Every gamer knows that your dream PC build means nothing without the right monitor to pair with it. But what is the “right” monitor for you? It wasn’t until I recently went hunting for a new set up that I realized just how much there is to think about when purchasing a new monitor. With so many specifications and words like resolution, and AMD free sync staring me in the face, things can get overwhelming, and fast.
Today I’m here to help you make your search a little more manageable. We will be looking at the brand CGMagazine uses in office for all hardware and game testing, ViewSonic. For reference, we will use their mid-tier gaming monitor, the ViewSonic® VX2768-2KPC-MHD 27″ Display, which is curved, features 1440p resolution and sells for $319USD/$394CAD. It brings a good mix of features with a more comfortable price point, a perfect starting off point for any gamer.
With that in mind, here are the Top 6 things every gamer should look for in a gaming monitor:
What size monitor is right for you?
Before anything, decide what size monitor you want, and what size can realistically fit in your space. ViewSonic’s mid-tier gaming monitors are available from 24 to 34 inches, which gives plenty of flexibility for your setup. The last thing you want is to buy two massive dual monitors for the ultimate gaming experience and then end up with no space to display them. Measure before you go looking, that will keep you on track.
Another factor here is how long you plan to stare at your screen. Sitting close to giant monitors can cause plenty of eye strain. Make sure you have enough room to sit back and enjoy if you’re planning to dive into a more detailed game like Elder Scrolls Online. A larger screen makes for a more immersive experience for gamers looking to get lost in their adventure.
On the other hand, competitive gamers—for instance ones who compete in eSports tournaments—tend to use smaller screens so everything unfolds right in front of their eyes. With a smaller screen everything is closer together, meaning your eyes don’t have to search as far across the screen to take in all the information.
What sort of refresh rate do I need?
If you’re a gamer, you’re really going to want to keep an eye on the monitor’s refresh rate. Each ViewSonic monitor is equipped with something called AMD FreeSync, meaning that the monitor’s variable refresh rate will connect seamlessly with your PC’s video card. This prevents screen tearing, and gives games a more fluid movement between images on your screen. No one likes when things look out of sync or broken, and thankfully with all modern video cards supporting the feature, it is a fantastic addition for a gamer—casual or hardcore—to take advantage of.
The refresh rate is the number of times per second your screen refreshes. The higher the better. Most gaming monitors start around 120Hz with the fastest being 360Hz. Our ViewSonic VX2768-2KPC-MHD sits around 144Hz, this will ensure that you aren’t lagging across the screen as you chase down an opponent in Fortnite.
It should be noted that a high refresh rate isn’t necessary if you’re not gaming. Most movies run at around 24 frames per second, so refreshing the screen 360 times in a minute is probably a bit of overkill. Likewise, if your PC is only capable of running games at 30fps, you also may not require the highest refresh rate out there. Bigger isn’t always better, make the right choice based on your needs.
What is response time?
Response time has to do with the colour on your screen. It is the amount of time it takes for a colour to change to another. The lower the response time the better, and it’s measured in milliseconds. A standard monitor is around 10ms, but some monitors can go as low as 1ms, like the ViewSonic VX2768-2KPC-MHD. The difference can mean a slight blur of motion when gaming or watching fast-paced action—also known as ghosting.
Most PC users wouldn’t see a difference in response times, the only time this truly comes into play is for gamers. A player’s response depends on every millisecond. A higher response time could result in you missing out on that long range snipe at the very last second. Make sure to check out the refresh rate before you buy.
What resolution is needed for gaming?
Resolution is the number of pixels your monitor has, width by height. 1920×1080 means 1920 pixels across, and 1080 pixels top to bottom. A high resolution means there are more pixels per inch (PPI) than a lower resolution monitor. Usually, you would only need an HD monitor for gaming (1080p), but QHD (Quad High Definition) and 4K are also available and are essentially a special treat for gamers. The ViewSonic VX2768-2KPC-MHD is QHD wide 1440p, perfect for an immersive gaming experience.
Gamers will find a 4K monitor sharp, detailed and highly inviting. Some may not be able to tell the difference between 1080p and 4K, and the latter will have you shelling out the big bucks. Our ViewSonic example has us sitting in between at 2560 × 1440 and a price point that meets in the middle.
Does the shape of my monitor matter?
We talked about size, but what about your monitor’s shape? Most regular PC users will find themselves with flat screen monitors, a huge upgrade from our childhood big box shaped screens. A flat monitor is completely satisfactory for daily PC use and gaming. However, a curved monitor is another one of those special treats. It isn’t necessary, but once you try it, you’ll never want to go back.
A curved monitor will allow you a wide, highly immersive view. They are also usually larger monitors overall, meaning you need to make sure you have the space for it ahead of time. They will, however, give you a leg up on the competition if you’re thinking about taking your gaming to the next level.
Ergonomics are something to consider here as well. A curved screen allows for less eye strain because the center and edges of the monitor will each be the same distance away from your eyes. You won’t constantly be refocusing, meaning you’re giving your eyes a bit of a break compared to a flat screen monitor where the edges of the screen are further away than the center.
If I’m a gamer, do I need single or dual screens—or even three?
Just how many monitors do you think you’re going to need? One may seem like enough, and is for most, especially regular PC users. But what if you’re thinking about content creation? Maybe you want to be the next big Fortnite streamer on Twitch? A second monitor could be a lifesaver here, or dare I say, a third!
A second screen allows you to monitor anything outside the game. For me, that’s usually my Streamlabs OBS, and Twitch chat while streaming Stardew Valley, or my Facebook, Twitter or Netflix when I’m not. I’ll take advantage of my dual monitor setup by clearing out my binge-watching list while I finish up my latest Fortnite challenges in my spare time. So no, dual monitors aren’t necessary, but they’re really, really nice, and I can’t go back.
And as a bonus—What other features can I look for in a monitor?
Each monitor can surprise its buyer in different ways. Something to consider is definitely the port selection—what kind of cords do you need to connect the monitor to your PC or game console? The ViewSonic gaming monitors come with 2 HDMI ports and a DisplayPort, meaning you can connect multiple consoles to one monitor, this allows for less switching between your platform of choice.
Another bonus would be the adjustability of your monitor. ViewSonic allows for height adjustment, a choice between flat or curved screens on purchase, some monitors even swivel on their stand. The monitor also comes equipped with eye care tech: a blue light filter built right into your monitor that you can toggle on and off, and flicker free backlight. There are always choices to consider, it is up to you to decide what features you think you may benefit from.
Don’t forget to decide on a budget. A quality monitor isn’t cheap, but with ViewSonic you’re getting what you pay for. Some lower end monitors on the market begin around the $150 mark, with the mid-tier beginning around $300, and if you really want to spoil yourself you can go with something from the ViewSonic ELITE™ line and enjoy high-end gaming fun, complete with flashy RGB lighting and top grade specifications.
A monitor isn’t just a grab and go kind of purchase. Make sure you put some thought into it, research online and in stores. Yes, it is definitely a chunk of change, but the proper monitor setup is a huge investment into your favourite activity. To me, if you put the research in and really consider your wants vs your needs, it’s gaming done right.