comprehensive reviews of the best gaming monitors out there in 2017, you’ve come to the right place!
A high-quality monitor is the most important part of any gaming setup. It doesn’t matter if your rig is an SLI monster running 4 GPUs at once, or a more modest build that’s simply meant to deliver some good-looking graphics – all that hardware is a complete waste if you don’t have the proper gaming monitor to take advantage of your machine’s full gaming potential.
The real problem is that there are almost too many gaming monitor options out there. Just do a quick Google search for “best gaming monitors” and you’ll instantly see what I mean. There are monitors meant specifically for FPS games, monitors for RTS games, monitors for movies, monitors for racing games, and monitors for literally any other sort of media out there. If you’re new to picking out a gaming monitor, things can get frustrating and confusing very quickly.
Even if you’re a veteran builder of gaming rigs, display technology moves so fast that I guarantee your info will be woefully out of date before you can say “vertical sync,” unless you spend all of your waking hours buffing up on the latest gaming monitor news.
The trick is to focus on the cornerstone qualities of a good gaming monitor. These fundamentals never really change – sure, the benchmarks and model numbers might go up and up and up, but it’s actually fairly simple to understand what goes into a good gaming monitor. To make the process as easy as possible for you, we’ve put together a comprehensive buying guide of “must know” information. When it comes to rounding out your rig with the best possible gaming monitor, Armchair Empire has you covered:
5 Best Gaming Monitors of 2017
Best Gaming Monitor Brands
For better or worse, the brand fanboys all go into overdrive when it comes to gaming monitors. You’ll get conflicting opinions left, right, and center, and you’ll probably end up more confused than ever if you wade into the murky abyss of brand debates.
There are two very important things to keep in mind when considering the type of brand you’d like your new monitor to be:
- The most important aspect of selecting a gaming monitor is that you actually like the monitor you pick out. You’re going to be the one using this monitor for (potentially) years to come – not acerfanboy227 from the CNet review comments. So, as a rule of thumb, don’t get too caught up in the brand wars. Find a model that you personally like, and start by exploring the other options available to you from that brand.
- Even so, certain brands do have well-deserved reputations for producing especially good or especially bad gaming monitors. To help you get started, we’ll go over a few of the most common brand names you’ll see during your search for the perfect gaming monitor.
Brand disclaimer: It’s impossible to be objective when it comes to brands. Even within one single brand you’ll almost always be able to find a fantastic display model as well as a piece of trash display model. Do not take our “brand overviews” as fact – do your own brand research, and get a feel for the reputation that each of these brands has earned themselves over the years.
Acer Gaming Monitors
Acer may very well be the most “well-known” brand in the game when it comes to gaming monitors (and all monitors in general). Acer produces displays for all circumstances and at most price points, too. The Acer brand is a great place to start if you’re truly at a loss when looking to buy a new gaming monitor.
HP Gaming Monitors
HP has long had a reputation for producing computers computer peripherals of all kinds – monitors are no exception. You can find some truly spectacular HP displays out there, and they tend to be on the more affordable end of the spectrum as well.
Asus Gaming Monitors
Many Asus monitors will land squarely in the mid-high price tier. Asus monitors often focus on delivering cutting-edge display features baked into stylish, aesthetic hardware designs.
BenQ Gaming Monitors
BenQ’s line of gaming monitors caters specifically to more serious gamers, and the features, build-quality, etc reflect that. These are typically high quality panels that are made with gamers in mind. The price tag will often reflect this!
ViewSonic Gaming Monitors
ViewSonic has a large selection of high end gaming monitors out there, as well as some budget-friendly models too.
Sceptre Gaming Monitors
Sceptre is well-known for producing affordable, functional displays for any gamer and user out there.
Samsung Gaming Monitors, LG Gaming Monitors, and Dell Gaming Monitors
We’re lumping these together just because these are the big-name brands that everyone’s heard of. You’re best served by looking into monitors on a model-by-model basis with these big-name brands, just because quality and popularity can vary wildly from generation to generation.
AOC Gaming Monitors
AOC has been affectionately described by a Reddit user as a “keep it simple stupid” company. In other words, they build well-made, simple monitors, and sell them at budget-friendly prices.
This is one of the most common concerns out there when it comes to selecting the best gaming monitor for your needs – what sizes is the “right” size?
In other words, the age-old question: Does size really matter? When it comes to gaming monitors, the answer is a resounding yes. Bigger is almost always better while gaming – when’s the last time you heard someone say “wow, I really wish I was playing this on a smaller screen?”
Before we jump into the different sizes of gaming monitors available to you, a quick note: the measurements associated with nearly all gaming monitors describe the diagonal length of the screen. In other words, a monitor that’s 24 inches measures 24 inches between diagonally opposite corners.
Now, if you’re serious about your gaming, you really don’t want to go smaller than a 24-inch monitor. If you work a desk job with multiple monitors, those are likely 24 or even 27 inch screens.
Monitor size should really be dictated by desk space – if you don’t have a spacious desk, then a 24-inch monitor might be the perfect choice for you. On the other hand, if desk space isn’t an issue, then you really can’t go wrong with a 27-inch, 30-inch, or larger gaming monitor.
