PC gamers can enjoy today's competitive pricing in CPUs, graphics cards and memory, and build a highly capable gaming machine without having to overpay or spend a ton of money (unless you want to). We're glad to report this PC builder's friendly environment extends to gaming monitors as well, with dozens of great options at record-low prices for the kind of technology that you get.
This article is an extension to TechSpot's Best Monitors that comprises professional, workstation and enthusiast oriented monitors, while this list is dedicated to high refresh rate monitors that are best suited for gaming. We've broken down our recommendations based on resolution and feature set, as we look for the best models that deliver on the specs, on the performance and on price.
Best 1440p Gaming Monitor
Great | Differentiating Features
Amazing price for 32 inches and 1440p@144Hz, excellent contrast
Good | Most Have It
Top build quality, G-sync-compatible FreeSync
Average | Competitors May Be Better
No USB, speakers, or HDR
Sure, there are plenty of 4K panels out there for gamers, or you could buy a 1080p monitor with a 240Hz refresh rate, but the sweet spot for most people has long been 1440p@144Hz with adaptive sync technology. That usually meant spending at least $500 or more, but the LG 32GK650F can be grabbed from Amazon for just $319.
LG went with a flat VA panel for this 32-inch, 2560 x 1440 monitor, which uses FreeSync. Like the Nitro XV273K, it’s compatible with Nvidia’s G-sync tech. It also has the fastest advertised GtG response time (5ms) among similar sized and specced VA monitors, though there are other modes that increase this response time.
This is a display designed more for gamers than creators, which means color accuracy isn’t its strongest point. It does, however, have a vibrant 3000:1 contrast ratio, which is twice what you’d find on most IPS monitors, and it features 350 nits brightness. You also get LG’s usual excellent build quality. The low price does translate into a few compromises. While the LG 32GK650F has two HDMI inputs and DisplayPort 1.2, there are no USB connections. It also lacks any speakers—not that most gamers would use them over external speakers or headsets—and there’s no HDR.
Gamers who want 1440p@144Hz with adaptive sync have a lot of options, but none offer such a good price vs. quality ratio as the LG 32GK650F.
Best of the best
If you’re the kind of gamer who wants the best of everything, has deep pockets, and owns a monster rig, then look no further than Acer’s Predator X27. This monitor ticks all the gaming boxes: 4K, 144Hz, G-Sync, true HDR with 1000 nits of brightness, and 384 zone FALD backlight. You will, of course, need a monster graphics card to get the most out of it, and while the $2,000 launch price has dropped, it’s still an eye-watering $1,649.
The ultrawide option
Fans of ultrawide gaming should check out the Alienware AW3418DW, which sports a 34-inch curved IPS panel, G-Sync, and a maximum 120Hz refresh rate when overclocked (100Hz is the default). This 21:9, 3440 x 1440 IPS panel has good out of the box calibration and remains one of the finest choices for ultrawide gaming, with great response times and zero lag.
This monitor has been around for quite sometime now and used to top the list of best gaming monitors money could buy when fast refresh 4K wasn't an option. The AW3418DW used to cost over a thousand bucks, today it's as good for $850.
It’s no longer an outrageous proposition to have a monitor that combines a decent resolution with top notch performance. Many excellent high refresh models currently sit between $300 and $400, meaning 1440p monitors remain the best option for most gamers. If you have a relatively modern GPU, a 1440p 144Hz display will give you a great experience today and have plenty of life left for the next few GPU generations. Our pick of the bunch right now is the LG 32GK650F (read our full review).
At $350, it offers tremendous value. To start with, it’s a 32-inch flat VA panel. We prefer flat panels over curved ones, especially at this size and aspect ratio, and it seems many of you do as well. Given that 27-inch curved variants sit around $300, and 32-inch variants at $330, we think it’s well worth spending an extra $30 to go up in size, and then an extra $20 to make it flat.
But that is not the only reason the 32GK650F gets our vote. It has class leading performance for a 144Hz VA panel of these specifications, especially when it comes to response times which allow the panel to deliver a true 144Hz experience. Many of the curved options sit in the 8-9ms grey to grey range, which is too slow for true 144Hz, while the 32GK650F clocks in at 6.5ms. That’s important for delivering less ghosting and motion blur.
It also lacks wide gamut functionality, which might be a negative to some, but it actually makes the monitor more accurate and easier to work with given most content you’ll view is mastered for sRGB. It doesn’t support HDR, unlike some which claim to offer HDR but just end up giving you a fake experience. And perhaps most importantly it comes with a very adjustable stand featuring height, tilt, swivel and pivot functionality, features that are usually cut with lower end products.
