The 6 Best Gaming Monitors of 2021

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Want the best PC gaming experience? You need an excellent gaming monitor. Any monitor can display your games, but a gaming monitor will enhance the experience with brighter, more vibrant color and a high refresh rate for smooth gameplay in fast-paced titles. 

You don’t need to clean out your wallet, either. The very best gaming monitors are expensive, but budget models are surprisingly capable, providing similar results at a drastically lower price. For most people, we think you should just buy the Dell S2721HGF.

Check out our list below of the best gaming monitors currently available.

The Rundown
Amazon Top Pick:
Dell S2721HGF at Amazon
An outstanding do-it-all monitor that delivers top-notch contrast and good motion performance at a shockingly low price.
Best Value:
AOC C24G1A at Amazon
AOC’s C24G1A is an excellent entry-level gaming monitor that has what counts most: good image quality.
Asus’ ROG Swift PG32UQX is a massive Mini-LED monitor with best-in-class HDR performance.
Best for Competitive Gaming:
Acer Predator XB253Q Gxbmiiprzx at Amazon
Acer’s XB253Q Gxbmiiprzx delivers top-tier competitive gaming performance at a mid-range price.
Acer’s Nitro XV282K KV is an ideal monitor for 4K gaming on both PC and console.
The Dell S3222DGM is a large 32-inch monitor with a low price tag and few sacrifices.

Amazon Top Pick: Dell S2721HGF 27-inch Gaming Monitor

Dell S2721HGF 27-inch Gaming Monitor
What We Like
  • Excellent contrast ratio

  • Deep, inky black levels

  • High refresh rate

What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre sharpness

  • Stand adjustments are limited

  • Basic design

The Dell S2721HGF is an excellent gaming monitor. Although not as affordable as our value pick, the Dell S2721HGF is arguably a better choice for most gamers. It offers a larger display and great image quality.

Contrast is this monitor’s best trait. It has deep, inky black levels in dark scenes, yet also looks bright and vibrant in more colorful content. This provides an excellent sense of immersion in attractive, realistic games. The enhanced refresh rate delivers low response times and is compatible with both AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync adaptive sync standards, which means that if you own a graphics card from either of those manufacturers, images will be even smoother on your eyes.. 

The Dell S2721HGF is more attractive and durable than most monitors in its price range. However, the stand has a limited range of adjustment and isn’t as sturdy as more expensive monitors. Its 1,920 x 1,080 resolution is a bit low for a 27-inch monitor, but it's a case of getting what you pay for.

This budget monitor provides serious bang for your buck and a huge upgrade in image quality compared to a typical gaming monitor sold just a few years ago.

Display Size: 27-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Maximum Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Panel Type: Vertical Alignment | Adaptive Sync: Yes, AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync | Height Adjustable Stand: Yes | Curved Panel: Yes

Best Value: AOC C24G1A 24-inch Monitor

AOC C24G1A 24-inch Monitor
What We Like
  • Solid contrast ratio

  • High refresh rate

  • AMD FreeSync supported

What We Don't Like
  • Small size

  • Modest color performance

  • Spotty Nvidia G-Sync support

AOC’s G24G1A is an entry-level gaming monitor that delivers good performance for the price. It has a solid contrast ratio, decent sharpness, a respectable build quality, and is among the least expensive gaming monitors available.

The monitor’s strengths are similar to our other top pick, the Dell S2721HGF. The AOC G24G1A has good dark scene performance, which leads to a sense of immersion and depth. The G24G1A is a smaller 24-inch monitor, however, so you lose a few inches of display space. 

Build quality is solid. The G24G1A even has a height adjustable stand. However, AOC seems to sacrifice quality control to keep price low, as some owners report the monitor’s color performance is not to their liking. 

The AOC G24G1A is an obvious choice for gamers on a budget. Competing monitors are more expensive, offer a less impressive display panel, or ditch the height adjustable stand.

Display Size: 24-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Maximum Refresh Rate: 165Hz | Panel Type: Vertical Alignment | Adaptive Sync: Yes, AMD FreeSync | Height Adjustable Stand: Yes | Curved Panel: Yes

Best Upgrade: Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX Monitor

What We Like
  • Excellent HDR performance

  • Outstanding contrast

  • Great color performance

What We Don't Like
  • Extremely expensive

  • Large stand

  • Requires powerful PC

The ASUS ROG Swift PG32UQX is the best gaming monitor you can buy today. It has Mini-LED backlight technology similar to high-end televisions and delivers excellent results by every measure of image quality.

While great in all areas, HDR performance is this monitor’s killer feature. The Mini-LED backlight can reach extremely high levels of brightness in small highlights while maintaining a deep, inky black level across the rest of the display. This creates an extremely realistic image far beyond other gaming monitors.

