What to Look For in a Gaming Monitor? Expert’s Tips

by M. Smith

Choosing a technique is not easy: something new is constantly coming out, advertising distracts from the essence with marketing gimmicks. DTF selects the main parameters of devices and explains why it is worth paying attention to them when choosing. In this installment, we’ll take a look at gaming monitors.

You can play on any monitor, but “gaming” is not just marketing. There are no monitors completely unsuitable for video games, but a properly selected model can significantly improve the gameplay experience and make spending time at the computer more enjoyable. When choosing, we, first of all, pay attention to the characteristics that positively affect the player’s aesthetic perception, comfort, and performance.

Dedicated gaming monitors exist because video games are technically different from most types of digital content. Movies and TV shows are played at 24 fps, documentaries and videos on YouTube are sometimes available at 30 or 60 fps. In games, the frame rate changes dynamically and depends only on the computer’s capabilities. So that you can play at frame rates of 100, 200, and even 300 frames per second. The main advantage of high fps is a smoother and more accurate display of fast motion.

What to Look For in a Gaming Monitor?

It’s not easy to buy a gaming monitor because there are many brands and models. So, we will tell you how to choose a PC monitor for gaming or console device. Let’s start here – 

Diagonal and Resolution:

Among the commercially available screens, you can find several running resolutions, which are divided into standards with fixed names.

  • HD (1280×720) is an obsolete format that today is more applicable to content than to computer monitors. HD gaming monitors are not currently produced.
  • Full HD (1920×1080) is still the most common format, and most digital content is represented in it. On monitors larger than 27 inches, individual pixels are visible even at a distance of 50-60 cm.
  • Quad HD (2560×1440) progressive “computer” format, provides optimal clarity at 27-32 inches diagonal. It is not used on TVs, so there is practically no content in this resolution (except for games), and of all modern consoles, only Xbox One X supports it.
  • 4K Ultra HD (3840×2160) is a popular modern format for TVs, but is often overkill for gaming on small diagonals. For professional work with text, code or graphics, 4K plays a significant role even at 27 inches. Loads the processor and video card heavily.
  • 5K (5120×2880) is a rare format for professional monitors, not very well suited for games.

resolution

The ultra-wide formats 2560×1080, 3440×1440 and 5120×1440 stand apart. These formats correspond to Full HD and QHD resolutions, but with increased width. The extra pixels put additional strain on the computer.

Refresh rate, Response time, and Frame rate

Buying a gaming monitor for playing Overwatch, or iRacing games, Refresh rate, response time, input lag, and frame rate are all related to how smoothly and clearly motion is displayed on the screen. These are interrelated, but completely different concepts.

  • Refresh Rate: The “refresh rate” or “vertical frequency” of the sensor is measured in hertz and indicates how many times per second the sensor can change the image completely. The more often the screen is refreshed, the smoother the perceived movement of objects. This is noticeable not only in games, but even when moving the cursor on the desktop or scrolling through pages in the browser.
  • Response Time: It is measured in milliseconds (ms) and relates to the apparent blurring of moving objects. At the same time, there is no single generally accepted standard. The most common value is GtG, which measures the time it takes one pixel to change from gray to white and back to gray. This must be a purely comparative value since, in reality, it will take longer for the same pixel to switch, say, black to white and again to black. Sometimes the MPRT value is used, which measures when an object is displayed on the screen until a complete frame change.
  • Frame Rate: It (fps, frames-per-second, frames per second) has nothing to do with the monitor at all. This is the number of frames that the video card produces and sends to the screen in one second. This number can be higher or lower than the supported refresh rate.

the response time must match the refresh rate. If pixels change colors more slowly than the whole image changes, then a so-called “ghosting” or afterimage from the previous frame will appear on top of the new one.

A 144 Hz monitor needs a response time (GtG) of less than 7 ms (1 ÷ 144 = 0, 00694…). But since the response time of pixels in real situations is longer than stated on the box, it is worth taking a “margin” and focusing on values ​​of 1-5 ms (GtG).

how to choose a gaming monitor

G-Sync or FreeSync

G ‑ Sync and FreeSync technologies dynamically synchronize the refresh rate of the gaming monitor with the frame rate of the game. Their support is especially important for high-frequency monitors connected to medium-powered computers.

With a sufficiently large discrepancy between the hz of the monitor and fps in the game with an advantage in either direction, the effect of “tearing” and micro-delays (stutter) appears.

  • Tearing occurs when the video card randomly sends frames to the monitor. Since the picture is not displayed all at once, but line by line from top to bottom, in the event of a collision, the monitor first displays one image, but halfway through, it drops and ends with a fragment of the next frame on which the objects have already moved.
  • The statter is a micro-delay. If the card renders new frames too slowly, the monitor has to display the same frame several refresh cycles in a row, which visually disturbs the smoothness of movement.

G ‑ Sync and FreeSync are similar technologies with a similar effect. Instead of limiting the graphics card, they force the monitor to change the refresh rate to match the game’s actual frame rate. Accordingly, by lowering the monitor frequency below the declared one, we get rid of the stator, and by bringing the hertz clock closer to the real fps value, we solve the gap problem.