1440p for less
If you don’t have $350 to spend, the Pixio PX275h is pretty good at just $260. It’s a 27-inch 1440p 95Hz monitor with a flat IPS panel and 95% DCI-P3 coverage. It has decent response times around the 6.5ms mark, and all the advantages of an IPS display, including excellent viewing angles and color performance. For $90 less, the only real downside here is the refresh rate, which is cut to 95 Hz. It still has FreeSync and it’s still a great option for gamers who want a decently high refresh 1440p monitor on a budget.
If TN is a must
The Viotek GFT27DB is the best 1440p TN monitor you can get. It costs $300 and like the 32GK650F, offers 1440p at 144Hz, but in a flat 27-inch size. The reason you would get this over the LG is if you were really concerned about response times; the GFT27DB is about twice as fast and has great color performance for a TN, but still features the usual TN issues like relatively poor viewing angles and contrast ratios.
Best Ultrawide Gaming Monitor
For ultrawide montors, there are two directions you can go. Either you save some cash and opt for a 3440 x 1440 display at 100 Hz, or you go all out on the best 144 Hz models on the market.
When looking at 3440 x 1440 ultrawide displays at 100 Hz, all you have to spend these days is around $450, which is crazy considering a few years ago these panels were a premium $1,000+ option. Most of the budget-class models use the same Samsung VA panel, offering contrast around 3000:1 and response times in the 5-7ms range. It’s a high quality panel that’s well suited to gaming, and something we have no trouble recommending.
Our recommendation right now goes to the MSI MAG341CQ, which often sits at around $430. It’s widely available, delivers decent performance and is going to impress those who haven’t dabbled in ultrawides before.
Even better, at a premium
If you have a more ample budget and want the best available monitor without getting ripped off, we’d go with the LG 34GK950F. It’s one of the few monitors offering 3440 x 1440 at 144 Hz right now, and does so with a curved IPS panel that’s excellent quality out of the box and offers over 95% DCI-P3 coverage for wide gamut work. The HDR experience isn’t great, but response times near 6ms and adaptive sync that works with AMD and Nvidia GPUs headlines a feature set that’s outstanding for ultrawide gamers.
Best 4K Gaming Monitor
For most people, a 1440p 144Hz monitor will be a better option than a 4K 60 Hz display for gaming. Both cost roughly the same, but the 1440p models will have better gaming performance, better adaptive sync experiences, higher refresh rates and often better panel quality. The step up from 1440p to 4K isn’t nearly as large as the step from 1080p to 1440p in terms of visual quality either, so it’s not worth trading off all those extras – especially the higher refresh rate – for just a bump in resolution.
However there are a few monitors that offer the best of both worlds at a premium: a high-resolution 4K experience, with a high-refresh rate. Just make sure you have the necessary GPU horsepower to make the most of it.
The Acer Nitro XV273K (read our full review) will set you back around $800, delivering a 27-inch IPS display at 3840 x 2160 with a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. And we say 120 Hz here because despite being advertised as 144 Hz, the maximum refresh rate you can use in a practical setting is 120 Hz. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s still a high refresh rate and something you’ll struggle to max out even with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti.
In our tests, performance is solid and it offers a wide color gamut if required. we’d ignore the HDR capabilities though, for that you have to go all the way to the true 4K flagships like the Acer Predator X27 and Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ.
Best 4K Flagship HDR Gaming Monitor
There are tons of monitors that claim to be HDR compatible, but don’t deliver a great HDR experience. Common issues include not supporting a high peak brightness, not including a full array local dimming backlight for increase contrast, and occasionally not even supporting wide color gamut.
Pretty much every monitor that passes DisplayHDR 400 certification doesn’t actually deliver a meaningfully improved HDR experience, and therefore isn’t worth buying as an HDR display. And it’s not much better at DisplayHDR 600, while only a small selection of DisplayHDR 1000 monitors pass all the required items in the checklist. Looking at these validation badges unfortunately isn’t enough to determine whether a HDR monitor is good.
Our advice for most people interested in HDR monitors, is the same as last year: don’t bother.
The risk of fake HDR is too high. It’s still too early to jump in to the HDR ecosystem, and we’d hate for anyone to buy an expensive HDR monitor only to discover later that they got something with fake HDR. If a monitor says it supports HDR, make sure it’s a good SDR monitor at a good price first, and then treat any HDR support as a free bonus. And don’t pay extra for HDR either, we’ve seen plenty of monitors where they offer HDR at an added price but the HDR mode isn’t any better than SDR.
With all of that said, if you have the means and are after a real HDR monitor for gaming, our recommendation goes to the Acer Predator X27, which is one of the only gaming-grade monitors we are happy recommending for HDR. It’s an expensive affair at over $1,600, but it is a wide gamut display with 384-zone FALD backlighting and 1,000 nits of peak brightness. It looks phenomenal while gaming.
