Graphics cards might be the king of the gaming world and even processors are super important, but you won’t have a perfect system without a good gaming monitor. They will give you a better experience resultying in a competitive advantage and we’ve tested the best you can buy.
Are gaming monitors worth it? Yes! It’s not even about having the best combination of things, having a super powerful gaming machine is a bit pointless without a gaming monitor. You’re graphics card might be capable of throwing out more than 100fps (frames per second) at a Quad HD resolution but you’ll be throwing that away with a basic screen.
You might not be using a gaming PC, but a gaming laptop instead but if that’s got a small 13in screen you might want a gaming monitor for when you’re at home with a desk. You might even want a gaming monitor to use with your console like the PS5 or Xbox Series X.
The problem is that like a lot of technology, buying a gaming monitor is very complicated with a lot more than just screen size to decide on. You need to consider resolution, refresh rate and whether to get flat or curved.
Futhermore, there are various technologies which you might want to add to your must have list like Nivida G-Sync, AMD FreeSync and HDR.
The good news is you’ve landed at the right place to get a critical upgrade. We’ve been testing gaming monitors for years and in 2021 there are so many to choose from – starting at cheap 24in Full HD and going all the way up to 49in Ultrawide 5K curved.
It gets pretty confusing but fear not, below are our current top 10 best gaming monitors with a range or different options to suit all budgets and needs. Below the chart is a full buying guide if you’re unsure what Hz are or what 1900R means.
If you’re picking up a screen for a different purpose, why not take a look at our best monitors chart.
Best Gaming Monitors 2021
1. Philips Brilliance 346P1CR – Best Overall
34in | Ultrawide Quad HD | Curved
Philips has managed to offer a rare combination here which means you can get a monitor that’s good for both work and gaming without breaking the bank.
The stand could be a little better but that’s a minor point for a wide monitor, which can handle two machines thanks to its inbuilt KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switch. A particularly handy feature if you do have separate work and gaming devices and it even has a webcam.
The panel itself is high quality, offering an excellent combination of resolution, refresh rate, response time, contrast and colour gamut. If you’re looking for a wide angle curved monitor that can do a bit of everything then look no further than the Brilliance 346P1CRH.
Read our full Philips Brilliance 346P1CR review
2. MSI Optix MAG272CQR – Best 27in Curved
27in | Wide Quad HD | Curved
This latest Optix model from MSI is a rare case of a product getting both better and also cheaper.
It ticks many of the boxes for those after a curved gaming monitor without breaking the bank, starting with solid build quality, lighting and a new USB hub.
More importantly, the display offers a high-quality display with excellent specs and performance. Just be aware that this isn’t proper HDR so don’t buy it on that basis.
Read our full MSI Optix MAG272CQR review
3. Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR – Fastest Refresh Rate
24.5in | Full HD | Flat
If you’re looking for the fastest monitor around then you’ve just found it. The Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR hits a whopping high of 360Hz.
This refresh rate aims to give competitive players every possible advantage and does exactly that combining with Nvidia G-Sync. It’s not just about that figure though, as the monitor offers excellent build quality, stylish design, smart features and decent performance.
At 24.5in and Full HD resolution, this is really aimed at FPS gamers so bear this in mind. You’ll also need a powerful gaming PC or laptop to benefit from the 360Hz. The other factor is whether you can afford it.
Read our full Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR review
4. Samsung Odyssey G7 – Best Immersive Curve
32in | Wide Quad HD | Curved
The Odyssey G7 represents a significant upgrade in image quality and user experience compared to its predecessor, thanks partly to the introduction of Quantum Dot technology.
The 1000R curve of the 32in QLED VA display takes some getting used to, but it is immersive when you sit in the ergonomic sweet spot.
It offers both G-Sync and V-Sync support, a 240Hz refresh rate and a super-fast 1ms response time for those that want to get the most out of their gaming experience, although it’ll take some setup to power 2560 x 1440 at 240fps.
Colour gamut is excellent and this is cheaper than key rivals from the likes of LG and MSI.
Read our full Samsung Odyssey G7 review
5. MSI Optix MPG341CQR – Best Features
34in | Ultrawide Quad HD | Curved
With the above specs combined with a 144Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time and great contrast and colour gamut, this thing is as pretty to look at as almost any display out there.
The integrated smart features probably aren’t going to be the main selling point at this price, but they do help give this display a unique edge if you’re otherwise torn between some similarly specced set-ups.
It uses a camera and facial recognition to automatically apply profiles for specific users – only useful if you share your gaming rig with someone else – but also to automatically detect ambient light levels and adjust the display accordingly, which is a great little trick for anyone who can’t play in controlled lighting conditions.
