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Best Gaming Monitors [2020 Guide] – Budget / 1080p / 1440p / 4K / 240Hz

CG Director Author Christopher Harper  by Christopher Harper   ⋮ 
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Best Gaming Monitors [2020 Guide] – Budget / 1080p / 1440p / 4K / 240Hz

Buying a great gaming PC or building your own is good and all, but all that power means nothing without a solid gaming monitor to go with it!

In this article, we’re going to walk you through our picks for the best gaming monitors.

You can skip down to our picks if you feel like, but first we’re going to tell you everything you need to know, in detail, in order to make an informed buying decision.

Even if you don’t get a monitor today, reading this article in full will arm you with all the knowledge you need to get the best monitor for your needs in the future.

Let’s hop into it!

Best Gaming Monitors Overview

For those of you just looking for quick Gaming Monitor recommendations, here are our Picks in an overview:

NoteBest Gaming MonitorLink
Budget 1080p Gaming MonitorAOC 22V2H 22-Inch 75 Hz IPS MonitorInfo / Buy
Best 1080p Gaming MonitorASUS VG248QG 24-Inch 165 Hz TN MonitorInfo / Buy
Budget 1440p Gaming MonitorPixio PX275h 27-Inch 95 Hz IPS MonitorInfo / Buy
Best 1440p Gaming MonitorASUS TUF VG27AQ 27-Inch 165 Hz IPS MonitorInfo / Buy
Budget Ultrawide Gaming MonitorLG 29UB67-B 29-Inch 75 Hz IPS MonitorInfo / Buy
Best Ultrawide Gaming MonitorLG 34GK950-F 34-Inch 144 Hz IPS MonitorInfo / Buy
Best Budget 240 Hz MonitorAcer XF250Q Cbmiiprx 24.5-Inch TN MonitorInfo / Buy
Best 240 Hz MonitorAcer Nitro XV273 Xbmiiprzx 27-Inch IPS MonitorInfo / Buy

What You Need From A Gaming Monitor

Understanding panel types

First and foremost, let’s talk panel types. The underlying panel type will determine a lot of things about your monitor, but this is one of the least-known monitor specifications!

TN vs IPS Monitor Panel

If you’re one of the many people out there who don’t really know the differences between TN, VA, and IPS monitors, read this section!

For information on stuff like color reproduction/gamut, viewing angles, refresh rates, and other specs mentioned below, check out the other sections.

Monitor Panel Types – TN vs VA vs IPS Panel – An Overview

 TNVAIPS
Refresh rateFastestMediumGenerally slowest
LatencyLowestLongestMedium
Viewing angleWorstBetterBest
Color qualityWorstBetterBest
PurposeGamingMulti-purposeProfessional
CostCheapestMid-pricedMost expensive

Resolution, screen size, PPI (Pixels Per Inch) and how they’re intertwined

The resolution of a given monitor is the count of its pixels. For instance, a 1080p monitor is simply an array of pixels that is 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall.

Monitor Resolution

Pixels correspond to detail and sharpness, with higher resolutions enabling greater detail.

Pixel Resolution and Detail in Monitors

However, resolution by itself doesn’t tell the full story. One must also take into account screen size, and the resulting measurement of PPI, or pixels per inch.

Pixel per Inch in Monitors

The perceived fidelity of a screen isn’t based on resolution alone. View distance and PPI are actually much more important.

Assuming an average viewing distance, the ideal PPI for a PC monitor should be around 90 PPI or higher.

Here are some common resolutions and the display size for them to hit 90 PPI:

  • 1080p resolution at 24 inches, with larger leading to a loss in perceived fidelity
  • 1440p resolution at 27 inches, which actually goes up to 108 PPI! You can actually go up to 32 inches and hit 90 PPI, which will mean no noticeable loss in fidelity compared to a 24-Inch 1080p monitor!
  • 4K resolution at 32 inches, which actually goes up to 137 PPI! That still leaves a lot of room for expansion, but monitors…don’t really get much bigger than that. You’d have to use a 48-inch TV at the same viewing distance (which would not be comfortable) to go below 90 PPI.

Keeping these PPI targets in mind, we chose our selection of monitors. Almost all of our 1080p monitors (sans the 240 Hz ones) are 24 inches or under, which keeps them looking sharp.

All of our 1440p and 4K monitors are 27 inches or larger, which ensures all that extra fidelity doesn’t go to waste on a screen too small for anyone without 30/20 vision to see it.

