The best high refresh rate monitors are built for blisteringly quick response times and slick gaming. They're not only great for competitive gaming, but for anyone looking to improve their overall system latency and get an edge over the competition. They also look mighty smooth in the process, which is a real step-up if you've not experienced high refresh rates before.
What refresh rate should you be looking for in a potential upgrade? You can feel the difference between even 60Hz and 75Hz monitors, though you start to notice the benefits in-game around 120Hz. We consider the standard for gaming monitors is 144Hz, though 165Hz is common enough with overclocked panels. Beyond that, you have 240Hz and 360Hz, targeting competitive gamers, such as twitch shooter players. These usually come alongside lower resolutions and higher price tags, so you want to be sure you'll need that snappy response before investing in a 240/360Hz gaming monitor.
Refresh rate is just one element of modern gaming monitors, though, and what else you desire is up to you. Should you go for an IPS or VA panel, for instance. And what about panel, size, shape, and resolution? Is the 16:9 aspect ratio still the most versatile and compatible, or is ultrawide the way? Do curved panels add anything? And what about resolution? 4K? Or does 1440p strike a better balance? Is 1080p obsolete?
We've tested each of these high refresh rate gaming monitors in this list to see whether their claims stand up and make sure no compromise has been made to post those sky-high refresh rate claims.
Best high refresh rate gaming monitors
The Alienware 34 QD-OLED curved gaming monitor completely took us by surprise. It made us believers in Samsung's new QD-OLED panels, which we are hoping means the OLED PC monitor revolution has begun.
This monitor isn’t perfect. But it is dramatically better than any LCD-based monitor by several gaming-critical metrics. And it’s a genuine thrill to use. Of course, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. First, we need to cover off the basics.
By many measures, this isn’t really a radical display. The 34-inch 21:9 proportions, the gentle 1800R curve and the 3,440 by 1,440 native resolution are all relatively routine in the current gaming monitor market. Ditto the 175Hz refresh rate. It’s no slouch, this new OLED panel, but there are LCD screens with much higher refresh rates available for far less cash.
What makes the AW3423DW far superior to your typical LCD panel on a PC gaming monitor is the near-percent color saturation and screen brightness capable of hitting a peak brightness of 1000 nits. It's done all this while providing a ridiculously fast 175Hz refresh rate and a response time of .1ms. It might just be the best 3440 x 1440p gaming monitor we've ever used, and, boy, do we look at a lot of ultrawides.
We don't often see OLED panels on gaming monitors is the risk of static image burn-in is greater on PC since someone is more likely to leave the screen on, usually on their desktop. Thankfully, Alienware has a couple of clever built-in features to help prevent it and provide three-year coverage for the risk of OLED burn-in.
Common to all OLED tech are two critical advantages over any LCD panel, namely contrast and response. Put simply, every pixel in an OLED panel is its own light source, which can be turned completely off, essentially delivering ‘true’ black levels and more or less infinite contrast. There’s no need for any of that complicated, problematic local dimming to stop the light from leaking through an LCD panel. OLED is the real HDR deal.
OLED is also far faster than LCD. By how much depends on how you measure things. The fastest current IPS monitors are quoted at around 1ms for grey-to-grey response. But that only measures part of the transition between colours. The full change takes much longer. By comparison, Alienware is quoting this OLED panel at 0.1ms. And that’s likely for the full transition. It’s at least an order of magnitude faster.
Not only is it OLED, it’s also Samsung’s hot new QD-LED tech, which combines the ideal RGB subpixel structure with quantum dot technology to produce both excellent colour saturation and an even brighter panel. Net result? Alienware is claiming both an impressive 99.3 percent coverage of the demanding DCI-P3 colour space and fully 1,000 nits brightness, albeit that brightness level can only be achieved on a small portion of the panel, not across the entire screen.
Unlike LCD monitors with claimed HDR capability, this OLED screen needs to be in HDR mode to do its thing. And that applies to SDR content, too. Alienware has provided two HDR modes, HDR 400 True Black and HDR Peak 1000. The latter enables that maximum 1,000 nit performance in small areas of the panel but actually looks less vibrant and punchy most of the time.
Instead, it’s the HDR 400 True Black mode that generally gives the best results. That includes SDR content. For SDR content to look its best, you have to jump into the Windows Display Settings menu and crank the SDR brightness up, after which it’s much more zingy all around. That’s actually handy because it means that once you have the AW3423DW set up properly, you’re all done. There’s no need to switch modes for SDR and HDR content.
