If you are overwhelmed and confused by the amount of technical details you have to relate to when searching for a new monitor, this gaming monitor guide article will help you understand some of the important things to consider before buying. There are more technical details to read about than those listed below but I have focused on those I consider being the most important and crucial for your success as a serious gamer. I consider panel type and response time deal breakers if they don’t meet certain minimum criteria and will surely ruin the outcome of your gaming experience if not met. Most of the other features like 3D capability, longevity, design etc. are things that are nice to get or have but not need to have.
Opinions are different and people doesn’t always perceive a given screen the same way so it’s crucial that you make up your mind by investigating the few essential technical details that makes your choice the right one the first time. Before you buy a new gaming monitor it’s important that it matches your individual demands.
This is part 1 of a series of 2 articles about choosing the best monitor for gaming. In part 2 I have chosen some of the best gaming monitors on the market for you to browse through. Also don’t miss our other posts in the new gaming category e.g. on Gaming Mouse, Gaming Headset and Gaming Keyboard.
Lets get started with the gaming monitor guide!
Gaming Monitor Guide
Response time is the time it takes to update a given pixel and is perhaps the single most important factor to consider before buying. Manufacturers have realized the great potential of making state of the art monitors especially targeted serious gamers. Quite a few monitors now support 120hz as opposed to the standard 60hz doubling the refresh and enhancing the monitor’s image clarity.
At this high speed the image displayed will be sharper and smoother especially during fast paced gaming. Remember though, that to take advantage of 120hz when gaming you have to ensure your graphics card can produce enough FPS (100+) at resolutions as high as 1080p HD. This is also needed for 3D capable monitors which you can read about elsewhere in this gaming monitor guide.
As a gamer you’re interested in buying a monitor with as low response time as possible avoiding motion blur or ghosting making you miss a critical shot or action, ruining your overall gaming experience. If you’re a competitive gamer, especially one that plays FPS games the monitors featuring 120 Hz will give you the advantage. Look for models no higher than 2-5ms if it is a TN panel and and no higher than 6ms if it is a S-IPS panel.
Which panel is the best for gaming?
There are different main panel technologies like IPS, TN and VA with sub-panels like S-PVA, S-MVA, S-IPS or H-IPS. These various panels have advantages and disadvantages and different factors like viewing angels, brightness, contrast ratio, response time, color reproduction are all interdependent but are always related to the type of panel.
The panel is the cornerstone in every monitor and the typical features can often be predicted if you know the type of panel. Often it’s a compromise and if you want a very fast response time it’s at the expense of viewing angles, color reproduction and contrast ratio. Below is a short description of the advantages and disadvantages of the different panels.
- TN panels features the fastest response times (2-5ms) available and are popular because they are cheap. But TN panels have the worst viewing angles, color reproduction and contrast ratios. Often TN monitors will suffice for the gamer. He wants to be able to play without motion blur or ghosting and don’t necessarily demand the same color reproduction as a graphics designer does. Bad viewing angles might not matter that much either because you’ll be sitting directly in front of your screen when gaming.These monitors are also great for surfing the web or word processing. They are regarded as mediocre/low end monitors but are inexpensive and fast – perfect for the dedicated gamer.
- S-PVA/MVA panels has much better viewing angels and color reproduction compared to TN panels but the response time is worse compared to S-IPS or TN panels. Though contrast ratios are the best with a little color shifting this mid range monitor type should not be your first choice if you like fast paced gaming as you will most likely suffer from motion blur and ghosting. They are also slightly more expensive.
- S-IPS/H-IPS panels are known for providing superior color accuracy and wide viewing angles. They are regarded as the best LCD technology available but are also expensive and response times are slower than TN panels (6-16ms) and might give motion blur or ghosting in fast paced games.They are ideal for graphics design where accurate color reproduction is crucial. This is often not the demand of hardcore gamers.
Unfortunately manufacturers rarely specify what kind of panel is used making it more than difficult for the average consumer to make a decision before buying. But there is help on this matter. TFT Panel provides a fantastic free to use panel search service where you can determine what kind of panel is in almost every monitor model available. The list is frequently updated with new monitors.