The monitor is well built with a large, sturdy stand and heavy construction. This may prove a downside for some, as the PG32UQX is larger than most 32-inch gaming monitors. It’s a 4K, 144Hz monitor, which means you will need an extremely fast gaming PC to play games smoothly at its native resolution - but if you do, they'll look pretty amazing.

The ASUS ROG Swift PG32UQX is several times more expensive than the next most expensive monitor we recommend. If you can afford it, go for it. Nothing else compares.

Display Size: 32-inch | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Maximum Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Panel Type: In-Plane Switching | Adaptive Sync: Yes, AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync | Height Adjustable Stand: Yes | Curved Panel: No

Best for Competitive Gaming: Acer Predator XB253Q Gxbmiiprzx Monitor

Acer Predator XB253Q Gxbmiiprzx
What We Like
  • Excellent motion performance

  • Vibrant, accurate color

  • Good contrast ratio

What We Don't Like
  • Small size

  • Mediocre sharpness

  • Design is not for everyone

Acer’s XB253Q Gxbmiiprzx is an ideal monitor for competitive gamers. It has a refresh rate of up to 280Hz for fast response times and smooth motion. It also works well with both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, which ensures stutter-free gameplay. 

The Acer XB253Q provides excellent image quality. It has accurate, vibrant color, a high maximum brightness, and a good contrast ratio. The monitor’s small size can hurt immersion in some titles, but this won’t bother serious competitive gamers. 

Build quality is a strength. The monitor has a hefty, highly adjustable stand, though the gamer-centric design will look odd outside of a dedicated PC gaming den. This monitor’s construction feels more robust than most gaming monitors, including those that are more expensive.

Best of all, the Acer XB253Q is not priced beyond reach. It undercuts more expensive 360Hz monitors while providing similar motion performance and competitive image quality.

Display Size: 24-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Maximum Refresh Rate: 280Hz | Panel Type: In-Plane Switching | Adaptive Sync: Yes, AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync | Height Adjustable Stand: Yes | Curved Panel: No

Best 4K: Acer Nitro XV282K KVbmiipruzx Monitor

Acer Nitro XV282K KVbmiipruzx Monitor
What We Like
  • Excellent sharpness

  • Good contrast ratio

  • Supports HDMI 2.1

What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre dark scene performance

  • So-so build quality

  • Expensive

Acer’s Nitro XV282K KV is an ideal gaming monitor for both high-end gaming PCs and modern game consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. It supports HDMI 2.1, which is required to accept signal from these consoles. 

This monitor has great image quality. The 27-inch, 4K display panel delivers outstanding pixel density. Games look clear and crisp. It also has vibrant color performance and a respectable maximum brightness. The monitor’s dark scene performance is among its weaker traits but still good for a gaming monitor.

The XV282K KV has a maximum refresh rate of up to 144Hz when connected to a PC, or 120Hz when connected to a next-gen game console. It supports AMD FreesSync and Nvidia G-Sync for smooth, stutter-free gameplay if you own one of those manufacturer's graphic cards.

This monitor is expensive, though it’s among the most affordable HDMI 2.1 monitors available right now. It’s a good value if you want to connect one monitor to both a gaming PC and game console.

Display Size: 27-inch | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Maximum Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Panel Type: In-Plane Switching | Adaptive Sync: Yes, AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync | Height Adjustable Stand: Yes | Curved Panel: No

Best 32-inch: Dell S3222DGM 32-inch Curved Gaming Monitor

Dell S3222DGM Monitor
What We Like
  • Excellent contrast

  • Good color performance

  • Great value

What We Don't Like
  • Limited stand adjustment

  • Mediocre motion performance

  • Sharpness is just OK

Dell’s S3222DGM, much like its smaller 27-inch sibling, is a good value. It delivers image quality that can compete with monitors several times more expensive, yet it’s sold at a price just a hair above the least expensive 32-inch monitors. 

The monitor’s contrast ratio and black-level performance are excellent. It can achieve deep, inky shadows, which provides a sense of depth and immersion in realistic games. The monitor’s large size and curved display enhance this.

This monitor has a 165Hz refresh rate. It’s also compatible with AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync for smooth, stutter-free gameplay. However, the monitor’s image is not as clear in motion as some competitors. 

Build quality is a highlight. The stand adjusts for height and tilt, though its range of height adjustment is limited, and the stand feels sturdy. The monitor’s design is basic but its construction feels durable. 