The importance of playing at native resolution when possible

Have you ever booted up an old GameCube or PS2 game on your shiny new TV, and felt like it looks worse than you remembered it? Sure, it’s at a lower resolution, but that can’t be the only reason why, right…?

Old game on new screen

You aren’t crazy: old games actually do look worse on modern screens, at least when they don’t match the screen’s full resolution. And that’s because of something called pixel scaling.

Old screens which used CRT technology didn’t really have to do much pixel scaling. They could display any image at any resolution within its range without any noticeable artifacts or blurring, provided the original image was up to snuff.

Explaining the exact physics of all of this is a little bit complicated, but basically it boils down to how CRTs displayed images, almost like a projector compared to how LCDs handle it.

Unfortunately, the switch to LCD has actually made things worse. That’s because every pixel on your screen is now a physical object, and if you’re running in fullscreen, each and every one of those pixels has to be doing something.

In order for you to accurately scale a lower resolution to your screen’s higher native resolution, that lower resolution must be one-fourth of your screen’s native resolution.

Think about it: pixels are squares, right? To make a square larger, you have to quadruple it in size by adding three other equivalently-sized squares.

Gaming Monitor Pixel Scaling and Interpolation - Upscaling

The issue with playing games at a sub-native resolution on an LCD display is that those extra squares still need to be filled in, regardless of whether or not the information is there.

This means that playing at 1080p on a 27-inch 1080p screen will look fine, if a little overblown, but that playing at 1080p on a 27-inch 1440p screen will look incredibly blurry, because your display or GPU have to “guess” the blanks left in the video signal.

To keep the best image quality, you always want to meet or even exceed your monitor’s native resolution.

CRTs don’t have this issue, but unfortunately…CRTs are no longer being manufactured, otherwise we would recommend one.

If you’re interested in learning more about pixel scaling, CRTs, and how these changes over time have impacted the gaming landscape…watch this Digital Foundry video, embedded below:

For now though, all you need to know is that maintaining native resolution is the best thing you can do for your in-game visuals.

How refresh rate impacts your gameplay, and how it relates to framerate

Refresh rate and framerate are very closely intertwined, but not exactly the same thing. Both are measures of how fast an image refreshes in a given second, though.

FPS Indicator Warcraft 3 Reforged - Monitor for Gaming

Image-Source: Warcraft 3 Reforged showing the FPS Indicator

With refresh rate, that is measured in Hertz, while framerate is that measurement as output by your software.

Think of it as hardware = Hertz and software = framerate (FPS), in other words.

Your maximum refresh rate will determine the maximum framerate that your monitor can actually output.

It doesn’t matter if you have 1000 FPS on a 60 Hz monitor: you’ll still be seeing only 60 frames a second. (And likely with some real severe screen-tearing and uneven frame pacing, lol.)

In order to see a benefit from getting higher FPS, you need higher refresh rates.

Higher refresh rates correspond to more perceived fluidity, and according to many third-party studies, improved player performance.

Which makes a lot of sense: if you’re only getting updates 60 times per second and the other guy is getting updates 120 times per second, he’s seeing things before you do, even if only by a few microseconds.

His monitor’s effective reaction time has doubled, and if he can keep up, so has his.

Gaming Monitor Refresh Rate

This is a big deal for gaming, obviously…but how much refresh rate do you actually need?

  • 60 Hz – The standard for most displays and games. Looks smooth enough to be playable.
  • 75 Hz – A slightly-boosted standard that can be reached via minor overclocking on many 60 Hz monitors. Looks a tiny bit smoother.
  • 90-100 Hz – Seen as a standard by certain value-oriented monitors and a common OC target for those using 75 Hz monitors. Looks a good bit smoother than 60 Hz- this is where most people will be likely to start noticing a difference.
  • 120 Hz – This is where the biggest differences will be seen. The high-refresh standard before 144 Hz phased it out.
  • 144 Hz – A minor bump over 120 Hz, and the current standard.
  • 240-300 Hz – The latest, cutting-edge standard. Ultimately a marginal difference, but a noticeable one for those with super-high reflexes and hand-eye coordination. Many eSports pros refuse to use anything else.

That’s the gist of it, anyway. If you want to learn more on the topic, watch the video we’ve embedded below.

How response time impacts your refresh rate, and gameplay

So first thing’s first: response time is not input lag! It sounds kind of similar, and a lot of gamers think they’re the same thing, but they’re not.

Response time differences

Image Credit: blurbusters.com

Input lag refers to the delay between your input and seeing that play out on screen. It isn’t just determined by the screen spec, either- your peripherals and the game code itself can also have an impact on this.

