Written by Sean Mekinda
You've got your new gaming PC built - or are in the process of putting one together - and it's a monster. With a high-end CPU and top-of-the-line GPU, you're hitting over 200 FPS in everything you've booted. And yet... it doesn't look any different from your old PC. You're still throttled by the old 60Hz monitor you've been using since 2012. It's time to upgrade to a gaming monitor and unlock the true potential of your PC.
LG 32UQ750-W.AUS 32" 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) 144Hz Gaming Monitor
If this is your first gaming monitor, it might seem like there are a lot of technical specifications you need to know before you buy. It can be overwhelming with terms like 1440p, 4K, HDR, 160 GHz, and more. While there are a few essential things to know, they're thankfully pretty simple to understand. And, once you know the terms, finding the perfect gaming monitor becomes surprisingly easy!
Resolution is, very simply put, how good an image is going to look on your monitor. There's a lot more to it than that - and we'll get into it in a second - but if you just want the simplest answer, the bigger the number, the better the resolution. This will be limited by your system, so if you're running a 10-year-old PC, you probably won't be able to display at 4k with a stable framerate. The current sweet spot sits in the 1440p (sometimes referred to as 2k) range.
To get a bit more in-depth, resolution is how many pixels are displayed on your monitor. The greater the number of pixels, the higher the graphical fidelity the monitor will be able to display, and the crisper the image is going to look. While we usually only refer to the second number when discussing resolution, it is actually measured in Length by Height. So 1080p, the most common resolution - and the one almost every basic monitor displayed at - is technically 1920x1080. That means that there are 1,920 pixels running the length of the screen and 1,080 pixels running the height for a total of 2,073,600 pixels. 1440p and 4k monitors have increasingly more pixels, each enabling a finer image than the last.
But - and this is important enough to mention again - just because you have a 4K monitor, you may not have the ability to display at 4K or may not get a fluid, 60+ FPS experience when playing at 4K. This is because, while you need a 4K monitor to display at 4K, it's still up to your computer to be able to render games at a 4K resolution. Budget-friendly GPUs will be able to handle high FPS at 1080p and maybe 1440p but will struggle at 4K resolutions. Mid-range cards can handle high FPS at 1080p and 1440p, but will probably cap out between 30 and 60 FPS at 4k. High-end cards can handle up to 4K with ease, and the latest generation is even able to handle 60 FPS 8K gaming. Keep in mind, however, that these are approximate estimates and will vary from card-to-card and game-to-game. It's not a bad idea to benchmark your regular games at high resolutions to get an idea of what your computer can handle.
Refresh rate is how often your monitor updates what is being displayed, with a higher refresh rate delivering a more fluid experience and enabling full use of high refresh rates. While not an exact one-to-one, you should try to match your desired refresh rate to your average FPS. If you're getting 200FPS on a 60Hz monitor, you have 140 frames that are not being shown by your monitor. On the flip side, if you're only getting 144 FPS, you won't see a difference between a 144Hz and 280Hz monitor (though the latter is good futureproofing if you are looking to upgrade your PC in the future).
Most standard monitors have a refresh rate of 60Hz, meaning there are about 16.67 milliseconds between each refresh. While that doesn't seem like a lot of time, in fast-paced esports titles, that can be the difference between spotting your enemy and being out of the game. Every increment of 30Hz reduces that number by half, so a 120Hz monitor has only 8.33 milliseconds between each refresh. High refresh rate monitors will also smooth out your gameplay, as displaying more rendered frames will make movements less jarring. If you're used to playing on a 60Hz monitor, you may not notice those jarring, jagged movements as games are built to look good on as much hardware as possible but trust us: the upgrade is very noticeable.
A final note: just like resolution, a high refresh rate does not mean you'll see your games run at 160Hz. If you're only outputting 60 FPS, it will look the same no matter what your refresh rate is.
A final, final note: be sure to update your display settings to refresh at higher rates! A 120Hz monitor still locked at 60Hz is functionally a 60Hz monitor!
NVIDIA's G-Sync and AMD FreeSync are both replacements for Adaptive-Sync and reduce screen tearing and lag. While they both perform a very similar role, there are some important differences between the two. If you're just looking for a quick explainer, AMD FreeSync works with AMD GPUs (and may also run G-Sync) while NVIDIA's G-Sync works with NVIDIA GPUs. G-Sync Compatible monitors can, like Free-Sync monitors, run either, but may have some additional hiccups.
Adaptive Sync is how monitors keep the monitor's refresh rate and GPU's frame output in, well, sync. Without it (and occasionally with it), you can run into screen tearing as GPUs force frames to monitors before they are ready or lag when monitors try and refresh before the GPU has fully rendered the next frame. G-Sync and FreeSync both fix this by putting the burden on the GPU: the monitor will only update when the GPU gives it the okay to do so. This helps to eliminate those miscommunications between your monitor and GPU.
There are a lot of smaller differences between G-Sync and FreeSync that we won't break down here, but the biggest difference between the two is compatibility and the simplest way to choose between them is to match your choice to your GPU. If you're using AMD, go with FreeSync. If you're on NVIDIA, go G-Sync. Like with everything monitors, there are caveats to that, like budget and the age of your card. If you have questions - either about features or a specific monitor, feel free to leave them in the comments or stop by your local Micro Center and ask an associate - they'd be happy to help!
We cannot stress enough that the biggest element you have to consider when purchasing a monitor is your own PC hardware. That said, there are a few other terms that may show up while deciding on a gaming monitor and it's always good to know what you're looking at.
Now that you have at least a basic understanding of what goes into a gaming monitor, we pulled together three recommendations as a starting point for your new monitor search. These, of course, aren't our entire gaming monitor offerings, but they do showcase a good baseline for your budget, mid-to-high-end, and top-of-the-line options
At only $179.99 at time of writing (usually $209.99), the AOC 27G2SP is a stellar first gaming monitor. While it may "only" be 1080p, that's still full HD with a truly respectable 165Hz refresh rate. It even has a low 1ms response time and comes AMD FreeSync ready!
A sizeable step up, the ASUS VG27AQL1A is designed to work with both AMD and NVIDIA cards, so you don't have to worry. The monitor itself is a gorgeous 2K display with a 170Hz refresh rate and comes with ELMB Sync to help motion blur and adaptive sync technologies work fantastically together.
4K gaming monitors are relatively new and we're still not seeing a whole lot with refresh rates above 144Hz. Enter the Samsung Odyssey Neo G8. The Neo G8 makes use of Samsung's QLED technology to deliver a gorgeous 4K experience with a massive 240Hz refresh rate. It even works with both AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync.
That asus and samsung monitor is some very good monitors
Having these specs and changing these settings will make such a huge difference. Refresh rate on the monitor is incredibly important when playing competitive games.
I love my 1440p, 240hz monitor! It was such a night and day difference for gaming for me.
Don't forget the Acer Nitro!
$249.99 for 2k and 170hz!
This monitor is very hard to keep in stock and the reviews are very good!
AOC monitors have amazing value for their products. My first gaming monitor was an AOC that a friend bought for me and worked perfectly for years!
I have the Acer Predator 32'' 1440p at 270hz. It was an investment but well worth it for sure.
Ah yes, the VG27AQL1A. My favorite 1440p monitor for the price point! Can't recommend it enough.
I am loving the 240hz 1440p MSI monitor that I got from the Tustin Microcenter!
Great to hear!
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