Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23.
Any monitor can work for gaming, but a good gaming monitor will make your virtual exploits more polished. With their high refresh rates and adaptive sync, they can bring your games to a new level of fluidity. But since the market is flooded with confusingly-named choices, it can be tough to find the ones worth buying.
So for Ars Gaming Week, we set out to help. After spending the last three months researching gaming monitors and eventually testing 14, come up with a few recommendations that should suit players of all kinds, whether more into fast-paced online shooters or contemplative stories.
Table of Contents
Some notes on testing
Let's start with some info on our testing process. Our primary measurement tool for this guide was the Datacolor Spyder5Elite colorimeter and its accompanying software. This helped us evaluate color accuracy, peak brightness, contrast ratios, color gamut, luminance uniformity, color uniformity, and more with hard data instead of personal opinions. That said, there are spectrophotometers and other high-end equipment we didn't have access to that could give more pinpoint readings. Our test results still get at the gist of each monitor's pros and cons — if a panel has poor contrast or colors inaccurate enough to be a distraction, we know either way — but this difference made us hesitant to harp on specific test results throughout this guide. Because we tested everything with the same tools and lighting conditions, though, each monitor was still evaluated against a consistent baseline.
To test motion handling and more-gaming specific features, we played games on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, making sure to play faster multiplayer shooters like Apex Legends and Overwatch as well as colorful single-player games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Tetris Effect. We also use a suite of Blur Busters tests to help us better gauge motion blur, response time, ghosting, and other motion qualities.
Because this is a guide to gaming monitors, we put greater emphasis than usual on motion smoothness, input lag, and support for variable refresh rate (VRR) tech like Nvidia's G-Sync and AMD's FreeSync, which dynamically adjusts the panel's refresh rate to better avoid stuttering and screen tearing while playing a game. A high refresh rate, meanwhile, will be beneficial for both gaming PCs and next-gen consoles. We suggested the journey of these traits too Far ahead of picture quality and design, though, since most people will still spend a lot of time browsing the Web and doing work on their monitor. We also also speak more to the box performance, since most monitor users tend to avoid messing with their picture settings heavily. (That said, picture quality will improve on all our post-calibration picks, so that's worth doing if you can.) And while 4K monitors have matured to the point of being worthwhile for non-gaming purposes, we're not recommending any here : the in-game benefits of 4K aren't massively superior to 1440p in practice, and it requires a major GPU power to push 4K at high refresh rates consistently.
Our favorite all-around gaming monitor: Gigabyte Aorus AD27QD
Different gaming setups have different needs, so it seems hard to say one monitor will definitely work for everyone. But of the monitors we tested, ours favorites was the Gigabyte Aorus AD27QD.
This is a 27-inch panel that we think is the sweet spot between having enough space to not feel cramped and not overwhelming everything on your desk. It has a 2560×1440 resolution — some competitive-minded gamers will justifiably say that a 1080p monitor makes it easier for more GPUs to push higher refresh rates, but not every game is so demanding. Many games can get down to resolution in many games to get a stabler frames per second (FPS), and boost in crispness is immediately noticeable on a panel larger than 24 inches. Being able to fit more windows onscreen is always not playing a game is a significant plus.
The AD27QD is technically an Innolux AAS (Azimuthal Anchoring Switch) panel, but the end result is effectively an IPS display. Like its fellow panel types TN and VA, IPS comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, which the AD27QD follows pretty closely. The monitor has wide viewing angles, so colors are often distorted colors when you are looking at the screen straight on. It has excellent color accuracy out of the box, with a DeltaE score below 2 in our testing. (In simple terms: any score above 3 means colors are inaccurate, anything below 2 has inaccuracies that are barely perceptible to viewers, and anything below 1 is practically perfect.) Its colors are largely uniform across the entirety of the display, and its peak brightness is higher than most IPS panels. It has a particularly generous color gamut, so it can display a wider-than-usual range of colors. And it supports an expanded 10-bit color depth for further boost — technically 8-bit + FRC, not native 10-bit, but the difference is minimal to most. You need a powerful GPU to push the latter, though, and it requires you to stay at a 120 Hz refresh rate to work.