So if response time isn’t input lag…what is it?

First, we have to call it by its proper name: pixel response time. Pixel response time measures the time it takes for a pixel to shift colors, usually Gray-To-Gray (G2G), in milliseconds.

So…what does that actually impact?

Perceived motion blur! With a high pixel response time of 5 ms or more your image will appear to smear, or in extreme scenarios, even “ghost”.

Monitor response time differences

Image Credit: ViewSonic

This isn’t good in any scenario, but it’s especially bad when playing a shooter on PC, where rapid rotations and reactions are the norm.

If your screen is a blurry mess whenever you try to make a twitch shot, you will probably not be able to hit that shot with much precision. Low pixel response times reduce motion blur, and allow for clearer perceived motion.

So response time actually impacts refresh rate, not input lag. Having a super-high refresh rate display doesn’t matter if your response time is too low- the image will look too blurry for the extra frames to matter!

Monitor response time differences

Image Credit: gamehypermart.com

Some VA panel manufacturers do this, likely hoping that the advertised refresh rate spec will trick non-savvy consumers into thinking that alone will translate into good and clear motion reproduction.

Fortunately for you, we’ve been extra careful to select monitors that are at least mostly good in this regard, if not great (or perfect, in any TN panel’s case). Just for your reference though, here’s an idea of how response times will correspond to effective refresh rate:

  • 1 ms – Will work with any refresh rate, since it’s basically perfect.
  • 4-5 ms – Will work fine with any refresh rate at or below 144 Hz. Higher refresh rates may start to look a little smeary, though.

We have an in-depth Monitor Guide that takes an in-depth look at refresh rates, response times and input lag – if you’re a serious gamer, be sure to give it a read.

About Overdrive/response time monitor settings

Many gaming monitors will ship with settings that allow you to change your response time. This setting will usually be called Overdrive, Response Time, or something similar.

No monitor overdrive

Image Credit: blurbusters.com

So if all you care about is raw performance, you should turn this setting to “Fastest”, right?

Not…necessarily. While these settings do technically work, they often introduce artifacting, especially an artifact called overshoot, where the pixels go farther than they should when trying to keep up with your motion.

Maximum monitor overdrive

Image Credit: blurbusters.com

Not only does this look ugly, but it can be quite jarring. Usually, you’ll want to stick with your monitor’s Low or Medium setting when it comes to this, but it can vary on a case-by-case basis. Don’t be afraid to look it up!

Medium monitor overdrive

Image Credit: blurbusters.com

To learn more about Overdrive settings and their pros and cons, click here.

Color accuracy and HDR

If you want a really in-depth look at color accuracy and other stuff, click here to check out the corresponding section in our article on 4K monitors.

Monitor Color Gamut and Color Accuracy

Most of this stuff isn’t too relevant to gaming, though, so we’re just going to break down the key points that gamers need to know here:

  • Color gamut refers to the widest range of colors your display can use. A higher percentage is better, and DCI-P3 is better than sRGB. A 90% or higher rating of either of these is superb, though.
  • Color accuracy refers to how accurately the colors within the supported gamut are displayed. For gaming purposes, you generally don’t need to worry about this unless it looks off- you can just tweak it to your liking. Professionals will want to calibrate this stuff, though.
  • HDR, as it pertains to monitors and not photography, refers to the maximum brightness and darkness of a given image. The higher the HDR certification, the wider this range gets. HDR most benefits dark or high-contrast scenes.
    Unfortunately, most PC HDR is kind of bad, because PC monitors are much much smaller than the 4K TVs this standard was made for. For PC gaming, for now, this isn’t much to worry about.

FreeSync, G-Sync, VRR, and how they impact your gameplay

FreeSync and G-Sync are basically the same thing, and since they’ve now both made themselves compatible with each other on modern AMD and NVIDIA GPUs, the difference no longer matters.

Gaming Monitors AMD Freesync vs Nvidia Gsync

(Slight correction: FreeSync and G-Sync work on both GPU brands, but G-Sync only works on AMD GPUs if the monitor in question was released after November 2019. Also, “G-Sync COMPATIBLE” monitors are just FreeSync monitors.)

These are both VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) technologies, and this technology as a whole is properly called VESA Adaptive Sync. To properly explain this, we will first need to explain V-Sync.

V-Sync, or Vertical Sync, is a technology used to synchronize in-game frames to the refreshes of your screen. When these things are not synchronized, you’ll notice vertical lines where your screen seems to lag or look weird- these are called screen tears.

