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The best gaming monitors - November 2017

Likely to outlast your PC by several upgrade generations, investing in a good gaming display will go a long way.

It's easy to get caught up in the race for higher framerates and image quality. But stop for a second and ask yourself, what sort of a display are you using to actually view all these pixels? Getting 120 fps in a game while running it on a 60Hz monitor won't do you much good, and the type of panel used in your screen can also have a major impact on image quality. So what makes a "gaming" monitor worth the money? What makes it better than the average LCD? We've tested dozens of monitors to find the best, with the right balance of resolution, refresh rate, color quality, and viewing angles.

The great thing about displays is that, unlike graphics cards where their lifespan is usually a few years, a good display can keep you going for the better part of a decade. With such a long lifespan, it pays to get something you’ll be happy with for years to come. We'll discuss the technologies and features that make for a good gaming display, why they matter, and we have several options for a variety of price points. Right now, these are the best gaming displays.

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The best gaming monitor

  • Combines 1440p with 144Hz refresh rate, overclockable to 165Hz
  • G-Sync eliminates screen tearing and need for V-Sync
  • Extremely fast refresh, low input lag for an IPS screen
  • Requires an Nvidia graphics card to use G-Sync
  • Expensive

The Asus ROG Swift PG279Q is the best gaming monitor you can buy right now. For years, gamers have been forced to make a choice between picture quality and refresh rate. Cheaper, faster TN panels delivered fast refresh speeds up to 144Hz, while IPS screens offered more vibrant colors and dramatically better viewing angles, but at much slower refresh rates. But as monitor technology has improved, there are now monitors that pair an IPS screen with a 144Hz refresh rate.

The PG279Q is a 27-inch monitor with a 2560x1440 resolution, which we currently consider the sweet spot for high-end gaming. It offers substantially more pixels than 1080p without being as demanding as a 4K panel, meaning games look sharp at 27 inches but won’t bring a good GPU to its knees. Plus, you can still get higher than 60Hz refresh rates, which isn't possible on the current crop of 4K displays. You can also comfortably run at 100 percent scaling in Windows, something that isn't always desirable with 4K panels.

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The best FreeSync monitor

  • IPS, 144Hz, 2560x1440
  • Very good picture quality out of the box
  • Cheaper than competing G-Sync monitors
  • Adaptive refresh range is only 35-90Hz
  • No blur reduction mode

Right now there's really no competition for the Asus MG279Q: this is absolutely the best monitor for AMD users who want a FreeSync display. It's a 1440p IPS screen that can refresh up to 144Hz, like our favorite monitor above. But because it uses the open FreeSync technology instead of G-Sync, it doesn't cost as much (though price differences have narrowed of late).

Thanks to that IPS screen, colors look great even from off-angles. The base is sturdy (and allows for lots of tilting, pivoting, and height adjustments) and the bezel is fairly thin, which is nice for a 27-inch monitor that’s already taking up a good deal of space. Like most other gaming displays, it also has a light anti-gloss coating, which I like; some older IPS displays went too heavy on the coating and affected image quality, but the MG279Q doesn’t have that problem.

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The best 1080p monitor for gaming

  • Fast and affordable
  • Supports 144Hz
  • Uses a TN panel

Sometimes you're forced to make compromises, like not being able to run at high resolutions or maxed out image quality on older graphics cards. For displays, one of the biggest compromises is often giving up features in order to save money. You don't have to lose out on everything in pursuit of lower prices, however, as the Asus VG248QE still supports up to 144Hz refresh rates, all on a 24-inch 1080p TN display.

Finding a great budget gaming display is difficult. Features like an IPS panel and Nvidia's G-Sync technology come with a several-hundred-dollars price premium. The Asus VG248QE keeps prices low by opting to not include Nvidia's pricey G-Sync tech, and its TN panel gives washed out colors compared to the IPS panels we've selected elsewhere. But the inclusion of 144Hz refresh rates makes this a better choice for gaming than most 60Hz 1080p displays, and pairs perfectly with our cheap and budget build guides—both of which use AMD GPUs. It also comes very highly reviewed, with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon with more than 2,000 reviews.