You need to identify which features you need before buying. As a serious gamer on a tight budget I would still choose a monitor with TN panel as they are inexpensive and lightning fast.
Monitors with IPS technology are getting better and better all the time and response times are dropping to an acceptable level for gaming but they are more expensive. If money is not an issue I would definitely consider buying an IPS monitor with low response time as they do reproduce color more accurately and viewing angels are great.
LCD vs. LED
LED panels consists of thousands of light-emitting diodes and delivers an extended lifetime between 100.000-1.000.000 hours and reduces power consumption by up to 55% over typical LCD monitors. LED are more expensive to produce and therefore cost more but the longevity will easily make up for that.
Generally LED displays has better contrast ratios, black levels and viewing angels compared to LCD. LED and LCD have the approximate same color accuracy and are both great at fast moving video and gaming. If you have the money I would recommend LED over LCD as there are no real deal breakers when choosing LED.
Many monitor’s offer high resolutions as 1080p full HD which is great for gaming but other resolutions will also work as long as you play the game at native screen resolutions. Every monitor have a native resolution which is the total count of vertical and horizontal pixels on the panel.
Not running your game at the monitors native resolution will cause extrapolation giving you a fuzzy and less detailed image. To get the ultimate gaming experience always remember to run your games in native resolutions.
If you spend many hours playing games a large sized quality monitor will definitely help you immerse yourself during gaming. Monitors are available as high as 30” intensifying the game experience even more. Large sized monitors are more expensive so if you’re on a budget a 24-27” screen will do it just fine. Ultimately it’s your choice and desktop space and viewing distance are also a factor to be considered.
Contrast ratio is a measure of the difference in light intensity between the brightest white and the darkest black. Monitors with higher contrast ratio often have better color representation than monitors with a lower contrast ratio. It enables the monitor to display a deeper black which is great for dark scenes or passages and will give you a more natural and impressive game experience.
3D have become very popular in recent years and Samsung, Acer, Sony and ViewSonic have released 3D monitor’s on the market. A monitor needs the capability to display images at a 120Hz refresh rate in order to display anything in 3D. That’s because a 3D capable screen actually displays two images and the glasses cause one of the images to enter one eye and the other to enter the other eye, thus needing double the refresh rate as ordinary screens. Otherwise you would have a refresh rate of 30Hz – too low.
These monitors are often brighter than ordinary monitors because the 3D glasses acts as a weak sunglass, blocking some of the light from the screen. I wont go into detail about the 3D capabilities in this gaming monitor guide.
Personally I would not yet buy a monitor solely because of it’s 3D technology. This technology is still in it’s infant years but no doubt that the technology will get better in years to come. I would still select a monitor based on the other criteria I have described in this article and see the 3D as nice to have.
The majority of monitors today features DVI-D, HDMI or DisplayPort connections enabling you to connect your computer, Blu-ray player, cable box, or game console and experience a full 1080p HD display. HDMI and DisplayPort offers a true digital connection with precise color definition and high end sound and high definition quality resolutions.
Remember that your graphics card has to support either one of these connections especially if you plan to run at 120hz which is only possible using these type of connections.
Most monitors on the market for gaming are widescreen. Choosing a non-widescreen monitor is not ideal because you will most likely have to play the game in a lower resolution than intended by the game developer. That will interpolate the image and distort the aspect ratio. Widescreen offers an extra dimension to the game and is also great for watching movies.
The longevity of a LCD monitor depends on the CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps) and is typically between 40.000 and 60.000 hours and about the same for FFL (Flat Fluorescent Light) panels. LED panels which consists of thousands of light-emitting diodes delivers an extended lifetime between 100.000-1.000.000 hours and reduces power consumption by up to 55% over typical LCD monitors.
This is the end of my Gaming Monitor Guide and I hope this list gave you some insight knowledge of what to look for when shopping for a new monitor which you can read about in the best gaming monitor collection article.