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The best gaming monitors 2020: comparing some of the biggest hitters and cheapest prices going

The best gaming monitors 2020: comparing some of the biggest hitters and cheapest prices going
Best Gaming Monitor (Image credit: Future)

The best gaming monitors are arguably responsible for the most important aspect of playing games: seeing them.  However, given the choice on offer nowadays you can get the best gaming monitor for you, your setup, and your budget. Whatever you find in your search, you'll experience genuine excitement, as, we think, upgrading your display is one of the most exciting gaming acquisitions you can make - the effect is immediate and crucial, after all.

However, there are myriad different options nowadays including differences in resolution (1080p, 1440p, and 4K), screen techs (FreeSync and G-Sync), and more. And then also combinations of all of said features and characteristics. It's a little daunting in a way but it's also a whole host of cool tech that's available for us to enjoy. However, due to the scale of the task, a guide like this is going to help you make decisions and will cover all the monitor's various 'types' and specifications from speeds, to sizes, to screen techs, to simple price points.

Given this diversity of gaming monitors to choose from, it's undeniable that out there waiting for you, is a great display with your name on it. There really is something for everyone regardless of your budget. And it's really important to say that they are absolutely not just for PC gaming, despite a lingering reputation, perhaps. Most of the top monitors for gaming are almost equally great for console gaming, as all of their features and specifications are designed, honed and refined to play games on. They'll likely be optimised for PC gaming, yes, but a lot will be equally excellent for console players, with some manufacturers going for that niche with specific models now.  

These will have more going on gaming-wise than the best gaming TVs, on the whole. So if you game separately to where you watch your films and TV content, then a monitor is a great idea to optimize your setup. With the advent of 4K gaming monitors and their steady journey to affordability, this is an excellent time to get the highest quality monitor for all your gaming needs. And, beyond matching some of the quality TV options out there, they offer further versatility by offering a quality everyday PC display for normal tasks. Plus with, dual- (or even triple-) monitor setups becoming more common, there's always room to look at a new panel to incorporate into your setup - again, no matter your budget. Whatever you'll use it for, the top monitor will give you excellence in picture and brilliant performance.

Any bigger than the gaming TVs and largest gaming monitors and you're going to want to look at one of the best projectors going.

Best gaming monitor at a glance

  • 1: Asus ROG Swift PG279Q
  • 2: AOC Agon AG273QCG
  • 3: ASUS TUF VG27AQ
  • 4: BenQ EL2870U
  • 5: Acer Predator XB271HU
  • 6: Alienware AW2518HF
  • 7: Alienware AW3418DW
  • 8: BenQ EX3203R
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1. ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q

The best gaming monitor - a brilliant all-rounder

Screen size: 27” | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 at 165Hz | Brightness: 350 cd/m2 | Response time: 4ms | Viewing angle: 178° H&V | Contrast ratio: 1,000:1 | Features: IPS panel, nVidia G-Sync, flicker-free backlighting, blue light filter, genre-specific presets and overlays, built-in speakers

Excellent color and gamma
Attractive G-Sync range
Hit-or-miss calibration from factory
Very expensive

The PG279Q houses an IPS LCD panel capable of a maximum resolution of 2560X1440 at 165Hz. Color depth and gamma quality are excellent, as is to be expected of a high-end IPS panel, though reviewers (both consumer and press) disagree as to whether the PG279Q requires extensive calibration in order to achieve the best picture quality. The PG279Q’s G-Sync support is appealing but, like the Acer Predator XB271HU, only works if you’ve got an Nvidia graphics card installed, which is a bothersome limitation that might tempt you to look elsewhere. 

Nvidia’s customary G-Sync premium applies to the PG279Q, resulting in a price tag on the wrong side of $700, which is more expensive than many of the computers that’ll be paired with the monitors in this guide. It also isn’t anywhere near as pricey as 4K displays can get, if you can believe it, so while still very expensive, it’s a cheaper option for those who aren’t bothered about the 4K experience. All things considered, the ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q is an exceptional monitor that’s just about worth the steeper price range compared to the next jump up in visual hardware.

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2. AOC Agon AG273QCG

G-Sync meets curvature, for the frugal esports champ

Screen size: 27" | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 at 165Hz | Brightness: 400 cd/m2 | Response time: 1ms | Viewing angle: 170° H, 160° V | Contrast ratio: 1,000:1 | Features: TN panel, G-Sync, HDR, RGB lighting, Game Mode

Aggressive pricing
High resolution, high refresh rate HDR G-Sync screen
TN panel, not IPS

When you're an aspiring esports legend who wants it all, few monitors meet that criteria quite like the AOC Agon AG273QCG. A 27-inch curved monitor surrounded by razor-thin bezels and a clear-as-day 1440p resolution, you'd expect the boasts to start and end there considering the price. But you'd be wrong. It also packs 400 nits of brightness, and it's certified for VESA DisplayHDR 400, so it's plenty colorful and vibrant enough to depict colors as they appear in real life. For flashy, stylized esports like Overwatch, this can prove useful for spotting opponents as well as for simply admiring the beauty of the artwork the developers have poured their hearts and souls into creating.