Screen tearing

Screen tearing

Some implementation of V-Sync is required in order to prevent screen tearing, but unfortunately that comes at the cost of increased input lag, and more severe framerate drops whenever performance drops below the V-Sync target.

Unless…

Unless the monitor does it, instead!

FreeSync and G-Sync work like V-Sync, but synchronize the monitor’s refresh rate to the game, instead of the other way around. This prevents screen tearing, doesn’t cost any frames if performance dips, and doesn’t cost any input latency!

Screen tearing without AMD Freesync

So long as the signal stays within the VRR range (usually starting around 40 Hz and going up to the monitor’s max refresh rate), then screen tearing will be virtually non-existent and things will feel incredibly smooth.

Fortunately, we’ve included monitors with FreeSync or G-Sync (mostly FreeSync) in all of our selections in this article.

So what’s the deal with Ultrawide, anyway?

Ultrawide refers to displays that come in a 21:9 aspect ratio, rather than the 16:9 that is standard for all other consumer displays.

Ultrawide display

Image Credit: Youtube – PC Centric

These Ultrawide displays have become especially popular among gamers, because supported titles allow for an even wider and more immersive view into their favorite games.

Most modern games support it, but some- especially multiplayer titles- may choose to disable it to encourage an even competitive playing field.

Before investing in Ultrawide, make sure that your favorite games support the feature!

Our Picks

Budget 1080p Gaming Monitor – AOC 22V2H 22-Inch 75 Hz IPS Monitor

Our pick for best budget 1080p gaming monitor is the AOC 22V2H. It’s an IPS monitor that retails for right around ~$100, give or take $10, and it’s pretty nice. For the price, it offers great color accuracy, a super-slim screen, and most shockingly for this price range, a 75 Hz refresh rate!

AOC 22V2H front

Image Credit: AOC

The screen space is also technically 21.5 inches, so you get a super-fine PPI here. The screen may not be very large, but the image will look colorful and sharp.

AOC 22V2H back

Image Credit: AOC

For this price, you can’t really do much better. There are TN panels in this price range, but those are also limited to 60 Hz…so they don’t really offer a practical benefit over this one.

Best 1080p Gaming Monitor – ASUS VG248QG 24-Inch 165 Hz TN Monitor

The ASUS VG248QG is our pick for the best 1080p gaming monitor. It’s 24 inches, which is the perfect size for displaying a 1080p signal while still making it look sharp. It offers a nice 165 Hz refresh rate and 1 ms response time, which both serve to make it ideal for competitive gaming.

ASUS VG248QG front

Image Credit: ASUS

Unlike some yesteryear high-refresh TN panels, it also supports FreeSync, so your games should look great even if you’re playing them under 165 Hz.

If you want something even crazier in this size and resolution…we have another pick for you further down. But unless you’ve really maxed out that hand-eye coordination stat, this should serve you just fine.

If this is unavailable or seems expensive, consider the BenQ XL2411P instead.

BenQ XL2411P front

Image Credit: BenQ

Aside from a reduction to “just” 144 Hz, it’s virtually the same.

Budget 1440p Gaming Monitor – Pixio PX275h 27-Inch 95 Hz IPS Monitor

Since we’ve upped the resolution to 1440p, we’ve also upped the screen size to 27 inches.

Despite how truly jam-packed with features this monitor is, it is a killer in its price range. IPS in this price range is pretty much unheard of, but IPS with a high refresh rate, amazing color gamut, and a 27-inch panel? That’s something truly special. That’s the Pixio P275h.

Pixio PX275h front

Image Credit: Pixio

Not only is this one of the cheapest 27-inch 1440p monitors you can get…it’s also among the best. While the 95 Hz refresh rate isn’t as huge an improvement over 60 Hz as 144 Hz is, it should still make a noticeable difference for most gamers. Target your in-game performance to 94 FPS and native resolution, and this monitor will show you a great time!

Pixio PX275h back

Image Credit: Pixio

Want a 144 Hz alternative for around the same price? You’ll have to use a VA panel instead, but the Viotek GNV27DB isn’t a bad alternative. (Note: the image on this monitor will look a little blurrier, since it’s a VA panel and all. It will look better in darker scenes, though!)

