What to look for in a gaming monitor: Specs that matter


Running a gaming PC is a lot like being a car enthusiast. You want to get the best parts available, tune them to your liking, and then get out onto the open road, so to speak. The funny thing is, even with the best graphics card and CPU, a gaming PC can’t demonstrate its full glory without a solid gaming monitor to bear witness.

But what to look for? Display shelves are packed with myriad choices, and a variety of specs: 1080p, 2160p, 4K, HDR, refresh rate, response time, color gamut, IPS, ultrawide, curved, and so on.

With so many options, where do you begin and how do know what matters most? Choosing the ideal gaming monitor gets easier once you decide on the resolution you want, and understand how different features will affect your experience. Price matters too, of course, but with sale periods like Black Friday, Prime Day, and general deals throughout the year, pricing can be more flexible for the patient shopper.

Here’s a look at the key features you want in a monitor, as well as some recommendations on what to buy. 

Resolution

Brad Chacos/IDG

Choosing the right resolution for gaming is all about the capabilities of your graphics card.

The first thing to think about is the monitor’s resolution, and this depends entirely on what your graphics card is capable of. There’s no point getting a 4K monitor, for example, if your graphics card can only handle the lower resolution of 1080p. The only caveat to that would be if you plan on upgrading soon and want to “future proof” by getting a higher-resolution monitor before you get the new GPU.

If you’re shopping for a new graphics card to go with your new monitor, read our roundup of the best graphics cards for PC gaming at every resolution (it has budget recommendations too!).

1080P: Standard 1080p monitors have a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. This is still the most popular resolution for gaming, according to the Steam hardware survey. Graphics cards in this range include the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super, GeForce GTX 1660 Super (our favorite 1080p GPU), and the AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT.

The benefit of 1080p is that it’s the most affordable kind of monitor you can get and is readily available pretty much anywhere.



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