As for the colours and contrast, this panel is the absolute bomb. There’s so much depth, saturation and clarity to the in-game image thanks to that per-pixel lighting. All of a sudden, every LCD monitor ever seems like you’re looking through a filter, like they’re all just a tiny bit watery and translucent.
As much as we love this thing, it's not perfect. It retails for around $1,200, which is very expensive, and there's no HDMI 2.1 port, just two HMDI 2.0. So if you were hoping of plugging in your PS5 or Xbox Series X to play games at 1440p/175Hz in widescreen, you're out of luck. It’s really only optimised for use with a PC.
But for most types of gaming on that very platform, this is as good as it currently gets. Put simply, the Alienware 34 AW3423DW sets new standards for contrast, HDR performance and response.
Read our full Alienware 34 QD-OLED (AW3423DW) review.
For a while, it looked like curved panels would assimilate the whole gaming market. More recently, the popularity of curved LCD monitors seems to have tailed off just a little. For sure, curved HDTVs proved to be a fad. But with the MPG ARTYMIS 343CQR, MSI has clearly decided that if it’s going to keep faith with curved PC monitors, it will absolutely own the issue. This thing has an incredibly tight 1000R curve. That means the arc of the panel is such that, when extended full circle, the radius of said circle would be just one meter. This is one seriously bent screen.
Beyond that, critical speeds and feeds include 34-inch ultra-wide panel proportions, 3440 x 1440 resolution, 165Hz refresh, 1ms response, and VESA DisplayHDR 400 Certification. Underpinning all that is the 343CQR’s other eyebrow tweaker, beyond the extreme curve, namely VA panel technology. The response has been the undoing of many a VA panel, so it’s worth noting the claimed response of 1ms is courtesy of the more forgiving moving picture response time (MPRT) metric.
Instead, what really stands out is the punch and pizazz of the 34-inch panel. VA inherently has better contrast than IPS. Combine that with fully 550 nits-worth of backlighting, and this screen positively zings. As it happens, the extreme curve also won us over. For pure visual spectacle and gaming immersion, nothing else in this group of high refresh rate monitors comes close. It’s fabulous.
Why, exactly, does the AOC Agon AG273QXP run at 170Hz refresh? Is it a cynical marketing move designed to give AOC’s latest gaming panel a superficial edge over the usual 165Hz suspects? Is there some specific technical reason for the extra 5Hz?
One thing is for sure; there’s no chance of spotting the difference between 165Hz and 170Hz in-game. It’s hard enough to pick 165Hz from 144Hz or even 240Hz reliably. An extra 5Hz? No chance.
It’s a pity to be distracted by such trivia because the AOC Agon AG273QXP has loads going for it. That 170Hz panel is a 1440p IPS item, making it a goldilocks model for modern gaming. Not too many pixels. Not too few. But just the right balance between visual detail and frame rate.
You can add extras like adaptive sync support in the form of AMD FreeSync Premium Pro and Nvidia G-Sync Compatibility, plus VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification. Rounding it all out is a claimed response time of 1ms.
Yup, this thing ticks a lot of boxes on paper. And so it proves in practice. It’s undoubtedly as punchy a panel as the 400cd/m2 spec implies. Is it suitable for a 1ms response? Unlikely, in absolute terms. But set the overdrive to medium, and it’s a speedy monitor with minimal blur and no ghosting.
CyberPunk 2077 looks glorious, that’s for sure. The Agon sports a pretty decent HDR implementation, too. At least it does for an HDR 400 panel that lacks local dimming. Like any other HDR 400 screen, it’s not a true HDR experience. But this is still a great high refresh rate monitor.
1080p not your bag? Better jog on as the Acer Predator XB253QGX won’t be for you. It isn’t really for most of us, either, given 1440p is a better all-around compromise for most gamers from a purely visual point. But if ultra-low latency and frames rates high enough to give you a nosebleed sounds like your thing, this 1080p 25-incher should be on your shortlist.
It’s very similar to the Alienware 25 but clocks in at a mere 240Hz to the Alienware’s outrageous 360Hz. In truth, only the most demanding esports addicts will be able to tell the difference. But if you are that sensitive to latency, the Acer’s 1080p resolution actually makes sense. After all, the fewer the pixels, the higher your frame rate.