VIOTEK GN32DB front

Image Credit: VIOTEK

Best 1440p Gaming Monitor – ASUS TUF VG27AQ 27-Inch 165 Hz IPS Monitor

Our pick for the best 1440p gaming monitor is the ASUS TUF VG27AQ. This 27-Inch IPS monstrosity offers HDR10 support, a whopping 165 Hz refresh rate, and even fairly low response times for improved motion handling over the IPS panels over yesteryear. It even offers 99% sRGB color gamut support, which is perfect for gaming.

ASUS TUF Gaming VG27AQ front

Image Credit: ASUS

Besides the higher price over other options (which is what you should expect, since you’re asking for the best), we don’t really have much in the way of downsides for this one.

The HDR isn’t great, but no PC monitor HDR is great at the time of writing, for reasons related to physical limitations. The meanest thing we can say about HDR in a PC monitor right now is a pat on the back and an affirmation that they tried. Can’t fault ‘em for trying.

Want a 144 Hz alternative for a bit cheaper, and with better motion handling? Get the LG 27GL83A-B instead. This is actually the monitor this article is being written on!

LG 27GL83A-B front

Image Credit: LG

Budget Ultrawide Gaming Monitor – LG 29UB67-B 29-Inch 75 Hz IPS Monitor

The LG 29UB67-B is our pick for the best budget ultrawide gaming monitor. It’s low-priced…for an Ultrawide monitor (Ultrawides are very expensive, guys), it offers a 75 Hz IPS panel, and it’s at the perfect size for its 1080p-adjacent resolution to not look overblown. (At least, not while in games.)

LG 29UB67-B front

Image Credit: LG

If you want this but larger and in 144 Hz, you can also opt for its big brother 34-Inch model, but it may look a little less sharp due to the larger screen size.

LG 34UC79G-B front

Image Credit: LG

Best Ultrawide Gaming Monitor – LG 34GK950-F 34-Inch 144 Hz IPS Monitor

If the 34-inch alternative to the above pick is the big brother, this is the father. The LG 34GK950-F is a truly insane high-end monitor.

LG 34GK950F-B front

Image Credit: LG

Its resolution is 1440p-adjacent, it offers an even larger screen size, and it runs at a full 144 Hz. If you want the best possible ultrawide gaming experience, then this is the monitor for you.

If you can afford it.

Best Budget 240 Hz Monitor – Acer XF250Q Cbmiiprx 24.5-Inch TN Monitor

(Note: we use “budget” loosely with super-high end products like these.)

If you want a 240 Hz monitor on as cheap a budget as possible, look no further than the Acer XF250Q

Acer XF250Q Cbmiiprx front

Image Credit: Acer

This is a 24.5-inch TN monitor with a perfect 1 ms response time, FreeSync support, and a truly insane 240 Hz refresh rate. For the most furiously competitive gamers, this is the perfect monitor.

Acer XF250Q Cbmiiprx rear

Image Credit: Acer

Best 240 Hz Monitor – Acer Nitro XV273 Xbmiiprzx 27-Inch IPS Monitor

If you’re willing to spend a little more on your 240 Hz monitor…and also you’d like an IPS panel, go with the Acer Nitro XV273. While limited to a 1080p resolution that won’t look too good during desktop use, this should work fine in games.

Acer Nitro XV273 Xbmiiprzx front

Image Credit: Acer

Honestly, you’ll probably be too distracted by how smooth everything feels to really care about the lower resolution. (Plus, there isn’t yet a GPU in the world that can run 240 Hz at 1440p in any remotely modern game.)

Acer Nitro XV273 Xbmiiprzx rear

Image Credit: Acer

You also have the added benefit of super-great color reproduction and HDR, but like all PC HDR implementations…you get the idea. Still though- this is a truly superb monitor.

Want a slightly cheaper alternative that cuts the HDR? Get the Alienware AW2720HF 27-Inch IPS Monitor

Alienware AW2720HF front

Image Credit: Alienware

Our 4K Monitor Recommendations

We already have 4K monitors covered…in a separate article! Our picks were:

  • The 27-Inch, IPS, 60 Hz LG 27UD58-B as Best Budget 4K Gaming Monitor
LG 27UD58-B front

Image Credit: LG

Acer Predator X27 bmiphzx front

Image Credit: Acer

If you want to see our full thoughts on these 4K Monitor recommendations, click here to jump to that section of the article.

 

That’s about it from me. What Monitor are you thinking of buying?

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Christopher Harper - post author

I have been a passionate devotee to technology since the age of 3, and to writing since before I even finished high school.

These passions have since combined into a living in my adulthood, and has made writing about myself very satisfying.

If you need any assistance, leave a comment below: it’s what I’m here for.

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