Which 4K gaming monitor is best?
Just a few years ago, high-refresh-rate gaming in 4K was a pipe dream. But hardware has improved to the point where it’s no longer a fantasy. The latest PlayStation and Xbox consoles have made Ultra HD gaming even more convenient, allowing casual and competitive gamers to enjoy high resolutions without a high-end PC.
The best overall 4K gaming monitor is the Gigabyte M32U because of its complete feature set, wide color space, great motion handling and reasonable price.
What to know before you buy a 4K gaming monitor
You need a powerful graphics card or console
If you have anything older than a 2000-series Nvidia RTX GPU, you’ll have a hard time playing recent games at 4K with a reasonable frame rate. If you’re using a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you can’t take advantage of most premium 4K displays.
While this requirement was once troublesome, it’s reasonable for an everyday gamer to access a new console or graphics processing unit. The availability of better hardware plus several new 4K gaming monitor releases makes this a great time to buy.
Input lag vs. response time
Input lag, or latency, is how much time it takes the display to register and reproduce input from your keyboard, mouse or controller. Response time, on the other hand, is how much time it takes each pixel to change from one color to another. While the names sound similar, they’re not directly related. A low pixel response time, such as a one-millisecond gray-to-gray time, usually results in smooth motion with minimal artifacts and image doubling.
Monitors vs. TVs
TVs used to lag a bit behind monitors, especially with gaming features, but that’s not the case anymore. A PC monitor is your best bet if you’re on a budget. But if you want a large, versatile display, it’s worth considering a full-size TV. The LG C1 OLED TV, for example, is fully equipped for pristine gaming. Alternatively, you can get marginally higher performance from some gaming monitors, but those tend to be even more expensive than 4K TVs of the same size.
What to look for in a quality 4K gaming monitor
HDMI 2.1 connectivity
Unless you can only afford a budget-friendly gaming system, you’ll want HDMI 2.1 to ensure your setup is future-proof. The increased bandwidth allows for 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second, and the built-in features make it convenient and reliable for computers and consoles.
Variable refresh rate
Make sure your display supports FreeSync variable refresh rates. Otherwise, you’ll experience screen tearing and stuttering. Certified G-Sync displays work a little better with Nvidia GPUs, but they are also more expensive.
If you’re investing in a premium gaming setup, consider the display’s HDR performance. Native contrast ratio, color gamut and local dimming are all important for a high dynamic range experience. To get the best possible HDR playback, consider getting a 4K TV with local dimming zones or individually lit OLED pixels.
How much you can expect to spend on a 4K gaming monitor
The most affordable 4K monitors for gaming cost around $300, but these often lack high refresh rates and advanced features. You can spend well over $1,000 on the absolute best, but the most cost-effective models are in the $700-$900 range.
4K gaming monitor FAQ
Do FreeSync-enabled displays support G-Sync variable refresh rate technology?
A. Yes, almost all of them do. This wasn’t always the case, but now it’s rare to find a gaming monitor limited solely to AMD FreeSync.
What is a DisplayHDR certification?
A. A DisplayHDR certified monitor meets several requirements, including 10-bit color processing, high peak brightness, effective local dimming and a wide color gamut. For example, you’ll have great results if you opt for a monitor with DisplayHDR 1000 certification or better.
What’s the best 4K gaming monitor to buy?
Top 4K gaming monitor
What you need to know: Its pristine image and ample motion handling make it look just as good as more expensive options.
What you’ll love: At 32 inches, it delivers an excellent field of view, with a low pixel response time that ensures smooth motion and minimizes ghosting. It can produce up to 144 frames per second and supports the FreeSync variable refresh protocol. It’s also compatible with Nvidia G-Sync. There are several connectivity options, including a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports and a USB-C connector. It also offers 10-bit color and has a wide color gamut.
What you should consider: The only minor drawback is a moderate restriction on HDMI 2.1 bandwidth, but it only limits image clarity slightly.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top 4K gaming monitor for the money
What you need to know: While this isn’t necessarily a gaming monitor, it’s an affordable 4K option from one of the most respected PC display manufacturers in the industry.
What you’ll love: It delivers a clear and crisp image, even if you disable potentially resource-hogging graphics options. It offers two-way stand ergonomics and a slim build that won’t take up too much desk space. It even supports 65W USB-C Power Delivery, allowing it to serve as a docking station as well.
What you should consider: It’s limited to a maximum refresh rate of 60 hertz. But it does support AMD FreeSync to minimize tearing.
Where to buy: Sold by Dell and Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is one of the top TVs overall, making it one of the best gaming display options available.
What you’ll love: It sports a low input lag plus VRR capability, and its motion handling and color gamut are superior to LCD technology. Its nearly full-bandwidth HDMI 2.1 connectivity is perfect for PC and console gaming, and the Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support make it perfect for a cinematic experience.
What you should consider: Aside from the high cost, it’s potentially susceptible to long-term burn-in. However, if you watch and play a wide variety of content, you won’t have to worry about it.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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