How to Choose the Best Monitor for Gaming: The Features That Matter

buy-gaming-monitor2There are a few important considerations to take into account when choosing the best monitor for gaming. Your display plays an important part in your gaming experience, and it’s likely to be one of your longest lasting pieces of hardware (many people keep their monitors for 5+ years) so it’s wise to buy a decent one that will last.

Not all monitors are created equal, especially when it comes to high-end gaming which is what most of you reading this are all about. The last thing you want to do is hook up your new high-performing gaming PC to a low quality screen, as this will limit your overall gaming experience and you won’t be making the most of your expensive hardware.

Say you fork out tons of cash for the latest high-end CPU, a beast of a graphics card, and a ton of RAM, and then you output all that awesomeness to a cheap, crappy screen… in that case you may as well have pulled out your old dusty Pentium 4 rig from the 90’s.

Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating just a little, but your monitor can make a world of difference. I’d say that the more powerful your gaming PC, the more important your gaming monitor choice is to make sure you don’t let your hardware down.

So what makes the best monitor for gaming? What should you look for?

Shopping for a new computer monitor can get confusing real fast, especially with the vast range of different models available all with often-confusing specs that most people don’t fully understand such as response rate, contrast ratio, viewing angle, refresh rate, etc.

I’ll try my best to give you only what you need to know to be able to pick out the best monitor for gaming based on your budget and your wants. Here goes.

What Size?

The size of your new monitor will ultimately come down to personal preference, how much you’re willing to spend, and also the power of your gaming PC because massive screens need very capable hardware for flawless gaming. In general though, as a gamer you’ll want to get the biggest screen that you can afford, as larger screens generally make for a more immersive experience and really draw you in.

Most people are happy with anywhere between 21 to 25 inches, with 23 and 24 inches being very common among gamers and a nice sweet spot in the market because they’re a great size for gaming yet not too expensive. Of course, if your PC can handle it and you have the dough to spend, get a massive 27, 28, or even bigger screen and you won’t look back and gaming will never be the same again!

Resolution

The resolution of a monitor, measured in pixels, is basically how detailed or sharp the image displayed will be. Larger monitors will naturally support larger resolutions, and if you plan on playing games in very high resolutions you’ll need to ensure your graphics card is powerful enough and has support for the specific resolution you wish to use. For example, many modern day GPUs don’t even support 4K resolutions yet.

If you have built a new mid to high-end gaming rig, you won’t want to settle for anything less than full HD 1080p (1920 × 1080) which is pretty much the standard these days anyway. The next step up is 1440p (2560 x 1440, also known as Quad-HD), which is less common but offers even more detail.

Then there’s 4K (3440 x 1440) which offers insane graphics, but 4K monitors are still very expensive so I would personally avoid that for now unless you have a very loose budget to be able to afford one AND to be able to put together an extreme gaming build that can handle it.

Response Rate

The response rate is an important specification for gamers as it determines how fast your monitor refreshes its display. The lower the response rate, the better, and the smoother your fast-paced games will look.

If the response rate is too high, those with a keen eye for detail will notice slight blurring whenever there is quick movement on the screen. This is known as “ghosting”.

So what is a good response rate? In general, I would recommend sticking to a monitor with a response rate of 8ms (milliseconds) or less. 6ms or less is even better, whilst the very best gaming monitors out there will have response rates of 4ms or less which is ideal.

gaming monitor response rate

Refresh Rate

Not to be confused with the response rate, the refresh rate of a monitor is another important feature to consider for gaming. The higher, the better.

Most monitors have the standard 60 Hz refresh rate, which is still fine for gaming, but the very best gaming monitors on the market have higher refresh rates such as 120 Hz or 144 Hz which allow for higher frame rates in your games without the phenomenon known as graphical tearing occurring.

Graphic tearing can happen when there’s a discrepancy between your GPU’s frame rate and your monitor’s. So in general if you’re picky about your graphics and your overall experience, get a monitor with a faster refresh rate than 60 Hz if you can afford it. You’ll be glad you did and if you ever go back to gaming on a 60 Hz screen you will notice a clear difference.

LED or LCD?

These days LED monitors are the standard, but non-LED monitors are still around. LED screens use LED backlighting which has advantages over the older-style LCD screens such as brighter and sharper images, a thinner screen, and lower power usage. When LEDs first came out they were quite a bit more expensive, but these days that’s not the case and they’re the norm so there’s no reason not to get an LED monitor.

Image Quality

Not all monitors are created equal when it comes to the actual sharpness and quality of the image. This is something best judged by actually seeing the monitor in action before you buy, but that’s not always possible in this day and age where buying online is the norm and that’s okay because you can simply read various reviews from customers and experts online.

Remember not to base your opinion from a single review. Always check multiple sources to ensure you make a smart purchase. Another spec that can be handy sometimes is the contrast ratio, which gives a rough indication of how sharp the image quality will be (in general the higher the contrast ratio the better), but whatever you do don’t rely on it as it’s just one factor of many when deciding on the best monitor for gaming.

Viewing Angle

Not really of importance when choosing the best monitor for gaming, but I’ll include it here in case somebody wants to know. The viewing angle is usually listed somewhere in the specifications list monitor and represents the maximum angle at which the screen can be viewed normally without the colors and brightness being affected.

This will rarely be of significance to you as a gamer because you’ll likely always sit directly in front of your screen. But if you plan to ever use your monitor on an angle for other things such as presentations, you may want to take the viewing angle into account.

Connections

It’s a good idea to also check the connections that a monitor supports to ensure that your video card connection is supported. For example, if your video card outputs to DVI, make sure your monitor has a DVI port (although you can always get an adapter). If you plan on using your monitor as a TV, you will need a HDMI port too (most modern monitors will have one).

how to choose a monitor for gaming

Power Consumption

Unlikely to be a deciding factor for gamers, but if you’re a concerned environmentalist type or you need to be wary of your power consumption for whatever reason then this spec may play somewhat of a part in your overall buying decision.

Final Thoughts and My Recommendations

So there you have it, the most important factors to keep in mind when selecting the best monitor for gaming. Although the above specifications and features are not the only ones when it comes to monitors, they are definitely the most important for gamers to be aware of.

You should now know enough to be able to confidently choose the best monitor for gaming based on your budget. High-end gaming on a quality screen will do wonders for your overall experience and will allow you to take full advantage of your awesome new build.

Hope this article has helped. I’ll be compiling a list of my top gaming monitor picks in an upcoming article, so stay tuned for that if you need more help picking a solid bang for your buck screen.

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