The monitor is an important component in any gaming system. However, there are many aspects to a PC monitor, with certain features more beneficial to gamers. These often come at a price, so it’s important to find a balance between.
The size of your monitor is important, and is one of the areas where bigger isn’t always better. A monitor that is too large will have you moving your head around if it is positioned too close to the screen, so consider how far away you want to game from your monitor.
Importance for gamers: 9
Resolution is important, and users would typically want as high a resolution as possible. Higher resolutions provide more “desktop real estate”, which allows you to fit more information on the same panel size. It also allows greater level of detail in games thanks to the higher pixel density. High resolutions require a powerful system to perform optimally, particularly when combined with Anti Aliasing or HDR processing techniques, so make sure your system has enough grunt to power the resolution. One thing to consider is, is the resolution high enough for your viewing distance? And is the resolution large enough for the size of the panel?
Importance for gamers: 10 (this comes at a price)
Higher frequencies are better for gamers; they provide smoother, more fluid motion. Most standard PC monitors operate at 60hz, though more 120hz monitors are becoming available.
120hz monitors have the benefit of a reduction in tearing commonly found when gaming at higher than 60 frames per second on a 60hz monitor. 120hz monitors are also required if you want to make use of 3D gaming technology, another point to consider when gaming.
Overclock.net has a comprehensive write-up comparing 60hz and 120hz resolutions.
Importance for gamers: 6
Response time is the amount of time a pixel takes to go from one colour value to another and back again. They are often quoted as grey to grey (GTG) times and hover between 2ms and 14ms.
Slower response times will result in an effect known as ghosting where a blur appears as the pixels struggle to keep up with a fast changing scene. Higher response times are thus better for gamers, though there is very little noticeable difference between 2ms and 5ms monitors. Ghosting is apparent on monitors with slower than a 6ms response, but many don’t notice or aren’t bugged by this.
Importance for gamers: 5
Contrast ratio is important for gamers, though too much emphasis is placed on the dynamic contrast ratio rather than the static.
Static contrast ratio is suited to scenes where one transitions from a dark area to a brightly lit one quite quickly. Dynamic contrast is measured as the “luminosity of the brightest and the darkest colour the system is capable of producing over time.” Both are important and gamers should consider which contrast ratio will benefit them more when gaming.
For the most part modern LED monitors are all fairly close in terms of static contrast ratio, with a slight increase in difference between dynamic contrast ratios of various units.
A more in-depth explanation is available at the Wikipedia page.
Importance for gamers: 6
Having the correct set of connectivity options is also important on modern monitors. Will you need DVI or HDMI connections? Will you need more than one connection so that the monitor can support multiple devices?
In my case I have my PC and PS3 hooked up to the same monitor without needing to change cables when I want to switch devices.
Does the monitor also provide audio connectivity options if you wish to send video and audio both down a single HDMI cable? If so does it only provide a 3.5mm jack, or does an optical connection make an appearance?
All these are questions you need to ask yourself when considering a new monitor.
Importance for gamers: 7
There are also other less important aspects to consider, such as the backlighting in the monitor. Cold cathode monitors produce white light better, but lose out to LED monitors when it comes to colour consistency, dynamic contrast ratio, lack of backlight bleeding, power draw and monitor size.
This is less of an issue as most modern monitors are making the transition over to LED technology, and thanks to successful marketing as well as word of mouth, most gamers will only consider LED backlit monitors for their next upgrade.
Importance for gamers: 4
There are a host of other factors to consider. The finish on a monitor is important, with glossy monitors normally producing more vivid colours, though these suffer from glare. The other option is a matte finish which dulls the colours slightly, but does a good job of eliminating most glare.
Aspect ratio is also important for some gamers. Originally, monitors made use of a 4:3 aspect ratio, though this has since died out on modern PC monitors. Widescreen monitors debuted with 16:10, an aspect ratio that remains popular amount enthusiasts.
However, monitors have moved over to the more popular aspect ratio of 16:9 (with the most popular monitor resolution at this aspect ratio being 1920 x 1080), commonly used by movies and TV series.
While there is no best monitor for all applications, knowing which features will benefit you is the first step when considering a new gaming monitor. This is followed by your budget, with some features such as 120hz panels dramatically increasing the price, while others such as fast response time and good contrast levels available as fairly standard options on most mid- to high-end monitors.
Next, buy the monitor that works for you. If you’re the type who can’t get used to the dynamic contrast mode changing brightness while you game, then buying a monitor that makes use of this feature to market high contrast ratios is a waste. Similarly, if you can’t notice/aren’t bugged by ghosting and would prefer greater viewing angle and better colour reproduction, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go for an IPS based monitor.
Like gaming mouses, comfort plays a large role in the overall experience you would take away from a gaming monitor. You wouldn’t buy a mouse sporting a 10,000 DPI sensor if using it meant hand cramping after 5 minutes, so why would you go for the brightest monitor with the highest contrast ratio if making use of these settings means you are slowly roasting your eyes?