If you’re a PC gamer that wants to take the gaming experience to the next level, look at purchasing a dedicated gaming monitor. These gaming monitors usually offer higher refresh rates, better resolutions and improved screen tech to provide the best gaming experience possible, providing an upper hand in online gameplay.
It’s a great time to buy too – great image quality and fast performance are now available without a budget-breaking display. Here, we explain the kind of things to look out for when buying a gaming monitor, then offer our selection of the best gaming monitors of 2017 and 2018.
Here you will find our ultimate list of the best gaming monitors to buy in 2017 and 2018. Before you spend your hard-earned money, though, it’s well worth understanding which features are the most important for playing games.
Resolution and refresh rate
The first thing to consider is resolution. While it’s great to have a super high pixel density on your display to make your games look as crisp and realistic as possible, there’s a sacrifice to be made: extra pixels mean more graphical power is required.
You may be tempted by one of the UHD displays (also known as 4K). They boast a whopping 8.2 million pixels, suggesting they’ll provide the best-quality experience. They will show the most detail – that’s true – but you’ll probably have to sacrifice frames per second.
In fact, 4K displays are capped at 60Hz at the moment (60 frames per second). That may be enough for you – if you have a graphics card that can cope – but bear in mind that lower resolution monitors offer up to 144Hz refresh rate.
And as you’ve gathered by now, even if higher refresh rate UHD displays were available, the graphics card setup you’d need to get more than 60fps at 4K would set you back thousands.
Our advice is to aim for the sweet spot – 2560 x 1440, or QHD as it’s better known. It offers more pixels than a standard 1080p display without having to compromise on refresh rates, and the extra strain on your GPU shouldn’t be too bad either. You can always run it at 1080p if the game in question doesn’t run fast enough for you.
Panel tech is the second most important consideration when buying a gaming monitor. In theory this is much more straightforward than other areas. Put simply, the best performance for gaming comes from TN panel tech. Twisted Nematic screens tend to have the fastest response times, which is more important for gaming than perfect colour accuracy and contrast. Better still, TN screens won’t break the bank.
Always read our reviews if you want to make sure your chosen monitor has decent image quality: we understand that you’ll want to use it for things besides playing games, including editing the odd photo and perhaps video.
The most common size for monitors is 24-27in, but if you’re looking for something a little larger your best bet would be to opt for an IPS or VA display – both offer premium viewing experiences, but at a higher cost.
There are also curved panels to consider. It’s a personal preference, but some people really like the way the display wraps around them and gives a more immersive experience than a flat screen.
Similarly, if you plan on buying three monitors, make sure to choose a model with the thinnest possible bezels to minimise the gap between screens.
G-Sync vs Freesync
Adaptive refresh revolutionised video processing in PC gaming. Why? For the first time, it enabled monitors to adjust the refresh rate in step with the output of the graphics card, preventing frame tears. Tearing appears when rates are mismatched as the computer sends a new frame before the monitor has finished displaying the previous one. It looks ugly and you won’t want to see it.
There are two types of adaptive refresh – AMD’s Freesync and Nvidia’s G-Sync – and while each essentially provides the same thing, there are differences between the two. G-Sync is only compatible with Nvidia graphics cards, and Freesync with AMD cards, so your decision should be based on your existing GPU, unless you’re looking to upgrade it in the near future.
Nvidia’s G-Sync features dedicated hardware within the monitor to power the adaptive refresh, which is why G-Sync-enabled displays are more expensive. AMD took a different route – instead of offering additional hardware, the company added new functions to the existing DisplayPort specification. This means Freesync monitors can be a lot cheaper.
What’s important to know is that you may not need either technology if you buy a monitor with a high refresh rate and have a powerful graphics card powering it.
Motion Blur Reduction
Motion Blur Reduction is worth looking out for. It allows the display to maintain motion resolution when the on-screen visuals become more intense and fast-paced. How? It works by strobing the backlight between frames, creating a shutter-like effect similar to that found by a film projector.
The idea behind it is to shorten the time a single frame appears on-screen, thus increasing motion resolution. There is a downside though, as Motion Blur Reduction can have a negative effect on the overall brightness of the display, sometimes to a noticeable level.
