The monitor is one of the most essential computer components. For gamers the quality of the monitor is, or should be, the highest priority, and for all users the monitor largely contributes to ergonomics, comfort and safety. Interestingly, some gamers spend hundreds and even thousands dollars for video cards and gaming accessories, but sometimes forget that their monitor has a direct influence on the gaming experience and should be chosen as carefully as the rest of gaming components. And whichever custom computer gamers are aiming to build, without a good quality monitor each dollar spent might not worth it in the end. On the other hand, a good monitor will always allow the user to have better gaming experience and comfort, even if his or her computer wasn’t built with high end components.
When choosing the monitor an inexperienced user could be easily entrapped with the variety of different technical details and characteristics that indicate different features of the particular model. So, let us review the most essential ones and help you to identify which features to pay attention before pulling out the wallet…
Usually, the first thing that comes to mind – “the bigger the better!”, but this can be very misleading. Assess your gaming space/environment and available options for monitor allocation/installation. There would be no advantage to buying a monitor with a screen size bigger than 27”, if you plan to sit right in the front of it, say two feet away. It will be just difficult to grasp the whole area of the screen and user would have to turn their head all the time, which will naturally lead to premature tiredness and discomfort. However, sizes smaller than 23” are also not good enough for comfortable gaming experience due to smaller picture and forced eyes stress. So, we recommend screen sizes between 23-27”, but with consideration of your gaming space.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths related to this parameter and the general one is that higher brightness will lead to problems with your vision. Don’t buy it! Yes, high settings of brightness may result with discomfort vision conditions, but you always can reduce it up to comfortable level of your eyes. Don’t forget the ambient light too- if your monitor will have enough brightness capacity, you will always be able to adjust it even in very bright ambient light conditions.
The contrast ratio is the difference between the whitest white and the darkest black that the monitor can reproduce, which expressed as 1000:1, for example. And as we mentioned the “brightness rule” here – the more contrast (contrast ratio) monitor has – the better, but, there is a catch here – the recommended contrast ratios usually vary from 1000:1 to 3000:1. If you see a monitor with a contrast ratio more than 3000:1 it is most probably a marketing hook. Anyway, trust your own eye and check the contrast level of the particular monitor in a store before ordering online. Don’t forget about ambient light as well – it has a direct impact on the contrast perception – the more light falling into monitor screen, the less contrast will be visible.
Pixel response time
The pixel response time indicates the full time that a pixel needs to change its color measured in milliseconds (ms). The less time pixels needs to change – the better. Why? Because during gameplay a longer time will lead to blurred, unnatural picture, which might be unacceptable in terms of visual perception for such game genres as first person shooters, for example. Shorter response time will make the image more realistic and crisp. Fortunately, most of the modern LCD monitors has a response time between 2-4 milliseconds, which is generally acceptable for majority of gamers. Although, true gaming monitors are capable to bring this parameter down to 1 millisecond, but they cost more.
Screen (panel) type
This characteristic of the monitor requires specific attention and we do not recommend to make an actual purchase before you find out which panel type the monitor you are going to buy has. There are nearly dozens of different panel type technologies and variations developed and used for manufacturing computer monitors and TVs, but describing them all would be a whole new topic, so we just mention three main ones – TN (TN-film), IPS and MVA(PVA). Each of them has their own specific characteristics such as: pixel response time, viewing angles, color rendition, power consumption, connectivity and usability.
- The simplest one is TN panel. It has the low pixel response time (1-2 ms), low power consumption and low price, but the rest is not good: narrow viewing angles (170/160), poor color rendition, relatively low contrast ratio (usually 300:1 and up to 1000:1 for some models with “dynamic contrast” feature enabled) and limited connectivity options – not exactly the gamers choice, unless the budget is very, very limited and pixel response time is the priority for action games.
- IPS type panels have more advantages in comparison with TN-film: natural color rendition, widest viewing angles in comparison with TN and MVA (170/170) and slightly better contrast ratio (up to 1100:1). And although the older IPS panels have quite a long pixel response time – up to 5 milliseconds, the recent generations has reached the TN level of 2-3 milliseconds. All this makes monitors with IPS panels a very good choice for gaming, but the cost may be considerable depending on brand, screen size and other options and for high-end models – very expensive.
- MVA(PVA) panels were initially developed as a compromise between TN and IPS technologies and had one biggest disadvantage that was almost unacceptable for gaming – pixel response time of 5-6ms. The latest generations of MVA panels has more advanced technologies in this respect, but still not good enough for very dynamic games. The other parameters are either relatively good or very good:, a contrast ratio of 5000:1 nails the TN and IPS without a doubt, much better color reproduction than TN, wide viewing angles. In general, MVA panels cost more than TN, but still cheaper than IPS. The final price tag would very much depend on brand, screen size, connectivity and usability options. All in all, this type of the monitors is not a primary choice of gamers, although still better than TN if not planned to play dynamic games.
Trust your own eyes – check available options not only by the specs, but by asking the retailer to demonstrate all the features in real-life situations. Because, at the end of the day it is really up to you to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the monitors you are comparing and understanding the general performance characteristics of different panels would be a great starting point.
One more thing. The real gaming monitor is an expensive piece of computer component to buy. As well as any other cool gaming accessories. However, if your budget allows you to buy one – you will get the maximum enjoinment out of playing games on it – we can guarantee it. It is like playing the same game with your friend on the different monitors – cheap and simple and expensive and full of advanced features. The result of the game itself will be the same, but perception and enjoyment – different. The choice, as always, is yours.