Published Feb. 10, 2022

With rare exceptions, modern video games are an extremely visual medium. Whether you want to fully immerse yourself in imaginary worlds, or ruthlessly climb to the tops of competitive ladders, crisp, bright, and color-accurate visuals are a key part of that experience. The best gaming monitors can get expensive but they last for years and can very easily make the jump between systems, or become secondary monitors as you upgrade. There’s little point in spending money on a powerful new console or PC graphics card if you don’t have a screen that can actually take advantage of it. Even if you literally cannot tell the difference between 30 and 60 frames per second or 1080p and 4K (good for you, to be honest), we’ll help you cut through the noise, narrow down your priorities, and match them to a great monitor.

How we picked the best gaming monitors

First, we selected a range of specs around which to optimize, broadly dividing up monitors by available categories and user needs, such as focusing on frame rate, resolution, and price-to-spec value. We finalized the specific picks by collating both professional and consumer reviews to confirm monitors that we felt provided the best value in these various specs, with broad and consistent praise. New gaming monitors are coming out all the time, so no list can be truly definitive, but these selections offer a snapshot of the current state of gaming monitor technology and design.

These selections were also more fundamentally informed by a lifetime of experience as gamers, as well as years covering both the gaming and hardware spaces as journalists and critics. With that expertise, we can help demystify the jargon-heavy world of monitors and help find the best one for you.

What to look for when choosing the best gaming monitor

When researching gaming monitors, companies will throw a lot of numbers at you. Some of these specs—like size, resolution, and refresh rate—are extremely important. Others are a bit more granular. Here’s a rundown of the top details to keep an eye on before you pick up your next display.

Size and resolution

Many PC gamers believe that bigger is better, but that isn’t always the case. Size, resolution, and where you sit relative to the monitor are all intimately connected and you should consider them all together when picking the best gaming monitor for you. A monitor’s size, listed in inches, refers to the diagonal length from corner to corner. PC monitors typically range from 19 to 34 inches. 

Resolution refers to the number of pixels on the screen, given in width by height. For gaming monitors the three relevant contemporary resolutions are 1920 x 1080 (“1080p” or “HD”), 2560 x 1440 (“1440p” or “Quad HD”), and 3840 x 2160 (“4K” or “Ultra HD/UHD”). More pixels mean more detailed images, but also demand much more of your graphics card, so one of the biggest limiting factors for your monitor purchase should be the resolution at which your hardware can comfortably operate (unless you are trying to futureproof for some later upgrade). The benefits of more pixels are also lost on smaller monitors, where you won’t really be able to see the difference. For a small monitor—anything less than 27 inches—stick with 1080p. For 27- to 30-inch monitors, you probably want 1440p. For monitors larger than 30 inches, 4K is ideal.

Where you sit also factors in because being closer to a screen means it fills more of your vision, effectively making it larger. A 32-inch monitor might be great in theory, but if it’s dominating your desk you might end up straining your neck trying to take it all in. Ergonomics experts recommend that the top of the monitor should sit around your eye level so you minimize strain from having to look up at it, so keep that in mind when measuring your space. There’s no one best setup for size and resolution, so you should weigh both your hardware’s power and the setting in which you’ll be using it to pick the configuration that will give you the most bang for your buck

Refresh rate and response time

Refresh rate and response time are hugely important when it comes to finding the best gaming monitor. A refresh rate, expressed in Hertz (Hz), tells you the maximum number of times your monitor can update the status of what’s happening on your PC per second. In games, that translates to the game’s frame rate, or how many frames of animation your screen can show. The higher the refresh rate, the better and smoother the image. Refresh rates can range from 30Hz to 300Hz, but you’ll most commonly see 60Hz, 144Hz, and 240Hz. For modern AAA gaming, we generally recommend a 140Hz monitor, but there are exceptions: For esports, many players will choose the highest possible refresh rate to have the best reaction time, even at the expense of resolution and screen size. On the opposite end, 4K monitors are not as ubiquitous as 4K TVs and are still very expensive, so you may find yourself picking out a 4K/60fps model if the resolution is a priority for you.

In addition to a high refresh rate, you want to find a monitor with a short response time. Response time measures how quickly the monitor can change a pixel from black to white (or through shades of gray depending on the monitor type). A longer response time means more motion blur, which can really mess up gameplay. Most monitors feature a 1ms response time, which is acceptable. There’s often more variation than the manufacturer’s letting on, but for this crash course, 1mm is good enough for most people.

Variable refresh rate

One very common feature worth highlighting is “variable refresh rate,” which refers to a monitor’s ability to smoothly ramp the frame rate up and down on the fly to match hardware performance. This leads to smoother visuals, specifically reducing the screen stuttering and tearing that can sometimes happen in video games, particularly when visuals are intense. There are two major versions of this technology: Nvidia’s proprietary G-Sync, and competitor AMD’s more open FreeSync technology. While some monitors are compatible with both, many only support one or the other, so if your machine’s graphics card can support it (depending on whether it’s made by Nvidia or AMD), be sure and get a compatible monitor to enjoy the benefits.

