Choosing the right gaming monitor can be tricky. While some peripherals like mice, gamepads and keyboards are mostly matters of personal preference, some gaming monitors are just objectively better than others, offering higher resolutions, faster refresh rates or more accurate colours. Monitors can also last a long time - often five years or more - and you'll probably use them every day, whether you're playing games or trying to get some work done.
That makes it important to choose the right monitor, but the options for brands, specs and features can be overwhelming. That's why we are keeping it simple, to give you the gaming monitor recommendations you need with the bare minimum of jargon.
We've split our picks by resolution - 1080p, 1440p and 4K. If you're not sure which is right for you, check out our monitor buyer's guide or just start with 1080p. For now, let's get right into the picks!
What's the best monitor for PS5 or Xbox Series X? Our 4K 144Hz pick, the LG 27GP950, is the first HDMI 2.1 monitor to hit the market and is an excellent choice. For something larger at a similar price, check out our recommendations for the best 4K TVs for gaming.
Best gaming monitor 2021
The best 1080p gaming monitors are easy to drive even with an entry-level gaming PC or games console, with some also offering the highest refresh rates for competitive gaming. Here are three great options at different refresh rates:
- Best cheap gaming monitor: AOC C24G1
- Best 144Hz monitor: AOC 24G2U / 24G2
- Best 240Hz monitor: Alienware AW2521HF
The best 1440p gaming monitors are right in the sweet spot between price and performance, offering a sharper image than 1080p models plus the option for higher refresh rates at a reasonable premium. Here are several solid choices, including ultra-wides:
- Best cheap 1440p gaming monitor: X= XRGB27WQ
- Best 1440p gaming monitor (and our top pick overall): Dell S2721DGF
- Best 1440p 240Hz monitor: Aorus FI27Q-X
- Best value ultrawide monitor: AOC CU34G2X
- Best premium ultrawide gaming monitor: LG 34GN850
The best 4K gaming monitors offer the best visual fidelity, thanks to their higher pixel counts, but require a very powerful graphics card or enhanced console. Some even boast high refresh rates. Here are a series of top recommendations:
- Best 4K gaming monitor: Acer Nitro VG280K
- Best Xbox One X and PS4 Pro monitor: Asus CG32UQ
- Best 4K 144Hz gaming monitor: LG 27GP950
- Best 4K HDR gaming monitor: Acer Predator X27P
- Best TV-sized 4K gaming monitor: Asus XG438Q
Best 1080p gaming monitors
The vast majority of PC and console gamers are playing at 1080p, as this offers a good standard of visual fidelity while still being easy to achieve solid frame-rates even in the most recent games on entry-level hardware. Here are our selections, which now begin with a cheap 144Hz monitor, before we move onto some more expensive models that offer better features and/or faster refresh rates.
Best cheap gaming monitor: AOC C24G1
High refresh rate monitors used to be seriously expensive, but as of early 2021 they've become as cheap as some of the 1080p 60Hz monitors we recommended before. One example is the AOC C24G1, a slightly older gaming monitor that still delivers very respectable performance for less than £150/$150.
This monitor uses a curved VA panel, providing improved colour accuracy and substantially better contrast than you'd expect from a TN monitor, which is great for games with darker scenes or playing in dark rooms. Combined with the fluid 144Hz refresh rate and FreeSync variable refresh rate support, you've got a great budget monitor ideal for PC gaming, especially fast-paced titles like racing or shooters. Next-gen consoles may be able to take advantage of the higher refresh rate, while for current-gen models you'll likely be limited to 60Hz.
Alternative options: If you're buying a monitor for console, you might prefer the faster pixel response times of the BenQ RL2455S. This monitor uses a TN panel, making it better for fast motion, but it's limited to 60Hz - not an issue for current-gen consoles but a bit limiting for PC users. Another option is the Acer KG251Q, has a higher 75Hz refresh rate and adds FreeSync support (40-75Hz).
Best 144Hz monitor: AOC 24G2U / 24G2
For fast-paced multiplayer games, high refresh rate monitors make it easier to track moving targets and hit those headshots. The AOC 24G2U 144Hz monitor we've chosen is built around an IPS display, and therefore offers better colour accuracy and wider viewing angles than more common TN or VA alternatives. The downsides of an IPS display manifest in relatively low brightness (250 nits), only moderate contrast (1000:1) and slightly higher pixel response times (4ms GtG) compared to TN alternatives. Still, for mixed use that includes web browsing, content creation and gaming, it's hard to argue against IPS as the best mix of features, especially as these panels have become more affordable.