Read our full MSI Optix MPG341CQR review
6. AOC AGON AG493UCX – Best Super Wide Aspect Ratio
49in | Ultrawide 5K | Curved
Those looking for a curved ultra-wide gaming monitor should consider the AOC AGON AG493UCX.
Yes it’s expensive but at 49in and 32:9 with a 5K resolution is like buying two 1440p monitors, only you don’t have to bear with the bezels meeting bang in the middle – not ideal for gaming, of course.
It’s bulky and difficult to get set up but once you’re going is amazing for immersive games – like racing and simulation – and has various nice features including lots of ports, a USB hub and remote control.
There’s also excellent image performance including brightness, colour accuracy and refresh rate. Just check you have a powerful enough GPU to run this beast.
Read our full AOC AGON AG493UCX review
7. Philips 242E1GAJ – Best Full HD IPS
24in | Full HD | Flat
Those looking for a budget gaming monitor that’s still decent will find it in the Philips 242E1GAJ.
Things like a USB hub and better stand are certainly on our wishlist but they are easily forgivable considering the affordable price of this monitor.
You’re getting a 24in IPS panel with surprisingly good colour accuracy – meaning you could easily use it for work – and a 144Hz refresh rate. The main thing to note is the slow pixel response time meaning it’s not ideal for fast-paced titles.
Read our full Philips 242E1GAJ review
8. BenQ EX3203R – Best Value HDR
32in | Wide Quad HD | Curve
There’s loads to like about BenQ’s effort at a 32in curved gaming monitor including a stylish design and generally excellent performance, namely when it comes to colour, contrast and speed.
However, it’s quite expensive compared with some rivals and is let down a little by an uneven distribution of light.
The main selling point is getting Vesa DisplayHDR 400 along with excellent brightness and contrast.
Read our full BenQ EX3203R review
9. LG UltraGear 34GN850 – Best Premium
34in | Ultrawide Quad HD | Curved
LG has done a great job with this UltraGear model and if it’s high-end specs you want then this pretty much has it all.
Aside from the usual stuff like a curve and resolution, it supports G-Sync and FreeSync, HDR10 and Vesa DisplayHDR 400. Furthermore, it goes up to 160Hz in overdrive mode.
Importantly, the Nano IPS tech combines that refresh rate with excellent colours and a 1ms response time, even if there are some small backlight and contrast issues.
The monitor is also lightweight and has a lovely design, but the main issue here is the price compared to many rivals.
Read our full LG UltraGear 34GN850 review
10. ViewSonic Elite XG240R – Best Full HD TN
24in | Full HD | Flat
The lights on the back might be a somewhat flawwed gimmick, but elsewhere the Elite XG240R is a very good gaming monitor.
It’s well balanced providing a solid and versatile design at an affordable price – menu buttons and no cable management are minor gripes.
You then get a Full HD panel that’s more colourful than you’d expect from TN technology and is 144Hz, with both FreeSync and G-Sync meaning it plays nicely with AMD and Nvidia GPUs.
If 24in is large enough and you want to play 1080p at silky framerates, then this is an excellent choice.
Read our full ViewSonic Elite XG240R review
How to choose a gaming monitor
Unless you’re an expert in display technology, it can be difficult getting your head around all the jargon relating to gaming monitors. They’re a significant investment though, so it’s worth understanding which features are the most important for playing games.
If you’re not sure what a specific aspect means, or how it will affect your experience, read our detailed buying guide before making a purchase. We also have a dedicated section on what to look for if buying for a student.
Resolution & Refresh Rate
The first thing to consider is resolution. While it’s great to have a super high pixel density on your display to make your games look as crisp and realistic as possible, there’s a sacrifice to be made: extra pixels mean more graphical power is required.
You may be tempted by one of the UHD displays (also known as 4K). They boast a whopping 8.2 million pixels, suggesting they’ll provide the best-quality experience. They will show the most detail – that’s true – but you’ll probably have to sacrifice frames per second.
In fact, many 4K displays are capped at 60Hz (60 frames per second). That may be enough for you – if you have a graphics card that can cope. Even with a higher refresh rate UHD display, the graphics card setup you’d need to get more than 60fps at 4K would set you back thousands.
Lower resolutions mean higher refresh rates are much easier to achieve and you’ll likely be better off with 144Hz or 240Hz. You can even get 360Hz now if you feel the need, but it is diminishing returns.
Our advice is to aim for the sweet spot – 2560 x 1440, or Quad HD as it’s better known. It offers more pixels than a standard 1080p display without having to compromise on refresh rates, and the extra strain on your GPU shouldn’t be too bad either. You can always run it at 1080p if the game in question doesn’t run fast enough for you.
