Without a monitor, you have no gaming computer! The PC screen is the only way to display the images of a computer and even determines the gaming performance. It is for this reason that the choice of a gaming monitor is not to be taken lightly. If you are a hardcore gamer, you probably spend a lot of time on your screen.
Computer applications have indeed multiplied: eSports, office automation, heavy graphics design needs, etc. You must identify your priorities first because no particular PC monitor is versatile enough to suit all computer requirements. That said, if you are out to buy a gaming monitor, make sure you get a gaming monitor, nothing short of that.
But what are the important aspects of gaming monitors? Everything depends on the definition, the technology of the screen, the connection, ergonomics … The design is also important. PC LCD screens, thinner and lighter than the old cathode ray tubes, are more suitable for this purpose. But it is an argument whose subjective nature is undeniable. For all the rest (monitor size, frequency, resolution, response time), this monitors buying guide will assist you in making a decision.
THE DIAGONAL AND DISPLAY TYPE
The diagonal of a PC screen represents the distance between two opposite corners of the screen and is now between 15 to 34 inches (38 to 86 cm). The large dimensions are of course tempting for multimedia and widescreen gaming.
In as much as a big screen is always desirable, factor in your gaming position. No need to choose a 30 inches screen if you have your nose stuck on the screen. Also be aware that clutter, weight, power consumption and partly price are proportional to the screen size.
I am sure you have come across the terms HD, FHD, and UHD. The definition specifies the number of pixels that the monitor panel contains. We also speak of native or maximal definition, the only one that produces a clear image on an LCD panel. The first value determines the horizontal definition, and the second defines the vertical definition. The higher the definition, the clear and crisp the image, and consequently the greater the amount of information displayed. It ranges from 1024×768 to 5120×2880 pixels.
A slight step below, the Ultra High Definition (UHD, or 3840×2160 pixels) spreads like a trail of powder, helped by the increasing power of graphics cards (Read our comprehensive review of the best gaming graphics cards ). UHD is also called 4K, although this terminology is unsuitable: the 4K, or 4096×2160 pixels, is used more in the world of cinema and video. The screens adopting this single definition are in fact very well suited to video editing applications.
Horizontal and vertical definitions are derived from the image format: 4/3 (1024×768 pixels), 5/4 (1280×1024 pixels), 16/9 (1920×1080, 2560×1440, 3840×2160 pixels), 16/10 (1920×1200 or 2560×1600 pixels) , 17/9 (4096×2160 pixels), very rare in the computer world, and finally ultra-wide formats close to 21/9 (2560×1080, 3440×1440 pixels).
The most common formats are 16/9, 16/10 and 21/9. The 16: 9 widescreen ratio is best suited for playing video in full screen, regardless of the video source (built-in DTT tuner if any, a decoder connected to the HDMI input …). The 21: 9 ratio is even more valuable for videos and movies shot in Cinemascope. It is also interesting for multitasking and multiwindow.
The 16/10 format introduces thin black bands at the top and bottom of the image. On the other hand, it is a bit better for office automation. Finally, more and more video games adapt equally to 16/9 or 16/10, without image distortion.
Another physical property derives from these parameters: the pitch of mask (or pitch), in millimeters, which represents the distance between two pixels. The smaller it is, the more accurate the image. It is easy to understand that a 22-inch Full HD screen offers a sharper display than a screen of the same size limited to 1680×1050 pixels. This mask pitch is generally between 0.23 and 0.3 mm.
On this basis, some categories of monitors with rather distinct uses appear. They are defined according to the equipment and technology of the monitor.
Gaming Monitor sizes and applications
The 15-inch to 19-inch PC screens, which are adapted to small spaces, are now reserved for office activities or specific professional markets, such as video surveillance, commerce, the education sector, and more. Their specificities are in line with their specialty: touch screen for a screen designed to integrate an interactive terminal, IP compliance that proves resistance to dust and moisture in industrial environments, etc … With specific features (touch screen, IP compliance, etc.)
PC screens from 22 inches to 27 inches monopolize the market. Versatile for most, they meet the most common needs: office, multimedia, video games (see our chapter dedicated to gaming screens) … However, check the technology of the slab (TN, IPS, etc.), more or less suitable for the priority use you expect. Do the same with the definition: the highest definitions (beyond the UHD) are essentially suitable for the image professions. If you plan to play on such a screen, a powerful graphics card is required. For less specific use, HD definitions (1920×1080 or 1920×1200 pixels) are the most common.
