Size and Resolution aren’t everything
When looking at monitors today most novice gamers just think about size and resolution. From 24 inch 1080 to 32 inch or ultrawide 4K monitors, there’s already a lot to choose from, but perhaps the most important and overlooked factor is the type of panel a monitor uses. Also, manufacturer reliability and extra features are often things people don’t think about until after they get their monitor with busted pixels or only one HDMI port.
Here we are focused on the middle-ground between the aging 1080 and the newest 4K. 2K monitors are still four times better quality than 1080 but your graphics card still has a chance to run games at this quality. We are going to focus on the three main panel types, IPS, TN and VA, as well as giving our budget pick and the best feature-filled offerings including G-sync, blue light filter and more.
But if 4K is the best, why should I get a 2K monitor?
Yes, 4K is the best that the average consumer can get if they really want to spend the money. But the above average buyer can also get 5K and all the way up to 8K, but very little media is ready for that quality in the mainstream, and it is ridiculously expensive.
As for 4K gaming, you need to pay for much more than the monitor. Gaming and computing are different than 4K movies. They are interactive and when you change your view in a game, something (your graphics card) has to suddenly render all the thousands of pixels in near real-time. Simply put, the more pixels you display, the more your hardware will struggle to keep up.
2K monitors are nice because they offer an over 50% bump in pixel density compared to 1080, or roughly 4 times the resolution of the minimum standard of 720 HD. You get about 2 million pixels in a 1080 and rounding up you get 3.7 million in a 2K screen. Most smartphones have this type of display and achieve the “Retina” status.
Retina displays were the name coined for screens that had so many pixels squished in their frame that the human eye could no longer pick out an individual pixel, a huge step to more true-to-life images. the pixels per square inch and the distance the screen is to your eyes are the measurements for retina status. The good thing for gaming monitors is that they are usually farther away than your phone viewing distance.
4K TV’s are retina quality at less than 2 feet from your eyes, but 2K is retina at under 3 feet, meaning it will be right at the edge of a retina display for a 27-inch screen at normal distances. For the price and performance, a good choice.
IPS and TN are fighting for first, but VA panels can be a good choice too
Without getting too technical, there are about 3-5 ways the lighting and display panels of monitors are put together that each has advantages and downsides of their own. I’ll give a brief overview of the 3 main panels so you can decide what one is right for you.
Twisted Neumatic (TN)
TN panels are the old standard. They provide a ridiculously quick response time (how fast the screen displays the signals from your PC/Console) of about 1-2 milliseconds. They are the cheapest to manufacture and have a low chance of defects.
They do have a downside in that they have low color accuracy and viewing angles. This means that you won’t get the most vivid colors out of your beautiful games like Witcher 3 and if you aren’t looking at the right angle to your monitor, colors will fade or distort. Even large screens can have this effect in the corners even if you are looking straight on.
IPS panels are the trendy choice as they provide beautiful and accurate color and great viewing angles. IPS screens are great for having multiple people around a screen as they can all see. They are bright and so color accurate that they are often the choice for graphic designers.
The tradeoff is a higher price and lower response times of 5ms and often much longer than that, so competitive gamers playing fast games like Call of Duty may notice lag.
Vertical Alignment (VA/PVA/AMVA)
Finally, VA panels. These are a unique middle ground option. Cheaper than IPS, but usually a little more than a TN, VA panels have stunning contrast ratings. An example would be that a picture of the moon and stars at night would be incredibly “crisp”, the moon would have a bright white glow and the black of night would actually be black. Most monitor types struggle with black, it’s often more grey or glowing, but good VA panels have near- perfect contrast.
VA panels have viewing angles that most would consider good-enough, though they aren’t as amazing as IPS angles. You also have wider variety in quality and abilities; some VA panels have amazing color accuracy, while others are closer to TNs
Now that you know what you might want, here is a great pick for each of the panel types:
TN panel: ASUS PG278QR 27″
ASUS has a whole line of gaming monitors here, but their IPS versions suffer from unfortunate IPS glow. Their TN model, however, is insanely fast at 165Hz, much faster than the standard high-mark of 144Hz. This means that if your computer can power it, you can get an ultra-smooth 165 frames per second instead of the usual standard of 60. Features such as G-sync are welcome too and the stands are easy and effortless to adjust.
It is a TN screen, but ASUS has leaned into the strengths of a TN by making it smooth and powerful. Ignore most of the bad reviews as they are for the IPS versions that have a bad IPS glow problem. TN panels hardly ever have this problem.
Best IPS monitor: Acer Predator XB271HU 27″
ASUS and ACER are fighting for the title of best gaming monitor and ACER gets some credit here for simple reliability. Some things are a little step down; the stand is more awkward, though still works and it is shipped to you at 144Hz, but can be overclocked to 165Hz.
Aside from that, its currently $50 cheaper than the ASUS IPS of the same size. All of the highest-end IPS monitors seem to be suffering with manufacturing defects like dead pixels and IPS glow, but ACER seems to have better reliability than the other brands. It has an impressive 4ms response time, though still 4 times slower than a TN, most people will struggle to notice.