Display Size: 32-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Maximum Refresh Rate: 165Hz | Panel Type: Vertical Alignment | Adaptive Sync: Yes, AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync | Height Adjustable Stand: Yes | Curved Panel: Yes

Final Verdict

The Dell S2721HGF (view at Amazon) delivers great image quality and a fast refresh rates at a reasonable price, making it an easy recommendation for most gamers.

FAQ
  • What is monitor refresh rate, and why does it matter?

    A monitor’s refresh rate is the number of times it can refresh the image every second. A higher fresh rate means the image is updated more frequently and will appear smoother in motion. Think of it like an animated cartoon in a paper flipbook. The animation will appear smoother the quicker you flip through it. 


    A typical office monitor will have a refresh rate of 60Hz. This is fine for most uses, including games with minimal fast motion. 


    However, fast-paced games can benefit from a high refresh rate. Increasing refresh rate can also reduce input lag, which will make games feel more responsive. 


    Most gaming monitors have a refresh rate of at least 144Hz, while the quickest have a refresh rate of 360Hz. You will see diminishing returns from higher refresh rates, though, which means a 144Hz refresh rate is enough for most players.

  • What is Adaptive Sync (aka AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync)?

    Adaptive sync is a technology that allows a device to communicate with a monitor and synchronize the monitor refresh rate with the framerate of video produced by the device. 


    A monitor that does not have adaptive sync may appear to stutter or lag if the game’s framerate is not locked. This happens because a PC may send a frame to the monitor when the monitor is halfway through a refresh. The monitor may show half an old frame and half of a new frame. In some cases, frames may hang, which causes stutter.


    Adaptive sync solves this problem. The PC will only send a frame in sync with the refresh rate, so the monitor will never refresh with only a partial frame. 


    AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync are versions of adaptive sync designed to work with video cards from each respective company. It’s best to buy a monitor that has official support for the adaptive sync standard used by your video card.

  • What size of monitor is best for gaming?

    This depends on your preference. 


    Large monitors are more immersive and appealing, but some elements of the display may be outside your area of focus. Smaller monitors are less immersive, but you can see the entire display at once. This is why competitive gamers prefer small monitors.

  • What display resolution is best for a gaming monitor?

    The three resolutions most common among gaming monitors are:

    • 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p)
    • 2,560 x 1,440
    • 3,840 x 2,160 (4K)

    A higher resolution provides a sharper image than a lower resolution. This is always an advantage. However, increasing resolution increases the demand on your video card. You will need a powerful, recent video card, or a modern game console, to play most games at 4K resolution.

  • What is HDR?

    HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It increases the range of luminance and color data in content. This literally translates to a wide range of brightness and more colors. 


    Because of this, HDR content has the potential to look far more realistic than older Standard Dynamic Range content. Many games do not support HDR, however, and most HDR monitors lack the technical capabilities to show HDR at its best.

  • What brand of gaming monitor is best?

    No brand stands out as the best among gaming monitors, but some are more consistent than others. AOC, Acer, Asus, BenQ, Dell, LG, Samsung, and Viewsonic are the most reliable brands. Gigabyte, MSI, Lenovo, and Dark Matter (from Monoprice) also produce some quality monitors. 


    We recommend skepticism of extreme value brands like Gtek, Spectre, Viotek, and other lesser known brands available on Amazon. These companies offer low prices and can provide good value, but often sacrifice quality control.

What to Look For in a Gaming Monitor

Refresh Rate

A gaming monitor should have a refresh rate of at least 120Hz, and a refresh rate of 144Hz or higher is ideal. A high refresh rate will reduce input lag and provide a clear, crisp image in motion. 

Resolution

The three resolutions most common among gaming monitors are:

  • 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p)
  • 2,560 x 1,440
  • 3,840 x 2,160 (4K)

A higher resolution provides a sharper image than a lower resolution. This is always an advantage. However, increasing resolution increases the demand on your video card. You will need a powerful, newer video card, or a modern game console, to play most games at 4K resolution.

Display Panel

The gaming monitors we recommend use one of two common panel technologies available: In-Plane Switching (IPS) and Vertical Alignment (VA). 

IPS tends to deliver better motion clarity and lean toward a bright, colorful look that’s ideal for games with a vibrant art style, but they can look hazy in dark scenes. They are ideal for fast-paced competitive games.

VA panels are typically less clear in motion but have a good contrast ratio that can provide a realistic sense of depth. They’re ideal for gritty, immersive games and open-world titles.

About Our Trusted Experts

Matthew S. Smith is a veteran technology journalist, product reviewer, and influencer with fourteen years of experience. He has reviewed or tested over 650 computer monitors and laptop displays in the past decade. In addition to Lifewire, you can find his work on PC World, Wired, Insider, IEEE Spectrum, IGN, Digital Trends, and a dozen other publications.

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