See The Difference: Picking Your Perfect Monitor

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Do you know your resolution from your refresh rate? Your IPS from your TN? Your G-Sync from your Freesync? Even if you do, it might be worth a quick refresher before you buy your next monitor.

Buying a monitor is one of the most important steps when it comes to building or accessorizing your PC. No matter how powerful your system is, what you’re looking at won’t look good without a good monitor. But picking the best monitor for you isn’t always easy, as there are a lot of features and specifications worth considering.

Here are the most important monitor features, and why you might want to prioritize one over the other before you buy a new monitor.

Resolution isn’t everything

Resolution, or the number of pixels on the display, is the main figure used by monitor manufacturers to market their displays. It’s important, no doubt about it, but it’s not the singular most important factor by any means. There’s no use buying a super high-resolution monitor if it’s particularly small, or if your graphics card isn’t up to snuff. On the other hand, a 1080p display may look a little pixelated if you pick up a monitor with a massive screen size.

The main resolutions you’ll come across when buying a new monitor are 1080p, 2K, and 4K. Although these resolutions aren’t always exactly the same, with some marketing spin thrown on the numbers, they typically work out to 1920 x 1080, 2560 x 1440, and 3840 x 2160.

As a general rule of thumb, 1080p is a perfectly fine resolution anywhere up to 24-inches, though you do start to lose a little clarity at larger sizes. For 27-inches or more, you want a 2K panel at the bare minimum, and in traditional aspect ratios (not factoring in ultrawides) anything over 32-inches will really benefit from being 4K resolution, rather than 2K or less.

It’s worth considering a 4K monitor if you primarily want to watch movies or TV shows on your display, as that will give you access to native UHD content on streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video. For those looking to primarily work on their monitor, 1080p or 2K is more than enough.

For gamers, the decision is a little more tricky. Choosing a high-resolution monitor often comes at the sacrifice of frame rate, even when you have a high-refresh-rate monitor. Even high-end GPUs can struggle to put out consistent 4k resolution with 100+FPS.

The sweet spot for most gamers is 2K (sometimes referred to as 1440p), as it looks better than 1080p, but lets you hit much higher frame rates than 4K. However, for the most competitive of gamers, a 1080p screen is well worth considering, as it will let you hit higher frame rates, which can help you improve your response time and therefore play more effectively.

But, if you’re not worried about frame rate and just want your games to look as pretty as possible, a 4k monitor can still deliver. And, depending on your GPU, 60FPS at 4k is easily attainable.

For those who just want the most screen space, ultrawides can stretch anywhere up to 49-inches, but they come in unique resolutions that are typically horizontally stretched; like the Samsung Odyssey G9, which has a resolution of 5120 x 1440. If you want to play games on that, you’ll want a GPU that can handle 4K-like resolutions.

Samsung Odyssey G9

Get a high refresh rate for gaming

For games, arguably the most important factor to consider is refresh rate. This is how many times the screen can “refresh,” or update its content every second. Most traditional monitors have a refresh rate of 60 Hz, showing that they refresh 60 times per second. However, more recent gaming monitors can deliver 120Hz, 144Hz, 240Hz, and even 360Hz displays. This makes standard mouse movements on the desktop look much smoother, but it’s the effect it has on gaming which is far more dramatic and important.

Higher refresh rates allow the player to see what’s happened in the game a few milliseconds faster than those on slower refresh rate displays. This in turn reduces input lag, meaning that a gamer with a higher refresh rate display will have a physical advantage over those playing on slower displays. The best pro-gamers in the world all play at the highest refresh rate monitors, like the Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR, which run at 1080p resolution.

There are high refresh rate 2K and 4K displays, with the former often considered the sweet spot by those who play atmospheric and AAA games, but for esports and competitive gamers, the absolute fastest refresh rate displays, in the 300Hz+ range, are the ones which will help you play at your best.

Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR

Panel type: TN vs. VA vs. IPS

Budget as well as features and specs are going to define your choice of panel type more than anything else – you’re unlikely to decline to buy a display that meets your demands just because of its panel type. But it’s good to know what they might entail for you when you do buy one, anyway.

Modern monitors using each of these panels can be excellent at all sorts of things, but they do tend to have strengths which the others may lack. Most TN panels offer faster response times and higher refresh rates, but have poorer color accuracy, lower brightness, and contrast. This makes them great for esports gaming, but less good for creative tasks, as color accuracy is important for photo and video editing, as it ensures that the project looks just as you intended.