Best VA panel: ASUS PB328Q 32″
After weeks of researching, this was my pick for an awesome multi-tasking and better than expected gaming monitor. I really didn’t want to risk the high price and the high chance of a defective IPS model, but I wanted good viewing angles and color so I got an AMVA panel.
The ASUS PB328Q isn’t sold as a “gaming” computer(just compare this picture with the other two flashy monitors) likely because gamers often just look at either TN or IPS panels, but this PB328Q is one amazing monitor. First off, it is much larger (just five more inches, but that really makes a difference on your desk) and cheaper than the other monitors on this list.
It doesn’t come close to the 165Hz of the other two but does have 75Hz. This doesn’t seem like much, but it is a 25% increase over the usual standard of 60. If you don’t know the specifics of your TV or monitor, it’s probably a 60Hz so just the bump up to 75Hz should be noticeable, for me it was.
It doesn’t have any of the fancy gamer-focused features like G-sync or countdown timer or crosshairs you can slap on the screen, but it has the amazing adjustable stand ASUS has on their gaming monitors. It has amazing color accuracy that rivals most IPS screens and the about the best contrast even compared to other VA screens. A low 4ms response time is good, but in practice the screen does suffer from the occasional lag or ghosting (trailing blur of a fast-moving image).
Because it’s a AMVA, there are fewer chances of a defect, and mine works perfectly, runs cool, and has zero dead pixels. Tom’s Hardware tested this monitor every way they could imagine and they couldn’t find a problem with it. check out their testing and review of the PB328Q here (Link https://goo.gl/JWI7de). Be aware, however, that it still isn’t the 165Hz variety, and some blur will happen on a 4ms monitor. This is not the perfect monitor, but for me, it was pretty close to perfect.
Best Budget Monitor: ASUS PB277Q Link: https://goo.gl/uuAM1o
Going away from the panels (though this is a TN as it’s the cheapest to make) we find yet another ASUS monitor. They really are dominating the gaming market right now and even their budget monitors can get the job done. The PB277Q stands at just over $250 but, like the AMVA panel above, bumps the Hz from a budget standard of 60 to a pretty decent 75Hz.
ASUS also includes a bunch of features you don’t often find on budget monitors. Many companies are shying away from picture-in-picture (PiP) modes, but ASUS gives you a full featured version of it, as well as the rapid speed of a TN panel and the superior multi-directional stand ASUS is known for. For an entry into 4K, it would be hard to do better for cheaper, especially if you want the nice popular 27 inch monitor.
Best Feature Set/ultimate gaming monitor: ASUS ROG SWIFT PG279Q
ASUS takes the cake again with a super fast IPS screen and amazing features, but making your purchase a small gamble with lots of reported manufacture defects. The best IPS in general went to ACER because they simply had better reliability with the tricky to manufacture IPS monitors. But in reality the chance of getting a defective monitor is really low, you’re not exactly running a 50/50 chance of having to return your monitor. If you do get a good one, you are in for quite a show as ASUS has packed insane amounts of features in this beautiful IPS monitor.
Image link: https://www.asus.com/us/Monitors/ROG-SWIFT-PG278QR/
This has got to be the fastest monitor that supports G-sync, a Nvidia chip that locks your monitor’s refresh rate with your graphics card so you will have consistently smooth framerates and no tearing in your picture. Most monitors support Freesync, which is kinda the same but built for integration with AMD cards. G-Sync is much more expensive to include, but most results show that G-Sync is much better at keeping those smooth framerates, especially at the higher 144Hz rates.
Did you know you could put in various gaming overlays onto your screen? I honestly had no idea until a few weeks ago. Need a crosshair for shooter that just doesn’t come with a good crosshair option? Slap ASUS’s crosshair overlay up and shoot in the dead center every time. Need a timer for your MOBA like League of Legends to see when camps are coming up, spell timers for an MMORPG, just press the timer button and configure it right on your screen.
The screen has some of the thinnest bezels (plastic borders) on the market, making it an ideal choice for a multi-monitor setup. It features an integrated cable runway down the back of the stand, an overly vented case and a super handy menu navigation joystick that completely removes the common frustrations of navigating monitor settings.
Image Link: https://www.asus.com/us/Monitors/ROG-SWIFT-PG278QR/
ASUS also takes care of you and your eyes by having options to reduce blue light. All the recent research shows that blue light causes more eye strain and sends too many signals to your brain that it’s daytime and time to be awake. If you are gaming before bed, simply turn up the blue light and find that you’re able to fall asleep faster when you are ready. Flicker free technology also helps remove the almost imperviable variations in the light flickering that can give you eye strain and headaches. You’ll never know its there but its keeping an eye (pun intended) out for you.
So there you have it; ASUS hasn’t always been the king of monitors, but they currently dominate the market from budget to all out performance. Other brands still have great offers, however. LG, BenQ, and Phillips all have some pretty good offers in multipurpose monitors that can be used for gaming, especially on a budget or specialty screens like ultrawides, but few of their gaming monitors outshine ASUS or ACER currently.