We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to gaming monitors today — up to 144Hz and with G-Sync or FreeSync, games have never looked so good.
So what separates a ‘gaming monitor’ from your normal display? Usually, one or more of the following:
Playing games at 120Hz or 144Hz allows you to play them at 120fps or 144fps, and with twice the frequency of updates everything feels more fluid, smoother, and life-like on-screen.
Even something as simple as scrolling in your browser is smoother. The one caveat is this: you need enough GPU power to power this.
Usually when a PC can’t push frames fast enough to match the display, tearing will occur where frames overlap each other. Alternatively Vsync can be enabled, however this works by synchronising the GPU to the display, which can cause a drop in the refresh rate (such as going from 60 to 30fps) until the GPU load eases.
G-Sync aims to solve this by synchronising the display to the GPU, and dynamically adjusting the refresh rate. The result is a smoother experience with Vsync enabled, sometimes making games quite playable as low as 40fps.
However if you stay above your monitor’s refresh rate (such as 60fps on a 60Hz), G-Sync doesn’t kick in.
Note that G-Sync is Nvidia proprietary and only works with Nvidia cards, and requires a hardware module that adds to the monitor’s cost.
FreeSync is AMD’s equivalent and operates in much the same way, and requires an AMD card to use.
One key difference however is that AMD’s FreeSync utilises VESA (the industry body that defines display standards) Adaptive-Sync, now part of the Display Port 1.2 standard (VESA adopted Adaptive-Sync from FreeSync, just to confuse things).
This is of note as Adaptive-Sync is open for anyone to use, including Nvidia, and as a result Nvidia has received criticism for pushing its own closed solution.
Additionally, FreeSync/Adaptive-Sync doesn’t require an extra hardware module so doesn’t increase the cost of a monitor. Note that G-Sync and FreeSync require DisplayPort 1.2.
Other features are sometimes included, though often added more as marketing incentives: overdriving can reduce ghosting, though it may introduce visual artifacts; gaming profiles that set monitor parameters such as FPS or RPG modes, however in practice it’s usually better to set your own settings; ‘shadow boosting’ that adjusts contrast to make enemies more visible, though it can wash out an image; and ‘crosshairs’ that simply overlay a crosshair in the centre of your screen.
Don’t buy a monitor for any of these features, concentrate instead on image-quality, resolution, and price.
Much like every other purchase, you get what you pay for. IPS is hands-down better than TN for contrast, colour reproduction, and viewing angles. If you can afford it, get it.
Same can be said for screen size and resolution. A larger screen and a higher resolution means you can fit more into your screen and get more done, or from a gaming perspective be more immersed with a greater level of detail.
Just remember higher resolutions require more GPU grunt to drive.
Beyond budget your purchasing process should be: determine your preferred size of monitor (24-inch, 27-inch, 34-inch and so on), determine your preferred resolution, and then decide whether image quality or a high response time is more important.
You will find more TN-based panels reaching 144Hz than IPS, but the holy grail is to have both. Then look at G-Sync or FreeSync depending on your GPU. Finally check the ports on offer. Most monitors will sport DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort, but this isn’t a strict rule.
Add to this it’s an IPS-based panel with fantastic contrast and rich colours that’s a pleasure to use. And on top of this you’ve got 3,440 x 1,440 pixels, providing a superb level of detail, all with a 4ms response time.
Well, you can’t have everything. The maximum refresh is 75Hz, but it’s also FreeSync, though here we ran into a problem: with FreeSync enabled everything was silky smooth as expected, but when disabled the image visibly skipped frames, and this for solid Vsync-ed output well above 75fps.
We tested this on both Nvidia and AMD GPUs with the same result, and as FreeSync is AMD only this makes the monitor off the books for Nvidia users. Considering the other FreeSync monitors didn’t have this issue, it’s specific to this model.
A design flaw also places the DP port directly beneath the chassis overhang, necessitating a screwdriver to depress the plug’s clip to detach it. Adding to its woes, the ‘gaming’ preset modes elicited a high buzzing noise from the monitor.
On the plus side the speakers are above average, and there’s plenty to configure in the OSD including overdrive, low-latency and low blue light modes.
Perhaps most unique of all are ambient LEDs that reflect light below the monitor for ‘mood’ lighting. We found it a bit gimmicky, but there it is.
Verdict: If not for the problems we encountered, it might have been
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
And the higher price actually gets you less — gone are the varied ports of the G2460PQU leaving you with just one DisplayPort. The OSD is also a different beast and delivers less features.
Of the options in the G2460PQU the only ones that remain are the overdriving and the Break Timer. It has however one extra — ULMB for Ultra Low Motion Blur, though this can’t be enabled at the same time as G-Sync.
Like the G2460PQU the base is sturdy and solid and offers tilt, rotation and height adjustments along with portrait mode support. The chassis is underlined, no surprise, by a green line for Team Green. Controls can be found along the bottom, with one these enabling a crosshair that’s superimposed on the screen as with the ASUS models.
In testing the panel lived up to the 144Hz ideal and provided smooth gameplay, though the level of contrast didn’t quite match its 24-inch brother, perhaps as a result of the more varied image controls on the G2460PQU.