As it happens, this Acer is slightly more vibrant than the ostensibly identical Lenovo Legion Y25-25, even if it isn’t as punchy as the much pricier Alienware. As with many screens of this type, you can fine-tune pixel response through an overdrive setting. Predictably, the most aggressive setting introduces some ghosting. But set to medium, this is a very quick IPS monitor. That said, even with a claimed MPRT response time of just 0.5ms, this is not an entirely blur-free monitor. That’s LCD technology for you.
Of course, it’s in pure visual punch where a 1080p panel like this stumbles. There’s significantly less detail on offer than a 1440p monitor, much less a 4K screen. This would not be our weapon of choice for soaking up the sheer spectacle of Cyberpunk 2077, that’s for sure.
There’s an elephant in this high refresh rate monitor round-up. And it’s the inevitable question of diminishing returns. When, exactly, do they kick in? 165Hz? 240Hz? How about 360Hz? Oh yes, this updated Alienware 25 is good for the full 360. In purely experiential and subjective terms, it’s not easy to separate it from otherwise similar 1080p IPS monitors that hum along at a comparatively pedestrian 240Hz refresh. They all feel swift.
Of course, esports aficionados with ninjascopic reflexes will appreciate the difference. And there’s certainly no penalty to pay, given this IPS panel. It’s not like you’re forced to suffer a dingy TN panel to have all those Hz. As for pixel response, it’s about as good as IPS monitors get, though once again hard to really separate from the cheaper 240Hz brigade.
But it’s actually Alienware’s other qualities that set it apart. For starters, this is the brightest and punchiest of the 25-inch bunch. The integrated Nvidia G-Sync chip also makes for a noticeably smoother low-frame-rate experience than a mere G-Sync ‘Compatible’ or FreeSync display. Ironic, given the 360Hz refresh is the main attraction.
The Alienware 25 also supports Nvidia’s Reflex Latency Analyzer, which helps you fine-tune input lag with millimetric precision. Provided you have a compatible mouse and an Nvidia graphics card, that is, and that you are playing a game that supports it.
Given the highly focused remit, our only major reservation is that the ‘Esports’ preset in the OSD menu crushes brightness to a fairly intolerable extent. So, the Alienware 25’s very best performance comes at quite a price, both literally and figuratively.
Never mind a new generation of GPUs you can’t buy, and consoles in short supply; 4K remains a problematic resolution for gaming. It’s just sooo many pixels. Over eight million, in fact. Even at a mere 60Hz, that’s 500 million pixels that have to be rendered, rasterized, ray-traced—whatever—every second.
That works out at over a billion per second at 144Hz, which just so happens to be the refresh rate of the Acer Predator XB273K, Acer’s more affordable 4K gaming panel. Compared to the pricier Acer Predator X27, it lacks local dimming, delivers lower peak brightness, and is merely G-Sync ‘Compatible’. So, there’s no Nvidia G-Sync module onboard.
Of course, affordability is relative, and the XB273K is still a pretty pricey panel. Indeed, with 120Hz 4K OLED TVs available for not all that much more than this 27-inch monitor, the value proposition isn’t exactly compelling.
None of which is to say this screen lacks appeal. No, siree. Once you’ve seen Cyberpunk 2077 running in full IPS-plus-4K glory, you won’t want to go back to 1440p, let alone crummy old 1080p. The problem is the philosophical incompatibility between maximizing image quality and frame rates at the same time. You can’t really have both. Not even with, say, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080.
In other words, while this monitor is capable of 144Hz, you’re not going to get near those kinds of frame rates in the prettiest games. And if you’re not bothered about prettiness, you probably don’t need 4K if you follow. It’s a very nice screen, this Acer Predator XB273K, and better value than its Acer Predator X27 sibling, but it still doesn’t make much sense for this kind of money.
VA panel technology used to spell certain doom when it came to pixel response. More recently, Samsung, among others, has proven that VA really can deliver. If not quite an IPS-matching response, then certainly good enough performance for all but the most demanding esports gamers.
Unfortunately, the Viewsonic VX2718-2KPC-MHD is a VA screen slightly out of the old school, despite delivering a 165Hz refresh. Crank this 27-inch, 1440p curved monitor over for the first time, and it doesn’t bode well. In fact, the VX2718-2KPC-MHD is a bit of a blurry mess. It does improve with a little time and temperature. But even fully warmed up, it’s simply not as quick as the latest IPS panels. Or, for that matter, the implied performance of the 1ms MPRT response specification.