It’s not necessary if you’re planning on buying a monitor with adaptive refresh and the aim of playing at more than 60fps though, as the monitors should perform well enough without it.
Ports and connections
Most gaming monitors offer more than one input connection – some may offer a combination of HDMI, DisplayPort and even DVI – each with their own benefits. While DVI is useful, we’d focus on making sure you have at least one HDMI and one DisplayPort connection on your gaming monitor. If for nothing else, it allows you to quickly switch between multiple inputs via the display controls.
Why HDMI or DisplayPort? HDMI and DisplayPort offer both audio and video transfer, allowing your PC audio to play through the display speakers (if you want) without the use of any additional cables.
While both also offer 4K playback for high-end gaming, you’ll also need to make sure both the GPU and display offer HDMI 2.0/DisplayPort 1.3 support for [email protected] gaming.
We wouldn’t worry too much about the audio output of gaming monitors. Yes, some are better than others in reproducing an acceptable audio reproduction, but if you're a gamer, you'll either have your own speakers or a gaming headset.
On the plus side, most monitors have a 3.5mm auxiliary output for a convenient way to quickly connect your headphones.
Best gaming monitors of 2017
- Reviewed on: 17 November 2017
A marvellous piece of gaming technology that looks breathtaking with the few games that support HDR, and pretty good with everything else.
If you have a gaming problem, if you can live without G-SYNC, and if you can find one....maybe you can own a Samsung C32HG70.
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
- Reviewed on: 10 November 2017
As 1080p curved 144Hz gaming screens go, this is a great one for those that own an AMD GPU. It might seem expensive for a 1080p resolution panel, and it is a little. But, the 144Hz refresh rate, FreeSync, curved aspect and the excellent colour gamut do much to counterbalance the cost argument.
A higher resolution curved gaming screen this size is going to cost 30% extra or even more, and based on what GPU they have, this might be a better fit for many systems.
Read our AOC Agon AG272FCX review.
- Reviewed on: 8 May 2017
If it weren't for the eye-watering price, we’d recommend that every gamer got one of these incredible screens. Punchy colours and G-Sync smoothness is a very tempting combination, especially when delivered in such a gorgeously engineered package.
Read our AOC AGON AG271QG review.
- Reviewed on: 9 November 2017
There are marginally cheaper 144 Hz capable screens than this one, but they won't have the same visual impact as this one will create on your desk. Admittedly some of the more glitzy features aren't well considered, but you can deactivate them if they annoy.
There's a price implication to having such lovely looking hardware, but the Asus ROG STRIX XG27VQ does deliver on numerous other technical levels, somewhat cushioning that financial blow.
Read our Asus ROG STRIX XG27VQ review.
- Reviewed on: 25 September 2017
For the money, the GL2580HM is a little gem. Combining modern styling and performance where it matters, this screen is an excellent option for many budget gamers frustrated with screen lag.
Read our BenQ GL2580HM review.
- Reviewed on: 20 September 2017
A 240Hz displays go they few are more exotic looking than this one, or can deliver that refresh level with a 1ms response timing. The caveat of this one is that it’s almost exclusively for those people who have invested in AMD GPUs, or don’t care about adaptive sync.
Read our Alienware AW2518HF review.
7. AOC PDS241
- Reviewed on: 11 August 2017
Using a standard HDMI mini connector in a proprietary fashion is a rookie mistake for AOC, even if it provides a clever means to declutter the computer to screen connection. Looking beyond that foible, this is an effective screen for those that don’t want or need greater than 1080p resolution but do like technology to look like it was designed and not just specified.
Read our AOC PDS241 review.
8. Dell S2718D
- Reviewed on: 18 July 2017
If you desire wafer thin displays with very colourful output then Dell has engineered something quite stunning for you to drool over. It also supports the latest USB technology and HDR output, but at a price. That high cost pushes the Dell S2718D into the market for things that look great on executive desks, but are rarely used to their full potential. If you want something unapologetically chic to adorn yours then the S2718D is a taste of what screens will be like in the future, if we’ve not all switched to using augmented reality by then.
Read our Dell S2718D review.