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How to Choose the Best Gaming Monitor
July 16, 2018
Reading time: 10 minutes
One of the reasons so many of us choose to game on a PC rather than a console is the technological capabilities for exceptional graphics. If you want to play The Witcher 3 in crystal clear quality, you’re going to need a gaming monitor that’s a cut above the rest.
However, finding the right one can be difficult - especially if you aren’t terribly familiar with the hardware.
Whether you need a monitor that’s strictly for gaming or a display that can handle the rigorous demands of today’s triple-A (AAA) titles while remaining versatile enough for video editing or other work tasks, we can help you find the best gaming monitor to suit your individual needs and budget.
We'll take a look at the key ingredients that go into making the perfect decision for your gaming monitor setup, so you have an understanding of what the terms mean, including:
2. Aspect ratio
3. Refresh rate and response time
4. Screen size
5. 4K vs. QHD
8. Monitor panel technology
Let's get going!
1. The importance of resolution
The bigger the gaming PC monitor, the greater the number of pixels it can fit in its display, and the greater the number of pixels, the higher the resolution.
The more pixels you can pack into your monitor, the better the display quality and resolution. If you’re unfamiliar with the different specs that most monitors come with, here are some of the different pixel ratios found in devices and monitors :
HD or HD-ready resolution (720p) - 1280 x 720
FHD or Full HD resolution (1080p) - 1920 x 1080
QHD or Quad HD resolution (1440p) - 2560 x 1440 - Monitors with this level of resolution are commonly found in dedicated gaming displays.
UHD or Ultra High Definition or 4K (2160p) - 3840 x 2160 - This is the second largest display resolution currently available, and is typically found on high-end monitors and televisions. UHD displays are called 4K because they offer four times the resolution of standard HD.
8K (4320p) - 7680 x 4320 - This display offers eight times the resolution of standard HD. Expect to pay a premium for this level of resolution.
Today’s gamer might scrape by on a 1080p monitor, but they won’t be able to enjoy many of the titles at their full potential or the resolution in which they were meant to be played.
If you’re serious about making it to the top of leaderboards in Rocket League or Battlefield 1, you should invest in a QHD monitor at the very least.
2. Aspect ratio
You should also factor aspect ratio into your monitor purchase. Traditionally, monitors come in a 4:3 and 16:9. In recent years, gaming monitors have moved towards 21:9 ratio which is closer to anamorphic format (widescreen movie display and quality).
3. Refresh rate and response time
A high refresh rate is an absolute must if you want to rack up crack shots in Destiny and Call of Duty.
The refresh rate refers to how often your monitor updates. While movies generally update at 24 Hz, gaming tends to be faster since you need to follow the actions and respond with split-second reactions.
The average monitor refreshes at 60 Hz speeds, but pros at the top of their game will suggest that you step up to 144 Hz or 165 Hz. Higher refresh rates are better, and result in a much smoother experience, especially for shooting games.
Response time is how long it takes a pixel to cycle. You want to look for low response time - about 5 ms is fine for casual gamers but target 1 ms for expert and professional gamers - and pair it with a higher refresh rate for the best gaming experience.
Taking advantage of your new monitor's refresh rate also depends on your computer's graphics card. Make sure the two are compatible. If you're not sure how to adjust the frame rate, there are technologies like AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync in many newer gaming monitors that can help you avoid screen tearing.
Dedicated gaming monitors like the HP OMEN 25-inch display and HP OMEN 32-inch display feature higher refresh rates, ideal for anyone trying to reach the heights of success in the gaming world.
4. Screen size
Any avid gamer will tell you that you need a monitor that’s at least 20 inches or more in width, although 27-inch and even 32-inch gaming monitors are becoming more common and affordable.
While it sounds great to get the biggest screen possible, there are actually a few things you want to consider when you make this decision. First, how much deask real estate do you have for your gaming station? You don't want to feel confined while attempting to perform at your peak.
Another important consideration when determining the ideal size for your gaming monitor is your chosen resolution. If you have the same number of pixels for a 21-inch monitor as you do for a 37-inch one, then the pixels can look stretched on the larger screen, causing jagged edges on in-game objects and lack of definition that can impact your gaming.
Generally, if you are buying an FHD monitor, stay with 24 inches or smaller. If you want a larger screen, then QHD or 4K is the way to go. Speaking of which:
5. 4K vs QHD
There’s no denying that nothing beats a 4K display. Not only does it give you an excuse to brag to all of your fellow gamers, but you’ll be slaying mythical beasts in God of War the way developers had intended.
So you’re probably wondering, “Should I buy a 4K monitor or a Quad HD?” Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference. You’ll still be able to play your favorite major titles in QHD, even if they get released in 4K. Considering that high definition (HD) was once the standard for displays just a few years ago, four times that resolution now should more than suffice for all of your gaming needs.
There has been a lot of buzz building around 4K display monitors in the last year. This is partly due to the fact that the price of 4K monitors and TVs have dropped significantly, putting them within reach of most gamers. While they can still be expensive, one solution is look for sales on PC monitors which can ease the jump in price from QHD to 4K.