Do you want a curved monitor for gaming?

Curved monitors—which create a more immersive experience by allowing you to use your full field of view, including your peripheral vision—have become increasingly popular in gaming circles. Though they come in all shapes and sizes, they typically need to be large to create a wide field of view and often come in “ultrawide” screen sizes to maximize their effects.

When picking a curved display, you need to look at the depth of the curve, in addition to the usual size and resolution specs. The Monitor curvature, expressed as R, tells you the radius of the monitor’s curve. The number typically ranges from 1000R to 4000R. The lower the number, the deeper the curve. According to monitor manufacturer ViewSonic, the number also serves as a quick reference for how far away you should position yourself from your monitor. If you have a 4000R monitor, you should also sit 4 meters away from the monitor when you play to minimize eye fatigue and to get the best viewing experience.

The curved monitor can be a very cool way to enhance your games, but it is an “advanced” purchase for PC-savvy players who really know what they want. Many games require extra settings adjustments to work properly on wider curved displays. Also, picking a curved display usually means committing to a one-display setup, since your curved monitor has to be centered. That may not fit for players who work from home and use their PCs for work and play. If you’re into monitors and optimizing your experience, buying one may be life-changing, but new PC gamers might want to start with a flat panel and work their way up to it. 

The best gaming monitors: Reviews & Recommendations

Now that you know the basics, here’s a list of our favorite gaming monitors right now. Each pick optimizes for a different spec or use-case, so we think you’ll find something that works for you.

Best gaming monitor overall: ViewSonic Elite XG320U

ViewSonic

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Why it made the cut: The ViewSonic Elite XG320U offers great performance at the current top end of monitor specs.

Specs

  • Size: 32 inches
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Native resolution: 4K
  • Refresh rate: 150Hz
  • Response time: 1ms
  • Display ports: DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, HDMI 2.1
  • Variable refresh rate: FreeSync
  • HDR: VESA HDR 600

Pros

  • Gorgeous picture
  • Accurate colors out of the box
  • High-performing at all resolutions
  • HDMI 2.1 compatible

Cons

  • Expensive

If money is no object and you just want the most monitor in every dimension possible, ViewSonic’s Elite XG320U has everything you need to make your games look their best. IPS (In-Plane Switching) displays historically had more vivid, accurate colors, but at the expense of response time, making them less ideal for gamers. The Elite is a great example of how newer, faster IPS tech has basically eliminated that gap, achieving the best of both worlds with fantastic colors and sharp, responsive images with no ghosting. With HDMI 2.1 compatibility as well, it’s a perfect fit for the latest generation of consoles or PC graphics cards and their promise of 4K gaming at 120Hz.

Best 4K gaming monitor: LG 27GN950-B 27-inch UHD Nano IPS Display Ultragear Gaming Monitor

Why it made the cut: The LG 27GN950-B is an especially sharp 4K monitor with all the right specs, including strong brightness and a 144Hz refresh rate.

Specs

  • Size: 27 inches
  • Panel type: Nano IPS
  • Native resolution: 4K
  • Refresh rate: 160Hz
  • Response time: 1ms
  • Display ports: DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0
  • Variable refresh rate: G-Sync, FreeSync
  • HDR: VESA HDR 600

Pros

  • Great color accuracy
  • Very fast and smooth performance, especially for 4K
  • Highly adjustable monitor stand.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No HDMI 2.1

If you’re rocking the kind of system that’s ready for 4K gaming all the time, the LG Ultragear Gaming Monitor is one of the best 4K gaming displays on the market, particularly for PC players. This incredibly fast and smooth 27-inch 4K screen has a nano IPS display, 144Hz refresh rate (overclockable to 160), 1ms response time, and is NVIDIA G-SYNC Compatible with AMD FreeSync Premium Pro. Not only does it function at incredibly high speeds without any choppiness or smearing, but it also maintains sharp detail with bold colors and dynamic contrast.

Best 1440p gaming monitor: Gigabyte G27Q

Gigabyte

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Why it made the cut: Gigabyte’s G27Q offers fantastic 1440p performance and utility at a great value.

Specs

  • Size: 27 inches
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Native resolution: 1440p
  • Refresh rate: 144Hz
  • Response time: 1ms
  • Display ports: DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0
  • Variable refresh rate: G-Sync, FreeSync
  • HDR: VESA HDR 400

Pros

  • Bright, accurate colors
  • Responsive performance

Cons

  • Bland design

While 4K may be drawing all the buzz, many PC gamers consider 1440p to be the real sweet spot for all but the most high-fidelity experiences. At 1440p, you’re getting noticeably sharper visuals than 1080p, but are able to run games much more smoothly than 4K at high framerates. Gigabyte’s G27Q is a great example of the value in that middle ground, with a simple look that belies all-around excellent color, brightness, and speed, especially for the price. It also has some great built-in utilities like anti-flicker, blue light filter, and the ability to monitor performance metrics like framerate without additional software.