VA panels tend to have the highest brightness, the greatest contrast, and the best black uniformity, but aren’t as color-rich as IPS, nor as fast as TN panels. IPS panels, on the other hand, offer the widest and deepest color support, the widest viewing angles, and excellent brightness. They’re also getting faster all the time, with some of the best displays rivaling the fastest TN panels for response time and refresh rate.

New technologies like Samsung’s quantum dots have helped close the color accuracy and gamut support gaps that existed between these displays too, with the latest generations of TN panels looking significantly richer than they have in the past. With that in mind, gamers will still want to lean more towards TN and IPS panels, while professionals may be more interested in VA and IPS. Creatives will almost certainly want an IPS panel, though budget and other feature demands may change that.

There is also OLED to consider, and the newest releases in the form of QD-OLED monitors. These are all still quite rare in standalone monitors, though that may change in the years to come. OLED offers far better contrast than any of the LCD panels detailed above, very wide viewing angles, and a near-zero input lag and response time which make them amazing for gaming. They don’t get as bright as LED-backlit monitors, though, so aren’t as good for gaming in brighter rooms.

LG 32EP950-B Ultrafine 32" 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) 60Hz LED Monitor

G-Sync, Freesync, and V-Sync

Some monitors also support frame syncing technologies like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s Freesync. These are designed to synchronize the monitor’s refresh rate with a game’s frame rate being rendered by the graphics card. This ensures that screen tearing doesn’t occur where two images try to render at the same time because the frame rate is too high. It also helps to alleviate stuttering when frame rates are particularly low.

Both G-Sync and Freesync do a good job of removing screen tearing from your gaming experience. Older G-Sync and Freesync displays may only operate within a set frequency or frame rate range, while more modern options will have broader ranges that let you enjoy a screen-tear-free experience at almost any frame rate.

Typically, if monitors support G-Sync, they’ll also support Freesync, but because of the specific hardware requirements of G-Sync, there’s no guarantee that a Freesync display will support G-Sync too. You also need an Nvidia graphics card to take advantage of G-Sync, whereas you can benefit from Freesync with an AMD or Nvidia graphics card.

If you end up buying a monitor that doesn’t support Freesync or G-Sync, you can always take advantage of the in-game setting known as V-Sync. This doesn’t have any effect on the monitor itself, instead adjusting the GPU’s rendered frame rate to match the refresh rate of the display. This can introduce input lag when the GPU is capable of outputting higher frame rates, however. So, if possible, enable G-Sync or Freesync instead.

Both AMD and Nvidia have different G-Sync and Freesync ratings which they give to certain displays. A G-Sync Ultimate Display has typically been verified to have a high brightness, good HDR support, and low latency gaming, whereas the G-Sync Compatible rating will only guarantee the option of turning on G-Sync. AMD’s Freesync Premium and Freesync Premium Pro ensure that along with anti-screen tearing technology, the monitor also offers low frame rate compensation to further reduce stuttering, and has better HDR support.

More from the Micro Center Community:

Looking for more information about Monitors and PCs? We’ve got PC Build Guides as well as articles on How to Choose The Best MonitorProduct Reviews, and Part Comparisons. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to post a new discussion and the Community will be happy to help!

What is the best refresh rate for monitors? Click here and answer our poll!


  • David_Wang

    Don't look at TN panels if you are buying a monitor now unless you are an actual professional gamer. The difference in response times between IPS and TN have gotten too small to justify the worse colors and viewing angles.

  • asianse
    asianse ✭✭✭
    First Answer 5 Awesomes 5 Likes 5 Up Votes
    @David_Wang hit the nail on the head. TN panels used to be boss but now IPS refresh delays have become nearly the same. VA panels are for darker blacks and can have too much smudging if gaming. IPS is king… if anyone needs some names for 1440p 120+ Hz monitors here are a couple that dominate the mid-range field
    • Dell S2721DGF
    • Gigabyte M27Q (text may blur due to GBR subpixel layout)
    • MSI MAG274QRF-QD (a bit more but outperforms the other two)
    If y'all got any more questions feel free to ask, I've been researching this like crazy for the past 2 months xD
  • Ian
    Ian admin
    First Anniversary 5 Insightfuls 5 Likes 5 LOLs

    You truly don't know you need a 49" ultrawide until you have one.

  • Simeon

    thats why i go to microcenter first and i check the monitors size and resolution

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