Ergonomics are a strong suit too, with options for tilt, swivel, rotation and height adjustment. The 24G2U also comes with FreeSync support, helping to smooth out lower frame-rates on rigs with AMD or Nvidia graphics cards. The price for this monitor is a little higher than the popular BenQ XL2411P, but the newer panel used here more than justifies the extra expense. While 27-inch 144Hz monitors are also available, often at a relatively low premium, we prefer 24-inch models for this category as they offer better value, are easier to fit into your peripheral vision and look less grainy at 1080p.
Alternative options: The Samsung LC24FG73 is another strong pick, with its curved VA panel resulting in better contrast but worse viewing angles and a smaller FreeSync range. The ViewSonic XG2402 is a good choice if you prefer the fast pixel response times typical of modern TN displays. It also packs in low frame-rate compensation (LFC), which prevents tearing below the 48Hz minimum for FreeSync. Testing has also shown the XG2402 also works well with Nvidia graphics cards.
Best 240Hz monitor: Alienware AW2521HF
The Alienware AW2521HF is by far the best 240Hz monitor we have tested, thanks to its modern Nano IPS panel which combines the traditional strengths of IPS - wide viewing angles and great colour accuracy - with the high refresh rates, quick pixel response times and low input lag (only ~2.5ms!) you'd normally associate with TN panel monitors.
These qualities make the AW2521HF well-suited to fast-paced competitive games like CSGO, Valorant or Call of Duty Warzone, while still being a great choice for slower and more cinematic games. VRR is supported too, with FreeSync for AMD and Xbox users and G-Sync Compatible for users with Nvidia graphics cards. If you're currently playing on a 60Hz, 120Hz or 144Hz monitor, you will definitely notice the increase in responsiveness when switching to a 240Hz model like this one.
The only real downsides to this monitor are its brightness (~450 nits) and contrast (~1200:1), which can make black tones appear grey, and its lack of HDR support. However, neither are big issues for competitive gaming, which is this monitor's intended purpose, and SDR content looks just fine thanks to this monitor's colour accuracy, gray uniformity and wide viewing angles.
Alternative options: The AW2518HF offers broadly the same features as the AW2521HF, but uses a TN panel rather than IPS. This results in improved motion clarity, but viewing angles and colour reproduction are worse. If this monitor will be used for fast-paced gaming exclusively, it could be a better choice.
Meanwhile, the Samsung CRG5 is a 240Hz monitor with a curved 27-inch VA panel, providing excellent contrast that improves the appearance of dark scenes. However, its viewing angles and colour accuracy are worse than the IPS AW2521HF, and its pixel response times are slower than the TN AW2518HF. It's still a good monitor, especially for playing more cinematic single-player games that can take advantage of the high contrast ratio. The AOC C27G2ZU is another promising candidate that uses the same curved VA panel as the CRG5, but it's available for a lower price - around £300 in the UK.
Best 1440p gaming monitors
If you're looking for a sharper screen that provides more detail at a comfortable distance, then a 1440p screen is a great shout. The higher resolution panel means you won't need to look at a grainy image, but it does require more horsepower to drive. We'll start with a 144Hz option that provides the best trade-off between price and performance, but we'll also cover 3440x1440 ultra-wides which provide an extra-immersive gaming experience.
Best cheap 1440p monitor: X= XRGB27WQ
While we recommend Fast IPS monitors like the Dell S2721DGFA for most people looking at 1440p models, if you're on a tighter budget there are some alternatives that come close to providing the same performance. The best we've tried is the X= XRGB27WQ, a brand spun out from UK retailer AWD-IT. This model hits the same 1440p 144Hz specification at significantly less money, with a current asking price of £270. Note that response times are slower, at 5ms GtG versus a quoted 1ms GtG on Fast IPS monitors, but this minor reduction in motion clarity will only be a concern for those looking for peak competitive performance - who probably ought to be considering a 240Hz or 360Hz monitor anyway!
