After years of near-stagnation, the monitor space—and the gaming monitor space in particular—has exploded with innovation in recent years. There’s screen-smoothing adaptive refresh (in both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync flavors), ultra-high refresh rates (up to 240Hz!), curved displays and ultra-wides (both aimed at increasing immersion) and pixel-dense 4K resolution screens with high refresh that are visually stunning but as hard on the wallet as they are on pretty much any graphics card setup.
That’s not to mention the various panel technologies, which all have their own advantages and weaknesses. Various types of IPS panel, TN panel and VA panel technologies are all vying for your eyeballs—and your wallet.
How do you pick the best gaming monitor in this complex minefield of marketing and actually impressive technological advancements? If you’re not sure where to start (or what most of the jargon above actually means) our monitor buying guide is a good place to start. But if you already know what features you’re after and just want a short list of the best gaming monitor options currently available, you can find our favorites among the dozens we’ve tested broken out by major categories below.
News and Updates
We’ve added the Monoprice 33822 as an alternate pick to our best 144Hz gaming monitor. You’ll also find the AOC Agon AG322QC4 as a second option for the best FreeSync monitor and the MSI Optix MAG341CQ listed as an alternative to our best ultrawide pick.
We also met a plethora of upcoming monitors during our adventures at the CES 2019 tech trade show in Las Vegas last week. Bringing fun to 2019, a lot of this year’s launches will come with some unexpected add-on capabilities. Check out our slideshow of surprising monitor features coming in 2019.
Want to see all the monitors we saw at CES 2019? Look no further: We have the HP Pavilion 27 Quantum Dot and other new family members, the 65-inch, soundbar-equipped HP Omen X Emerpium 65, Asus’ 1,200-nit ProArt PA32UCX and new ROG Strix XG monitors, Lenovo’s 2019 Legion monitors, the Razer Colorful Raptor 27, winner of the Tom’s Hardware CES 2019 Award for best monitor, the Aorus AD27QD Tactical, MSI’s Optix MPG341CQR and Prestige PS341WU, an Alienware OLED monitor and upcoming Samsung monitors, including an ultrawide and space-saver.
While you’re on the new monitor grind, don’t forget to check out news on AOC’s latest G-Sync and FreeSync 2 monitors.
Why Trust Us
Tom's Hardware has been reviewing PC hardware for more than two decades. We put each monitor through a battery of tests, which measure everything from brightness and contrast to color accuracy and response time. We've tested hundreds of models, from 60Hz budget panels for feature-packed flagship screens, so we can separate the best from the dim and inaccurate disappointments.
Quick Shopping Tips
- Panel technologies: when it comes to image quality, TN < IPS ≠ VA. TN monitors are the fastest but cheapest due to poorer viewing angles. IPS monitors have slightly slower response times and show color better than VA monitors, but VA monitors have better contrast than IPS displays.
- Refresh rates: bigger numbers are better. This tells you the number of times your monitor updates with new information per second and is measured in hertz (Hz), and therefore the number of frames per second (fps) the monitor is capable of actually displaying on screen. Bigger numbers equal smoother images. If you’re a gamer, refresh rate is especially important, and you’ll want a monitor with at least 75Hz (most monitors designed for gaming offer at least 144Hz), combined with the lowest response time you can find.
- Curved or non-curved? This depends on preference. The logic behind curved monitors is that they more closely mimic the curved manner in which your eyeballs see, but some notice the difference more than others. Further, you may not like the appearance of a curved monitor if it’s against a wall (it’ll stick out more), or if you’re opposed to the widescreen ratios of most curved monitors. Many will tell you a curved monitor is worthless if it’s smaller than 30 inches, which also has pricing implications. If you’re unsure, try one out and see if you notice any difference. If not, don’t bother paying more.
Best Big-Screen Gaming Monitor
With TVs as big as they are today, some scoff at the idea of staring long-term at screens in the 20-inch-plus or even 30-inch-plus range. But gaming on a big-screen TV means high input lag, and you can forget about G-Sync, FreeSync or DisplayPort. Big-screen monitors answer the needs of the go big or go home crow but have a more difficult task achieving good pixel density. And you’ll need room to sit further away from the display in order to take in all the action.
Best 4K Gaming Monitor
With densely packed pixels and less of a need to switch on anti-aliasing effects, 4K screens (3840x2160 resolution) can deliver truly stunning visuals. But keep in mind you’ll need a very powerful GPU, aka one near the top of the GPU hierarchy, to achieve smooth frame rates. And most 4K panels are limited to 60Hz refresh rates due to connectivity bandwidth limitations. So serious competitive gamers may want to look elsewhere.
Best 144hz Gaming Monitor
These high-refresh screens used to be the bleeding-edge of gaming, with their abilities to deliver triple-digit frame rates. While faster panels have now been introduced, 144Hz screens still offer a good balance of high-end performance and reasonable price points. While competitive eSports players swear by extremely fast refresh rates, it’s arguable whether the eye—and your body’s reflexes—can tell the difference between 144Hz and pricier, faster models capable of running at 200Hz and up.
Best Budget Gaming Monitor
Not everyone can afford to drop several hundred dollars (or more) on a gaming screen. And many people shouldn’t. For more casual gamers, and those who often use their PCs for productivity purposes as well, a good 60-75 Hz panel is sufficient—especially if you don’t also have the best, high-end GPU capable of pushing modern games beyond 60 frames per second (fps).
Best Curved Gaming Monitor
Curved TVs are kind of silly. But it’s arguable that a monitor, which you’ll usually be sitting directly in front of, provides a better sense of immersion—particularly if your monitor is also an ultra-wide model. The wider field of view does a better job of realistically portraying first-person fields of view while also providing a less physically restrictive window on your gaming world of choice. Just be sure to check out a few in-person if possible, as some people prefer screens with tighter curves than others.
Best Ultra-Wide Gaming Monitor
The wider field of view of an ultra-wide monitor is particularly good for first-person games, especially if the monitor is also curved. This provides a more realistic view of what’s happening around you, rather than the more condensed visuals you get from a more standard screen ratio. When you aren’t gaming, ultra-wide screens are also great for productivity, letting you display more full-sized documents and Web pages side-by-side at once.
Best G-Sync Gaming Monitor
If you have an Nvidia graphics card and are looking for the smoothest gaming experience possible, a G-Sync-capable monitor should be on your short list. In general, G-Sync monitors provide a better overall experience than AMD’s competing screen-smoothing FreeSync tech. But G-Sync monitors also require additional hardware to do their screen-smoothing work. So, expect to pay more for your ultra-smooth G-Sync experience compared to FreeSync monitors or displays without variable refresh features at all.
Best FreeSync Gaming Monitor
AMD’s FreeSync tech (and the newer FreeSync 2) eliminates screen tearing in games via screen-smoothing variable refresh tech, so long as you’re using an AMD graphics card. FreeSync also doesn’t require additional hardware, so monitors don’t tend to cost significantly more than monitors that don’t have variable refresh. Just note that the variable refresh window varies from monitor to monitor and can be narrower than many competing G-Sync monitors. But G-Sync monitors cost more, and if you have an AMD card, variable refresh won’t work with a G-Sync screen.
Best 240Hz Gaming Monitors
For gamers who place prime priority on smooth gaming and lightning-fast response times, these displays offer the best of the best and are a good fit for very serious gamers. That said, you will need a very high-end graphics card to push these screens to their limits. And it’s arguable how much real-world differences they offer most gamers compared to 144Hz or 200Hz monitors.
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