Buying a gaming monitor – What you need to know

When you’re planning your monster gaming PC build, the monitor you choose is crucial.

In addition to dictating what hardware you will need, your display will also affect your gaming experience.

The range of gaming monitors is extensive and encompasses everything from 24-inch 240Hz Full HD displays built for competitive FPS players to over 40-inch 4K panels that are more like TVs.

To help you select your next gaming monitor, we have outlined the main considerations below.

Resolution and Refresh

Resolution refers to the number of pixels on the display. This is represented in a format such as 1,920 x 1,080.

Common resolutions are listed below:

  • HD – 1,360 x 768
  • HD+ – 1,600 x 900
  • Full HD – 1,920 x 1,080
  • QHD – 2,560 x 1,440
  • 4K UHD – 3,840 x 2,160

The higher the resolution of your display, the better the overall image quality.

It is also important to note that driving higher resolutions requires more graphics processing power; a GeForce GTX 970 might be fine for gaming on a Full HD monitor, but it would fall short when gaming at 4K.

Resolution is often considered closely with the monitor’s refresh rate. Refresh rate refers to the number of times per second that the image on a display will refresh itself.

The higher the refresh rate, the smoother your games will run – although this also requires extra graphics processing power.

Generally, if you are aiming to compete at a high level while playing first-person shooters and other fast-paced games, refresh rate can be extremely important.

Gamers who just want to sit back and relax might be better choosing a higher-resolution panel at 60Hz over a lower-resolution one at 144Hz.

Panel

A good indicator of a display’s visual quality apart from its resolution is its panel type.

The type of LCD panel which your monitor uses says a lot about its colour depth, viewing angle, and response time.

Response time refers to how quickly your monitor can show image transitions, and it is important for this to be 5ms or below for competitive gamers.

The three types of LCD panels are detailed below:

  • Twisted Nematic (TN) – Faster response times and refresh rates, but with poorer colour accuracy.
  • Vertical Alignment (VA) Better contrast ratios and colour accuracy at the expense of response times vs TN.
  • In-Plane Switching (IPS) – Superior colour accuracy to VA displays, but slower response times and refresh rates.

When looking at the panel, you should also check the viewing angle – which refers to the angle from which you can view a monitor without the image and colours losing their accuracy.

For example, a 160-degree viewing angle means you can view the display from 80 degrees to each side before the image and colours lose their accuracy.

Adaptive Sync and HDR

Lastly, there are gaming monitors on the market which offer adaptive sync features in the form of FreeSync and G-Sync.

Adaptive sync means that the refresh rate of the monitor syncs to the frames-per-second output of your graphics card, removing screen tearing and other artefacts.

FreeSync and G-Sync are AMD and Nvidia-developed technologies respectively, and are typically only compatible with graphics cards of the same brand.

This means that if you want a FreeSync monitor, you should get an AMD card, or an Nvidia card for a G-Sync monitor.

Unlike when purchasing TVs, High Dynamic Range (HDR) is not a major consideration when buying gaming monitors, although there are some that have been HDR-certified.

These are often expensive, and it may be a better financial choice to buy a non-HDR version.

Now read: The most popular video games in South Africa

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Buying a gaming monitor – What you need to know