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The best gaming monitor 2018: nine picks from Digital Foundry

Choosing the right gaming monitor can be tricky. While some PC peripherals like mice and keyboards are mostly matters of personal preference, some gaming monitors are just objectively better than others, offering higher resolutions, faster refresh rates or more accurate colours. Monitors can also last a long time – often five years or more – and you’ll probably use them every day, whether you’re playing games or trying to get some work done.

That makes it important to choose the right monitor, but the options for brands, specs and features can be overwhelming. That’s why we are keeping it simple, to give you the gaming monitor recommendations you need with the bare minimum of jargon. Whether you’re looking for the absolute best monitor on the market, the best budget option or something in between, we’ve got you covered across a large range of different gaming use-cases.

Each person’s needs are different, so we tailored our picks towards specific scenarios – the best monitors for fans of single-player games, multiplayer games, console games and so on. We also chose monitors across a range of price points, so you’ll be able to find a reasonable recommendation no matter how big or small your budget is.

The most important thing to remember is that the higher your chosen monitor’s resolution and refresh rate, the faster your PC will need to be in order to make full use of the monitor’s capabilities. For example, you’ve little to gain by choosing a high-end 4K 144Hz monitor without a correspondingly powerful PC that can actually generate 144 frames per second at 4K.

Budget PCs and base consoles should target the most common resolution and refresh rate combination: 1080p and 60Hz. If your computer is mid-range or better, you might consider monitors that operate at higher resolutions, higher refresh rates or both. Only powerful PCs and upgraded consoles (the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro) can handle 4K at high detail settings. Your graphics card has the biggest impact on gaming performance, so check out our guide to the best graphics cards to learn more about that side of the equation.

Best gaming monitor

Acer Predator XB271HUA: a strong 1440p and 144Hz all-rounder

Size: 27-inch | Resolution: 2560×1440 | Refresh rate: 144Hz (165Hz OC) | Features: G-Sync | Panel: TN

This Acer Predator monitor is a solid choice for most PC gamers, combining a sharp 2560×1440 resolution with a responsive 144Hz refresh rate. That’s a step up from a standard 1080p at 60Hz monitor in two dimensions, so you’ll see benefits whether you’re playing fast-paced multiplayer titles or more relaxed single-player titles. This combination also isn’t too far out of reach for most mid-range to high-end gaming PCs, and there’s always G-Sync to fall back on for particularly challenging games. The XB217HUA also justifies its price with a nicely adjustable stand, thin bezels and the usual assortment of nice-to-have features: blue light reduction, several game modes, an on-screen crosshair and so on.

Alternative options: If image quality is of paramount importance, you might also consider the IPS version of this monitor, the XB271HU. That monitor costs about 20 per cent more, but provides a noticeable upgrade in viewing angles and colour accuracy. If you use an AMD graphics card or don’t care about G-Sync, you can also save a bit of cash by switching to the FreeSync version of this monitor, the XG270HUA, but you do sacrifice that higher 165Hz refresh rate and get a less impressive stand.

Best 144Hz monitor

BenQ Zowie XL2411P: an ideal monitor for fast-paced multiplayer gaming

Size: 24-inch | Resolution: 1920×1080 | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Panel: TN

For fast-paced multiplayer games, high refresh rate monitors make it easier to track moving targets and hit those headshots. There are plenty of monitors on the market that use similar 1080p 144Hz displays, but BenQ’s XL2411P distinguishes itself with an excellent height-adjustable stand and clever gaming-specific features. The stand’s adjustability ameliorates the poor viewing angles often found in this category, while colour vibrance and dark boost settings ensure that enemy players are visible against dark or busy backdrops. While 27-inch alternatives are available, we prefer 24-inch models for this category as they are cheaper, easier to fit into your peripheral vision and look less grainy at 1080p.

Best 4K gaming monitor

Acer Predator XB321HK: a great big canvas for experiencing single-player titles

Size: 32-inch | Resolution: 3840×2160 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Features: G-Sync | Panel: TN

The Predator XB321HK incorporates all of the essential elements of a 4K monitor: an expansive 32-inch diagonal that makes the most of the resolution, an IPS panel with excellent colour reproduction and G-Sync support to ensure that even low frame rates feel responsive. This latter item is particularly important, as even the best graphics cards struggle with 4K gaming at a sustained 60fps. Other nice features here include a powerful stand, a good selection of gaming modes and features and a stylish appearance with minimal bezels.

Alternative options: If your budget is limited, a 27-inch or 28-inch monitor is a better shout. The XB281HK is the 28-inch version of the monitor above for about £250 less, but the IPS panel has been traded for a cheaper TN alternative.

Best cheap gaming monitor: BenQ Zowie RL2455

Size: 24-inch | Resolution: 1920×1080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Panel: TN

This is one of the best value monitors for budget PC gaming, and it should also suit gamers with a base model Xbox One or PlayStation 4. That’s thanks to the RL2455’s extremely low input lag, portable 24-inch span and an assortment of gaming modes and features. The black equaliser mode, which brightens darker areas of the screen, is particularly useful in shooters like Call of Duty and Fortnite, although the inclusion of several genre-specific modes ensure the monitor works well for many other games too.

Best 1440p gaming monitor: BenQ GW2765HT

Size: 27-inch | Resolution: 2560×1440 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Panel: IPS

You don’t have to spend a lot to get a nice 1440p monitor these days. This 27-inch model from BenQ uses an IPS display for accurate colours, making it a good choice for creative work too. Response times are also impressive for an IPS panel, at 4ms. The GW2765HT also includes a height-adjustable stand and nice-to-have eye health features, including a low blue light mode and a flicker-free display.

