Now that you have finally collected enough money to buy a gaming PC, you might think it’s save to breathe out and that the monitor, keyboard and other hardware won’t require massive investment. You would breathe out and be as wrong as ever. A monitor compatible with the top PC configuration will also cost a fortune. Let’s figure out whether the true gaming palantir is worth spending much money on or you can do with the old heritage.

A History Lesson

The oldfags remember well the times when the actual PC came together with a keyboard, monitor, mouse and speakers. Older generation must remember their computers in the office or at home, and the younger generation surely must remember that old computer which their parents bought them at the back-to-school sale. At that time no one even bothered thinking about the frequency or screen resolution. The gamers who spent hours playing Heroes-3 or some Quake didn’t care about the frame rate or response time. A good PC was the one that didn’t have any bugs and that didn’t have any obvious fps lags. At that time no one measured it yet, to say nothing of the response time.

But, as Solid Snake has once said, «War has changed», and now we all take into account the milliseconds between the mouse click and the response time when fighting in the MMORPGs and single player games. Of course, RAM, video adapter and PC are much more important, but the significance of the screen is greater than it was, say, 10 years ago.

Both the quality of image and health of your eyes (no matter how commonplace that sounds) depend on it. As for the latter, we’re talking about not simply the overall harm of the screen flickering, but about the impact different technology has on this flickering. It would also be difficult to frag a top-league player should there be a slightest delay in the image output, which happens if an old monitor is used.

The Main Characteristics of a Gaming Monitor

Nowadays the hardware market isn’t declining (although, the economic crisis has certain effect on sales, the supply is always full of new products). A salesperson in a store is likely to try and sell you the most expensive device while the online stores will offer the average good value for money items. Let’s figure out what the main characteristics and properties of a gaming monitor are so that you wouldn’t waste your money.

The Diagonal of a Monitor

This must be the first aspect to which both the customers and manufacturers pay attention. The size of the screen directly influences both the attractiveness of the monitor for gamers and the costs for the manufacturer. The following are the typical sizes of gaming monitors’ diagonals:

  • 20”
  • 24”
  • 27”
  • 30-32”

 

24-27” diagonals are extremely in demand on the mass market. If you feel like buying something exotic, go ahead and buy a 32” monitor, but keep in mind that your eyes won’t be physically able to grasp such width that is why you won’t be engaged in about 20% of the screen area. Each inch contributes to the increase of the price so this kind of choice isn’t the most profitable one. You can get a curved monitor as a way out.  The screen is curved just so that your eyes could grasp everything that is visible.

The Resolution and Proportions of the Screen

The second criterion of the screen size is accountable for the amount of pixels an image has. The main idea here is the more, the better, but do keep in mind the complete dependency of the productivity on the resolution.

Most of the modern media products are designed for 16:9 screen ratios which outlived the obsolete 4:3. This is a classic rectangle with which any user is sure to be familiar with. This allows not only to play comfortably but also to watch the movies in the widescreen format without having to endure the black strips on the sides. A 16:10 monitor will be a bit higher than the previous one and is suitable for working with the office applications and media editors. As for the resolutions, things are much more straightforward here:

  • HD — 1366x768 pixels

This kind of resolution will neither require much input from the hardware nor will it fully release the potential of modern graphics.

  • Full HD — 1920x1080 pixels

This standard requires high performance of the software and provides for the maximum output of the graphics accordingly.

  • Ultra HD or 4K —2560x1440\3840x2160 pixels

This is the new generation standard. The price is incredibly high and so are the hardware requirements. Of course, a 4K monitor would have the brightest and most memorable image, but the problem with it is that neither the video game developers, nor the movie makers have yet switched to this format. It will be therefore difficult to fully release its potential within the first couple of years after the purchase.

The Type of Matrix

The matrix type influences the following parameters of the monitor:

  • Color level

This means the quality of color rendered and its realism. This parameter is incredibly important mainly for photo and video processing, and it’s also handy when it comes to gaming. Each year the graphics become more and more realistic, and so the number of colors and shades is also growing. A fresh release of Battlefield won’t look very fresh on a 10 year old monitor.

  • Response Time

This is the period during which a pixel’s brightness changes, which is about 2-5 milliseconds. Response time over 5 milliseconds can lead to smudged dynamic scenes.

  • Contrast

Obviously, this is the ration between the brightest and the darkest pixel

  • View Angle

This is the minimal distance at which various objects become visible.

Without further ado take a look at the chart listing the main characteristics of various types of matrices.

Matrix type

TN

IPS

MVA\PVA

Price

Low

High

High

Response time

Low

Average

Average

View angle

Narrow

Wide

Wide

Color level

Low

High

Average

Contrast

Low

Average

High

 

Refresh Rate

The rate which records the amount of frames shown per second is called fps. It is set manually in the game’s settings. As a rule, 60 fps at the 60 Hz frequency used to be considered a standard. However, just like any other gaming device, gaming monitors are well ahead and so their standard frequency is 120-144 Hz. Such hardware allows showing dynamic scenes in a more realistic manner in comparison with the 60 Hz frequency. The price is also growing proportionately to the growth of frequency, and the 144 Hz monitor will be useless without a productive graphic adapter.  