If you are looking for a portable gaming monitor, but need to closely watch your budget, many of the best portable gaming monitors come in QHD resolution. You can get the full experience of your favorite games and titles without having to dish out the extra cash to pick up a 4K gaming monitor.
One option to check out is the HP OMEN 32-inch display. With a sleek black and red design, HP OMEN monitors are in a league of their own in both style and performance.
If you truly have your heart set on owning a 4K monitor or you simply want to stay ahead of the curve, compare these HP 4K computer monitors. For instance, the HP ENVY 27-inch display is ideal for crushing the competition or kicking back and watching Interstellar with a big bowl of popcorn.
6. Design and style
Who said aesthetics aren’t everything? Well, probably a gamer, but that doesn’t mean sleek design isn’t important to today’s gaming experts.
While hardware always comes first, you can’t deny the satisfaction that comes with owning a monitor that pleases the eye while offering the power and performance you deserve.
Gaming PCs and monitors have always featured a distinctive style, designed to let you know exactly what they were built for at first glance. Our new line of HP OMEN gaming computers, gear, and monitors don’t cut corners when it comes to looking absolutely savage.
If you enjoy the fierce and intimidating color combination of black and red, then an HP OMEN display is the best gaming monitor for you.
7. Video inputs and features
Unless you’re working with some truly prehistoric hardware, an HDMI input is all you’re going to need when it comes to setting up your gaming PC. Having more than one HDMI input may be nice, but it’s generally unnecessary.
The best gaming monitors usually have a single dedicated HDMI input for consoles or PCs to plug into. Some high-end graphics cards will offer DVI and DisplayPort compatibility; however, this can be excessive for most gaming needs.
In addition to an HDMI input, the best gaming monitors have AUX outputs and USB ports for speakers and additional devices. Nothing beats plugging surround sound speakers into your display and maximizing the auditory and visual experience of all your favorite games.
There are 3 types of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels, and each has their pros and cons. Ideal use and cost is related to the technology behind them, but we'll give you the quick and dirty version:
Twisted nematic (TN) boasts the fastest response time with speeds up to 1 ms and refresh rates of 240 Hz. These are also easier to produce than the IPS screens which often makes their price points lower. The downside is that you can get color distortion at shallow viewing angles. If you are the only viewer - as most gamers are during play - then is a good choice for your gaming monitor.
In-plane switching (IPS) monitors have fast response times of up to 4 ms and can refresh at over 100 Hz. These are decent numbers for gaming, and you will have much better color representation and viewing angles than a TN screen. If you are a casual gamer who needs the monitor for multiple uses beyond gaming, then this is a great choice for you.
Vertical alignment (VA) monitors have excellent contrast with deep blacks and great colors, but a slower response time - usually over 10 ms - which makes it best for watching movies or editing documents rather than gaming.
9. Pricing and cost effectiveness
As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for” but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great deal on a quality piece of hardware. The best gaming monitors typically aren’t cheap; however, you can get exceptionally high-quality displays without breaking the bank.
While you can find a reasonably priced monitor for around $200, it will struggle to display games like Dark Souls or Civilization 6. Any monitor within this price range will probably utilize TN (Twisted Nematic) panel technology, which is most commonly found in cheaper gaming monitors because of its fast pixel responses and refresh rates.
However, you may run into some color shifting issues when viewed from an angle. If you want a monitor that won’t run into any compatibility issues with your graphics card and the rest of your hardware, you can expect to spend between $600 to $1,200.
What is the primary purpose of your desktop computer?
If you plan to have a dedicated gaming PC, you should definitely use a monitor that falls within the same category. After all, what’s the point of buying an elite graphics card if it isn’t compatible with your monitor?
Any serious gamer should stay ahead of the curve and pick up a gaming monitor that can keep up with technology as it progresses.
Since high-resolution gaming has clearly established itself as the standard for the biggest titles, this means QHD or UHD are your best bet for a gaming rig. Soon, there won’t be a single major title that doesn’t come in 2K or higher.
Even if gaming isn’t the only thing you use your desktop computer for, having a high resolution monitor is a worthwhile investment for things like photo or video editing.
Considering how long this technology will remain relevant despite future breakthroughs in display capabilities, investing in a 4K or QHD monitor is definitely worthwhile.
Although a 4K monitor provides a higher level of display, refresh rates and gray-to-gray speeds might be a more important to you if the bulk of your gaming diet is first person shooters, so weigh each aspect of the purchase decision with your gaming preferences in mind. While some 4K monitors might be cheaper than QHD, don’t think that they will always outperform them.
The best gaming monitors like the HP OMEN will smoke any 4K display in terms of frame-rates and gray-to-gray speeds.
Opting for 4K or QHD means you’ll have optimal performance at the most critical of moments. If you buy a high-end gaming PC, invest in a monitor that can keep up. Purchasing a dedicated gaming monitor will boost your performance as a gamer and allow you to play today's AAA titles the way developers intended.
Sean Whaley is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Sean is a content creation specialist with a literature degree from SDSU. He has a wide breadth of knowledge when it comes to computer hardware and programming.
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