Best 4K monitor for Xbox One X/PS4 Pro: BenQ EL2870U

Size: 28-inch | Resolution: 3840×2160 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Features: FreeSync, HDR | Panel: TN

While 4K TVs pair nicely with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, there are also some great monitors to consider that can offer a more responsive experience, thanks to lower input latency. One example is the BenQ EL2870U, a 28-inch 4K monitor that boasts a rapid 1ms response time, FreeSync support (which can be used on the Xbox One X) and even nominal HDR support. The EL2870U’s colour accuracy and image quality is limited by the TN panel used here and HDR is underwhelming, but the 4K resolution, FreeSync support and low price point keep this BenQ monitor in contention.

Best 240Hz monitor: Acer XF270H / KG271B

Size: 27-inch | Resolution: 1920×1080 | Refresh rate: 240Hz | Features: FreeSync | Panel: TN

If fast-paced competitive games like shooters or MOBAs are your jam, 240Hz monitors like these ones from Acer are the undisputed performance champions. You’ll need a fast processor and graphics card to pump out enough frames but tracking moving targets in games like Counter-Strike or Fortnite is easier than ever. Each monitor also has a stylish design with thin bezels, making these a good choice for multi-display setups too. It’s also worth mentioning that AMD FreeSync is supported, although this won’t be too useful at 240 frames per second.

Note: Acer makes two different monitors with the same 27-inch 240Hz panel, hence the two names above.

Best ultrawide gaming monitor: Acer Predator Z35P

Size: 35-inch | Resolution: 3440×1440 | Refresh rate: 100Hz | Features: G-Sync, 1800R curvature | Panel: VA

This titanic monitor provides a suitably immersive experience, with its 35-inch span wrapping into the corners of your peripheral vision. The VA panel used here has no obvious weaknesses, with a relatively crisp 3440×1440 resolution, excellent contrast and a fluid 100Hz refresh rate. The ultra-wide resolution isn’t as hard on your PC as standard 4K, but you still have the option of enabling G-Sync to improve perceived performance below 60 frames per second. Good adjustability, a wide range of gaming presets and a stylish design complete the package.

Best HDR gaming monitor: Asus PG27UQ

Size: 27-inch | Resolution: 3840×2160 | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Features: G-Sync HDR | Panel: IPS Quantum Dot

The PG27UQ and its brother-from-another-mother, the Acer X27, are by far the best gaming monitors ever made. The only problem is that they each cost over $2000. That immense price is justified by the inclusion of seemingly every bleeding-edge monitor technology: 4K resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, G-Sync support, proper 384-zone HDR, a colour-accurate Quantum Dot IPS display and more RGB lighting than you can shake a stick at. That makes these monitors basically brilliant at everything from gaming to HDR movie watching and content creation, although for gaming you’ll need an incredibly powerful PC to even get close to 4K at 144Hz in most titles. Let’s hope that we’ll see some of these specs and features trickle down into more affordable models in the years to come, when next-gen graphics cards will give us a chance of actually driving these monitors to their full potential.

Essential terms for monitor buyers

Picking up your first monitor? Here are some common specs and what they actually mean.

Resolution: How many pixels are on screen, given as horizontal x vertical. 1920×1080 (1080p) and 3840×2160 (4K) are the most common resolutions for both TVs and monitors. The higher the resolution, the crisper and more detailed a game tends to look.

Refresh rate: How many times the screen updates per second, given in Hz. Standard monitors and TVs refresh at 60Hz, while gaming models may refresh anywhere from 100 to 240Hz, with 144Hz being the most common choice for a high refresh rate monitor. The higher the refresh rate, the more fluid a game will feel.

Response time: This stat typically measures how fast a pixel can turn from grey to white and then back to grey again. Most gaming monitors sport response time figures of less than 5ms, with TN panels being the fastest and IPS or VA screens being a little slower. Low response times help to eliminate distracting smears in fast-paced scenes. Note that response time is distinct from input lag, which refers to the delay between an input (like pressing a button) and seeing the effect of the input on-screen.

G-Sync/FreeSync: These are both terms that refer to adaptive sync technology, designed to eliminate ugly screen-tearing while adding less input lag than traditional v-sync. G-Sync is Nvidia’s implementation, which requires a physical G-Sync module inside the monitor that can drive up prices. FreeSync is the AMD alternative, which doesn’t require a special module and therefore doesn’t add much to a monitor’s price. G-Sync requires a Nvidia graphics card to work, while FreeSync requires an AMD card.

HDR: High Dynamic Range allows for greater contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of an image, as well as a wider colour gamut. While a growing number of monitors are technically HDR-capable, most can’t hit the high peak brightness figures that actually make the feature worthwhile. We recommend sticking with monitors that hit stringent standards, like HDR10, if playing games or watching films in HDR is important to you.

IPS: This sort of monitors tend to be expensive to produce, but provide better viewing angles and improved colour accuracy compared to monitors using VA or TN panels. However, some IPS panels, particularly older ones, can suffer from slower response times, making them worse for fast-paced games. Another potential issue is ‘IPS glow’, where the monitor’s backlight is visible in dark scenes.

TN: The most mature display technology, TN panels are cheap to produce and offer some of the fastest response times. However, colour accuracy and viewing angles tend to be poor, sometimes resulting in a washed out look – particularly if you’re not viewing the monitor head-on. However, modern TN panels do well to minimise these drawbacks.

VA: A type of monitor panel which tends to occupy a middle-ground between IPS and TN in many respects. These panels generally offer the best contrast, backed with good response times and colour reproduction.

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About Ryan

I'm a true gamer. I'm not a pro gamer but ill never stop playing games. My choice of console is PlayStation, but each to their own. I unfortunately do not get as much time as i would like to still play games, but when i do, i love it!

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