Buying a monitor is never easy, as you have so many aspects to consider. This is especially true if you’re buying a monitor for a gaming PC. You don’t just need a good-looking display, you need a monitor that can keep up with the action.
Shopping for a gaming monitor can be daunting. There are several aspects you need to follow, plus there are terms you may not understand. Fortunately, it’s not too tough to wrap your head around it.
Resolution, Screen Size, and Connector Type
The first thing to choose is the size of the monitor. Ideally, you want something as large as possible that will still fit on your desk. Too large of a monitor, and you’ll risk encountering neck and eye strain.
Once you’ve settled on a screen size, you’ll want to pick your resolution. If you are getting a small monitor, you may not need 4K resolution. A 1080p monitor will look fine at smaller sizes, will cost less, and will be less demanding on your video card.
Speaking of video cards, you’ll want to keep your video card in mind. If your card is only powerful enough to run games at 1080p, you may be wasting money on a 4K monitor. That said, if you just bought a powerful new video card, you’ll want a 4K monitor to make the most of it.
Then of course, you’ll need to consider the connector type. A DVI connector won’t do you much good if your video card only supports HDMI. You can use an adapter, but ideally you don’t want to.
Panel Type and Response Time
The panel type is an important consideration when buying a monitor. There are two common panel types: TN (twisted nematic) and IPS (in-plane switching).
If you’re just buying a monitor for everyday use, IPS is almost always the better option. For gaming this isn’t the case. While IPS generally looks better, TN panels often have faster response times, which is very important in a gaming monitor.
IPS panels can usually only go around as low as 4ms response times. A TN panel, on the other hand, can do as low as 1ms. Ultra-low response times can cause some amount of motion blur, but movement will be smoother overall. Of course, this will also depend on your refresh rate.
Refresh Rate and Adaptive Sync
The typical refresh rate for a monitor is 60 Hz. This means you won’t necessarily see the benefit of higher frame rates. Modern gaming monitors support higher refresh rates like 120 Hz and 144 Hz, and even up to 240 Hz.
Right now, 144 Hz is likely your best option. 240 Hz monitors can be prohibitively expensive, and your video card may not drive them properly.
Then there’s adaptive sync. There are two major adaptive sync technologies in PC gaming right now: Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync. With either of these, your video card tells your monitor when to refresh. This reduces stuttering and lag and completely eliminates tearing.
G-Sync is the more expensive option and will generally add anywhere from $100 to $200 to the price of a monitor. It also requires a proprietary cable. FreeSync is cheaper and works with HDMI or DisplayPort, but the quality of FreeSync monitors can vary widely.
If you’re putting together a new PC and buying a monitor for it, you should consider the video card and monitor at the same time. You’ll want to make sure your video card can handle the resolution you’re aiming for, among other things.
That said, the video card isn’t the only consideration when you’re buying parts. If you’re still putting together your parts list, make sure you’re not making any of the common mistakes first-time PC builders make when buying parts.