There's FreeSync and (uncertified) G-Sync support, so you're covered on both AMD and Nvidia PCs, and there's even rear RGB backlighting which projects a logo onto your wall - pretty neat, and easy to turn off if you don't fancy it. HDR is supported, but with around 350 nits of peak brightness the impact of HDR will be limited. The metal stand provided with the monitor is stable enough, but takes a worrying amount of force to install and doesn't offer any swivel or height adjustment options. Still, with 100x100 VESA support you could swap out the stand for a better desk mount down the line and end up with a very performant monitor while still saving a few bucks.
In the UK, the X= XRGB27WQ is well worth considering if you're after a good 1440p 165Hz IPS monitor on a budget. In the US, the same Innolux M270KCJ-K7B panel can be found on the Pixio PX277, which should offer near-identical performance.
Best 1440p monitor (and our top pick overall): Dell S2721DGFA
While there are plenty of monitors in the popular 2560x1440 165Hz category, the £329/ Dell S2721DGFA is the best example we've ever tested thanks to its fast Nano IPS panel from LG. These screens combine the wide viewing angles and excellent colour reproduction of IPS with the 1ms response time, superior motion handling and extremely low input lag (4ms) we'd normally associate with a high-end TN panel.
The combination is stunning to behold, particularly when you consider this monitor is cheaper than many of its competitors - and the same panel is used to great effect in the LG 27GL850 and LG 27GL83A (see below!) so you have plenty of options to pick one up at a fair price. Whether you prefer fast-paced multiplayer games or slower single-player experiences, you'll get a great experience with the S2721DGF, which is why it's our overall top gaming monitor pick overall.
This monitor is also FreeSync and G-Sync Compatible, so you'll be able to eliminate judder and screen tearing without the excessive input lag of traditional v-sync on both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards. HDR is also supported, but the relatively low 350 nit typical brightness figure means this monitor doesn't really get bright enough to make HDR worthwhile. However, there are few monitors that do accomplish this at this price point, so that's not a big deal. In terms of OSD options, you can expect the usual gamer fare accessed via a convenient joystick: multiple modes designed for different genres, on-screen crosshairs, automatic brightening of dark in-game areas and so on. Thin bezels, a highly adjustable stand and a wealth of connectivity options are also available.
Alternatives: While the Dell S2721DGFA is our top pick, the same LG Nano IPS panel is used in several monitors including the LG 27GL850 (with USB ports), LG 27GL83A and LG 27GN850 (without USB ports). These monitors are basically identical to the Dell S2721DGF (and each other) in terms of features and performance, although the LG options are limited to 144Hz. In general, we'd recommend the Dell monitor if there's no significant difference in price, due to that higher refresh rate, but the LG alternatives are still great performers that you'll no doubt be happy with.
The MSI MAG274QRF-QD (£499/$450) is also worth knowing about. Its quantum dot display provides excellent gaming performance, albeit with saturated colours, and it includes some unique tricks too. One is a faux-4K display mode that allows the monitor to work with the PS5, scaling down the signal to fit the 1440p screen. There's also a USB-C connection that supports DisplayPort Alt Mode, permitting a single-cable connection for power and video for USB-C devices like laptops. Given the excellent performance here, we reckon that this monitor is worth the extra money over the Dell or LG options outlined above if you can make use of either or both of these features.
Best 1440p 240Hz monitor: Gigabyte Aorus FI27Q-X
The £600/$700 Gigabyte Aorus FI27Q-X is part of a new breed of monitors which marry a 2560x1440 resolution with an extremely high 240Hz refresh rate, allowing them to shine in a wide range of games, from fast-paced shooters to leisurely turn-based strategy games.
This particular model uses a fast IPS screen, which offers excellent motion clarity with a quoted 0.3ms MPRT pixel response time plus the normal advantages of IPS, such as excellent colour reproduction, wide viewing angles and reasonable contrast. (You could even use this monitor for colour-accurate work during the day, then game at night!) The monitor is also FreeSync and G-Sync Compatible, so you can enjoy variable refresh rate support on PCs of all flavours, smoothing out judder and preventing screen tearing without the input lag penalty of traditional v-sync. FreeSync is also supported via HDMI for use with Xbox game consoles (Series X/S, One and One X), but you'll only be able to use the monitor at up to 144Hz due to HDMI 2.0 limitations. Game, video and web content look great, thanks to the sharp 1440p resolution, and this pixel count is significantly easier to drive than a 4K monitor, permitting full use with only a mid-range graphics card.