Video Connectors Available

The quality of the image output depends not only on the matrix of the screen, but also on the video connector. An additional video connector allows connecting a second image source, be it a laptop or a TV. The following connectors (separately or together) are available in the modern monitors:

  • VGA

This is the oldest analog connector available. It connects the monitor to any PC, even the most ancient one. However, its analog standard seriously affects the quality of the image and sometimes makes it totally unacceptable in 2016.

  • DVI

This is a digital connector which all the modern devices have. It will ensure the best image quality once used.

  • HDMI

This is a digital connector which lets you connect modern audio and video gadgets, and even the laptops and image output devices. The main competitive edge is that the audio track is transmitted along with the video track through the same cable.

  • DisplayPort — DP

This digital connector is the most state-of-the-art one. It provides various possibilities for transmitting the sound and it exceeds the quality of the popular DVI. The connector costs much and is rarely available. Buying a monitor with such a connector only seems reasonable as a long-term investment.

  • AV, SCART, S-Video

These analog connectors are typical for TV monitors with the built-in TV tuners. Apart from that they allow connecting obsolete audio and video devices, such as cassette players.

Top 7 Best Gaming Monitors Under $500

Below we’ll list the best monitors found on the market in 2016 according to our editorial staff. We can only guide you and protect from absolutely useless purchases. You’ll still have to pick the most suitable monitor by yourself, so consider your personal preferences and budget.

Asus VG248QE 24-inch Full HD Ergonomic Back-lit LED Gaming Monitor

This is a great choice for multiplayer shooters

Asus VG248QE 24-Inch gaming monitorAsus is known as a supplier of quality devices available at reasonable prices. What is there to be found in VG248QE for ~$248?

  • 24” screen
  • Full HD 1920x1080
  • 144 Hz refresh rate
  • Built-in speakers
  • 1 ms response time
  • DP, DVI, HDMI connectors

 

Considering the characteristics given, the price seems moderate. 144 Hz refresh rate will let you comfortably play online shooters without blurring. Moreover, 1 ms response time will help you literally become the main character.

Price:~$248 Check the current price

BenQ RL2455HM 24-Inch LED Console Gaming Monitor

This is a good option for MOBA games

BenQ RL2455HM 24-Inch LED Console Gaming MonitorThis is also a Full HD monitor by BenQ but at a more affordable price. The performance is said to be a bit worse, yet the price is noticeably lower: it is either в ~$179 (for 24”) or ~$258 (for 27”). Over 1500 customers reviews can be found on Amazon.com.

Characteristics:

  • 24”/27” screen
  • Full HD 1920x1080
  • 75 Hz refresh rate
  • 1 ms response time
  • HDMI (2х  for 24”), HJ (headphone jack) connectors

 

The following information might be useful. First of all, the Black eQualizer technology makes dark scenes during the game play no longer a problem. The brightness is auto. RTS Mode is also here and it is designed to make the game play in guess-which mode more comfortable. The choice is obvious when it comes to buying a 24” monitor as the price is way too lucrative. If you’re looking for a 27” monitor, turn to other models. The only remarkable detail about the design is its curved stand.

Price: from ~$179 Check the current price

ViewSonic VX2452MH 24-Inch LED-Lit LCD Monitor

Best contrast

ViewSonic VX2452MH 24-Inch MonitorThis is yet another cut-rate product which will cost ~$149.

  • 24” screen
  • Full HD 1920x1080
  • 75 Hz refresh rate
  • 2 ms response time
  • HDMI, VGA, DVI connectors

 

The Game Mode, which is similar to Black eQualizer is available and it also solves the problem of dark gaming scenes. By the way, the contrast is the main difference between this and the previous model. It is a bit higher here, which in turn has effect on details. Both the brightest and the darkest images look fresh and juicy.

Price: ~$149 Check the current price

Acer GN246HL Bbid 24-Inch 3D Gaming Display

Best Colors

Acer GN246HL Bbid 24-Inch 3D Gaming DisplayThis is 144 Hz monitor for ~$236. It will be a good choice both for gaming and for editing multimedia thanks to its high contrast and refresh rate. The design is simple despite the premium niche of the Acer GN246HL. Overall, there is nothing else to ask for such a price.

  • 24” screen
  • Full HD 1920x1080
  • 144 Hz refresh rate
  • 1 ms response time
  • HDMI, VGA, DVI connectors

 

Price: ~$236 Check the current price

Acer XB240H Abpr 24-Inch Full HD NVIDIA G-SYNC Widescreen Monitor

Best Exclusive Technology

Acer XB240H Widescreen MonitorLet’s gradually move on to some more advanced models with various perks. This one has NVIDIA’s G-SYNC technology which syncs the refresh rate of a graphic processor with the analog in the monitor and thus ensures a smoother image. This is most valuable in dynamic scenes, which is why G-SYNC will be a true treasure for the fans of modern shooters. A 24” item costs ~$443. Favorably, a 27” one is only ~$100 more expensive.