The extra cost of the G-Sync module, for which Nvidia is charging a premium, is a barrier to entry for its use. If you have the GPU power to pump 144fps in your games, you might as well save $200 and get the G2460PQU with more features, or save $100 and go for the 27-inch G2770PF.
Verdict: Not quite as polished as the G2460PQU, and at a higher price point too.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
It didn’t deliver the best first impression, as our sample had a dead pixel near the centre of the screen.
Despite the fact the monitors are very similar in design, there are some key differences. The connectivity is much more on the G2460PQU with DSUB, DVI, HDMI and DP and the OSD looks different and has different options.
Here it mirrors much of the 27-inch G2770PF functionality and includes AOC features such as iCare, which adapts brightness in response to ambient light; DPS, aka the dynamic power saver and alters contrast; DCR, your classic dynamic contrast; and DCB, which features settings such as ‘Nature Skin’ and ‘Green Field’ and which isn’t explained in the manual, and in testing the results depend on what you’re viewing.
It also features ‘Bright Frame’ and the ‘Break Reminder’, which we like.
The TN-panel viewing experience is quite good, amiable contrast and colours, though the whites drown out nearby hues depending on what setting you’re using, with ‘Standard’ being the worst. Some tweaking in the settings fixed this though.
If you don’t need G-Sync this is the better monitor of the two AOC 24-inch models, and if you can afford $100 more you might as well go for the AOC 27-inch G2770PF and get most of the same features but with a bigger screen to boot.
Verdict: Good all-rounder with lots of features for those on a budget.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
On top of this it sports FreeSync and can clock it right up to 144Hz, which is a joy to behold.
As far as TN-based panels go the quality isn’t as impressive as say the BenQ or Samsung TN-displays, seeming to be more washed out than its compatriots, even after playing with contrast, brightness, and the various colour modes. But again, those monitors cost almost twice as much.
Similarly the OSD is nothing to write home about but includes all the essential options, as well as adding a configurable overdrive to reduce ghosting even further, along with a Dynamic Contrast Mode (though we found it better to leave it disabled), and ‘Bright Frame’ which lets you create a set area on the screen with a different brightness level.
One nice touch we thought particularly relevant to a gaming monitor was the ‘Break Reminder’, reminding to you — well — take a breather every now and then and stretch your legs.
The chassis is chunky and the bezel large, but features the necessary tilt and height adjustments, including being able to operate in portrait mode.
One point in its favour is a wide range of ports, including the old analog DSUB VGA. It also features built-in speakers for the price, but don’t expect miracles.
If you’re budget limited but set on a 27-inch, the AOC G2770PF is certainly worth consideration.
Verdict: One of the cheaper 27-inch monitors you will find, and with 144Hz to boot.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Whereas many IPS monitors top out at 75Hz, the latest in ASUS’ gaming-centric line delivers 144Hz, IPS, at 2,560 x 1,440 and with 4ms response time. Glorious.
And it’s decent looking too, with thin bezels and a solid base that provides tilt, height, swivel and rotation as well as portrait mode.
The attention to detail flows into the OSD, where there are plenty of tweakables including ‘special’ gaming modes ranging from Racing to FPS.
Some of these modes use ASUS’ ‘Vivid Pixel’ feature, which is essentially an over-blown sharpening filter that on high levels is an affront to the eyes.
The OSD is controlled via buttons on the right rear and a navigation joystick. This is the best of both worlds, providing quick access to functions and easy menu navigation.
Other gaming-centric features include crosshairs for FPSs and, interestingly, a countdown timer. Added to this is a Blue Light Filter mode to help reduce eye strain, and TraceFree overdriving to reduce ghosting and blur.
Playing games on this is simply a joy, but note enabling FreeSync limits the monitor to 90Hz. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s still a 50% improvement over your standard 60Hz IPS, and provides silky smooth gameplay if you fall below this.
It’s seriously hard to go back to anything else once you’ve used IPS at 1440p at 90 or 144fps, so here’s hoping we’ll see more models hitting the market to give ASUS some competition.
Verdict: Has all bases covered, hard to beat. Now if we can just get this in a 30-inch model…
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
The PG278Q is around $150 more expensive than its brother, and yet utilises an inferior TN panel compared to the MG279Q’s IPS.
Apart from this the specs are much the same, sporting a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution and up to 144Hz performance.
The one advantage the TN panel has, and this is the case across the board with TN versus IPS, is a slightly faster response time — but in our experience testing these monitors you’d be hard pressed to notice.
To be fair the PG278Q is an older design, and while we saw tell-tale TN issues like colour fading in the corners and a more washed out contrast, it was none-the-less blissful to game on it at 144Hz.
It also sports ASUS solid design with a sturdy base and thin bezels, as well as much the same gaming oriented features as its newer cousin — the ‘crosshair’ and ‘timer’ options, ultra-low motion blur, and a ‘Turbo’ button to switch between 60, 120, and 144Hz on the fly without using a driver control panel.
The PG278Q holds its own but at the price it’s easy to argue there are better choices. However if G-Sync is your requirement, then this limits your choices somewhat.