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The best 4K monitor for gaming

  • IPS display offers vibrant colors and good viewing angles
  • Large enough to appreciate 4K resolution
  • G-Sync eliminates screen tearing
  • Requires an Nvidia graphics card to use G-Sync
  • 4K gaming requires a ton of expensive GPU power

Let's face it, gaming at 4K is a premium endeavour. You need a colossal amount of rendering power to game at decent frame rates and such high resolution. Even the high-end GeForce GTX 1080 Ti fails to consistently produce 60+ fps across all games—and with many games lacking support for SLI and CrossFire, dual GPUs isn't a clear solution. If you're rocking a top-shelf graphics card, it's only fitting to use an equally exquisite monitor.

A good 1440p screen will generally offer around twice the framerate of a 4K monitor because of the demands it puts on your graphics card (assuming you're playing at native resolution). So, is a G-Sync 4K monitor worth the money or the effort?

The Acer Predator XB321HK answers that question with a resounding yes. At 32 inches, the XB321HK gives you enough screen real-estate to actually put its 3840x2160 4K UHD resolution to good use. (There's also a slightly cheaper 27-inch variant in the XB271HK.) It's also an IPS display, so colors are vibrant, regardless of your viewing angle. 

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The best widescreen gaming monitor

  • Extra wide curved screen is immersive
  • IPS panel provides beautiful colors and viewing angles
  • 75Hz FreeSync enabled
  • Expensive
  • 3840x1600 resolution requires beefy GPU

If your mantra for displays is to go big or go home, Acer hears you and its XR382CQK is a massive 38-inch curved screen that looks absolutely stunning. It features a 4K ultrawide panel with a 3840x1600 resolution, with an aspect ratio of 24:10 that's slightly wider than the 'standard' 21:9 AR seen on other UW displays. The IPS panel looks great, and the size means gaming from the comfort of your couch is a viable option.

Not content to end there, the display also features FreeSync technology with up to 75Hz variable refresh rates. It's a big, bold, and beautiful looking display, and the zero-frame bezel-less approach is another welcome addition. If you're looking for something to really turn heads, this is the best widescreen gaming monitor. And boy, is it wide.

The 38-inch (technically 37.5-inch) span across its diagonal results in a 35-inch width, with a 14.5-inch height, and that's not including the stand. It's taller than the 27-inch 16:9 displays mentioned above, and nearly half again as wide, but the higher resolution means the dot pitch is actually slightly lower than that of the lesser displays. And for games that properly support ultrawide resolutions, the surround effect of the XR382CQK is incredibly immersive—sitting at your desk, the 38-inch panel completely fills your field of view.

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What to look for in a gaming monitor

The search for the best gaming monitor is a tough challenge. There's no perfect screen, and there's a whole lot of exciting new technology being squeezed into current monitors, so finding a panel that combines everything is an impossible mission. A mission so impossible (because 70’s TV shows have taught us there are gradations of impossibility), we might need to get Leonard Nimoy and Tom Cruise on the case.

panel technology

There are three main types of panel technology: twisted nematic (TN), vertical alignment (VA), and in-plane switching (IPS).

You might be reading this on a slow, dull, washed-out TN panel. Our eyeballs are lazy, and they quickly become used to whatever panel they're looking at. Why upgrade? Because a good gaming monitor will improve your gaming experience just as much as a new graphics card. And it will last longer.

Seeing Wolfenstein or Assassin's Creed Origins running on a high-res, 144Hz G-Sync or FreeSync IPS display will make you question why it's taken you so long to make the change. A great panel will likely outlast your entire PC. Possibly twice over. I've got a decade-old 2560x1600 HP LP3065 30-inch panel that's still going strong, and in some ways I prefer it to the modern 28-inch 4K and QHD displays.

Resolution, refresh rate, and panel technology

There are three key items of interest for any gaming monitor. First is the native resolution—but while it's tempting to simply assume that higher resolutions are better, that's not always the case, particularly outside of gaming use. 4K displays for example require seriously powerful graphics cards to run games at higher quality settings at their native resolution, and when you're at the Windows desktop, sometimes the resolution ends up looking a bit too fine. That means you'll need to use DPI scaling, which still isn't a perfect science. And sometimes it's better to step down a notch on resolution in order to get other features.