It’s worth keeping in mind that several other high-quality HDR monitors are coming soon. The new ultrawide models with 512 zone FALD backlights and 200 Hz refresh rates are almost here, which could interest some buyers with deep pockets. Asus also has a new mini-LED model coming later this year, which is set to be similar to the Predator X27 but with a decent increase to the backlight zones. It could be worth waiting for these displays if you are planning to put down over $1,500 for a HDR monitor.
Best for Esports (240Hz)
The Asus ROG Swift PG258Q is a 24.5-inch 1920 x 1080 TN LCD monitor. Now you may be thinking this collection of specs isn’t that impressive – and by itself it certainly isn’t – but the key feature here that will attract fans of high-paced esports titles is the whopping 240 Hz refresh rate, combined with G-Sync, for the ultimate low latency, high refresh experience.
Most basic 24-inch 1080p displays clock in around $100-150, and these days you can even get 144 Hz monitors in the $200 to $300 range. However the PG258Q is significantly more expensive at ~$480 and its direct competitors fall in the same price bracket unless you forgo some features.
Since 240 Hz monitors made its debut there's been a neverending debate on what's better: a larger, better quality panel that can do 144 or 165 Hz, or a smaller 1080p monitor that can be cranked up all the way to 240 Hz for buttery smooth gameplay in games like Overwatch and CS: GO. If you are an esports fan or competitive player, there is no debate. This group of hardcore gamers will always go with the higher refresh rate. On the other hand, casual and "regular" gamers that use their monitors for more than just playing games 24/7, will want to look at the entire spectrum of offerings and probably prefer an IPS/VA panel and more expansive screen real estate.
We thoroughly reviewed the ROG Swift PG258Q a while back and there's a lot to like here. It surprised us somewhat considering the TN panel used. Contrast and viewing angles aren’t fantastic, however default color quality is decent. Gamers should expect somewhat-near-sRGB accuracy out of the box and a very bright display, which leads to a good viewing experience with solid, vibrant colors.
The Asus PG258Q presents a top of the line 240 Hz monitor choice for gamers that know their hardware won't drop frames below 200 fps in the games they play competitively. Other popular alternatives in the 240 Hz segment include the Alienware AW2518H, often regarded as a better looking version of the ROG PG258Q, which surprisingly is selling below the Asus at just $430.
Then there's the much cheaper $300 ViewSonic XG2530 which does not support G-Sync, but does FreeSync which these days means you can get full VRR support with any GPU. And then there's the BenQ Zowie XL2540 ($400) which doesn't support either VRR technology, though the notion is that if you're playing at over 200 fps, you don't really need variable refresh rate.
Best Budget 1080p Monitor
In our last update to the best gaming monitors, we recommended the Viotek GN24C as the best 1080p display. Fast forward a few months and this excellent value option remains the best choice for gamers on a budget. It’s even come down in price slightly to just $180 from $200, making it even more of a steal than usual.
The Viotek GN24C is a 24-inch, 1080p, 144Hz display that uses a curved VA panel. There are many reasons why this is a great choice for gamers: first, that high refresh rate delivers smoother gameplay than slower 75 or 60 Hz options. Given you’re only saving $50 at best to drop down to 75 Hz, it’s worth spending the extra money on 144 Hz. Not only will this monitor’s better specs last longer, but many GPUs these days are highly capable of 1080p high refresh gaming, even in the mid-range class. So making the most of these specs isn’t as outlandish as it once was.
The GN24C also comes with FreeSync and it supports low framerate compensation, which effectively allows adaptive sync to work from 144 Hz all the way down to 1 Hz. This is a key requirement for gaming monitors and something you won’t get with cheaper 75 Hz monitors. Plus the GN24C works well with either AMD or Nvidia graphics cards.
We also like the size for 1080p. 27 inches is a bit too large for a modern 1080p display and you start to feel the effects of a low pixel density at that size. But 24" just feels right, and the VA panel helps to deliver a decent contrast ratio of over 3000:1 in our testing. Response times are also excellent for a VA with a 5.2ms grey to grey average.
The only major downside to the GN24C is its availability: you can only get this monitor in the United States. But don’t worry, because basically the same panel is available in other territories in the MSI MAG241C. It’s a little more expensive than the GN24C in the US, but it’s still around that $200 mark which makes it a decent alternative. Don’t confuse it with the older MSI G24C though, get the MAG variant instead.
Understandably not everyone will want a curved VA panel. Some buyers might want a flat monitor instead, or something with better response times. In that case, we’ll point you towards either the Acer XFA240 or the AOC G2560FX, both are 24-inch 144Hz 1080p TN monitors at around $200. The picture quality isn’t as good as the GN24C but both are good budget options.
Masthead image credit: xNighthawk83 on reddit