There are a few other features of note here. The metal stand is excellent, offering a good range of tilt, swivel and rotation, and the thin bezels make this a good choice for multi-monitor setups. The OSD is also comprehensive, with a wide range of game modes and features available, although I was disappointed to find that enabling the 'black equalizer' setting to lighten dark areas (to highlight hiding enemies, for example) drops the refresh rate down from 240Hz to 165Hz.
In our testing, we found this monitor offered a noticeable competitive advantage over more ordinary 144Hz and 165Hz monitors, while offering a much sharper picture than 1080p 240Hz options. That's definitely a winning formula, and therefore we're happy to make the Aorus FI27Q-X our new top recommendation for this category.
Best value ultrawide monitor: AOC CU34G2X
Our pick for the best value ultrawide is the AOC CU34G2X. This titanic monitor provides a suitably immersive experience, with its 34-inch span wrapping into the corners of your peripheral vision. The VA panel used here provides excellent contrast, a crisp 3440x1440 resolution and a good refresh rate of 144Hz, making it ideal for both slower-paced and fast-paced games. We were particularly impressed with this monitor during night scenes in Metro Exodus, with deep inky blacks that really sold the experience of creeping through a mutant-infested wasteland on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The ultrawide 1440p resolution falls somewhere between standard 1440p and 4K, making it possible to drive with a mid-range PC, and you still have the option of enabling FreeSync to improve perceived performance below 60 frames per second on both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.
Alternative option: Our previous pick, the MSI MAG341CQ, offers largely the same performance at a similar price, but can only achieve a 100Hz refresh rate.
Best premium ultrawide gaming monitor: LG 34GN850
The LG 34GN850 is the best 1440p ultrawide we've tested under £1000. For the money, you get a super-smooth 160Hz display that is perfect for fast-paced shooters and racing games from LG's legendary "Fast IPS" panel. This combines the traditional strengths of IPS - colours and viewing angles - with 1ms rated GtG pixel response time for excellent motion clarity.
The resolution of 3440x1440 is comfortable for this size and not much harder to drive than 1440p, and there's both FreeSync and G-Sync Compatible support to eliminate tearing and judder without the extra input lag associated with standard v-sync. The monitor also supports DisplayHDR 400, with excellent colour reproduction and accuracy, making it a treat to view 10-bit HDR content - although brightness and contrast don't really compare to displays with the higher DisplayHDR 600 or DisplayHDR 1000 certifications. Still, with our previous DisplayHDR 1000 pick costing £2000, this feels like a reasonable compromise.
The best alternative we've tested is the MSI 343CQR. This monitor supports a marginally higher refresh rate than the LG, at 165Hz, but more importantly offers a curved VA panel. This provides significantly better contrast with deeper blacks and higher peak brightness, making it a better choice for use in darker rooms and to resolve detail in dark game scenes. HDR is also improved, with the monitor only barely missing out on a DisplayHDR 600 certification with a peak brightness of 550 nits. These advantages come at the cost of pixel response times and viewing angles, but the latter is nicely ameliorated by the extreme 1000R curve that provides a real cinematic feel. If you aren't playing hyper-competitive games, this high-performance MSI monitor could be better choice than the 34GN850!
We've linked to two previous picks below too - the AOC AG352UCG, available in Europe, and the Acer Predator X35. Both remain great monitors, but they don't offer quite as good value as our current pick. Still, if you want a monitor with fewer compromises and you're willing to spend more, especially for better HDR reproduction, they can be a great pick.
Best 4K gaming monitors
With the PS5 and Xbox Series X, 4K gaming has become the default resolution for millions of gamers. Here are our picks for the best 4K monitors for gaming, including a 60Hz pick ideal for current-gen console owners and PC gamers interested in slower-paced fare, plus premium 4K 144Hz options for PC gamers that are willing to pay for the ultimate gaming experience - and have the high-powered PCs to match.
Best 4K gaming monitor: Acer Nitro VG280K
The Nitro VG280K is relatively modest for a 4K display at 28 inches, but it packs a punch. It supports AMD's FreeSync tech, which is perfect for smoothing out uneven frame-rates on Xbox and PC, plus HDR capabilities - although unfortunately the set's limited brightness of 300 nits means the HDR effect isn't as compelling as it could be. We really like this monitor because it uses an IPS panel, so its colour reproduction is excellent with 90 per cent of the DCI P3 colour space and 100 per cent of the more commonly used sRGB gamut. This makes it a strong choice for colour-sensitive work, like film production or image manipulation. Viewing angles are also strong, while input lag is competitive with other monitors of this refresh rate.