27-inches to 38- inches – Finally, there are impressive size PC screens, whose diagonal brims above the 30 inches and similar to flat-screen TVs. They are used by a specific group of professionals, in the especially in heavy graphics design work and have very high definitions (definition of 2560×1600 pixels and more). Another use is the large format signage if they are placed in a hall for example. In the latter case, they are delivered without foot and have a much lower resolution. But we do not forget that these large monitors, sometimes curved, 21/9 format and widescreen improvement technologies are the happiness of some gamers with the development of screens 21/9 G-Sync for example.
Two innovations have emerged in recent years to combat eyestrain: anti-flicker (or “flicker-free”) and anti-blue light (or “Anti-Blue Light”). The first limits the flickering of the LED backlight, an unpleasant effect to which many users are sensitive. This occurs especially when the brightness of the screen is lowered below a certain threshold. As for the anti-blue light process, it filters or shifts the peak of blue light emitted by the screen, which is considered by some studies as harmful for our retinas (it would be an aggravating factor in the appearance of AMD or macular degeneration related to age) and our biological rhythms.
Understanding the technical aspects
Computer screens are more and more beautiful objects, the quality of the image remains breathtaking. However, this quality is conditioned by multiple parameters, sometimes hidden, that you must decrypt to better direct the choice of your PC screen.
- Luminosity – The luminosity Expressed in candela per square meter (cd / m2), the brightness of the screen monitor quantifies the maximum luminous intensity emitted by the. The higher the value, the brighter and more visible the display, even in a brightly lit room. The brightness is between 250 and 400 cd / m2 approximately. However, it is difficult to judge two screens from this criterion alone.
- The contrast – The contrast of the screen tile is the ratio of light intensity between the extreme white point and the extreme black point. In this case, a ratio of 400: 1 means that the white dot is 400 times brighter than the black dot. It is, therefore, a parameter related to the brightness. In general, a contrast ratio of 500: 1, in the context of office use, is sufficient. It goes up to 1000: 1 and well beyond for PC screens dedicated to the world of images in all its forms (desktop publishing, CAD, etc.). Be careful; this is a so-called “typical” contrast ratio. Manufacturers, for their part, announce a so-called “dynamic” contrast, which exaggerates the figures. Do not be fooled!
- The viewing angle– Thanks to a good viewing angle, the contrast and colorimetric are preserved even if the screen does not face the users. The viewing angle of the computer screen is indicated by two consecutive values, expressed in degrees, in the horizontal and vertical directions. These are the maximum angles beyond which the image is degraded (sharp drop in contrast and colorimetric fidelity). The viewing angle depends on the screen technology monitor application. For example, IPS and PVA panels have very wide viewing angles, typically 178 ° / 178 °. This is ideal for collaborative work so that everyone in front of the screen has a vision identical to that of their neighbor. On the contrary, the TN slabs do not exceed 170 ° / 170 °. And again, these numbers are mostly optimistic. Still, for many common uses, it is an unimportant criterion, unless your screen is elevated.
- Response time – The response time of the slab is a parameter often subject to controversy. It measures in milliseconds the speed of change of state (“extinguishing-switching-off”) of the liquid crystals composing the slab. For simplicity, it is the response time “black to black.” However, it is not uncommon for manufacturers to use a response time corresponding to the “gray to gray” cycle, which is considered more realistic, but also more flattering because it is shorter. If you want to differentiate two screens on this basis, take equal values. The “fastest” PC screens have a response time of 1 to 5 ms, which can be further improved by the technique of “overdrive” (the increase of voltage to dissipate more liquid crystals). That’s what you need if you play action games with fast-paced footage, or watch movies. Otherwise, you may see persistent images or ghost trails that will spoil your experience. For all other uses (office automation, image editing …), it is not an element of crucial importance.
Different display technologies
- TN (Twisted Nematics), economical and responsive
- IPS (In-Plane Switching) and PLS, ideal for beautiful images
- PVA (Patterned Vertical Alignment), a very high contrast
- MVA (Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment), gifted for video
For the computer screen, several technologies of LCD panels exist, the shades being housed in the electronics and the structure of the matrix of liquid crystals. Each has different physical characteristics and inevitably compromises. Their strengths and weaknesses are described below.
