Finding the best computer monitor for your needs is already hard enough, but as soon as you decide to go for one that’s suited for gaming, there are a ton of additional factors and features to consider. What are refresh rates? What’s the difference between NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync? Those are just some of the questions this guide aims to answer, and, in the process, help you find the best gaming monitor for your budget.
LCD vs OLED
When shopping for a new gaming monitor, you first need to decide if you want to go with a screen that has an LCD or OLED panel. For most people, that choice will come down to price; OLED gaming monitors are significantly more expensive than their LCD counterparts. But even if money isn’t a concern, the choice might not be as straightforward as you think.
LCD monitors come in three different varieties: twisted nematic (TN), vertical alignment (VA) or in-plane switching (IPS). Without getting too technical, each panel type has its own set of quirks. For the most part, you want to avoid TN monitors unless you’re strapped for cash or want a monitor with the fastest possible refresh rate. TN screens feature the worst viewing angles, contrast ratios and colors of the bunch. After using an IPS monitor for many years and testing an OLED monitor for this guide, I can’t go back to a TN panel.
The differences between VA and IPS panels are more subtle. Historically, VA gaming monitors have featured slower pixel response times than their TN and IPS counterparts, leading to unsightly image smearing. However, that’s improved in recent years. VA panels also frequently sport better contrast ratios than both TN and IPS screens. They’re not dramatically better than their IPS siblings on that front, but when contrast ratios aren’t an inherent strength of LCDs, every bit helps.
On the other hand, IPS panels excel at color accuracy and many offer refresh rates and response times that are as fast as the fastest TN panels. The majority of LCD gaming monitors on the market today feature IPS panels, though you will frequently find VA screens on ultrawide monitors.
In many ways, OLED is the superior display tech. There’s something transformational about the ability of organic light-emitting diodes to produce true blacks. Simply put, every game looks better when there’s no backlight to wash out shadow details. Moreover, if you buy an OLED monitor, you can experience something PC gamers have been missing out on for a while: proper HDR gaming.
Unfortunately, OLED screens also come with a few noteworthy drawbacks. One big one is text legibility. Almost all OLEDs feature sub-pixel layouts that produce noticeable text fringing in Windows. It’s not an issue you will see when gaming, but it does mean they aren’t the best for productivity.
Another issue — and everyone’s favorite topic of conversation whenever OLEDs come up — is burn-in. Organic light-emitting diodes can get “stuck” if they display the same image