Best Gaming Monitors 2018: G-Sync, FreeSync, Budget and More

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 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 IPSTN and VA technologies are all vying for your eyeballs—and your wallet.

How do you tell what’s the best screen for your gaming needs 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 of what’s currently available, you can find our favorites among the dozens we’ve tested broken out by major categories below.

News and Product Updates

We’ve got a new pick for best budget gaming monitor. The Acer RG270 has taken the crown with great features like FreeSync, a 75Hz refresh rate, an IPS panel and good color accuracy.

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 display, 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 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 graphics card 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.

Alternate:

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 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.

Alternate:

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 60Hz panel is sufficient—especially if you don’t also have a high-end card capable of pushing modern games beyond 60 frames per second (fps).

Alternate:

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.

Alternate:

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.

Alternate:

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.

Alternate:

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.

MORE: How We Test Monitors

MORE: How To Choose A Monitor

MORE: All Monitor Content

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  • digitalgriffin
    There should be NO, best of monitors with TN displays given the price premium. Color and contrast are critical when playing games. TN is not going to cut it.

    VA or IPS 100Hz or higher should be the target for 1080/1440 and 60Hz@4K

    Fact is I recently saw a FreeSync VA Panel at 144 for $330 27"
  • Dantte
    Please review the Samsung 27" CHG70. Its inexpensive and other than not having Gsync, the specs fit every other want/need I have. PC Monitors has a great review of it, but I'd like to see Tom's do one and position it on the charts.
  • papality
    Tom's Hardware, home of "Just buy it!" about NVIDIA's $1200 RTX cards, is here recommending almost exclusively 1080p monitors in 2018.
    Also... still haven't reviewed the X27 and PG27UQ? Really?
  • Dantte
    Anonymous said:
    Tom's Hardware, home of "Just buy it!" about NVIDIA's $1200 RTX cards, is here recommending almost exclusively 1080p monitors in 2018.
    Also... still haven't reviewed the X27 and PG27UQ? Really?


    I have to agree, bare minimum resolution for me is 1440P now; if its 1080p its a hard pass with ZERO consideration yet other than a single 4K monitor, everything else is 1080p WTF?
  • truerock
    So, what's the deal with the midget 24" - 27" monitors?
    I've used a 27" 1080p Samsung monitor for the last 6 years.
    I'm ready to upgrade to something like a 43", 2160x3840, 120Hz monitor
    I have one upstairs in the bedroom: a Samsung NU7100, $400
  • rantoc
    Everyone have different preferences, some like very fast refresh rates (usually the ones playing low res just to get just that along with less input latency while playing competitive fps games and the like) while others preferer picture perfect screens that usually are slower and with that in mind usually aim for higher settings in the games to get the best gfx possible.

    Its hard to find best of both worlds and where the dial is set is up to each one, for myself I found a good compromise in asus PG348Q and was pleasently surprised how well that ultrawide handled office work as well... its like 2 monitors in one without the brazells in the middle.
  • toledo090819
    and best ultrawide is what? it should be the aw3418dw alineware. i should delete this site on my bookmarks. DONE
  • feelinfroggy777
    No 4k gsync monitor? Not really sure what the point is, but AMD cards really cant push 4k unless the settings are dialed way back. With 40hz lower end limit on the freesync monitor, really makes the freesync unusable in most situations at 4k.

    And maybe I missed something, but were there any 1440p monitors?
  • mac_angel
    too small
  • zthomas
    Been using an Acer g-sync couple years now along with a new titan xp its like I'm actually in the game itself.. I have been checking some those ultra wide monitors like 51 inches only just few out there.. narrow and wide.. wow..
  • newsonline5000000
    There should be budget choice for each category of monitors . not only one budget choice.

    That is :

    1- Best 4k Monitor , Best Budget 4k Monitor

    2- Best Ultra wide monitor , and best Budget ultra wide monitors..

    3- best Gsync/Free sync , and best budget ones.
    and so on ...
  • 80-watt Hamster
    Dear monitor manufacturers: Please resume constructing your products with internal power supplies (that use a standard PC power cable).
  • SiggeLund
    Hmm. nVidia has the only high-end cards today. If I am looking for an ultra-wide to an nVidia card, this review is pretty much useless.
  • wwaaacs5
    u should add budget monitor thats not TN, the color/contrast hit and awful view angles are awful rly. not worth that kinda budgeting for many.
  • mlee 2500
    I used the excellent Acer XB280HK to game in 4K for over four years and what I learned is that 28" (and certainly 27"), is too small for 4K gaming. You end up missing out on allot of detail that the game developers and artists spent so much time and effort to create, because it's too small on the screen, even with scaling (which has it's own problems).

    On the other end of the spectrum, anything beyond 32" starts to extend outside of ones immediate peripheral vision, requiring excessive neck movement. In short, 30"-32" is the sweet spot for 4K, IMHO.

    On that note, I've noticed lately that one of the very few (only?) existing 32" 4K IPS panels with G-SYNC has been on a fire sale at nearly every vendor (Amazon, NewEgg, B&H) the past few weeks for about $400 less then it's going rate the past 4 years (the Acer XB321HK), which leads me to wonder if higher-frequency versions (>60Hz) using DisplayPort 1.4 are finally about to really hit the market...presumably now that there are commonly available GPU's which are capable of driving them (RTX series).
  • PapaCrazy
    WTF is up with the Asus stands? All these gaming monitors have obnoxious stands but did they really need to go full retard with that non-symmetrical design? I refuse to look at a head trip like that all day. Dammit I wish these gamer designs would get some class, they'd be good products otherwise. All of it, cases, fans, coolers, keyboards, mice, chairs, even desks dammit! Get off my grass!
  • SiggeLund
    There is no point in having a FreeSync monitor with a high refresh rate and high pixel count. There is simply no GPU to feed it.

    As such it becomes very weird to omit G-Sync screens with IPS in these categories. This is where the magic happens in gaming.