Gaming or Work: How to Choose the Best Monitor

This discussion has a more recent version.

By Chuong Nguyen

With the sheer number of monitors on the market, selecting the right one can be a daunting task. Whether you’re a gamer or if you live in Microsoft Office at your desk, we’ll help you with some key features to look out for when picking out your display.

TN vs. IPS vs. VA vs. OLED – What Panel Type is Right For Me?

There are several different screen technologies, ranging from OLED, IPS, TN, and VA, and each have their advantages and disadvantages. Traditionally, gamers often opted for TN, or Twisted Nematic, displays, which comes with fast refresh rates and response times in a more affordable package, especially when compared to IPS technology.

The weakness with TN panels is that they often have poorer color support and viewing angles could be more limited. Still, TN panels offer an excellent and affordable solution for beginning gamers who need a monitor fast enough to keep up with the on-screen action.

Office workers, on the other hand, historically chose IPS screens for color accuracy, but these screens are often expensive and sometimes come with slower response times. That said, technology has greatly improved over the past few years, and many gamers have opted for IPS screens. Along with a more affordable price today – AOC’s IPS monitor starts at just $109 – and support for refresh rates as fast as 240Hz or even 360Hz, IPS is becoming the de facto choice for many gamers who can’t afford a more premium OLED screen.

AOC 24B2XH 23.8"

What Size Monitor Do I Need?

Gamers who want to see more of their games have a slew of options to get a larger view. The most direct approach is to choose the largest monitor you can afford. Alienware, for example, offers a pricy 55-inch 4K OLED gaming monitor that can essentially replace your living room television, but there are more manageable screens within the 20- or 30-inch range. Compared to IPS panels, OLED screens gain punchy and bright colors and the 120Hz refresh rate ensures you won’t miss the action.

Often, gaming monitors bear the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio – a format derived from the 1080p display. If you choose a smaller 20- or 30-inch monitor, you can purchase a monitor stand to connect two or more monitors in a multi-monitor setup, giving you a wider, panoramic view. And when you’re taking time off from gaming, this setup is perfect for work, as multitaskers can spread open plenty of windows to cover both screens.

For a truly immersive experience, the third option is an ultrawide screen. Given how large and wide the ultrawide screens can be, the displays often are curved to ensure that you’ll have corner-to-corner visibility. Panels like the Asus XG49VQ can reach 49 inches in diagonal.

If you find yourself gaming on a monitor that was designed for productivity applications, chances are you’ll find that the screen itself is unable to keep pace with the action. For MMO gamers, this can really affect your gaming performance, with artifacts such as screen stutters, lags, and ghosting.


What is a Freesync Monitor? What does G Sync Mean?

To get the best performance, you’ll want to find a display that best pairs with your graphics card. If you’re gaming on a Radeon GPU made by AMD, you’ll want to opt for a monitor that supports FreeSync technology, while GeForce gamers on Nvidia’s GPUs will want to find a G-Sync compatible monitor.

FreeSync and G-Sync are adaptive screen sync technologies that work in similar ways to help smooth out the graphics on your screen. When you’re playing a game with a higher framerate than the refresh rate supported by your monitor, for example, you’ll see tearing and stuttering. Adaptive sync corrects this by handling the rendering and processing of the graphics, so images display smoothly.

The 3 Rs of Gaming Monitors: Resolution, Refresh Rates, & Response Times

After you’ve determined if you need a G-Sync or FreeSync display, you’ll want to check the three Rs of gaming displays – resolution, refresh rates, and response times.

Most gamers will want to start with a 1080p monitor. Not only is this resolution the most affordable, but they’ll give you the best performance, even on more budget GPUs. If you have a more entry-level graphics card and try to play at 4K resolution, you’ll likely encounter a lot of dropped frames, making the experience horrible. That said, if you’re busting out with a top-of-the-line Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 this year, then going 4K will give you a lot of flexibility for the future.

The next thing to look out for is refresh rate. Refresh rate is critical in reducing lags and stutters on-screen, and you’ll want to find a monitor with a high refresh rate. In general, you’ll want a screen with a minimum 60Hz refresh rate, though 120Hz or higher is still recommended. Enthusiast gamers will want to go even higher with a 240Hz panel. When budget is a concern, there is a trade-off when it comes to resolution and refresh rates. Esports gamers need an extremely fast display and will want to stick to a 1080p or 1440p monitor with a high refresh rate.  

Another key specification to look out for is response time. You’ll want a screen that can respond to changes quickly, so a faster response time is ideal. Together, these three Rs help to fight latency and lag.

Acer’s 27-inch Predator XB271HY is a solid choice with its 165Hz refresh rate. This panel checks off a lot of items on the list and is priced at just $499. If you really want to go into overkill territory, the Predator X35 is a 35-inch monitor with QHD resolution, curved IPS LED display, and 180Hz refresh rate that sells for $1,799.

Acer Predator XB271HU 27"

HDR, Brightness, Color, & Contrast

Both AMD and Nvidia have introduced real-time raytracing support into their GPUs, and game developers are leveraging this technology to render scenes in a game more realistically. Raytracing essentially allows a game to render, in real-time, how light is reflected, refracted, or absorbed onto various surfaces in a scene for cinematic effect.

To take advantage of a game’s visuals – and draw detail and attention to the darkest of shadows – you’ll want a bright monitor that can support HDR. There are various DisplayHDR support levels, ranging from HDR400 to HDR1000, with the highest number being the best. HDR monitors help with contrast, support a wide dynamic range for life-like rendering, and are often brighter than monitors without HDR. If you’re playing games with a lot of dark scenes, HDR will help you spot the enemies in the shadows! Dell’s S3220DGF is an affordable 32-inch curved gaming monitor that supports HDR400 for just $449.

Dell S3220DGF 32"

Connectivity is King

At CES 2021 this year, a new standard that’s emerging is the new HDMI 2.1 standard. The standard is ideal for gamers who like to switch between PC and console gaming, but you’ll need a monitor that supports HDMI 2.1. Because HDMI 2.1 supports more bandwidth over its cable, gamers no longer need to choose between resolution or fast refresh rates. The standard supports 4K resolution at up to 120fps or 8K content at 60fps. Along with dynamic HDR, support for variable refresh rate, and quick frame transport to reduce lag, gamers will find lots to love with this new standard. We found a handful of monitors with HDMI 2.1 announced at CES, but expect more to come soon!






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