Your monitor’s resolution is a measurement of how many pixels wide and how many pixels tall your monitor is. Your benchmark here is what most people refer to as “full HD,” which is a resolution measuring 1,920 pixels wide by 1,080 pixels tall. You can find monitors out there with worse resolutions, but you will notice your games and movies looking worse in comparison to full HD displays.
On the other hand, it’s 2017 and you now have access to truly crazy resolutions – if you’re in the market for the best possible gaming monitor, you can go up one level to a Wide, Quad High-Definition (WQHD) gaming monitor that measures 2,560 pixels by 1,440 pixels, for example. Or, you can take it all the way and splurge on a 4k / Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) monitor with a resolution of 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels. At this upper end of gaming monitors, many models will come with a 21:9 aspect ratio (instead of the normal 16:9 aspect ratio) and may feature panels that are slightly curved in order to immerse you even further into your media.
As a wrap-up on gaming monitor resolutions, you must keep in mind that the higher the resolution, the harder it is for your graphic card to keep everything running smoothly and without frame rate lag. If you decide to invest in a 4k / UHD display, you may very well need to upgrade your GPU before you’ll be able to take full advantage of the monitor’s breathtaking image capabilities.
Panel Type / Technology
When it comes to panel type & technology, there’s not one type that all of the best gaming monitors use. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and personal opinion does come into play here. So don’t look for a hard-and-fast answer to the question “what panel type is best for gaming monitors?”!
There are three main panel types / display technologies that you’ll come across when browsing gaming monitors. Like I said, each comes with different pros and cons – you just need to make sure you’re happy with whichever you choose. It’s always best to view these display types in person to get a good feel for the differences between the three.
Before we get into the three types of panels, here are a few terms to keep in mind:
- Contrast ratio: The ratio of white to black that a display system can produce. The higher the contrast ration, the better.
- Viewing angle: The angle from which you look at your display panel. Certain technologies have better viewing angles than others, meaning you’re able to look at the monitor without being directly in front of it and still see the screen accurately and clearly.
Twisted Nematic (TN) Panels
Right off the bat, TN panels are usually the most affordable of the bunch. If you have three monitors that are exactly the same other than their panel types, the TN panel will always cost less than the other two technologies.
However, TN Panels also have the worst viewing angles and color efficacy of the three different panel technologies. If you look at a TN panel from any angle other than dead-on, you will notice color distortion to the point of not even being able to see what’s on the screen (depending on what angel you’re viewing from). As for contrast ratios, most TN panels come with a static ration of 1000:1 – this is notable lower than most VA panels, but is on par with many IPS panels.
If you’re looking for a budget gaming monitor that performs well with a low response time and high refresh rate, a TN panel may be perfect for you. These are often the go-to monitors of professional gamers because of their extremely low response times and high refresh rates.
But, if you’re looking for good color accuracy and a wide range of viewing angles – perhaps for design work, video editing, and so on – you should probably pass on a TN display panel.
It’s worth noting that the viewing angle problems of TN panels get worse as the overall size of the monitor increases – even if you’re viewing your monitor head-on, you may experience color distortion around the edges if the monitor is wide enough.
Vertical Alignment (VA) Panels
Overall, VA panels have much better viewing angles and color accuracies than TN panels do – they’re also more expensive.
Of the three technologies, VA panels have the highest contrast ratios, but they also have the highest (worst) response times of all three panel types. A high response time often results in blurring during quick movement on screen, which obviously isn’t the best thing in the world for most types of gaming.
Overall, VA panels are never the best choice for gaming monitors, although they serve fine as everyday panels.
In-Plane Switching (IPS) Panels
IPS panels were developed to take care of the viewing angle and color reproduction issues of TN panels. IPS panels tend to have better contrast rations, better viewing angles, and better color accuracies than TN panels do, although this all comes at the cost of slightly slower response times, lower refresh rates, and a more expensive price tag.
IPS panels may not be the optimal choice for professional gaming and fast-moving shooters, but they’re honestly the go-to choice for most gamers in 2017. They strike the perfect balance between gorgeous picture reproduction and acceptable response time / refresh rate functionality – both IPS response times and refresh rates have gotten better and better in recent years, to the point that a casual gamer won’t notice either lacking if he or she doesn’t read about the differences beforehand.
A gaming monitor’s refresh rate is how long the unit takes to redraw the entire screen. Refresh rates are measures in hertz (hz), and your run-of-the-mill monitor will ship with a 60Hz refresh rate. In the case, 60Hz means your screen gets refreshed 60 times per second.
When it comes to gaming, 60Hz is definitely a “low” refresh rate. Quick movement in movies or video games often appears blurry or “ripped” at 60Hz refresh rates, and you might see “screen tearing” as well.
Screen tearing is what happens when you see pieces from two or more screen re-draws at the same time. You won’t be table to distinguish anything specific with screen tearing, but it will make your game or movie appear choppier and less aesthetic overall.
