Gaming monitors are running a little out of date. These days, it’s all about eSports monitors. You heard us right. It’s not enough to just game: it’s about the competition. You have to drive your opponents into the ground, and what better way to do it than through smoother vision?
Looking back on our articles, you’ll see we dabble in monitors quite a bit. We’ve covered the best portable monitors, best 144hz monitors and 2018’s best IPS gaming picks. But now, it’s time to focus on the serious gamer.
What we’re going to do is present you with the best-choice monitor for the exact kind of competitive gaming you like to do. It’s not like manufacturers churn out monitors based on the kind of games they’ll be screening, but that doesn’t mean there’s an all-purpose monitor if you want the very best (although we’ll try to find that too).
What are we covering?
We like to dive right into it here at Gadget Preview, especially since we already went in-depth about technologies in our previous articles. For the most part, we’ll be grouping our gaming monitors based on genres: first-person shooters, strategy games, MOBAs and MMORPGs. There’s also a little something for the budget gamer, and we’re taking several things into consideration along the way. Some of them are:
60hz vs 144hz vs 240hz: The battle rages on. Some say you can’t see more than 60 FPS (frames-per-second) on a 60hz monitor, while others dismiss them as heretics. We’ll clear this up a little.
TN vs IPS: As much as the IPS technology is lauded, gamers are still holding onto TN for dear life. Why? Well, it might have to do with our next point…
Price: While you might be a serious gamer, your budget might not meet your stern expression. Therefore, you need to balance the monitor’s price versus your rig. What use is having the best gaming monitor in the world if the PC that’s powering it is gasping for air? Bringing us again to our next point…
Resolution: Everyone says that more resolution is better, and more resolution tends to equal less FPS, which equals you going to the respawn. Large monitors need a high-powered PC or the gaming performance is going to be stretched (ha-ha). We’ll explain how to balance your PC’s performance with your screen to get the most FPS and least stutter.
Our previous best-choice, all-purpose winner: BenQ ZOWIE XL2411P 24″
Everyone loves the BenQ ZOWIE XL2411P, even though it’s a bit long in the tooth by manufacturing standards. It has a TN panel, which some will call a heresy in 2019. Others, however, don’t find the TN panel nearly as detrimental compared to what the monitor offers.
The 144hz refresh rate means that this is an ideal monitor for FPS games (although not the best… but more on that later). What this means compared to 60 hz is less blur. A lot less blur. Being as twitchy as they are, you don’t have a lot of time to see things in shooters, and blurring your vision doesn’t help.
The XL2411P has a 1080p resolution, which ties into its budget-ish all-purpose niche pretty well. Why? Because a lesser resolution will allow you to get more frames and therefore allow you to take advantage of the 144hz refresh rate. 120+ frames per second on a 144hz monitor? Sweet. 60 frames on a 144hz monitor? You might as well book an eye doctor appointment the next day.
The price remains one of the strongest points of this model, being just north of $200. Pretty impressive, considering the set of features it offers. It even has a 1ms response time, for Pete’s sake: this is an oft-overlooked feature that is equally as important for shooters. The relatively-small 24″ size also makes transportation easier.
A number of pro gamers, especially competitive FPS players, choose to go for this precise model because of the combo. And, as Amazon reviewers can attest, even the more casual user will find this near-flawless.
But what if you want the very best monitor when you’re firing the bullets? What if you want that tiny bit of advantage over the guy trying to shoot a hole through your head? Well, then you can’t afford to get anything other than…
The current best monitor for FPS games: Acer Predator XB252Q 24.5″
They don’t call this thing the Predator for no reason. Don’t you remember what he did to a squad of commandos in the jungle? Well, that’s what you’ll probably be doing to your CS:GO, PUBG and Overwatch opponents with this baby. Of course, there are a few caveats, but let’s get to the good parts first.
240hz. What does it mean? It means that you’ll have better vision than virtually any of your opponents. Forget the TN vs IPS debate: if we were staging a Quake tournament and had to sponsor an athlete (probably Cooller), we’d fit him with this monitor. When you’re talking about competitive advantage, it doesn’t get much better than 240hz, as it brings a movement quality that feels smoother than lifelike. The Amazon reviewers also praise the monitor’s G-Sync features, as it further eliminates both tearing and eye strain.
The monitor comes with a native resolution of 1920x1080p, which is perfectly sufficient for any FPS gamer and won’t strain your rig too much, so you can rest if you started worrying whether your PC can keep up with the 24.5″ rendering. Now we’re getting a bit into the caveats. In order to get the true benefits of a 240hz monitor, you need a…. you guessed it, a computer that can crank up to 250 frames per second, or even more.
This tends to depend on the FPS game in question. Overwatch? Probably. Quake Champions. Sure. CS:GO? You’re seeing some drops while you’re shooting. PUBG? Heck, it’s tear city.
