Gaming Monitor Guide
I have been happy using my Philips E-Line 227E3LSU monitor with 60hz (VGA cable ftw) for more than 5 years now, till I saw my brother gaming on his shiny new PC build and monitor.
As I watched him, I realized his graphics are even more slick and smooth compared to mine. So I asked him what’s so special about his build, after all we have the same graphics card & similar rig.
He told me that I’m not getting the full experience of my graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB) unless it’s on a 120hz monitor.
I play a lot of League at medium settings, and it seems that with my rig, I can get over 150 FPS at 1080 resolution!
And I'm wasting my rig's potential at 60hz...
So I began my quest on finding out more on Gaming Monitors and how they actually work!
Whether you’re an old-timer considering to upgrade your Gaming Monitor or you’re a fresh-faced gamer, in this guide, you'll learn how to choose the best Gaming Monitor for your rig!
1. Terminology & Facts
So I found out, the main difference between a gaming monitor and a normal panel is that gaming monitors focus on producing low Response Time (GtG) as well as reacting to the input by your rig as fast as possible - aka Input Lag.
Every screen is made up of pixels and every pixel produce part of the image that you're looking at right now.
And Response Time is the monitor’s capability to switch between pixels, and the fastest GtG rates are 1ms.
To explain input lag, we need to start from the top.
The input is YOU (either by pressing a button or click of the mouse) and your PC has to process it, transfer and display the image on your monitor.
All these happen in milliseconds. And response time is included in this input lag as well.
This is critical for those of you who play competitive online games that require twitch-like responses..
Every ms counts right?
For those of you who love to enjoy single player titles, where you immerse yourself in the breathtaking story & graphic quality the game brings, look higher resolution size and color saturation.
If your space allows it, get a bigger one as well!
Refresh rate / What does Hz actually mean?
Here’s the mind blowing part - videos are actually ‘made’ by connected, fast moving images. And monitors refresh many times per second to produce that effect.
Refresh rate is measured by frequency (Hz) - meaning 120hz is 120 times per second.
And the higher the refresh rate, the faster, more responsive and less blurry the image will be.
Frames Per Second (FPS) is not the same as the refresh rate - FPS is how many frames your gaming PC is producing every single second.
They sound the same, but they are fundamentally different.
Refresh rate is determined by a combination of your monitor's capability, the current resolution and your graphics card capability.
FPS is determined by your graphics card and your CPU, and the games' code efficiency.
As some gaming monitors may boast super-high refresh rates, that doesn't mean your gaming rig is able to produce that much output (FPS).
Likewise, if your gaming rig is top notch (high FPS) but you’re only using a 60hz gaming monitor, you’re wasting your rig’s capability.
Modern gaming monitors have adaptive sync to minimize and prevent screen tearing - where sometimes if the GPU is not in sync with the monitor and you see multiple frames in the display.
Look at G-sync technology and Freesync monitors to reduce screen tearing and other motion artifacts while lowering input lag
Size & Resolution
To choose the right monitor size for you, look at your available gaming area space.
For gaming monitor sizes, they are measured by the length of the diagonal corners and can range from 23 to 38 inches.
Get a rough estimate by measuring how big your gaming space can fit and your viewing distance from the monitor.
The bigger it is, the further you’ll want to sit away from.
From there, look at the screen resolution and monitor size ratio – pixel density (PPI).
The resolution you choose is directly affected by the GPU you own and its processing power as well.
1080p (FHD) is the most common, followed by 1440p (QHD) and 4K (UHD).
The higher the resolution is, the more crisp the picture will be, and you will need a more powerful graphics card to support the monitor as well.
If you are choosing a large panel but low resolution like 32-inch at 1080p resolution, it could get really grainy - where you can see the pixels.
These are the recommended sizes with matching resolution
- 24-inch to 25-inch: 1080p
- 27-inch: 1440p or 4K
- 28-inch to 32-inch: 4K
- 34-inch ultrawide: 3440×1440
24-25 inch monitors are suitable for competitive gaming as you can sit quite close to the screen without affecting your peripheral awareness - you can easily keep an eye on your health bar and map without constantly moving your head.
At this screen size and resolution, it is high enough that you won't be able to identify each pixel, and with a standard graphics card, you can achieve higher frame rates for smoother gameplay.
If you’re venturing to 27-inch, you may need to sit further from the screen and enjoy the 4K resolution with your games.
28 to 32-inches is superb for single player titles that allows you to dive into the atmosphere of the game world as mentioned above, though you may need to invest in a controller or longer desk so you can sit at a comfortable distance.