Panel tech is the second most important consideration when buying a gaming monitor. In theory this is much more straightforward than other areas. Put simply, the best performance for gaming comes from TN panel tech. Twisted Nematic screens tend to have the fastest response times, which is more important for gaming than perfect colour accuracy and contrast. Better still, TN screens won’t break the bank.
Always read our reviews if you want to make sure your chosen monitor has decent image quality: we understand that you’ll want to use it for things besides playing games, including editing the odd photo and perhaps video.
The most common size for monitors is 24-27in, but if you’re looking for something a little larger your best bet would be to opt for an IPS or VA display – both offer premium viewing experiences, but at a higher cost.
There are also curved panels to consider. It’s a personal preference, but some people really like the way the display wraps around them and gives a more immersive experience than a flat screen.
Similarly, if you plan on buying three monitors, make sure to choose a model with the thinnest possible bezels to minimise the gap between screens.
G-Sync vs Freesync
Adaptive refresh revolutionised video processing in PC gaming. Why? For the first time, it enabled monitors to adjust refresh rate in step with the output of the graphics card, preventing frame tears. Tearing appears when rates are mismatched as the PC sends a new frame before the monitor has finished displaying the previous one. It looks ugly and you don’t want to see it.
There are two types of adaptive refresh – AMD’s Freesync and Nvidia’s G-Sync – and while each essentially provides the same thing, there are differences between the two, notably that they’re not compatible with each other.
However, in a surprise move, Nvidia announced at CES 2019 that a graphics driver update (released 15 January) would add support for FreeSync. There’s bad news, though: of the 400 FreeSync monitors it tested, only 12 passed were listed as being G-Sync compatible.
So if you have a different FreeSync monitor, expect problems such as a flickering screen if you try to enable G-Sync on your Nvidia graphics card.
G-Sync monitors have dedicated hardware for adaptive refresh, which is why G-Sync-enabled displays are more expensive. AMD took a different route – instead of offering additional hardware, the company added new functions to the existing DisplayPort specification. This means Freesync monitors can be a lot cheaper.
What’s important to know is that you may not need either technology if you buy a monitor with a high refresh rate and have a powerful graphics card powering it.
Motion Blur Reduction
Motion Blur Reduction is worth looking out for. It allows the display to maintain motion resolution when the on-screen visuals become more intense and fast-paced. How? It works by strobing the backlight between frames, creating a shutter-like effect similar to that found by a film projector.
The idea behind it is to shorten the time a single frame appears on-screen, thus increasing motion resolution. There is a downside though, as Motion Blur Reduction can have a negative effect on the overall brightness of the display, sometimes to a noticeable level.
It’s not necessary if you’re planning on buying a monitor with adaptive refresh and the aim of playing at more than 60fps though, as the monitors should perform well enough without it.
Ports & Connections
Most gaming monitors offer more than one input connection – some may offer a combination of HDMI, DisplayPort and even DVI – each with their own benefits. While DVI is useful, we’d focus on making sure you have at least one HDMI and one DisplayPort connection on your gaming monitor. If for nothing else, it allows you to quickly switch between multiple inputs via the display controls.
Why HDMI or DisplayPort? HDMI and DisplayPort offer both audio and video transfer, allowing your PC audio to play through the display speakers (if you want) without the use of any additional cables.
While both also offer 4K playback for high-end gaming, you’ll also need to make sure both the GPU and display offer HDMI 2.0/DisplayPort 1.3 support for [email protected] gaming.
Read our guide on DisplayPort vs HDMI.
We wouldn’t worry too much about the audio output of gaming monitors. Yes, some are better than others in reproducing an acceptable audio reproduction, but if you’re a gamer, you’ll either have your own speakers or a gaming headset.
On the plus side, most monitors have a 3.5mm auxiliary output for a convenient way to quickly connect your headphones.
Gaming monitors for students
Many of the regular buying advice also applies to students, with a few notable exceptions.
Students are more likely to have space constraints, whether it’s in uni halls or a small room at home. As such, we’d recommend checking out some of the smaller monitors on this list. 24in or 27in are good options, but we wouldn’t recommend any larger than 32in. Whether it’s curved or not very much depends on the room you’re working with.
Full HD (1080p) is the baseline for gaming monitors, and that should serve students just fine. 4K is a nice touch, but probably more appropriate for when you have a dedicated space for gaming. This will help to keep costs down, and means you can easily upgrade in a few years when the technology has moved on.
Having some decent speakers is great if you’re planning on using the monitor for things besides gaming, but otherwise it’s worth picking up a cheap gaming headset to go with it.
Ideally, the monitor will have built-in speakers, which means it can double up as a monitor for