The processor, graphics card, hard drive, and memory work together to create a balanced gaming system, but your monitor is also important for facilitating that balance. The monitor allows you to feel the optimized performance through the component selection. If you’ve already invested in a reliable, ready-to-use system for better performance -, or are thinking about building a custom-made PC -, upgrading your monitor to get the full value of your hardware is worth considering.1
However, upgrade to what? A quick visit to an online vendor will ensure that the monitor and screen are available in a variety of specifications, some of which include:
- Screen size
- Refresh rate
- Response time
- Panel type
If you’re interested in exploring every spec you come across in the monitor market, check out our complete guide to monitors. But if you’re just trying to make up your mind today, read on.
While many of these factors are personal preferences, some game genres take advantage of certain features. We recommend that you know the benefits of each specification when choosing your next monitor, starting with the two specifications that most rely on computer hardware, namely: Resolution and refresh rate.
To help you in the process of choosing your next screen, we’ll take a look at how this feature is implemented in gaming monitors, and what you should consider before buying it. Keep in mind, monitors of the same specification may have factory-specific features, such as IO, lighting, ergonomics, and others, which will not be discussed here.
First Upgrade: Take advantage of the Higher Frame Rate on a Faster Refresh Rate Monitor
1080p 144 Hz
A 1080p resolution display with a refresh rate of 144 Hz excels when compared to a 1080p 60 Hz monitor: a higher refresh rate. Panel technology with a higher refresh rate has become the hallmark of gaming monitors, meaning that entry-level 144 Hz screens are affordable, widely available, with a variety of ergonomic options. (Screens with refresh rates between 120 and 180 are also available, but 144 Hz is now the most common.)
The main reason for upgrading to 144 Hz is a faster refresh rate to take advantage of the higher frame rates. A gaming PC is capable of producing a high number of frames per second (FPS), but without a monitor upgrade, you might not be able to see it. A 144 Hz monitor can display up to 144 FPS, twice the size of a standard 60 Hz panel, which can display a maximum of 60 FPS. In other words, a low refresh rate will slow down the frame rate, but a monitor with a higher refresh rate will enhance the gaming experience. Your computer may be able to display more than 100 FPS, but if you are using a 60 Hz display, you will not be able to see the extra frame.
A screen with a high refresh rate is the monitor of choice for competitive gamers, and many gamers feel that a 144 Hz monitor gives them a competitive edge.
In the CS: GO * Dust2 map, for example, there is a small gap in the middle of the double doors that is a sniper favorite spot to peek at. Speed is key; it only took a few milliseconds before the opponent could ambush. This is where a higher refresh rate can help. Players with 1080p 144Hz monitors will see twice as many frames as players with 1080p 60Hz monitors, so they have a better chance of hitting the mark. The differences may not be that obvious, but in a fast game like CS: GO *, every frame counts.
Even if you’re not chasing a champion title, a higher refresh rate facilitates a better gaming experience. The greater the number of frames on the screen, the smoother the image quality, and the more fluid motion. One of the most prominent benefits of gaming on PC is the ability to be over 60 FPS.
Next Level: Better Resolution and Refresh Rate
You’ll feel the 1440p’s edge right away, whether you’re gaming or not. Windows, icons, and task panes of all scales provide a larger area of the screen for use, making them great for productivity. But the ability to display more information on the screen isn’t limited to desktops; this space-saving effect also affects games with scalable user interfaces. For example, in World of Warcraft *, the user interface uses less screen at higher resolutions. This means you’ll be able to see the world of Azeroth * more widely, with less UI blocking the view while you’re hunting.
Things to consider: As resolution increases, your hardware has to work harder, and this can lead to lower FPS. If you are upgrading from a 1080p 144 Hz monitor to a 1440p 144 Hz monitor, then you may need to upgrade your system to maintain the same frame rates.
1080p 240 Hz
Monitors with very high refresh rates, such as 1080p 240Hz displays, can display 240 FPS, which is four times the number of frames per second on the benchmark 60Hz monitor. In the same case as the CS: GO * sniper peering through the cracks, a player with a 240 Hz monitor had four times as much visual information to track a target, and almost twice as much as a player with a 144 Hz monitor. This may be beneficial, but the online community has differing opinions regarding the upgrade to a 144 Hz monitor. You should feel for yourself the difference it offers.
Keep in mind that this level of performance is resource intensive. If you want to get the most out of your 240 Hz monitor, you’ll need a system that can provide around 240 FPS for your favorite games.
Advanced Upgrades: Super Wide Monitor and 4K Gaming
Super wide 100 Hz +
Super-wide monitors really do expand the screen size, literally. Standard screens have an aspect ratio of 16: 9 – or the proportion of width and height in units of measurement of sixteen to nine – super-wide increases the aspect ratio of 21: 9, or even 32: 9. The screen displays in a vertical resolution consistent with 1080p and 1440p, plus a larger area of the screen on the sides. Look for a super-wide monitor with a high refresh rate if you’re interested in this game option.
The advantage of this wider display is clear: you can see the game more freely. The super-wide monitor provides the player with a wider field of view, significantly expanding the landscape of the game world. For example, a 32: 9 screen is the equivalent of two 16: 9 monitors used side by side, with no bezels to interfere with the field of view, and with fewer cables to get in the way.
Screen resolution illustration
One drawback of this super-wide monitor is that not all games support a wider display format, even if only a few games. Mortal Kombat * 11, Dirt Rally *, and Destiny 2 * (among other games) support a wider aspect ratio, and games that don’t have native support can use mods. If you decide to go for a super-wide display, double check whether your favorite game supports the aspect ratio of the monitor you’re considering.
Super-wide is generally great for multitasking outside of gaming, but be aware that there may be a learning curve when managing windows in extra areas of the screen.
4K 120 Hz
The standard resolution for 16: 9 monitors is starting to shift from 1080p (1920 x 1080) to 1440p (2560 x 1440), but the standard will continue to increase, as 4K (3840 x 2160) technology will be the successor to 1440p. Although 4K monitors are widely available, models with high refresh rates are only just starting to appear on the market. Since monitor technology is still relatively new, using 4K at 120 FPS in popular games is only possible on the best quality computer hardware. Until recently, the screen was very sophisticated, meaning it could be expensive, equipped with premium features, with limited availability and variety. This will change in the next few years.