(a) TN (Twisted Nematics), economical and responsive
It is the most widespread and economical technology, with 22-inch screens available at around $ 100. Its excellent responsiveness (a slow response time that tends to the millisecond) is its main strength. In contrast, the viewing angle is quite narrow, and the contrast is medium. As for the colorimetric, it varies from 18 to 30 bits, the 24-bit slabs (3×8 bits, i.e., 16 million colors) being the most widespread.
Choose a TN panel if you only practice common activities (video games, office, Internet), for which colorimetric and contrast are not cardinal virtues.
The Asus PA279Q is a 27-inch screen that combines an IPS panel with a definition of 2560×1440 pixels. Perfect for lovers of image editing.
(b) IPS (In-Plane Switching) and PLS, ideal for beautiful images
IPS is on the rise. Previously expensive, this technology is now available in some inexpensive screens, at less than $130. It excels in color reproduction and offers a wide viewing angle. The contrast is also of a good level. The response time, long pointed in comparison to TN tiles, has improved a lot and is no longer a brake for gamers. References under 5 ms are legion.
There are several variants of the IPS: E-IPS, P-IPS, H-IPS, AH-IPS … Each enhances one or more properties: color reproduction on a 30-bit scale for the P-IPS, time response time of 5 ms for E-IPS, better contrast for H-IPS, improved colorimetry and lower power consumption for AH-IPS … Samsung, for its part, has developed PLS (Plane to Line Switching) technology, cousin of the IPS, with lower production costs.
(c) PVA (Patterned Vertical Alignment), a very high contrast
This technology is now on screens from $200. Although it is not as widespread as the IPS, it offers many similar or superior assets: the contrast is generally very high, the angles of vision are good (although the IPS remains a small step above) and the time of correct answer, without equaling that of TN. On the other hand, video playback is tainted with digital noise (or tingling).
A PVA panel is therefore limited to screens specialized in graphics, although competition from the IPS is increasingly harsh.
Another version of the PVA, the S-PVA, has a higher color reproduction (24 bits) and generally a better response time. It benefits the most expensive screens, often beyond $500.
(d) MVA (Multi-domain Vertical Alignment), gifted for video
It is a technology before the PVA, available from 200 €, but in loss of speed. The relationship between MVA and PVA has many similarities: deep blacks, high contrast, good viewing angles … However, video playback is more “clean” on an MVA panel. Which is worth it to be generalized on the flat screens of the living room.
An MVA panel, therefore, has image processing, even multimedia, and video game capabilities if it is reactive (response time less than 10 ms)
Like others, this process has been perfected over time to produce variants, including one called A-MVA, which benefits from even higher contrast.
- The DisplayPort
- The VGA
- RCA, YUV & components
- The wireless video connection
- USB or Thunderbolt link
Several types of connectors, video but also audio, are likely to graft on the back of a PC screen. They determine the connection possibilities and also, specific functions.
1. The DVI (Digital Video Interface)
The connector of the PC screen is almost always of type DVI-D, that is to say numerically exclusive. There is a distinction between DVI-D and DVI-D Dual Link, the latter allowing to exploit higher resolutions to Full HD and 3D. But do not worry too much: this connector is any way suitable for different display modes supported by the monitor. For example, monitors of 2560×1440 pixels automatically have a DVI-D Dual Link port. It is rather your graphics card that must focus your attention, in the sense that it governs the display possibilities. Refer to our graphics card purchase guide for more information. For the Dual Link mode to work, make sure the DVI cable has 24 pins.
2. HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface)
The HDMI connector is a digital connector, capable of carrying audio and video, mainly present on mainstream monitors intended for multimedia. It can connect audio/video equipment (ADSL TV decoder, Blu-Ray player …) or a game console, in addition to the computer. Some models of monitors have three HDMI sockets, which offers great freedom of connection. The HDMI 1.4 / 1.4a is the most popular version: it allows a 4K (4096×2160) definition but at a rate of 24 frames per second (or 24 Hz) only. Not enough to play in particular. The HDMI 2.0 finally makes its appearance on some screens and improves the performances, the 4K being able to be displayed in 60 Hz or 2×30 Hz, for the 3D. To enjoy your graphics card must of course also integrate an HDMI 2.0 output. This is already the case at NVIDIA since the 9XX series. And good news, no need to change the HDMI cable!