If you want to make sure your new gaming monitor is ready to handle whatever games and movies you throw at it, you’ll want to spend a bit of time looking for a unit with a 120Hz refresh rate or higher. Essentially all of the best gaming monitors have higher refresh rates, which help to minimize motion blur and screen tearing, but are also necessary (usually) for 3D.
Pixel Response Time
A monitor’s pixel response time is one of the most important metrics to consider when shopping for a new gaming monitor.
The pixel response time is how long it takes a pixel to transition from one shade of gray to another, measured in milliseconds (ms).
For gaming, you’ll want to find a monitor that has a pixel response time of 4ms or less. 2ms or less is ideal, but your average gamer won’t notice a difference in the 4ms response time range. Higher response times cause motion to appear smeared or blurred on your screen.
Input lag is pretty much what it sounds like – the time it takes for an input (mouse click/movement, keyboard click, etc) to display on your screen. You want this to be as low as possible for obvious reasons when it comes to gaming. If you’ve ever experience the magic of “normal” lag when playing something online, you can only imagine how frustrating it would be to deal with that lag as a built-in “feature” of your brand-new gaming monitor.
Input lag is measured in milliseconds, and the cutoff seems to be around 30ms – anything more and even the most casual of gamers will notice a delay on their inputs when playing.
Input lag is probably the #1 characteristic to consider when buying a new gaming monitor. Models with higher input lag timings can really ruin an otherwise fantastic gaming experience, whereas the best gaming monitors come with such small degrees of input lag that gameplay will feel like it’s happening in real time.
We’ve mentioned screen tearing a few times throughout this piece, but it deserves a more in-depth discussion.
Screen tearing is what happens when your monitor shows information from multiple frames in a single screen draw. This happens when your GPU’s output isn’t synced up with your monitor’s refresh rate, which happens often when playing video games.
Your framerate is constantly changing when gaming, and will go up or down depending on the complexity of the image on your screen at any given time. These framerate changes cause your GPU to “desync” from your monitor’s refresh rate, and you get a bunch of lovely “tearing” artifacts on your screen.
To combat this screen tearing, a few different solutions and implementations exist. We’ll go over the three most common below:
You’ve probably heard of v-sync before. It’s that option in just about any video game out there, that you’ve probably enabled or disabled a few times out of frustration caused by your frame rate dropping. V-sync “solves” screen tearing by way of double or triple buffering – this unfortunately causes larger amounts of input lag, which you really don’t want while gaming.
G-Sync is Nvidia’s mixed hardware + software solution to screen tearing, and it works while your frame rate stays below your monitor’s refresh rate. G-Sync achieves tear-free gaming through a number of technical complexities that I won’t go into here, quite frankly because I don’t understand them well enough to explain them to you. G-Sync is embedded into a hardware chip that’s physically inside of Nvidia certified monitors.
Free sync is AMD’s solution to screen tearing, and it works by letting your monitor sync its refresh rate to your GPU as long as you’re operating within the variable refresh rate of your monitor.
What does all of these syncs mean?
You don’t have to understand the why or the how – you just have to keep in mind that screen tearing is a real problem that can affect both gaming and movie watching.
The standard v-sync solution shows up a bit dated in the face of more modern solutions such as Nvidia’s g-sync and AMD’s free sync, and it’s probably worth an extra few minutes of your time to invest in a monitor that takes advantage of the latter two solutions, so that you can rest easy knowing you won’t have to suffer through screen tearing nor increased input lag.
Video Input Options
You want to buy a gaming monitor that integrates flawlessly with any sort of gaming or media consumption equipment you already own. This means making sure any potential monitors accommodate the appropriate video input options, whether that’s HDMI, DisplayPort inputs, DVI connectivity, or even good old USB port inputs.
USB ports are especially useful because you can often plug even more peripherals – like a mouse and keyboard – directly in to your monitor, instead of having to reach under your desk or back around behind your tower.
If this gaming monitor is going to be a part of a multi-monitor setup, you want to make sure you have enough ports as well! Dual-HDMI inputs are fairly common in 2017 and are incredibly useful when your monitor ends up as part of your home A/V setup.
You can find gaming monitors that come with just about anything these days. Some displays come with fully-integrated, high quality speaker systems built right into the panel, for example. Others come with special stands and mounting devices that let you get quite creative when position your monitor on your desk. If you have a specific feature in mind that you’d like to get along with your monitor, you’ll likely be able to find it with a bit of searching!
While we’re listing price last, you really should nail down your budget before you do much else. That alone will help tremendously if you just want to narrow your search down. The good news is that there are excellent gaming monitors available at just about every price point out there. There are plenty of sub $150 monitors that are perfect for even the most hard-core gamers, although there’s not really a price ceiling on the other end of things. If you have the cash, some of those extra-wide UHD displays can easily run you $1500+.
Gaming Monitor Wrap-up
Let us again say that this gaming monitor buying guide hardly scratches the surface when it comes to monitor shopping. You can only do so much with objective information – at the end of the day, the sort of gaming monitor you settle on depends more so on your own personal onions and preferences, and on the extent of your other hardware, than on anything else.