Best gaming monitor for esports: Alienware AW2521HF

Alienware

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Why it made the cut: A small display with a 240Hz framerate, the Alienware AW2521HF is optimized for competitive play in all the right ways.

Specs:

  • Size: 24.5 inches
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Native resolution: 1080p
  • Refresh rate: 240Hz
  • Response time: 1ms
  • Display ports: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort
  • Variable refresh rate: G-Sync, FreeSync
  • HDR: N/A

Pros

  • 240Hz refresh rate
  • Great viewing angles

Cons

  • No HDR

When it comes to fast-paced online competition, speed is the most important variable. Alienware’s AW2521HF 24.5-inch IPS display is only 1080p but runs at a blistering 240Hz with a low 1ms response time. Although it lacks HDR, it has fantastic viewing angles and is extremely glare-resistant, helping you maintain focus on the game. It’s compatible with both AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync, meaning smooth performance no matter what graphics card is powering it.

Best curved gaming monitor: Samsung Odyssey G9

Samsung

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Why it made the cut: Samsung’s Odyssey G9 is the most performant monitor for gaming in the narrow field of ultrawides.

Specs

  • Size: 49 inches
  • Panel type: QLED
  • Native resolution: 5120×1440
  • Refresh rate: 240Hz
  • Response time: 1ms
  • Display ports: DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, HDMI 2.1
  • Variable refresh rate: G-Sync, FreeSync
  • HDR: Samsung HDR 1000

Pros

  • Gorgeous ultrawide display
  • Vivid colors and contrast from QLED
  • Blazingly fast refresh rate

Cons

  • Expensive
  • How wide is too wide?

Ultrawide curved monitors are an expensive niche for a particular kind of hardware enthusiast. Samsung’s Odyssey G9 is a 49-inch monster of a display, perfect for gaming with its 240Hz max refresh rate and fast 1ms response time. With QLED display technology, it achieves more vivid colors and contrast and greater overall brightness than most gaming monitors, as well. As with most of our picks, its main drawback is cost, which is particularly amplified here as long, curved screens are much more expensive to produce than standard, flat resolutions.

Best budget gaming monitor: ASUS TUF Gaming 27-inch 1440P HDR Gaming Monitor (VG27AQ)

Why it made the cut: The Asus TUF VG27AQ delivers incredible performance for under $400.

Specs

  • Size: 27 inches
  • Panel type: IPS
  • Native resolution: 1440p
  • Refresh rate: 165Hz
  • Response time: 1ms
  • Display ports: DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0
  • Variable refresh rate: G-Sync, FreeSync
  • HDR: HDR10

Pros

  • 1440p and high refresh rate
  • Good ergonomic options
  • Incredible value for spec

Cons

  • Weak HDR

It’s hard to find a better ratio of performance to cost than ASUS’ TUF Gaming VG27AQ. At 27 inches, 1440p, 165Hz, and a 1ms response time you’re ready for both visually rich immersion and lightning-speed competition. It even features ergonomic adjustments like height, tilt, and swivel, which is often one of the first sacrifices made when you go for a cheaper monitor. The only substantial drawback is that the overall brightness is insufficient to really let the HDR pop, but sacrifices had to be made somewhere for such an otherwise excellent monitor at this price.

FAQs

Q: Is 165Hz good for a gaming monitor?

Yes, given that 60 frames per second is still the industry-standard stable target, 165Hz gives you lots of room to handle the fastest that any game will run. We generally recommend 144Hz displays for most players, unless you’re specifically looking for an “esports monitor” to give you an edge in competitive play.

Q: Is a 30-inch monitor too big for gaming?

While it is ultimately a matter of taste, most would describe 32-inch monitors as the upper limit for a comfortable gaming experience. Depending on how close you like to sit to your screen, a 30- or 32-inch monitor may require you to move your neck to see the far corners of the screen, which will lead to fatigue and strain over time.

Also, it bears repeating that as size goes up pixel density goes down, so a 32-inch 1080p display will actually look worse than a smaller screen with the same specs. At that size, you should primarily look for 4K displays.

Q: Why do pros use 24-inch monitors?

Esports pros usually prefer smaller monitors than casual gamers because they minimize the amount of effort required to take in the entire screen. Being able to quickly process information is one of the most fundamental skills in any competitive video game, and 24 inches is the standard size that tends to best fill their field of vision without overwhelming it. When playing video games is your job, tiny ergonomic factors are dramatically amplified, and so comfort and utility take precedent over aesthetic immersion.

Final thoughts on the best gaming monitors

The best gaming monitor is designed to fit your space, enhance your gaming experience, and elevate the visuals on your favorite games. As long as you feel confident about the way you hope to play and the setup that you want, we feel confident you’ll be able to find the perfect fit. Don’t skimp on scoping out the specs and stick to your goals, even if that means waiting a little bit more time to save. The next best monitor for gaming is always right around the corner, so make sure you are super satisfied with your choice.

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