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How to choose a monitor for your PC gaming setup

Whether you’re setting up a PC gaming setup for the first time and choosing a monitor, or if you’re looking to upgrade because your gaming monitor’s best years are behind it, now’s a good time to do it. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday right around the corner, you can expect to find some of the best tech deals of the year going on between now and New Year’s Eve.

There’s plenty of options (not to mention varying price points) out there, so we’ve gathered our quick take based on knowledge gained from building our own rigs over the years to help guide your search. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Size 

This of course depends on the amount of desktop space you’re working with and what the rest of your gaming setup looks like, but a 24-inch monitor is a good starting place to begin your search. If you have the space (and the budget) you may want to consider a 27-inch, or even a 32-inch gaming monitor. Keep in mind, though, the larger the monitor you choose, resolution becomes more important. You won’t necessarily get a better picture with a larger monitor if the quality and resolution is lacking.

Resolution

Make sure your monitor offers 1080p resolution, or Full HD at the minimum (1920 x 1080 pixels). You’ll also come across options with QHD (Quad HD) and WQHD (Wide Quad HD), along with 4K, of course. These will provide the sharpest image, but it will definitely cost you. For an in-depth breakdown and more specs on resolution, we like this guide from PCMag.

Refresh rate 

This is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a monitor specifically for gaming (even if you’ll be using it for work or school, too). This measures how fast the image on the screen refreshes, and is quantified by the amount of times per second. Depending on the type of monitor, look for a refresh rate of at least 75Hz, or ideally, 120Hz - 144Hz. Another figure you’ll want to consider is the monitor’s response time. Although you’d want a larger number when measuring the refresh rate, a smaller number (or shorter amount of time) is best when it comes to response time to eliminate blur. This Tom’s Hardware article breaks down the specifics of these figures if you’re looking for the nitty gritty details.

Features

The right monitor for you also depends on whether you’re looking for an anti-glare screen to protect sensitive eyes, an extra wide curved monitor for an immersive experience, or a system that can support 4K graphics. In our experience, a curved monitor isn’t really worth it unless you’re going big (larger than 27 inches). Consider how many ports you need, and which type (e.g., HDMI). Are solid built-in speakers important to you, or do you have external speakers already? 

To help you compare options and decide, we like the picks on PCGamer’s guide to the best gaming monitors of 2020. As always, Reddit also has some solid advice.

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