Alternative options: In the US, we're recommending the our previous pick, the LG 27UK650-W, as the VG280K isn't available yet. The 27UK650-W is very similar to the our main pick though, with an IPS panel that provides great colour reproduction, wide viewing angles and very low input lag. The monitor also comes with FreeSync, making it ideal for Xbox One and PC gamers with AMD or Nvidia graphics cards.
Another alternative is the cheaper BenQ EL2870U, which uses a TN panel. This means its colour reproduction isn't as strong, but its pixel response times are faster, which can be handy for faster-paced gaming.
Best Xbox One X and PS4 Pro monitor: Asus CG32UQ
The best monitor for 4K 60Hz consoles we've tested so far is the Asus CG32UQ. This 32-inch monster packs in basically everything you could want: extremely low input lag, good motion handling and excellent contrast thanks to its VA panel. The monitor is also DisplayHDR 600 certified, elevating it above most other monitors in terms of its colour reproduction and brightness, so it's great for watching TV or movies as well. This is a FreeSync display, meaning variable refresh rates are supported on Xbox One and PCs with AMD graphics cards between 40 and 60Hz. (The monitor hasn't been certified as G-Sync Compatible, but we didn't spot any issues when manually enabling G-Sync to get variable refresh rate support on PCs with Nvidia graphics cards.)
As well as offering strong fundamentals, the Asus is also a well-designed monitor with plenty of added features and design flourishes - like a flat base and convenient USB ports for charging your controllers, a remote, ambient RGB backlighting and the fanciest on-screen display for choosing your settings that we've ever seen. Its large size, at 32 inches, also means it's possible to sit on a bed or sofa and still make out details on the screen - something that would be impossible on a 27-inch set. Overall, it's a great choice.
Alternative option: The catchily named Philips Momentum 326M6VJRMB is a great alternative, offering the same core features - a 32-inch 4K image generated by a modern VA panel plus ambient lighting - at a significantly lower price. However, the Philips monitor doesn't include the console-friendly stand, charging ports and advanced OSD of the Asus monitor and is hard to find in the US. Ultimately, the choice may be determined by availability, but both monitors performed well in our testing across a range of PC and console games.
Best 4K 144Hz gaming monitor: LG 27GP950
The LG 27GP950 is the best 4K 144Hz monitor for both console and PC players. It offers both HDMI 2.1 support for 4K 120Hz gameplay on Xbox Series X and PS5, plus a DisplayPort 1.4 DSC connection to hit 4K 160Hz on PC over a single cable. The fast Nano IPS display is great for high fidelity gaming and productivity, aided by a wide colour gamut and excellent colour accuracy, while the high refresh rate and fast pixel response times ensure that fast-paced games appear fluid in motion, with minimal input lag.
The 27GP950 outperforms other 4K 144Hz monitors at its price point with DisplayHDR 600 support, which means the screen can exceed 600 nits of brightness for HDR highlights. This standard is where HDR starts to feel more worthwhile, so it's great to see it here. The display is also FreeSync/G-Sync Compatible, so you'll have variable refresh rates between 48 and 160Hz to smooth out uneven frame rates and eliminate tearing/judder.
All in all, the 27GP950 is a terrific monitor, whether you're using it for next-gen consoles, PC or both.
Best 4K HDR gaming monitor: Acer Predator X27P
The Predator X27P and its brother-from-another-mother, the PG27UQ ROG Swift, are by far the best gaming monitors ever made. The only problem is that they each cost more than $1000. That immense price is justified by the inclusion of seemingly every bleeding-edge monitor technology: 4K resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, G-Sync support, proper 384-zone HDR (DisplayHDR 1000), a colour-accurate Quantum Dot IPS display and more RGB lighting than you can shake a stick at.
That makes these monitors basically brilliant at everything from gaming to HDR movie watching and content creation, although for gaming you'll need an incredibly powerful PC with one of the best graphics cards to even get close to 4K at 144Hz in most titles. In our testing with an RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti, we were able to enjoy esports titles at 4K/120Hz, with modern releases like Metro Exodus at closer to 4K/60 with DLSS. Even if you turn down settings in some games, 4K at 27 inches still allows for crisp text on the web and detailed 4K videos.
