The age old question of why some monitors get labeled “gaming” continues to interest people all over the world. Possibly you have a standard monitor right now and feel that it may not support your growing interest in gaming, or you’re already a big gamer but thinking of a new monitor while pondering a non-gaming model because the regular ones tend to be considerably cheaper.
Like most things in life the concept of a gaming monitor relies on relativity. That’s to say, a monitor becomes a gaming monitor by comparing it to so-called regular or standard screens. Those are all-round monitors that can do an OK job of most tasks. They can even handle gaming and professional graphics work, but they won’t do it well and you’ll always feel like you’re missing out. General use monitors, or “regulars”, do their best work in non-specific home and office jobs. Word processing, web browsing, casual video streaming, light gaming, and so on. If you really want to enjoy gaming and experience everything the latest titles have to offer, you need to look for certain features – the ones that make a monitor a gaming display.
Sure, regular monitors (including the one you may be using to read this article) come in at very affordable price tags, but once you put them to the gaming test you’ll run into issues like screen tearing, input lag, and ghosting, all problems that’ll ruin a gaming experience.
That’s the speed with which the panel can refresh each pixel, measured in milliseconds. Manufacturers test how fast a pixel can switch between shades of grey, and in gaming monitors you need to be as close to zero as possible, namely 1ms. Up to 5ms should still work, but regular monitors tend to be slower, which isn’t practical for gaming use. If you don’t see a response time spec, don’t buy that monitor, as it’s not meant for gaming at all. Slow screen response times cause numerous issues in games, most notably artifacting, pixel crawl, and ghosting.
Refresh rate is the number of times per second a monitor can update its screen, and we use hertz (Hz) for that. In gaming, the bare minimum these days is 60Hz, but you should aspire to get a monitor with 100Hz or higher for future proofing. Faster refresh rates are great for high speed game titles like first person shooters or any other genre where quick gamer responses are needed.
If a monitor has slow refresh you don’t only compromise speed, image quality suffers through screen tearing and, once again, ghosting. The latter is especially annoying as it looks like the image smears across the screen because the monitor simply can’t keep up with the demands of gaming hardware. The BenQ EX2780Q, for instance, has a native refresh rate of 144Hz, or frames per second.
An affordable general purpose 4K monitor may be appealing but it could also be hiding a 30Hz panel, which will be useless for gaming even if it looks pretty in screenshots.
Be aware of this! On a related note, look for adaptive refresh technologies like FreeSync from AMD and G-Sync from NVIDIA. The two ensure your graphics card or console always remains synchronized with your gaming monitor, so screen tearing can’t occur. This ugly issue does happen on regular monitors which try to run games at speeds faster or slower than the native speed of the panel. It looks like the image is tearing in half and you don’t want it.
One thing about regular monitors is that they’re well-intentioned. They try to be everything to everyone, and so usually do a lot of image processing to make sure they look as best as possible in every scenario.
For gaming, that’s really bad. Every process applied to the image adds a delay, because the monitor’s scaler needs to work. That delay creates input lag, or the time between your game hardware outputting a signal and your monitor displaying it for you. A bunch of processing like image sharpening, noise reduction, dynamic colors, contrast adjustment, movie mode, theater mode, and so on will only serve to slow you down.
Gaming monitors may have optional processing, but they’ll always feature a dedicated game mode and a PC mode. Both switch processing off, minimize delay, and maximize the freedom given to gaming hardware. Make sure your monitor supports these modes!
Basic monitors may have just one video out and no audio at all. They may give you just one DisplayPort or a single HDMI. That’s a big no. A gaming monitor will have at least one of the latest HDMI versions (HDMI 2.0b, for example), DisplayPort, and several USB ports to charge stuff like controllers. Of course, good gaming monitors have decent speakers built in plus an output for headphones or an external sound system, since a real gaming monitor takes audio seriously.
Gaming monitors are so-called because they’re built for the very specific needs of video games. They have panels with high speed response and refresh rates. They keep input lag to a bare minimum and don’t add any fluff to your image. They have audio just in case you want to use it. Plus gaming monitors have the image quality that lets games shine with accurate colors and true HDR on the native level and without any superfluous processing that slows you down. Manufacturers don’t just put “gaming” on a monitor. Any good brand will use premium panels in these models and test them very carefully for speed and accuracy before the gaming designation is applied.
Trying to game on a budget regular monitor is really like taking an economy compact car to the racetrack. It’ll work, but you won’t like the results. And you’ll just waste time and money. So better choose carefully!
Supported by BenQ unique Brightness Intelligence Plus Technology (B.I.+ Tech), EX2780Q 2K 144Hz Gaming Monitor's HDRi Technology can intelligently enhance HDR performance. A built-in sensor detects ambient light levels and simultaneously assesses and adjusts on-screen images.
Featuring excellent HDR technology supported by FreeSync 2 and 144Hz, one-cable USB-C™ connectivity, and environment-adaptive Brightness Intelligence Plus Technology, EX3203R ensures an immersive and comfort gaming experience.