Incidentally, the VX2718-2KPC-MHD ‘1ms’ mode does little to improve response, but it does crush brightness and vibrancy pretty effectively. While we’re beating on Viewsonic’s latest, we note it lacks a refresh rate counter. It’s a small detail, but it’s also a handy feature to ensure that you’re running at the right refresh rate and confirm that adaptive sync is enabled.
Elsewhere, the stand feels a bit cheap and only offers tilt adjustment, while the external PSU adds to clutter. Meanwhile, as the 250cd/m2 brightness rating implies, this screen won’t exactly sear your retinas.
This isn’t to imply this screen has nothing to offer. The 1440p native resolution on a 27-inch panel is a sweet combo for balancing frame rates with in-game detail, while the VA panel tech delivers plenty of contrast. Of course, as 1440p 165Hz monitors go, it’s competitively priced, but the mediocre response and lack of punch might feel a bit too budget for most.
On paper, the Lenovo Legion Y25-25 is an absolute dead ringer for the Acer Predator XB253QGX. It’s a pretty close cousin of Alienware’s updated 360Hz 25-incher, too. But it just goes to show the specs don’t tell the whole story because this is clearly the bum of the 25-inch bunch.
That’s not to say the Lenovo Legion Y25-25 is an outright dud. Not with a 25-inch IPS panel that fires at fully 240Hz. Sure, it’s only 1080p. But then so is the competition and the point here is maximum fluidity, minimum latency. Giving up the visual detail and precision of 1440p or 4K goes with the territory, in other words.
The Lenovo also has pretty sweet build quality with a lush alloy stand, full adjustability including height, tilt, rotate and swivel, plus styling that little bit slicker and more grown-up than your average, rather adolescent, gaming peripheral. The integrated, rather than external, power supply likewise soothes our collective OCD, and G-Sync compatibility is welcome if expected in this class of screen.
To all that, you can add excellent pixel response with the overdrive set to medium (max it out and some ghouls and ghosts turn up uninvited), predictably minimal latency, plus buttery smooth rendering, as you’d expect for a 240Hz panel.
So what, exactly, is the problem? Basic image quality, that’s what. The Lenovo Legion Y25-25 is just a little bit dingier, a little duller than the competition. It’s unclear if it uses a different panel from the Acer and Alienware. But for sure, its colors are less vibrant, and games look less immersive. In isolation, and given the esports remit, that argument doesn’t matter. This certainly isn’t a terrible-looking screen, but when you can have all of Lenovo’s upsides, plus better basic image quality, elsewhere it is a bit of a non-starter of a monitor.
High refresh rate gaming monitor FAQ
What's the best PC monitor panel type for gaming?
If in doubt, go IPS. There are now VA screens with good response speed, like the fabulous MSI MPG ARTYMIS 343CQR. But IPS more consistently delivers the goods and is now sufficiently fast in terms of refresh rate that you absolutely needn't settle for TN anymore.
What refresh rate do you really need for PC gaming?
If you're asking the question, 144Hz is probably plenty. Esports fiends who will really appreciate higher refresh rates already know who they are and what they want. And that answer is likely getting on for 240Hz these days.
What's the best resolution for a gaming monitor?
With the latest unobtainable graphics cards, 4K gaming at high triple-digit refresh rates is a stretch in the most demanding games. So, 1440p (at either 16:9 or 21:9 aspect ratio) is probably the better compromise. 1080p is only of interest to those who demand the very highest frame rates for competitive shooters.
Should I buy a curved gaming monitor?
For our money, curved panels make the most sense in larger formats and with super-wide 21:9 or wider panels. A curved panel on, say, a smaller 27-inch 16:9 panel isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, nor does it really add much to the experience.
Does HDR matter for PC gaming monitors?
The problem with HDR in this context is that few LCD monitors offer a true HDR experience. What's more, monitors with HDR-boosting local dimming remain painfully pricey and for what is really only marginal benefit. That said, HDR certification usually ensures high brightness, and HDR 600 and beyond requires wide color support.
G-Sync or FreeSync: which adaptive screen tech is best?
We think screens with Nvidia's G-Sync module built-in have the edge when it comes to smooth performance at lower frame rates. At higher frame rates, mere G-Sync compatibility is fine, and AMD's FreeSync is likewise much of a muchness.