3. The DisplayPort – The DisplayPort, which asserts its presence in the middle to high-end screens, is the most efficient link. The flexible cable is also easy to connect. The DisplayPort is the latest addition, all-digital, and capable of carrying audio and video. Available on a growing number of PC screens, it is known to perform better than DVI and offers more possibilities, with support for YUV and RGB color spaces, for example. The latest version, labeled 1.3, supports 4K UHD definition at 120Hz and still supports G-Sync and FreeSync image fluency enhancement technologies as well as multi-channel audio. Also, a DisplayPort cable is more flexible and easier to connect than a DVI cable.
4. The VGA (Video Graphics Array) – The VGA connector is the analog ancestor of DVI. It remains for compatibility with old graphics cards, which only have this video output. If you have a choice, prefer the DVI connector, better quality.
5. RCA and YUV plugs (or YCbCr aka Components) – RCA (YUV) plugs are analog video connectors on professional monitors for digital signage (presentation, signage, etc.). They ensure compatibility with the oldest video sources. Other types of audio/video links have appeared recently, but they are still rare
6. The wireless video connection – The wireless video connection is based on the Ultra Wide Band (UWB) radio communication technique and requires a free USB 3.0 port to connect the supplied USB flash drive. It is convenient if you are equipped with a laptop.
7. USB or Thunderbolt link – Some monitors are stripped of any connectivity other than the USB, which carries the video signal and power. Useful for connecting a laptop. The display transits via a USB or Thunderbolt port of the computer, the latter being rather the prerogative of Apple computers. The installation of specific software is essential if it is connected to USB. Some PCs have only one USB input, type 3.1 (or type 3.0 for small portable displays, for example), which transmits the video signal and also the power supply (the AC adapter may be optional). Their power consumption has the advantage of being low, around ten watts. This is a feature that should spread especially when it is accompanied by USB type C: reversible, and it is destined to be used by a maximum of our devices (see the article on our blog). However, other monitors are gratified in addition to a USB hub (or hub), two to four secondary USB ports to accommodate devices (keyboard, mouse, hard drive …), or an RJ45 Ethernet port to relay network access. The monitor then plays the role of a docking station. Again, this is an attractive solution if you have a laptop.
Multimedia-oriented monitors are also equipped with additional possibilities:
- Mini-Jack audio input to power the built-in speakers, from the analog audio output of the motherboard or sound card;
- A headphone output. Sometimes a TNT antenna to take advantage of digital TV by connecting a simple antenna, either in full screen or a window (PIP function or “Picture in Picture”). If you receive cable TV, monitor DVB-C compatibility.
- The PC Card slot, rare it is true, allows to introduce a card of rights of access to decode the pay channels;
- Another possible equipment: the integrated webcam, which is not likely to fall unlike its siblings sometimes in precarious balance.
- Finally, the “pro” screens, reserved for the digital signage, have an RS232 serial socket and an RJ45 Ethernet port, which allow them to be controlled remotely.
Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) technology allows you to connect a mobile phone to the monitor and enjoy the interface, games or videos on the big screen. It requires a compatible mobile phone (the audio/video signal borrows the micro USB port), a monitor with HDMI / MHL input and the ad hoc cable. Note that the phone’s battery is charging in parallel.
AESTHETICS AND ERGONOMICS
Adjusting the position of a computer screen is essential in erasing reflections, to improve the comfort of the user. It also personalizes your environment to adopt a good posture … Indispensable at work, but also at home! This is an often overlooked point, while it is crucial if you spend long hours in front of your screen.
Three types of settings exist:
(a) The inclination – It is an almost omnipresent setting, which allows directing the screen to the ceiling or the surface of the office with an amplitude of the order of twenty degrees. It is sometimes welcome to eliminate glare. If the monitor is placed high, it is also an interesting setting.
(b) The rotation – The foot pivots on a vertical axis from left to right. This is useful when the monitor is off-center or when you share your workstation.
(c) The height – This is, unfortunately, a rare setting. However, it is a way to adapt the height of the slab to the line of vision and to avoid uncomfortable positions of the neck and neck. The height is usually ten to twenty centimeters.
Some functions or types of screens also help to improve everyday use:
Portrait mode – Some monitors also benefit from a pivot mode: the panel is rotatable 90 degrees in the vertical plane. This is called a portrait view as opposed to a landscape view. This is a feature that is not without interest if you are working on desktop publishing software.
