Last update: June 2018
The right monitor can elevate your PC gaming experience, and you don’t need to spend a ton of money to do it. Whether you’re looking to compliment your shiny new gaming rig or just looking for an inexpensive update to an existing system, this guide will help you navigate the dizzying array of choices.
First of all, this is a great time to pick up a cheap gaming monitor and you’ve got plenty of choices. You’ll have to balance cost, features, and display quality to get the best bang for your buck though. We set a $500 limit on this guide for the sake of being comprehensive, but there are plenty of great choices for less than $250 if you’re willing to give up on high-end features that you’re less likely to use.
Below we’ve sketched out what features are essential and what features can be cut to save a little money on a gaming monitor – something especially relevant if you’re running an older rig that can’t do 1440p or 4k anyway. The bottom line? The ASUS VG245H is a fantastic 1080p FreeSync display for the price (See it on Amazon). Read on for more details!
Start your quest by selecting the right resolution for your platform and components, and your GPU’s horsepower will guide this area of your decision making. Sure, 4K resolution (3840×2160) is the current high end, but you’ll need a GTX 1080 or 1080 Ti for 4K gaming at a high frame rate, so if you don’t have a baller GPU you’ll save a lot of money by going with a 1080p display. It isn’t cutting edge, but it’ll get the job done.
Once you’ve settled on a display resolution that’s appropriate for your GPU, refresh rate and response time are critically important for gaming monitors. Refresh rate tells you how many frames per second a monitor can refresh the display while response time is how quickly it can react to input. Manufacturers’ specs are usually representative of what to expect under ideal conditions so keep in mind that your mileage may vary depending on your hardware. Finally, make sure that you’re getting the right type and number of input ports for your GPU. These days you usually can’t go wrong with DisplayPort, but not all monitors offer that, particularly on the low-end so be sure to do your research.
Start your quest by selecting the right resolution for your platform and components…
When it comes to the type of display to consider, the two most common panel types for gaming monitors are TN (twisted nematic) and IPS (in-plane switching). TN are the most common because they are the cheapest panels to produce and offer very low response times and high refresh rates. The only drawback to this type of panel is they typically have restricted viewing angles and don’t exhibit the greatest color accuracy. In contrast (display related pun intended), the more expensive IPS panels provide more accurate colors at the expense of somewhat higher response times. The choice is yours and it boils down to price, response time, and color accuracy. If you’re just going to be gaming, TN is fine, but you wouldn’t want to do professional photo or video editing on them; that’s purely an IPS panel activity.
If you’re like most gamers, you’ll want the largest monitor that will fit both your desk and your price range
There’s also adaptive refresh technology to consider, which is either Nvidia G-Sync or AMD FreeSync. These technologies sync the refresh rate between the monitor and graphics card in order to eliminate frame tearing when the two are out of sync. Another option to look for is High Dynamic Range (HDR), which is just now coming to PC monitors and provides a better brightness and color experience when connected to equivalently equipped graphics cards and/or the most recent consoles.
One more consideration is monitor size, and for the sub-$500 range you’ll be looking at 40 inches and smaller. If you’re like most gamers, you’ll want the largest monitor that will fit both your desk and your price range. For this buyer’s guide, we only considered monitors that are 24-inches or larger. You might want to look at smaller monitors to save money, although we would recommend this only as a drastic last resort.
ASUS VG245H – The Cheap Gaming Monitor Value Leader with AMD FreeSync
If you want an AMD FreeSync panel, then the ASUS VG245H wins my pick as the best 24 inch value gaming monitor available right now. You get a 1080p display with accurate colors and very good (1ms) response times that supports AMD FreeSync at 75Hz. The monitor includes 2W stereo speakers and Dual-Link DVI along with two HDMI ports so you can connect two devices at once. For a few more bucks, the 144Hz version is a very good deal as well.
Dell Gaming S2417DG – Cheap Gaming Monitor With High-End Features
This stunning QHD (2560×1440) monitor provides glorious visuals and the ritzy inclusion of Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, a super-fast 165Hz refresh rate, and a fast 1ms response time. The flicker-free screen and fully adjustable stand (tilt, swivel, up/down) make sure that the long hours of gaming that you put in won’t hurt your eyes, or neck. An amazing 3.68 million pixels ensure that you’re looking at a crisp picture. Also, its ultrathin bezel lends itself to multi-monitor panoramic setups quite nicely.
LG 34UM68-P – Affordable UltraWide IPS Gaming Monitor
This 34-inch UltraWide monitor immerses you in your gaming experience with panoramic scale, true-to-life color and brilliant clarity. The IPS panel looks great from all angles too, so this is also a great choice for watching movies. This is a great choice for gamers who want a big screen but don’t care about a ton of features and or things like super-fast response times. The bezel free design looks great, but the lack of height and swivel adjustment is disappointing, as is the relatively low 1080p resolution. If you’re running Radeon, it’s FreeSync enabled, too. If you’re cash constrained and in need of a 34-inch monitor then the LG 34UM68-P is the way to go.
BenQ ZOWIE XL2730 – High Performance Under $500
This high-performance 27 inch QHD 144Hz monitor is worth every penny. The 1ms response time and 144HZ refresh rate makes the XL2730 a great match for competitive gamers. You do sacrifice some color accuracy by choosing a high-performance TN panel, however. The Black eQualizer feature adjusts visual clarity in dark scenes and is optimized for PC eSports games like Overwatch. You’ll enjoy hour of gaming without straining your eyes with flicker-free technology, Low Blue Light backlighting, and a fully adjustable (height, tilt, swivel) stand. A plethora of ports and customizable settings rounds out this stellar panel. If there was ever a monitor that could help you up your game, this is it. Also, the 24-inch version will save you $200.
Samsung U28E510D – 4K Gaming Monitor on a Budget
This 28 inch 4K TN panel is a great option for gamers looking for a value-priced larger monitor. A 1ms response time is paired with a 60Hz refresh rate. Connection options include two HDMI ports and DisplayPort, and there’s also a headphone jack. The TN panel performs well with a great response time and smooth graphics, but sacrifices viewing angle. The UE590 is also available with Freesync support.