Matrix Type:

Popular opinion says “Take IPS, you can’t go wrong” – but in reality this is only partly true. Matrices made using IPS technology, indeed, most often give out natural colors, have wide viewing angles, and now they have also become noticeably faster, but this is not the only correct option in all situations.

IPS VS TIN

Due to their structure’s peculiarities, TN-matrices are distinguished by weak color rendering (which is often additionally sacrificed for the sake of speed) and poor viewing angles. If the point of view deviates from the center of the screen, their image may fade and acquire parasitic shades. But professional e-sportsmen have no other choice since only TN allows to achieve “honest” response time of 1-2 ms and a frequency of 240 Hz (or even 360 Hz) for the smoothest, sharpest picture in fast competitive shooters.

For any other task, choose IPS or VA. Both of these technologies are notoriously slower than TN, but when frame-rates in the 60-144 fps range on modern gaming models with response times up to 7 ms (GTG), the difference is not striking. Are your monitor refresh rate stuck at 60Hz? You can see our this article to solve it.

Screen Size

When you start looking for a suitable monitor, you need to ask yourself about its purpose, down to the genres of games that you prefer. Different characteristics, such as refresh rate, response time, and matrix type, are important for different screen sizes and tasks.

Now there are 7 main sizes on the market, each of which is good in its own way. In our experience, they can be characterized as follows:

  • 24-25 inches (16: 9) —small monitors are chosen by those with little space and professional esports players who need to keep the entire image in sight;
  • 27-28 inches (16: 9) – The most versatile solution for gaming, video and work, fits into most workplaces. This segment has the greatest variety of offers and, accordingly, the range of prices;
  • 32 inches (16: 9) – ten to fifteen years ago, such a diagonal was considered worthy of a large TV in the living room, and now huge screens are gradually taking root on computer tables. Suitable for cinema, multi-window work and immersion in beautiful meditation RPGs;
  • 29-30 “(21: 9) – This format is a horizontally stretched 24″ monitor. Due to its small height, it seems small and is more suitable for multitasking work in an office or studio, since the gaming immersion suffers, and most TV shows are displayed with black borders;
  • 34-35 inches (21: 9) – The “large” ultra-wide format is very comfortable for any job and gives a great sense of immersion in simulation, racing, and third-person games. Keep in mind that higher resolutions put additional stress on the graphics card, and in some FPS games, the edges of the frame are blurred and distorted by distortion. And such a monitor will not fit on every table;
  • 49 inches (32: 9) – This format is rather two 27-inch monitors connected without a visible joint. The huge structure (1.2 meters wide!) It takes up a lot of space but is surprisingly versatile. Most models allow you to simultaneously display images from two different sources or up to 8 windows, each of which will be quite convenient to work with. The latter, however, loads the processor and RAM.

Connectors and additional functions

The required set of ports and additional features is a purely subjective topic, so we will simply list the main points that should be taken into account when choosing.

  • Number of HDMI and Display Port connectors: It is best to connect your gaming monitor to your PC via DP, as this standard is guaranteed to support HDR, high frame rates above 120Hz and high resolutions. HDMI today comes in several versions with different specifications, which are also sensitive to cable quality and version. For a gaming monitor, a set of one Displayport 1.4 and two HDMI 2.0 is optimal for connecting, for example, game consoles.
  • Stand dimensions: Gaming monitors are designed with specific designs that do not always take into account ergonomics when placed on a table. Pay attention to the leg span, the depth of the stand and the number of moving joints.
  • VESA mount: Not all monitors have standard holes for mounting on a desktop or wall bracket, especially for slim models.
  • Sound output: The 3.5mm jack is useful when connecting multiple sources to a single monitor without speakers. In order not to install a separate AV-receiver, you can output sound to the speakers from the monitor, to which the sound comes along with the video sequence via DP or HDMI. For a headset, this is not the best option as the microphone will not work.
  • USB hub: You can connect a mouse with a keyboard to the usual USB-A connectors so as not to pull extra wires to the computer, or a USB headset. For flash and external hard drives, this is usually not the best solution, since fast USB 3.0 and higher are not found in all monitors.
  • Headphone stand: It seems like a trifle, but it is more convenient to store the headset on a special hook than just on the table or hanging on the corner of the monitor.

Read More: How to Connect an Xbox One to a Monitor or TV; Quick Ways

Conclusion

The monitor should always match the capabilities of the gaming system and the characteristics of your favorite genres. A huge OLED TV may be an action and RPG fan’s dream, but it will be completely useless for an esports player. At the same time, a small but very fast TN monitor with a bad color reproduction will only cause bewilderment among a car simulator enthusiast.

When upgrading a gaming space, the monitor’s turn is the last one. A more powerful video card will make you feel the improvement even on an old office display, but a cool and fast QHD monitor will only highlight all the disadvantages of a weak computer.

Even in 2021, it makes no sense for most users to chase “ad words” like 4K and HDR. High definitions and advanced color technologies exist for enthusiasts who are willing to overpay and put up with a lack of suitable content.

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