The curved monitor – It is an innovation inherited from curved TV screens, manufactured especially by Samsung and LG, and available mainly in panoramic format (16/9) and ultra panoramic (21/9). This concave profile is more beneficial to the monitors because the user is closer to the screen: he can look at the entire image without even turning his head. That’s not all, curved screens also have the advantage of providing a more uniform viewing distance (the edges are less far away) and are less sensitive to glare.
Image quality settings – Finally, like any display device, a computer screen offers the possibility of fine-tuning the image via the On Screen Display (OSD) menu. This one is accessible via some mechanical or tactile keys, located most often under the slab, or more rarely by remote control. It allows you to adjust some parameters: brightness, contrast, color temperature, etc.
Comfort is also a question of the display size. Rather than opt for a single giant screen, it is sometimes better to opt for two or three screens, independent display. Users working regularly on several documents at a time, fans of image editing or players are fond of this kind of configuration.
What Makes a Good Monitor for Gaming?
Size – The graphics of video games being more and more impressive, it would be a shame to spoil the immersion because of a screen too small. Opt for a diagonal of at least 24 inches. Prices have dropped, a screen of 24 or 27 inches is now affordable, and there are now large screens to drool like the 35 inches. After that, it depends on the place you have on your desk.
Definition – Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) has become the standard, and the WQHD (2560×1440 pixels) definition is also very common. But the trend is to Ultra High Definition (UHD, 3840×2160 pixels). This is an investment of the future because video game developers are starting to take this definition into account. On the other hand, Internet services like YouTube and Netflix already allow you to enjoy UHD content. However, for the video game, you will have to equip a very powerful graphics card.
Response time – The LCD panel must be as responsive as possible to avoid the appearance of graphics defects, such as streaks and ghost images. Select a response time of less than 5 ms, ideally 1 ms. Be careful though; this is not everything. We must already compare what is comparable and be wary of the unit of measure (gray-to-gray or black-to-black). It must also be correlated with the lag input, the time that elapses between when the screen receives the information and when the image is displayed.
The type of monitor – The other criterion induces a priori the choice of the type of slab, but it is not as systematic as formerly. Thus, TN tiles are generally recommended for players because they are the most reactive. But the IPS panels are about to impose themselves with response times less than 5 ms. So there are screens for players with IPS panels, reactive, and enjoying other advantages of this technology: wide viewing angle, excellent colorimetry.
The refresh rate – Gamer screens are often gratified at frequencies above 60 Hz (except for 4K / UHD models) so that they can display the maximum number of images sent by the graphics card. Quick movements, action scenes, etc. earn a lot in fluidity.
The maximum frequency continues to grow. The majority of gamer screens offer 144 Hz (the 240 Hz mode of the Eizo Foris FG2421 screen is an exception), but there are also models at 165 or 180 Hz.
Despite these high frequencies, the fluidity and integrity of the image are not always preserved, especially when it comes to video games. Indeed, the graphics card calculates and transmits images on the screen at a variable and unpredictable rate, because it depends on the movement and actions of the player, the number of objects and effects observed in the scene, etc. This frequency of images from the graphics card does not coincide with that of the screen, which is stable. Result: the image is jerky or seems to tear (tearing phenomenon). This problem is solved by the technologies G-Sync and FreeSync (or Adaptive-Sync), developed respectively by NVIDIA and AMD: the frequency of refresh of the screen is variable and adjusts to the frequency of the graphics card and the artifacts graphics mentioned above disappear.
Ergonomics and connectivity – Any adjustment of height, inclination, etc. is welcome, especially if you play several hours in a row. Other aspects to take into account: the handle, if you board your screen to participate in competitions LAN, USB hub, and jacks, to easily connect all your devices “gaming” (keyboard, mouse, headphone, etc.), quick image quality settings, e.g., via remote control.
Finally, make sure that the connectivity is in line with your needs and the outputs of your graphics card. The Display Port is now the best choice, with support for UHD / 4K at 60Hz and G-Sync and FreeSync technologies. Also think of an HDMI input, which can accommodate your console for example, and give you access to the UHD if it is type 2.0. And if you use DVI, think Dual-Link, this 24-pin connector to double the bandwidth to 2560×1600 pixels at 60 Hz or titillate the 144 Hz in Full HD.