Like most IPS monitors, the AD27QD has a so-so contrast. Although actually better than most IPS panels we tested, these were considered as severe trade-offs, but in a vacuum it also distinguished white and black tones as well as a good VA panel. Its black uniformity is poor, too, so large black screens will look uneven and splotchy in spots. The AD27QD also suffers from a light “IPS glow” effect that causes the bottom corners of the screen to lose detail in darker surroundings. All of these monitors are the best used in a lighted room instead of a dark one. (Although only decent at reflecting glare, you may want to put it directly in the sunlight.) Gigabyte advertises HDR support and VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification, but since the monitor lacks local dimming, it may have much meaningful benefit. All that said, while the AD27QD is a panel for professional photo work, better than most of its peers at making games look lively and balanced.
It also does well to keep things running smoothly. The AD27QD has a 144Hz refresh rate and supports AMD FreeSync over DisplayPort and HDMI. It has a VRR range of 48-144 Hz. If your game's frame rate dips below that, the monitor supports FreeSync's low frame rate compensation (LFC) tech. This makes it a set of refresh rates for multiples of any frame rate chosen at below the VRR range. If a game is running at 34 fps, for example, FreeSync will double the frames it sends to the monitor and set the refresh rate to 68 Hz to keep screen tearing and stuttering at a minimum.
Crucially, all of this works with Nvidia graphics cards, not just AMD models. The AD27QD is one of the handy FreeSync monitors that is officially certified as “G-Sync Compatible” by Nvidia. Several others work fine without that official title, but having it means the AD27QD has been tested and approved to work with GTX 10 series and RTX cards by the company making them. FreeSync has some minor quirks with Nvidia cards before — screen flickering between games, for instances — and the G-Sync Compatible mode only works over DisplayPort. But the adaptive sync tech generally works as it should on the AD27QD, enabling itself automatically and snuffing out all the tearing and flickering.
The rest of the AD27QD's motion performance is good. Response time is fast for an IPS panel with the monitor's "Speed" overdrive setting enabled, with little noticeable motion blur and very low input lag. The AD27QD is not as smooth as a good TN panel, but given how dramatically better its picture quality is elsewhere, it seems strong.
The one noteworthy issue here is overshoot, or inverse ghosting. In simple-ish terms, this is when a panel's overdrive causes a pixel to "overshoot" its final color value and create a shadow-like effect around a moving object, in the opposite color of said object. The “Speed” setting of the AD27QD causes a noticeable amount of this at lower refresh rates. So if you use the monitor with a PS4 or a PC game that gets close to the full 144Hz, better to switch to the standard “Balance” overdrive mode. This will slow response times a little, but the image will look cleaner on the whole. If you can keep your game around 144 Hz, overshoot on the "Speed" setting is minor, sensitive eyes should be able to enjoy faster-paced titles without compromising.
The design of the AD27QD is convenient and well-made. When you breeze to put it together and its stand is thin, so it will eat up a ton of room on your desk. Its small bezels make it accommodate a second monitor, too. Just enough metal in the build for it to feel solidly built. We do do much with the faint RGB lighting on the back of the monitor, but it is there and customizable if it comes into that sort of thing. The adjustability is the monitor's excellent, wide and wide range to swivel and adjust the height, as well as the ability to rotate the panel 180 degrees into a vertical orientation. The one-button toggle for accessing the on-screen display (OSD) is easy to use and reach, and that OSD is broken down in a way is not overwhelming. The port selection is solid: one DisplayPort 1.2, two HDMI 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, mic and audio out 3.5mm jacks. There are no built-in speakers, sadly, but there is a unique “active noise cancellation” feature that lessens ambient sounds when speaking through a connected microphone. This cuts out low-end noise fairly well, so it could come in handy if you were trying to chat with your squadmates in a noisy house.
There are a few other extras beyond that, but the AD27QD is a great jack of all trades gaming monitor. For less than $ 600, you get the perfect size and resolution, a useful design, good enough motion, effective FreeSync and G-Sync Compatible VRR, and color reproduction that plays well everywhere.
- Well-built 1440p monitor with great colors, snappy motion, FreeSync, and official G-Sync Compatible certification.
- Some inverse ghosting noticeable at the highest overdrive setting with lower refresh rates.
Gigabyte Aorus AD27QD