Best TV-sized 4K gaming monitor: Asus XG438Q
The Asus XG438Q has been something of a revelation. This 43-inch display supports 4K at 120Hz with DisplayHDR 600 over DisplayPort 1.4, making it perfect for both slow-paced games with lots of eye candy (Assassin's Creed Odyssey) and fast-paced, competitive shooters (Call of Duty Warzone, Valorant). It's a proper monitor, not a TV, so input lag is extremely low and you have all of the usual genre-specific display modes and gaming-focused features, like a setting that will lighten dark areas to help you spot enemies lurking in corners.
At 43 inches, the Asus monitor is well suited for smaller living rooms, but also works on a desk if you're able to sit back a bit. The large size of the screen means that you can get away with 100 or 125 per cent scaling in Windows, in comparison with smaller 4K monitors which demand 150 per cent scaling or higher, so you can really make use of the massive amount of screen real estate that 4K provides.
The XG438Q uses a VA panel, which has a familiar set of strengths and weaknesses. Contrast is fantastic, rated at 4000:1, and peak brightness is a strong 600 nits, so both dark scenes and bright highlights in HDR content are well reproduced. Colour accuracy is also a strength, with 90 per cent of the DCI P3 gamut covered. That makes this monitor a reasonable choice for colour-sensitive work like video editing, with only the most modern IPS or OLED screens providing a better experience. The only real downsides to report are middling motion resolution - the quoted 4ms GtG pixel response time means fast action can sometimes appear a little blurry - and mediocre viewing angles. There's also no HDMI 2.1 here, so next-gen consoles won't be able to take advantage of this screen's higher refresh rate. Even with these limitations in mind, the Asus ROG Strix XG438 remains a terrific choice - especially given that smaller monitors like the Predator X27P often cost far more!
Another similar option is the Asus ROG Swift PG43UQ. This monitor costs more but has several advantages: it supports DisplayHDR 1000 and boasts a higher refresh rate of 144Hz. More importantly, it can run at 4K 144Hz with HDR using a single DisplayPort 1.4 cable. This ability comes thanks to the rare inclusion of DSC (Display Stream Compresssion), a new standard which reduces the bandwidth requirements of high resolution and high refresh rate signals without a noticeable effect on image quality. Nice one!
Of course, if you want a very large monitor for playing PC or console games, modern 4K TVs are another great choice. The usual issues with input lag and connectivity have largely fallen by the wayside, particularly with the latest range of 4K 120Hz TVs that support the next-gen HDMI 2.1 standard, and you will often end up paying less for a TV than a monitor of the same size. For that reason, we recommend taking a look at our best 4K TVs for HDR gaming recommendations if you're interested in this category!
How to choose the best gaming monitor
Choosing the best gaming monitor is a simple process that starts with working out what sorts of games or other applications you plan to run.
Generally, fast-paced and competitive games like shooters, real-time strategy or racing games will benefit from higher refresh rate monitors, while slower-paced games like role-playing games and turn-based strategy games are best played on a higher-resolution monitor.
Resolution is normally given as the number of horizontal pixels (eg 1080p, 1440p), while refresh rates are given in Hz and correspond to how many times per second the screen is redrawn (eg 60Hz, 144Hz). For example, the standard specification for entry-level monitors is 1080p 60Hz (a 1920 pixel wide and 1080 pixel tall screen that updates 60 times per second). Meanwhile, the current gaming monitor sweet spot between price and performance is 1440p 144Hz (a 2560x1440 screen that updates 144 times a second). To learn more, read our guide to essential monitor terms here.
If you're not sure what resolution and refresh rate to choose, a good starting point is to identify the strength of the graphics card inside your PC using our GPU power ladder.
In broad strokes, an entry-level PC will be best used with a 1080p 60Hz monitor, while a mid-range PC can stretch to a higher resolution (1440p), a higher refresh rate (144Hz) or both. Finally, high-end PCs are a good fit for 4K. Bear in mind that the real situation is more complicated than this, as some games are more demanding to run than others and it's often possible to turn down graphical fidelity settings in exchange for a higher frame-rate.