Note that an IPS version of this monitor called the PG279Q, essentially the MG278Q but with G-Sync, is due by the end of the year.
Verdict: A top contender let down by the G-Sync price premium.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The bezel is relatively thick but complimented by a sleek stand that incorporates a well positioned carry handle and measurement markings for tilt, swivel and height adjustment. A great idea to help you restore your ideal preferences if it’s moved.
Featuring 2,560 x 1,440 pixels it has excellent sharpness and detail in games, and combined with the 144Hz maximum refresh rate was a pleasure to play on.
The OSD is simple and functional and provides quite a range of tweakables that include standard picture settings as well as a Black eQualizer function to brighten shadows without over-exposing lit areas and Motion Blur Reduction to further reduce ghosting. A selection of gaming presets include FPS and RTS as well as your own settings.
The customised presets tie into another unique feature: an external controller. This round device can sit in its slot on the monitor or move around via its (not too long) cable. This allows you to change presets and navigate the OSD without using the monitor buttons.
Finally one particularly nifty inclusion — which we now wish all monitors would have — is a spring-loaded hook that comes out of the side to let you hang up your headphones. Great!
If it were IPS the XL2730Z would be the 27-inch monitor to have, that said the use of a TN panel provides slightly faster response times and a cheaper price.
Verdict: The XL2730Z almost has it all, add it to your list.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
It’s cliché to say no frills but this is what the KALED24144A presents. The stand is a simple base, and the chassis is glossy plastic with thick bezels.
However the panel itself is good, in fact as far as TN goes it had commendable contrast and bright colours without much of the washed-out look that some TN panels suffer from. And while there’s no FreeSync or G-Sync option, it delivers on the 144Hz promise and gaming on the display is slick and fast.
It had a notable softness in motion that other TN panels we looked at here didn’t have, however, likely an effect of a slightly slower average response time. The OSD is controlled via rear buttons and doesn’t offer many options beyond contrast, brightness and colour controls.
The most notable features are a dynamic contrast mode called DCR, which has some effect but tended to lose details in the image, and a range of settings which compromise viewing preferences in the form of Standard, Game, Movie and Text.
It also sports a ‘Low Blu Ray’ feature that, like other monitors we covered here, aims to reduce eye strain by reducing blue in the background LEDs. It has four setting levels and actually works quite well.
A small issue is the screen coating, which very slightly mottles the view, visible mostly with white backgrounds.
But look at that price — by far the cheapest 144Hz display you can buy.
Verdict: You get what you pay for, but with the KALED24144A it goes a long way.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
However this is marred by a fixed stand meaning no tilt, swivel or height adjustment, the most unforgivable of these being the latter — to get the display at an ergonomic level you’ll be propping it up on books and boxes. For the money we’d hoped for a little more.
A welcome feature is the control for the OSD, which is a small directional joystick underneath the display. This is easier on the arm and fingers to navigate than the traditional multi-button on the sides or front.
While the display maxes out at 75Hz, it does support FreeSync to ensure smooth gameplay if you drop below this.
Other gaming features include a ‘Black Stabiliser’, which essentially brightens dark areas but can also wash out an image; ‘Dynamic Action Sync’, which is fancy marketing speak for a low-input delay (and indeed it is); and ‘Game Mode’ profiles such as FPS and RTS, though with these your mileage may vary.
As an IPS monitor with a price close to the ASUS MG279Q, it’s an interesting toss-up — the LG 34UM67 is larger with its 21:9, 34-inch size, and this is definitely a boon in games.
The ASUS MG279Q is only a 16:9, 27-inch model by comparison, but has a higher resolution and cranks it up to 144Hz, which is hard to beat.
Ideally you’d want try and can get in front of both to decide.
Verdict: A more affordable 34-inch display, let down by its fixed stand.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Samsung doesn’t do things by halves and its U28E850R packs 4K of pixels into a 28-inch screen. HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort is required to power this, not to mention a beefy GPU or two when it comes to games.
As far TN-panel displays go it’s one of the better ones with good contrast and vibrant colours that don’t look as washed out as TN-panels tend to be.
The OSD allows you to split the display into two with Picture-in-Picture mode utilising two different inputs, and an interesting Samsung ‘MagicAngle’ feature sports presets such as ‘Lean Back’ and ‘Standing’ that attempt to compensate for a TN-panel’s less than stellar viewing angles. Does it work? Kinda, the results are more a matter of taste.
Another neat feature is ‘Eye Saver’ mode which can be toggled with a single-push and will reduce blue light and contrast whilst dimming the screen. It works well once your eyes adjust, and a great option for working at night.
For gaming a ‘Gaming Mode’ claims to optimise the display for gaming, though we found it tended to over-sharpen the image.
Overdriving is also configurable, though on the ‘Fastest’ setting we saw some artifacts in motion. While not included, an optional soundbar can be mounted onto the rear.
The U28E850R is exemplary of Samsung quality but for the price you can get the ASUS MG279Q with 2,560 x 1,440 res and IPS, or go large with the LG 34UM67. The charm here is 4K, as long as you have the grunt to power it.
Verdict: This in IPS would be an easier sell, but otherwise it ticks all the boxes.