Of course, the above only applies to your run-of-the-mill competitive gamer. If you want the very best monitor, we’ll go ahead and assume you have the very best rig on the market, or close to it. That means you can get above 200 frames per second in any shooter while playing on the native 1080p resolution, which spells bad things for your opponents. That also means that a price of between $500 and $600, depending on the vendor, won’t trouble you awfully.
Best monitor for strategy games and MOBAs: BenQ GW2765HT 27″
When it comes to strategy games and MOBAs, it’s a whole different ball game. Sure, you can use the above monitors for competitive gaming in these two genres, but it would be a bit like putting out fire with soda. (did that analogy make sense?)
Whether you’re playing Starcraft 2, DotA 2, League of Legends or anything of the sort, what you want is resolution. All that freshness won’t do you as much good here, because the games simply don’t revolve around it. What they revolve around are precise clicks, and if you want to get more precision, more PPI (pixel-per-inch) is the way to go.
The GW2765HT’s native resolution is 2560×1440, which is being hailed as the future already, even though not many manufacturers have begun to utilize it yet (we’ll get to the “why” in a bit). The 4ms IPS panel will simply allow you far more precise control over your units than someone playing on an 1080p monitor, let alone a smaller one. Whichever strategy game or MOBA you’ve played, you know that the tiniest, most precise movements are what makes the difference, especially when you’re playing competitively. And we’re willing to wager you enjoy showing your opponents who’s boss.
Well, with this thing, your Protoss units will be moving as if you’re telepathically commanding them, and you’ll feel as if you yourself have taken place of your MOBA hero or champion while your enemies spin around in circles trying to last-hit. Given the technology, the price of barely over $200 seems almost too cheap. What are the downsides? It has to have downsides, right?
Similarly to 240hz monitors, but to a much greater extent, the 1440p’s peerless PPI precision tends to come with a performance impact. You’ll be running the operating system on a much larger resolution, which takes a good PC even before you take games into account.
One saving grace is that strategies and MOBAs are far less dependent on high frames per second than shooters. You might even find a stable 60 FPS acceptable. With that said, there’s no two ways about it: you need a very good PC to keep up with the 1440p resolution. Plus, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to satisfy yourself with 1080p quality when watching movies and TV shows.
Best MMORPG and budget monitor: ASUS VE248H 24″
If you thought games like PUBG were intensive, wait until you log onto an MMORPG. It’s well-known that this genre is by far the most demanding on the computer due to the sheer number of players connecting to the server. These can number in the thousands, or even tens of thousands. (Yes, we’ve played on a server with the latter. It was crowded.)
Whereas FPS gamers often go low-detail for better visibility, MMORPG gamers tend to prefer higher detail quality as it doesn’t really impact your in-game performance while greatly contributing to the experience. Again, this places even more strain on your already-strained PC.
Because of that, we figured that the hundreds of dollars you’d spend on one of the monitors above are better utilized to upgrade your rig if you are more into MMORPGs. That’s not to say the VE248H is genre-specific, however, nor that it can’t serve competitive shooter and strategy gamers well enough.
The 1920×1080 resolution is standard or slightly above it, so there won’t be any trade-offs there. The monitor’s response time of 2ms is unusually low (a very good thing) for a model that goes for less than $150, and the 60hz refresh rate which is slowly becoming outdated won’t really mean as much in a world of skill trees and deadly steel.
The trade-off we mentioned mostly comes in the form of a lower refresh rate and a somewhat lower-quality LED display compared to more expensive models. Still, as the many satisfied Amazon buyers will tell you, the picture quality of the VE248H is far from shabby. There are other versions of this model, but we’ve chosen the one with the 16:9 aspect ratio as it’s the most widely used one and won’t inconvenience you.
If you’re going for a budget monitor, you’re unlikely to find a better ratio of price and quality on the market. And, as mentioned, the extra dollars can be spent on a PC upgrade or even something like a gaming chair or table. (We’ll be linking buying guides for those down below, in case you began to worry.)
What?! No IPS vs TN debate? What’s going on?
In the opening paragraph, we linked to some of our in-depth articles where you can explore the difference between panel types and, if you’re a 144hz purist, choose among a wide palette of 144hz monitors available. But that’s not what the competitive gamer really wants.
What the competitive gamer wants is an advantage over opponents. Technology wins wars. Don’t bring a knife to a gun-fight, and don’t bring a rifle when nukes are being dropped. That’s why we’ve grouped the monitors based on the kind of game you like to play: if you’re playing CS:GO on a 240hz monitor with over 200 frames per second and the guy coming around the corner is playing with a laggy laptop display, he might as well be coming at you with a pike. He has a chance, just not a very good one.
There are other ways to get an advantage in eSports once you have your rig perfectly set up. Are the cables distracting you or you don’t have enough surface space? Our gaming desk guide should help you with that. Did your arm get blown off while you were grabbing your aching back? Our gaming chair guide will ensure that never happens again. Keep fragging, and may the positive K/D/A be with you.