Such is the importance of a gaming screen nowadays that a lot of stock is put in them and buying one is, rightly, a big deal. It’s one of the gaming items that will likely last a long time so you want to be sure you’re making a good decision. So, in order to give you that peace of mind, sound advice, and reassurance, we take testing our monitors seriously so as to fully inform ourselves. As we explain in our Hardware Policy, we strive to give you the clearest and best advice, avoiding all jargon and hype, and cutting to the real facts and the value propositions of any screen - and that's no different on these larger-ticket items.
So, how do we test screens when looking to see if they might be one of our best gaming TVs, best gaming monitors (opens in new tab), or best projectors for gaming? You can read some bigger, general approaches below as well as some screen-specific perspectives too.
We examine them for their design and build quality
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Straight out of the box we are able to start assessing how a screen feels in terms of its build quality and its aesthetics. We can immediately see if it’ll be an eyesore or if it’ll look at home in a gaming room, living room, or office. We’ll give it a full look over once it's n our desks or in our living rooms, we’ll assess whether it's subtle enough to blend in, picturesque enough to hold its own aesthetically or look awkward and garish. It’ll be left out in our homes for a fair stint and we’ll see how it holds up with wobbly surfaces, see if any legs can handle a bit of shock treatment, and generally see how stable it is - the last thing you want is a great display that’s wobbling all over the place. Equally functional and part of the design are the ports and their accessibility, so we make sure that cables can be ran to and from them with ease and out of the way of the business face of the monitor.
We test with games; lots of games
Of course, we use them for lots of gaming. And we try to be as broad as we can with this while also intense as we can too. This naturally allows us to test what it's made for, and we’ll get a good look at its functioning aspect ratio, native resolution, refresh rates, response times (and so on), and any particular gamer-centric technologies they’re sporting. We’ll play a huge range of different ‘looking’ games and games that have different art styles to ensure we can get a hook into how the gaming screens do the brightest colours of a Kingdom Hearts to the dingiest grays and blacks of a Metro, and from the super-detailed landscapes of a Red Dead Redemption 2 to the simple style of a Journey. And because of that desired spread, where appropriate we test screens with both PCs and home consoles; this gives us a look at how versatile they are and how they could fare in a multi-system setup. We make sure to test them out with fast-response online games too, while also putting in a long play session where possible to see how it fares if an all-night session was pulled.
We'll use them for non-gaming stuff too
We know that, while gaming will be their primary use, you may well want the ability to use it for other things reliably and without any problems. Therefore we ensure we use the monitors for other tasks and with other media too. We’ll also make sure to test a handful of films and/or TV programmes on the monitor as its likely that you’ll want to kick back and use is as a TV screen, particularly if you haven’t got access to a normal TV all the time. You’ll almost certainly want to use the monitor for web browsing, emails and other more mundane tasks so we make sure to use it as our normal everyday monitor for a while, too. This will also help us to work out if the design of it matches your posture and seating, and whether you have to crane your neck or sit back from the display constantly.
We always consider value, not just price
Much like anything techy in life, more expensive doesn’t always mean better or more quality. And that’s particularly important as only a lucky few of us have the means to splurge out and pick all the components, etc. from the top shelves. And it’s equally important when looking at the lower end of the scale - it doesn’t always pay to go for the first monitor you see that’s in or below your budget. It’s incredibly important to figure out and assess value for money and you might find that you’ll get exactly what you want by trying to stretch a bit or not paying as much as you first thought you'd have to. A TV, monitor, or projector that has a super-high price tag will have to show its worth it, and lower-budget ones will have to show they can punch at their weight too to ensure you get a decent service and lifespan from them. Either end of the scale we keep it in mind when testing monitors so we’re happy with what we recommend.
How we test each screen type
TVs are seen by a television and audio expert, poking and prodding all parts of the set and its settings to ensure what it offers is good for gaming - and good for the price it's listed for. With the advent of HDMI 2.1 technology meaning high-speed framerates can now be brought right into our living rooms and enjoyed by home console owners, it's more important than ever that our testing takes this into account. That’s all alongside now-staple qualities we expect from our TVs such as HDR quality and brightness (and 'darkness'), smart TV functionality, panel tech, and response time or input lag. These elements are highly scrutinised, and put to the test by playing games, using the TV as normal, and treating it exactly how you would use a television for gaming and entertainment.
Gaming monitors are thoroughly tested and used, in a similar - but not exactly the same - manner. When hooked up to a gaming laptop or gaming PC, we also scrutinise their integration into a setup intimately, including connectivity options and how this affects refresh rates, as well as the use of onboard settings for HDR and colours. We blaze some of the latest and greatest games, as well as some of those that are highly revered from recent years, across these monitors and test them at the resolutions that the monitor allows. Our experts know their stuff, and know what information you value, so you'll always read examinations of the panel type and tech that's behind the monitor, as well as its picture syncing tech, how it teams with particular GPUs, and more to give you the full picture and work out if it's worth the price of admission.
Projectors are perhaps one of the best examples where the products are as close as totally integrated into a home setup and simply used as if they were our own. When our experts receive a new projector to test, it literally replaces their own home one, and becomes their default means to watch TV, binge Netflix, and play games. A recurring pattern, indeed, but as clear as day in this case, as we know that if you're considering ditching a TV for a projector, you really want to be sure that it's worth it. However, it doesn't just stop at everyday use, as our experts still drill down and test how a range of games, entertainment, and sport perform coming out from the projector - on walls as well as a screen - while also looking at the projector's resolution, brightness and HDR, latency and input lag, feature set, who it's aimed at, and value for money given the competition.
If you want some more info to help you make choice check out our thoughts on what TV size is best for gaming.