The current sweet spot between price and performance are monitors with a 1440p resolution and 144Hz refresh rate. In slower paced games and content creation, you'll appreciate the extra visual fidelity and screen real estate, while in faster esports titles the higher refresh rate will make hitting flicks or skill shots easier. That's why we've selected a monitor that fits this specification as the best gaming monitor overall. Of course, there are plenty of alternatives too!
For consoles, things are a little more complicated. HDMI 2.1 monitors support 4K resolution up to 120Hz, matching the highest possible output of the Xbox Series X and PS5, but at the time of writing no HDMI 2.1 monitors are actually on the market - although that's set to change in mid-2021. That means you're left with a choice between a 4K 60Hz monitor, which provides the greatest visual fidelity, and a 1080p or 1440p 120Hz monitor, which makes for more responsive gameplay in the small subset of PS5 and Xbox Series X games with 120fps support. Complicating matters is the fact that the PS5 doesn't offer native 1440p support at present, so 1080p is the best choice there right now.
If you're not sure you'll play many fast-paced titles like shooters or racing games, then we'd recommend a 4K 60Hz monitor for the moment, as these are relatively inexpensive and almost all games target a resolution of 4K. Conversely, if you're mostly interested in fast-paced and competitive games, 120Hz makes more sense.
Essential terms for monitor buyers
Picking up your first monitor? Here are some common specs and what they actually mean.
Resolution: How many pixels are on screen, given as horizontal x vertical. 1920x1080 (1080p) and 3840x2160 (4K) are the most common resolutions for both TVs and monitors. The higher the resolution, the crisper and more detailed a game tends to look.
Refresh rate: How many times the screen updates per second, given in Hz. Standard monitors and TVs refresh at 60Hz, while gaming models may refresh anywhere from 100 to 240Hz, with 144Hz being the most common choice for a high refresh rate monitor. The higher the refresh rate, the more fluid a game will feel.
Response time: This stat typically measures how fast a pixel can turn from grey to white and then back to grey again. Most gaming monitors sport response time figures of less than 5ms, with TN panels being the fastest and IPS or VA screens being a little slower. Low response times help to eliminate distracting smears in fast-paced scenes. Note that response time is distinct from input lag, which refers to the delay between an input (like pressing a button) and seeing the effect of the input on-screen.
Contrast ratio: Simply the ratio between the brightness of a display when it is displaying perfect black versus perfect white. Around 1000:1 is typical for an IPS display, a VA display can hit 3000:1 or higher and an OLED has technically infinite contrast, as its organic LEDs can switch off entirely to create a completely dark image. High contrast ratio screens look particularly good in dark rooms, as blacks will appear properly black rather than dark grey. When a high contrast display also has high peak brightness levels (eg 600 nits and up), HDR content will look punchier too.
G-Sync/FreeSync: These are both terms that refer to adaptive sync technology, designed to eliminate ugly screen-tearing while adding less input lag than traditional v-sync. G-Sync is Nvidia's implementation, which normally requires a physical G-Sync module inside the monitor that can drive up prices. FreeSync is the AMD alternative, which doesn't require a special module and therefore doesn't add much to a monitor's price. Recently though, Nvidia announced support for FreeSync displays on GeForce graphics cards, although adaptive sync performance may vary significantly from monitor to monitor. G-Sync requires a Nvidia graphics card to work, while FreeSync requires an AMD card.
HDR: High Dynamic Range allows for greater contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of an image, as well as a wider colour gamut. While a growing number of monitors are technically HDR-capable, most can't hit the high peak brightness figures that actually make the feature worthwhile. We recommend sticking with monitors that hit stringent standards, like HDR10, if playing games or watching films in HDR is important to you.
IPS: This sort of monitors tend to be expensive to produce, but provide better viewing angles and improved colour accuracy compared to monitors using VA or TN panels. However, some IPS panels, particularly older ones, can suffer from slower response times, making them worse for fast-paced games. Another potential issue is 'IPS glow', where the monitor's backlight is visible in dark scenes. Nano IPS monitors tend ot offer
TN: The most mature display technology, TN panels are cheap to produce and offer some of the fastest response times. However, colour accuracy and viewing angles tend to be poor, sometimes resulting in a washed out look - particularly if you're not viewing the monitor head-on. However, modern TN panels do well to minimise these drawbacks.
VA: A type of monitor panel which tends to occupy a middle-ground between IPS and TN in many respects. These panels generally offer the best contrast, backed with good response times and colour reproduction.
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