One item that you have to experience to fully appreciate is high refresh rates. 60Hz was the standard for LCDs for so long that many became blind to its drawbacks, but before the LCD switch, gamers often sought after better refresh rates. I remember owning a 21-inch 1600x1200 CRT back in the mid-90s that had an 85Hz refresh rate, and when I finally upgraded to a 1920x1200 60Hz LCD, the drop in refresh rate was immediately noticeable.

Now we have 144Hz and higher LCDs, though, and even without G-Sync or FreeSync, such displays are preferable to 60Hz panels. Even running at a static refresh rate of 144Hz, for gaming purposes the lower latency and faster updates (screen updates every 6.9ms instead of every 16.7ms) covers a multitude of sins. Gamers all know about disabling V-Sync to reduce latency, but that can cause noticeable image tearing. Here's the thing: tearing with a 144Hz refresh rate is far more difficult to detect, and the pixel response times often make it a non-issue with a 144Hz display.

That brings us back to resolutions. 4K generally means giving up high refresh rates...or at least, it does until the next generation displays arrive with DisplayPort 1.3 support. The best current 4K displays are going to be G-Sync or FreeSync, but we should see true 120Hz 4K panels with DP1.3 in the coming months, with HDR support as a bonus. Just don't be surprised when the price premium is massive (as in, $2000).

The final item is the panel technology. TN panels traditionally have the fastest response times, but colors and viewing angles are the worst. IPS is at the other end of the spectrum, with great viewing angles and colors, but they cost more and response times may be slightly lower. In between those two is VA, which offers great contrast and colors, but again slower response times. OLED is another panel type that we'd love to see in more gaming displays, but it can be prohibitively expensive. Dell's UP3017Q is a beautiful 4K 120Hz 30-inch OLED, but it was discontinued after less than a year of sales.

Testing gaming monitors

There are two main ways to test out our screens to determine the best gaming monitor. The first is by playing games on it, obviously. Subjectively testing the gaming performance of each panel isn’t necessarily going to give you the lowdown on the specifics of a particular screen, but it will let you test the functioning aspect ratio, native resolution, and any particular gamer-centric technologies they’re sporting.

Side-by-side comparative testing in this manner is also incredibly valuable for keying into the sometimes subtle differences between each panel. When you use a screen in isolation it’s easy to become blind to its comparative faults as you simply get used to them. Testing screens back-to-back allows us to discover and highlight specific issues between them.

Objective testing can be great, but it's also far more difficult. To do it properly, you need hardware for testing the true latency, color accuracy, and other metrics. Most gamers don't have access to any of this, but you can do a semblance of objective testing using the LCD calibration pages here. This site offers several test screens you can bring up on any web connected panel to make some qualitative assessments. The days of actual retail space for such things are dwindling, but if you can get a look at a screen before purchasing it, plugging a notebook or such into it and checking out the Lagom pages is very handy.

Future testing

We tested a huge range of monitors to get a bead on the best panels to recommend, so we can be confident in our choice of the best gaming monitor. We think a gaming monitor is a serious investment, and it's worth spending money now on a great display rather than 'getting by' with a lesser option. A good display will make your gaming experience better and still be great years from now.

Obviously this isn’t a complete list of every single monitor available—not by a long shot—but we’ve covered a wide variety of different panel technologies, sizes, aspect ratios and manufacturers. Right now the Asus PG279Q/MG279Q represent our top choices, depending on your graphics card, with the Asus PG348Q and Acer XR342CK and XB321HK right behind with their mega-wide aspect ratios. 

The monitor landscape is moving pretty fast, and new panels will soon arrive, so we’ll make sure we take a look at the very best on offer. In particular, we're looking forward to testing the ultra-fast 240Hz Asus ROG Swift PG258Q, as well as the pair of upcoming 4K 144Hz displays that were unveiled at CES earlier this year: the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ and the Acer Predator XB272-HDR, both of which have been delayed and are now expected in Q1-2 2018.

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