We mention esports, specifically, because competitive gamers are the obvious target audience for this display. Whereas single-player gamers tend to prefer IPS panels for their superior viewing angles, the Agon AG273QCG is a TN panel, designed for displaying games at buttery smooth high frame rates as a result of its 165Hz refresh rate. Effectively, this means the monitor "refreshes" 165 times every second, lending itself well to 165fps gaming. Assuming your gaming rig is up to the task, this is a fast and fluid monitor, with a nigh-instantaneous response time of 1ms. As Yoda would say, the next time you miss your shot, blame your monitor you will not. And that goes without mentioning G-Sync, which by itself adds a great deal of value to one of the best gaming monitors money can buy right now.

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3. ASUS TUF Gaming VG27AQ

An excellent monitor for PC or console at a good price

Screen size: 27" | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 2560 x 1440p | Brightness: 350 cd/m2 | Response time: 1ms | Viewing angle: 170° H, 178° V | Contrast ratio: 1,000:1 | Features: IPS panel, HDR-10, Extreme Low Motion Blur Sync technology

Excellent picture quality
Great colours and vibrancy
Lovely and smooth
Solid settings menu
Slightly haziness to some edges and images
Matte finish gives lighter pictures a sheen

The ASUS TUF VG27AQ is not exactly a flashy monitor but it is bursting at the seams with quality. It's ordinary looking but it packs a punch and offers an incredibly speedy monitor for gaming. There's a 165Hz (featuring Adaptive Sync Support), a 1ms response rate of 1ms, and it is both G-Sync and FreeSync compatible. Add into this ASUS' own Extreme Low Motion Blur Sync technology and the in-game pictures this monitor provides are some of the smoothest and best you can get on a 1440p monitor. 

The image quality is excelently crisp, too - it's not all about the speed. Stir in a rating of HDR10 high dynamic range for colour and brightness levels, too, and they are some of the nicest images on a 1440p you can get too. The VG27AQ does a great job of balancing overall picture quality, speeds and, importantly, the price point. It's a great do-it-all monitor that will serve people well for PC gaming and console gaming.

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4. BenQ EL2870U

Proof 4K HDR gaming doesn't have to cost a fortune

Screen size: 28" | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz | Response time: 1ms | Brightness: 300cd/m2 | Viewing angle: 170° H, 160° V | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | Features: TN panel, eye-care technology, built-in 2W stereo speakers, headphone jack, FreeSync

4K HDR support 
Built-in speakers
Poor viewing angles

It's not every day you find a 4K HDR display for less than half a grand, but the BenQ EL2870U is a bountiful exception and a pleasant surprise. While the viewing angles of its TN panel leave something to be desired, it boasts a shocking wealth of functionality typically found outside a budget monitor's wheelhouse. For instance, unlike the vast majority of even the best gaming monitors, this one has built-in speakers. They're unremarkable, but they are there for those times you want to share an epic gaming moment with a friend in the same room, audio included. Better yet, there's a headphone jack to ensure you never have to scramble for a cable long enough to reach your motherboard.  

If you have an AMD graphics card, the BenQ EL2870U is enhanced with native FreeSync support. Sadly, however, it is not G-Sync Compatible – trust us, we tested it. That said, it does have a utilitarian selection of ports, namely two HDMI 2.0 connections and a single DisplayPort 1.4. And, should you spend hours on end trying to best your KDR in Apex Legends, Ben-Q's integrated eye-care solution automatically adjusts brightness and blue light to safeguard your eyes from the evils of light-emitting diodes. It's not perfect, but the fact that this 28-inch 4K HDR screen regularly goes on sale for a fraction of its sticker price is a compelling case for snatching one up. 

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5. Acer Predator XB271HU

A G-Sync machine - ideal for high-end PC users

Screen size: 32” | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Brightness: 350 cd/m2 | Response time: 4ms | Viewing angle: 178° H&V | Contrast ratio: 100,000,000:1 | Features: IPS panel, nVidia G-Sync, flicker-free backlighting, Ultra Low Motion Blur (ULMB), built-in speakers

Robust IPS display
Excellent G-Sync range
Limited input connectivity
G-Sync upcharge

The Acer Predator XB271HU is the Nvidia user’s answer to the Asus MG279Q, and it features many of the same benefits: a vibrant, flicker-free IPS panel with 144Hz refresh, excellent viewing angles and built-in screen tear prevention technology. Like AMD’s FreeSync, Nvidia’s G-Sync lets the GPU and monitor coordinate their efforts, reducing or eliminating screen tearing. Unlike FreeSync, which is part of the DisplayPort 2.1a standard and is free to include in any applicable monitor, G-Sync requires a proprietary Nvidia chipset in the display, which usually incurs a $200 premium over comparable monitors equipped with FreeSync, and even more versus monitors with no adaptive sync support.

The upside is that since Nvidia has total control over the standard and its implementation, there’s greater assurance that a G-Sync monitor will work as advertised, while FreeSync quality can vary between manufacturers and from model to model. G-Sync monitors also tend to support a wider range of applicable refresh rates, as well as better anti-ghosting than FreeSync monitors.

