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The best gaming monitors for 2021: Top monitors for gaming

A tech expert recommends the best monitors for gaming with affordable options and higher-end models from brands like LG, Samsung, Acer and more.
Side View Of Boy Playing Game On Computer At Home. Shop the best gaming monitors in 2021 for gaming PCs including 144Hz monitors, 4k monitors, Asus monitors, LG gaming monitors and 27-inch monitors.
A gaming monitor can help optimize your gameplay with ever sharper and smoother graphics — and some options can accomplish this without breaking the bank. Eduardo Toro / EyeEm/Getty Images

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When you're stuck at home in the middle of a pandemic, you need to make your own fun, and plenty of folks have turned to video games to pass the time. Whether you're gaming on a powerful PC or using your PlayStation at a desk rather than a TV, here are the best gaming monitors for sharp, smooth graphics.

How to shop for a gaming monitor

Monitors are more diverse and versatile than their TV counterparts, so there's a lot to consider when shopping for a desktop display, especially if you're buying it for gaming.

Gaming monitor size

The size of your monitor, obviously, determines how larger-than-life your game will seem in front of your eyes. 24-inch monitors are on the more compact side, with 27 and 32 inches providing more immersive experiences at higher prices.

Resolution

A panel's resolution denotes the number of pixels it has. The more pixels, the sharper the image will be. 1080p panels are mostly found on budget or esports displays, while 1440p — that is, a resolution of 2560x1440 — is generally considered the sweet spot for most gamers these days. 4K monitors are even sharper and even more expensive.

Refresh rate

The faster a monitor's refresh rate, the more frames it can display in a given second. 60 hertz monitors are typical for office use. But when gaming, I highly recommend looking for 120 hertz or higher — this will allow for smoother motion with less blur, provided your PC or console can pump out enough frames to keep up, of course.

Panel type

Finally, there are a few main types of panels you'll find in gaming monitors, each with their own advantages:

  • TN panels are relatively affordable and very fast, providing the highest refresh rates with the least amount of blur. Their colors aren't very good, though, and the picture degrades when viewed at an angle.
  • IPS panels have great motion coupled with accurate colors and fantastic viewing angles, but have a fairly low contrast ratio, so blacks will look more like dark grey if you game at night.
  • VA panels have deeper blacks than their IPS counterparts, and boast high refresh rates — but generally motion has a bit more blur in it due to the panel's slower response time.

Some panels may also support extra features like G-Sync and FreeSync, which allow your panel to "sync" with your PC's graphics card for smoother motion and less screen tearing. If you come across it, don't worry too much about HDR — unlike today's TVs, it isn't very well implemented on most monitors and it isn't a must-have (yet).

Best gaming monitors in 2021

Best gaming monitor overall: Samsung

Samsung Odyssey G7 Curved Gaming Monitor

It's hard to pick a "best monitor for most people," but if I had to settle on one, it'd probably be the Samsung Odyssey G7. It uses a 1440p VA panel with great black levels and colors, plus faster response times than most other VA monitors, so its FreeSync- and G-Sync-compatible motion is smooth and blur-free. And with a 32-inch screen size and insanely fast 240 hertz refresh rate, it's hard to go too wrong. This monitor had some minor QA issues at launch, but Samsung has fixed many of its problems with a firmware update — make sure you have the latest.

Best affordable and compact gaming monitor: Gigabyte

Gigabyte M27Q Gaming Monitor

If you want to spend a bit less, Gigabyte's M27Q is a great display for the money, offering a 1440p resolution with a 170 hertz refresh rate for smooth motion. Its IPS display won't have quite as deep when it comes to black levels, but for most people, it's hard to beat the bang for the buck this monitor offers.

Best affordable gaming monitor with 1080p: MSI

MSI Optix G242 Freesync IPS Gaming Monitor

Lower-resolution monitors may not be quite as sharp as higher-fidelity models, but they're also ideal for lower-powered PCs that can't push as many pixels. The MSI G242 doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles (the stand isn't even height-adjustable). But, for the price, you get a 24-inch monitor with 144 hertz of smooth, FreeSync and G-Sync motion.

Best ultrawide gaming monitor: Acer

Acer Nitro XV340CK IPS Gaming Monitor

Most monitors use the same 16:9 aspect ratio as today's TVs, but some "ultrawide" monitors stretch the display horizontally for a more immersive experience, thanks to the extra viewing area in your periphery. The Acer Nitro XV340CK is the best readily-available 1440p IPS monitor in this category.

Having said that, the Gigabyte G34WQC — which I personally own and love — is also great if you prefer a VA panel for a dark room. It is, unfortunately, out of stock at the time of this writing.

Best high-end gaming monitor with 4K: LG

LG 27GN950-B Nano IPS Gaming Monitor

Generally, 4K monitors are enough of a hike in price over 1440p options that I don't recommend them as often. But if you want the highest resolution possible, the LG 27GN950-B is one of the best 4K, high-refresh monitors around. It's a bit tough to find in stock right now, but if you keep an eye out, you should be able to nab one as it comes in and out of proverbial shelves.

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