With ultrawide monitors, you can get a wider field of view in game - that helps you to spot things that you may never have spotted.
However, you may need a stronger graphics card or lower the in-game graphics settings to have a high frame rate.
2. Identify the Potential of Your Rig
Research your card and MONITOR together and find what is going to be the best for your GAMING RESOLUTION.
Most people end up choosing the cheaper 60hz options without much thought.
One key factor is your graphics card capabilities to produce FPS at the respective resolution as mentioned above.
The manufacturers will usually display their FPS performance numbers based on the resolutions.
For example, if it can do 60 FPS @ 1440p, but you only have a 60Hz monitor then you’re bottlenecking your PC’s performance.
With a high refresh rate monitor, you get smoother images - an appropriate 144hz monitor will be a great investment.
Other system hardware like a matching motherboard, CPU and memory also plays a part in producing good FPS.
Use this GPU benchmark by gpucheck.com - extremely useful to compare and match your graphics card with your CPU and see the average FPS performance for each resolution.
3. Panel Technology and Connectors
Okay, so now you roughly know what refresh rate, size and resolution you're looking for in a Gaming Monitor.
And you'll probably see terms like TN, IPS popping up.
There are 3 main types of Panel Technology in gaming monitors -
Twisted Nematic (TN)- the classic go-to for gaming monitors for their high refresh rates & low price.
TN technology also allows monitors to have the lowest input lag, making it suitable for competitive games where twitch-like responses are critical.
However, they are limited in their viewing angles - about 170-degrees horizontally and 160-degrees vertically, and the colour depth could be muted where some colours may seem dated..
In-plane switching (IPS) - solid colour depth and the best viewing angles.
IPS panels are more colour accurate and are suitable for gamers who love their graphic quality and viewing angles - typically reaching 178 degrees.
Single player titles take note!
Though IPS panels have not achieved matching input lag times against TN.
Vertical Alignment (VA) - best color contrast and image depth
VA monitors have the highest contrast - most important factor in a monitor's image quality.
So if you’re looking for the best picture, you can go for VA, though the input lag is the worst performer and stocks are limited in the market.
Port Connectors – DisplayPort, HDMI 1.4/2.0, DVI and VGA.
In order for your monitor to produce the images that your PC produce, you need to connect them via the port connectors.
Based on technology, DisplayPort cable would be the best as it boasts the best bandwidth and supports adaptive refresh features like G-Sync and FreeSync.
Do take note as technology progresses, some older graphic cards & PC ports are unable to match with DisplayPort.
You probably have heard of HDMI from your television panel- and it has lower bandwidth and limited refresh rate of 60Hz in 4k resolutions.
DVI cables are practically ancient - seen in older setups and slowly phasing out.
DVI do support up to a refresh rate of 144Hz at 1080p resolution, that most HDMI 1.4 monitor connectors don’t.
4. Curved Vs Flat
As you may have guessed, curved monitors provide a relatively more immersive visual experience and streamlined viewing distance for your eyes.
When you sit right in the middle of the monitor, a curved screen actually directs light from all angles towards your eyes, and they work less as compared to a flat screen - where they have to adjust to images at varying distances on the screen.
And when your eyes are covering more angles - peripheral awareness, you will intuitively feel as if the screen is bigger.
Before you buy a curved monitor, make sure you understand the curvature numbers.
A 2300R curvature means a radius of 2300mm, with a suggested max viewing distance of 2.3 m from your eyes to the middle of the screen.
The lower the XXXR curvature, the more curved the display is.
Flat displays are still popular due to the affordability and the nature of being a flat screen.
If you have space constraints, a flat monitor may be more suitable for you as Curved monitors usually take up more space, more difficult to wall mount and place it in a position that you can view from most angles.
And you must also sit in the middle of the curved monitor to enjoy the best experience, while your friends or siblings can more easily enjoy gaming together from a flat monitor with varying angles.
Finding the best gaming monitor for yourself really depends on your gaming profile, your space, PC rig and budget.
If you play a lot of competitive games, get high refresh rate monitors (144Hz or more), and lowest input lag possible that matches your rig.
If you’re a casual gamer who won’t notice the difference between 60 fps or 144 fps, you can go for 60Hz coupled with adaptive sync and prioritize things like image quality and larger resolutions.
Choose the most suitable monitor resolution and size that matches your rig & budget.
Thank you for reading our Gaming Monitor Guide!
Comment below if you feel there's something more that you need to know!