True to form, the Predator XB271HU is G-Sync capable between 30 and 144Hz out of the box, up to a maximum of 165Hz if you’re the overclocking type. Most modern computers, even the kind you buy a $700+ monitor for, can’t render a steady 144+ frames-per-second, so right now that much G-Sync headroom isn’t especially useful. As an investment, however, the Predator XB271HU makes a strong argument, as it’ll graciously provide for not only your current GPU, but the next couple of upgrades as well.

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6. Alienware AW2518HF

High performance with added bells and whistles

Screen size: 24.5” | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 at 240Hz | Brightness: 400 cd/m2 | Response time: 1ms | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | Features: AlienFX RGB LED lighting, AMD FreeSync support

High frame-rates 
Alienware exclusive bonuses
No G-Sync

Alienware is a household name in PC gaming, so you know you’ll be the getting the good stuff when it comes to the company’s line-up of bespoke monitors. The AW2518HF is a particularly enticing option, with a focus on exceptionally fast response times and refresh rates which comes at a forgivable cost of visual resolution. That aforementioned refresh rate comes in at an impressive 240Hz, making the AW2518HF perfect for competitive gaming with consistently smooth imaging that rarely buckles under pressure. 

But the drawback is the TN (Twisted Nematic) technology panel, which doesn’t allow for G-sync support and only offers full HD resolution. It still plays fast and smooth for what you’re paying for, though, and the AW2518HF’s gorgeous, expressive design build is ergonomically robust to ensure a safe and comfortable viewing experience at all times. It even comes rigged up with the AlienFX RGB LED lighting, which can be synced up to whatever’s playing on the screen, as well as the rest of your AlienWare hardware. 

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7. Alienware AW3418DW

A more compact curved screen

Screen size: 34” | Aspect ratio: 21:9 | Resolution: 3440 X 1440 WQHD | Brightness: 300 cd/m² | Response time: 4 ms (gray-to-gray) | Viewing angle: 178°/178° | Contrast ratio: 1000:01 | Features: Curved 1900R IPS display with NVIDIA G-Sync™, wide viewing angles and sharp resolution

A compact widescreen option
6 games modes offered
Easy to set up
Another pricey purchase 
A little stingy with the ports 

Another curvy bit of eye candy for you, this time from the fine folks at Alienware. This one is a more compact option for widescreen fans, with 34 inches of pixels. This monitor's secret weapon is that is it can be overclocked to a 120Hz refresh rate, which puts in ahead of some of its cheaper rivals. Add to that its 100Hz refresh rate and G-Sync technology, which offer high frame rates without screen tearing, and Alienware is making sure you get plenty of bang for every buck you're putting into it. 

The monitor also gets a nod for keeping it classy on the design front. Think corporate super villain minimalism, with a ultrathin three-sided bezel and a stand that doesn't dominate your desk space. Yes, this is a pricey option, and won't be for you unless you're going to be playing games that really require ultra fast speeds. But if you want smooth, high-frame-rate games and a suite of game-specific features, the Alienware AW3418DW is worth the credit card debt.

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8. BenQ EX3203R

The best gaming monitor with a curve at a reasonable price

Screen size: 32-inch | Panel type: VA | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 2560x1440 | Response time: 4ms | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Weight: 18 lbs

Gorgeous curved panel
144Hz refresh rate
FreeSync support
Lower end of HDR support
No G-sync

BenQ's EX3203R is an answer to the exorbitantly priced models we've seen flooding the market since the curve trend has taken hold of consumer's imaginations. While it's not exactly a budget screen, it's reasonably priced and worth the investment, especially on sale.

Interestingly, BenQ has opted for a VA rather than an IPS or TN panel for the EX3203R. VA generally provides better contrast and probably contributes to the high refresh rate as compared to IPS equivalents, though sacrifices slightly in the viewing angle and and color production departments. All that said, unless you have an extremely keen eye, you're unlikely to notice the differences in panel tech, for better or worse. And since it's a curved panel, any reduction in viewing angle is less of a concern. This is an amazing monitor that provides stunning visuals and fantastic in game performance, and a great excuse if you've been waiting to jump on the curved-screen bandwagon.

Best gaming monitor: IPS vs TN, 4K vs 144Hz

Should FreeSync and G-Sync come at a cost that comes largely unjustified to you, other factors to look out for as you set your sights on the best gaming monitor are aspect ratio and viewing angle. Most gaming monitors now offer in-plane switching, or IPS, panels. Compared with the twisted nematic, or TN, displays of the past, IPS screens have much better viewing angles and color reproduction. That said, competitive gamers who care more about performance than visual fidelity still find TN monitors enticing because of their faster, often 1ms response times.

A similar sentiment applies in the resolution department, where 4K monitors exist alongside those with somewhat lower pixel densities yet higher refresh rates. If you find yourself kicking back exploring the vast open world of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s ancient Greece more often than sniping your friends in Overwatch, then 4K HDR inhabits the best gaming monitor of your future. Esports athletes, on the other hand, ought to peep the 120Hz or even 144Hz speed demons we’ve scouted out.