  • 24” screen
  • Full HD 1920x1080
  • 144 Hz refresh rate
  • 1 ms response time
  • HDMI, VGA, DVI connectors

 

Price: ~$443 Check the current price

Acer G257HU smidpx 25-Inch WQHD (2560 x 1440) Widescreen Monitor

A Most Cut-rate Option

Acer G257HU Widescreen MonitorThis is the first monitor with 1440p resolution and an untypical 25” size. High resolution of Acer G257HU Monitor entails a longer time response of 4 ms. This will be barely suitable for the fans of eSports, but it will surely be just right for those who want to buy a WQHD monitor for ~$288. In comparison with the 144 Hz items, dynamic scenes are constrained at the 75 Hz rate, so bear in mind that it is the WQHD that is most important here.

  • 25” screen
  • WQHD 2560 x 1440
  • 75 Hz refresh rate
  • 4 ms response time
  • HDMI, DP, DVI connectors

 

Price: ~$288 Check the current price

Samsung UE590 UHD-QHD Monitor U28E590D 28-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor

Best 4k Gaming Monitor

Samsung UE590 UHD-QHD 4K MonitorSamsung UE590 is a UHD (or 4k) monitor available at high price ($499) but possessing high gaming characteristics: the response time is 1 ms and the 60 Hz refresh rate is extremely smooth, mainly because of the AMD’s FreeSync which is a better quality analog of G-SYNC for 4k.

  • 28” screen
  • UHD 3840 x 2160
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • 1 ms response time
  • HDMI, DP, DVI connectors

 

As for the perks, the “eye saver” mode is available which is crucial for such size. All in all, we’ve got a great 4k monitor which will be great for online battles without having an adverse effect on the response.

Price: ~$499 Check the current price

As a bonus...

Let’s Pick the Best Curved Gaming Monitor

We’ll show you the ultra cool monitors which are not yet available on the mass market because of their extremely high price, but are the incarnation of a gamer’s dream.

Acer Predator Z35 35-inch Curved Full HD

A Single Player Dream

Acer Predator Z35 35-inch Curved Full HD MonitorThis isn’t U, but a curved Full HD monitor for ~$1097(!!). The design is super cool!

  • 34” screen
  • Full HD 2560 x 1080
  • 144 Hz refresh rate
  • 4 ms response time
  • HDMI, DP connectors

 

This is a great option for playing games like Total War, where it is not your millisecond reaction that matters on the battlefield, but the way you perceive it in details. The monitor copes with this task very well, you can read all customers’ reviews on Amazon.com to check it out.

BenQ XR3501 35-inch Curved Ultra Wide Gaming Monitor

An eSports Gamer’s Choice

BenQ XR3501 35-inch Curved Ultra Wide Gaming MonitorThis is a Benq model for ~$899. The response time is great, the size is large enough and the resolution is high. Together the features will let you control the battlefield down to the tiniest detail both as a soldier and as commander. Both the price and the screen size suggest that it’s a pro monitor.

  • 35” screen
  • Full HD 2560 x 1080
  • 144 Hz refresh rate
  • 1 ms response time
  • HDMI, DP connectors

 

Comparative Table of Gaming Monitors 

  Display size, in Screen resolution Refresh rate, Hz

Response time

Video connectors Price
Asus VG248QE 24 Full HD 1920x1080 144 1 ms DP, DVI, HDMI

~$248

BenQ RL2455HM
24 Full HD 1920x1080 75 1 ms HDMI, HJ

~$179

ViewSonic VX2452MH  24  Full HD 1920x1080 75  2 ms HDMI, VGA, DVI 

~$149

 Acer GN246HL  24  Full HD 1920x1080 144 1 ms  HDMI, VGA, DVI 

~$236

 Acer XB240H  24  Full HD 1920x1080  144 1 ms  HDMI, VGA, DVI 

~$443

 Acer G257HU  25  WQHD 2560 x 1440  75  4 ms HDMI, DP, DVI 

~$288

 Samsung UE590 28 UHD 3840 x 2160   60  1 ms HDMI, DP, DVI 

~$499

 Acer Predator Z35  34  Full HD 2560 x 1080  144  4 ms  HDMI, DP

~$1097

BenQ XR3501  35  Full HD 2560 x 1080  144  1 ms  HDMI, DP

~$899

 

In general, we can’t consider our manual to be the ultimate truth as it purely reflects the editorial opinion (which is, nevertheless, well supported with the arguments). Each of the products observed is thoroughly characterized and if you use these characteristics properly, you’ll be able to find the analogs you need. Good luck!