Everything starts with a simple question: what kind of games or applications will you use on your monitor? Fast, competitive games such as shooters and racing games require monitors with a high refresh rate to respond as quickly as possible. Slower games such as RPGs and turn-based games are more enjoyable on a high-resolution monitor where you can especially enjoy the graphic details.
Resolution is normally displayed as the number of horizontal pixels. As you can see above, three are the most common (at the moment). 1080p (sometimes referred to as FullHD), 1440p (about 1/3 more pixels than 1080p), and 4K (technically 3840 x 2160; four times more pixels than 1080p). 4K is now becoming more and more the standard, but keep in mind that a 4K resolution on PC requires a powerful graphics card.
In addition to resolution, refresh rates are also very important. These are expressed in Hertz (Hz) and indicate how many times per second a screen can change (e.g., 60Hz or 144Hz). The higher up, the smoother the image appears, and the faster you can react in games. At the moment, 240Hz is about the highest a screen can achieve.
The current standard in terms of resolutions and refresh rates for monitors is 1080p 60Hz (a 1920×1080 pixel display that updates 60 times per second). However, these screens are now on their last legs. The ideal price/quality ratio for a gaming monitor that can last for a few more years is now rather 1440p 144Hz (a display of 2560×1440 pixels that updates 144 times per second).
Depending on how overgrown your PC is, it’s best to move slowly from a 1080p 60Hz monitor (for starters) to 1440p, 144Hz, or both. Finally, we only recommend 4K monitors for high-end PCs. Also, keep in mind that this is a generalization: some games are more or less demanding for your PC than others, and of course, you can almost always adjust things like the resolution in the settings of games.
If you plan on gaming a lot on a console, keep in mind that 4K 60Hz gaming is becoming more and more the norm, especially now that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S are using it as a ‘target.’ It may also be useful to look for a 120Hz screen, as Microsoft has indicated that it wants games on the Xbox Series X and S to reach a frame rate of 120fps.
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Gaming monitor specifications explained
Are you looking around for a monitor, but are you sometimes in doubt about the technical language? Then we give you a short explanation here.
Resolution: The number of pixels on a screen, represented as a horizontal number x a vertical number. 1920×1080 (1080p), 2560×1440 (1440p), and 3840×2160 (4K) are the most common resolutions for both TVs and monitors. The higher the resolution, the more detailed a game looks.
Refresh rate: How many times the screen ‘refreshes’ per second, expressed in Hz. Normal monitors and TVs refresh at 60Hz, while specific gaming models refresh between 100 and 240Hz. 144Hz is now the new standard for monitors with a high refresh rate. The higher up, the smoother a game feels.
Response Time: This expresses how quickly a pixel can change from gray to white and back to gray. Most gaming monitors have response times of 5ms or less. TN panels are the fastest, while IPS and VA panels are a bit slower. Low response times help to avoid ‘smeared out’ effects in fast-paced games. Note that response time is not the same as input lag. That is the time that elapses between pressing a button and the response on the screen.
G-Sync/FreeSync: Both terms refer to “adaptive sync technology,” a technical process that attempts to counteract “screen tearing” (the annoying tears you’ve probably seen in games). The difference with v-sync is that G-Sync / FreeSync tries to avoid input lag, which normally causes v-sync. Almost all modern screens use this technology but beware: depending on which GPU your PC has or which console you use, this technology may not always work.
HDR: The abbreviation for high dynamic range. This provides greater contrast between the lightest and darkest areas of an image and a wider range of colors. Although many monitors now support HDR, you have to take a good look at which standards the screens can meet. For example, many do not reach such brightness peaks, which makes HDR just as valuable.
The three types of gaming monitor screens explained
If you’ve shopped around to buy a gaming monitor, you’ve probably noticed that there are three main types of screens: IPS, TN, and VA. What does that actually mean, and what are the differences between the three? We explain it here as simply and briefly as possible.
IPS: IPS stands for ‘In-Plane Switching.’ Monitors with an IPS panel are usually a bit more expensive but have good viewing angles and excellent color accuracy. This makes them ideal for those who like to enjoy the visuals in a game and those often involved in visual productions. These panels are admittedly mediocre when it comes to fast, competitive games. IN PARTICULAR, older IPS panels can have a slow response time (the time between pressing a button and response on your screen). This is better with modern panels, but you mainly benefit from a TN panel (see below). Another problem is the so-called ‘IPS glow .’ The monitor’s backlight is visible in dark scenes. Again, this is mainly a problem with older panels,
TN: TN stands for ‘Twisted Nematic.’ This type of screen is very popular for gaming because of the high refresh rates it allows. TN panels are also relatively cheap and have very high response times. The bad news is that these panels often have problems with their color rendering, making them less suitable for those who like to play visually impressive single-player games or work on video productions. You can counter this by choosing a TN screen that has received a certificate from Nvidia for G-Sync Compatible: then a screen must meet certain requirements in terms of color precision. Finally, the viewing angles with this type of screen are not great: if you are not sitting directly in front of it, the colors appear grayer and more washed out. When purchasing this type of monitor, be sure to include a small.’
VA: VA stands for ‘Vertical Alignment’. A VA panel is the compromise between IPS and TN. These panels especially excel in the very accurate representation of blacks and very high contrast ratios (which makes HDR come into its own). They also have better viewing angles and higher color precision than TN panels (but often not as high as IPS panels). However, the major drawback to this type of screen is that the response times are the lowest of the three. So if you play a lot of competitive games, this isn’t the most suitable screen for you. If you rather play slower games, then this is a good choice.