The best gaming monitors (May 2018)

gaming monitors

Buying the latest and greatest PC game is all well and good, but for those who prefer desktop PCs to gaming laptops, you really need to invest in a great gaming monitor to make them shine. Luckily we're here to help you sort the amazing from the average. In April 2018, our choice for the best gaming monitor is the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q - and it comes very highly recommended by our sister site, PC Gamer - but we have options for every bank balance, format and function you could want.

For gaming monitors, how important is 4K, response time, and refresh rates?

If you're surprised our overall pick isn't one of the 4K options, it's worth knowing that while the right game can look amazing in 4K (hello Destiny 2) you need the right machine and game to make the extra cash money worthwhile. In truth, few of us are lucky enough to own a super gaming rig powerful enough to wrangle a consistent 60 frames-per-second (FPS) on Ultra settings. Unless you want a display that can also handle your 4K-capable consoles or UHD Blu-ray player, or you have some functional need to simultaneously display multiple inputs on the same monitor, you’ll have a better overall experience with a WQHD (2560 x 1440) or FHD/1080p (1920 x 1080) display.

Equally, any response time at or under 8ms should be fine for the average user, though anyone intent on using their monitor for competition will want to stay under 4ms. A refresh rate of 60Hz is the minimum, since anything less than that can’t display 60FPS. There’s more to each monitor than just its resolution, response time, and refresh rate, of course, but you can let us worry about all that. Luckily we've crystallised all our monitor knowledge into this handy guide, so you can just pick out the one that's just right for you. 

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 XB321HK, 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.

Can I use it with PS4 and Xbox One? Yes - just link up via a decent HDMI cable.

2. ZOWIE XL2430

A great monitor at a very reasonable price

Screen size: 24” | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 at 144Hz | Brightness: 350 cd/m2 | Response time: 1ms | Viewing angle: 170° H, 160° V | Contrast ratio: 1,000:1 | Features: TN panel, Black eQualizer 2.0 color engine, Motion Blur Reduction 2.0

Fast, low-latency panel
Great blur reduction
No AMD FreeSync support
Comparatively limited viewing angles

The ZOWIE XL2430 combines an incredibly fast panel with fantastic blur reduction and a very high refresh rate, making it ideal for those seeking a low-latency/high-FPS solution for competitive gaming, or anyone who wants a great gaming monitor at a reasonable price. The former will especially appreciate the XL2430’s 1ms response time and 144Hz refresh rate, which translate to extremely low input lag and the ability to display up to 144FPS, provided your GPU is up to the task. It also features genre-specific presets, a nifty handheld remote for changing the settings and a handful of other smart conveniences.

Since the XL2430 uses a TN (Twisted Nematic) LCD panel, its viewing angles aren’t quite as good as the other monitors found on this list. The XL2430 also tops out at 1920 x 1080, which most modern machines can push past while still maintaining playable frame rates. The trade off, then, is in price and capability -- that TN panel keeps costs reasonable and the refresh rate at 144Hz. It also allows BenQ to cram in useful extras, like their superb motion blur reduction technology. The only thing that could reasonably improve the XL2430 is AMD FreeSync support, but given the price and how good the panel is otherwise, we can’t really complain.

Can I use it with PS4 and Xbox One? Yes - just link up via a decent HDMI cable.

BenQ EX3501R gaming monitor

3. BenQ EX3501R

High Dynamic Range (HDR) at a lower price

Screen size: 35” | Aspect ratio: 21:9 | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 at 100Hz | Brightness: 300 cd/m2 | Response time: 12ms | Viewing angle: 178° H&V | Contrast ratio: 2500:1 | Features: HDR capabilities, 1800R curvature build, AMD freesynch

Fantastic HDR game playing
Wide aspect ratio
Limited customisation settings
Expensive

Originally viewed with scepticism as another tech industry gimmick akin to the 3D television, the curved screen monitor has slowly consolidated and evolved into a tempting and totally viable alternative for your gaming setup, offering a unique audio-visual experience that can really impress when everything’s working as it should be. Compared to other curved monitors, like the Samsung CHG90 also featured on this list, the EX3501R is a slighter more affordable choice, though it’s far from a budget option on the market. You’re paying to retain that crystal clear 2560 x 1080 resolution even with its wider 21:9 aspect ratio, but it’s so worth it for the results to your game playing and movie watching. 

You can customise the display settings with ease if you’re using Windows 10, but attempting to view HDR media such as movies or TV is more complicated than it needs to be, and the results aren’t always worth the effort if you’re not watching something designed specifically for the format. This is a different case for HDR enabled games, where you can really tell the difference to the image quality thanks to the EX3501R’s high, 100Hz refresh rate and 8-bit colour depth. As HDR gaming becomes more widespread and accessible, the mileage you’re going to get out of this monitor is only going to grow. 

Can I use it with PS4 and Xbox One? Yes - just link up via a decent HDMI cable.

4. Acer Predator XB321HK

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

Screen size: 32” | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz | 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.

Can I use it with PS4 and Xbox One? Yes - just link up via a decent HDMI cable.

5. 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 Freesynch support

High frame-rates 
Alienware exclusive bonuses
No G-Synch

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. 

Can I use it with PS4 and Xbox One? Yes - just link up via a decent HDMI cable. 

6. ViewSonic XG2700-4K

FreeSync support for the 4K enthusiast - and a great price

Screen size: 27” | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz | Brightness: 300 cd/m2 | Response time: 5ms | Viewing angle: 178° H&V | Contrast ratio: 1,000:1 | Features: IPS panel, AMD FreeSync, Black Stabilization, simultaneous multiple input display, genre-specific presets, flicker-free backlighting, blue light filter

Great color accuracy and picture quality
Cool multi-display feature
Expensive vs LG/Samsung offerings
FreeSync starts at 40Hz

With the steady march of GPU progress and the burgeoning UHD-capable gaming console market, springing for a 4K monitor might make perfect sense in some cases. Maybe you already own a UHD blu-ray player, or have your eye on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Perhaps you’re running dual Radeon 480s in CrossFire, or for some reason you need to display four unique inputs simultaneously on the same monitor. Provided that you have the means to invest in 4K right now, that you want to prioritize 4K over maximum FPS, and your high-end PC is equipped with an AMD GPU, the ViewSonic XG2700-4K is the monitor for you. You’re giving up the ASUS MG279Q’s 144Hz refresh rate in exchange for the resolution bump to 4K, but chances are very good that 60Hz will be more than enough for games at 4K, at least for the immediate future.

The ViewSonic XG2700-4K is FreeSync enabled, which will help keep those 4K games from tearing, provided your computer can render a steady 40+ FPS at that resolution. That’s no small feat, even with modern GPUs running in tandem, so PC-only gamers that aren’t on the absolute bleeding edge are heavily encouraged to opt for the comparatively priced ASUS MG279Q. Speaking of price, the only real downside to the XG2700-4K is the fact that it’s more expensive than LG and Samsung’s FreeSync-enabled 4K IPS displays. It’s also a lot newer, and given the overall responsiveness and clarity of the panel, we find the XG2700-4K’s entry fee understandable, albeit a bit of a bummer.

Can I use it with PS4 and Xbox One? Yes - just link up via a decent HDMI cable.

7. Samsung CHG90

Expensive, but very versatile curved monitor

Screen size: 49” | Aspect ratio: 32:9 | Resolution: 8940 x 1080 at 144Hz | Brightness: 350 cd/m2 | Response time: 1ms | Viewing angle: 178° H&V | Contrast ratio: 3000:1 | Features: HDR ready, curved screen, arena lighting, FreeSynch 2 support

Immense, curved display
Multi-use functionality
Expensive

One look at the Samsung CHG90, and you’ll probably know whether it’s the monitor for you. With an ultra-wide, love it or hate it 49-inch screen, the CHG90 wields a 32:9 aspect ratio across a curved display designed to envelop you ever further into its crisp imagery. You can set up the monitor so that it displays one super large image, great for enjoying high-end games at cinematic quality, or you can instead split the screen into two 16:9 displays, equally useful for those times when you want to browse the internet or watch something else as you play. 

You can even set up two different computers running as two split screens on the monitor, which is handy for users with separate work computers and entertainment systems. It’s easy to set up any of these options, too, and the screen itself is an undeniably jaw dropping visual treat, but that comes with an equally jaw dropping price tag. The processing power is nothing to be sniffed at either, mind you, with a 144Hz refresh rate and QLED technology that gives it an edge against similarly high-priced competitors on the market. Make no mistake, the CHG90 is a luxury product, but it lives up to that luxury in almost every sense of the word. 

Can I use it with PS4 and Xbox One? Yes - just link up via a decent HDMI cable.