Best gaming monitor 2018: Top 1080p, 1440p and 4K HDR displays

Monitor buying guide header

When it comes to upgrading our PCs, we so often forget that one of the most important parts of our system is the big black box sitting right in front of us, which is why we’re here to help you find the best gaming monitor to suit your needs and budget. Let’s face it – buying a new monitor is hard. It’s one thing to look at the specs, but trying to judge whether that screen actually produces a good picture or not is nigh on impossible to do from the comfort of your own home.

Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you, as below you’ll find a list of all our top recommendations across a multitude of different screen sizes and resolutions. Tried and tested at Castle Shotgun itself, the only monitors you’ll find here are the ones we’ve had sat in front of our own eyeballs and measured with our trusty X-Rite Display i1 Pro calibrator. Naturally, this means we’ll be updating this list as and when new gaming monitors come in that we think deserve a place on our coveted hot list. Case in point: BenQ’s new EW277HDR, which sits newly-crowned as our best 27in 1080p monitor.

We’ll also take you through everything you need to know about screen sizes, resolutions, refresh rates, panel types, inputs and adjustable stands. By the time you’re done here, you’ll be fully equipped to find the best gaming monitor for you. Let’s begin!

Below, we’ve got a list of our current best monitors, ranging from entry-level displays all the way up to fancy, high-refresh rate mega monitors. We’ll be adding more monitors to this list as we get more in for testing, but if you’d rather skip straight to our monitor buying guide, hop on over to page two.

Best 24in monitor: AOC G2460PF

Key features: 24in, 1920×1080, TN, 144Hz, AMD FreeSync

The AOC G2460PF is one of the most fully-featured 24in monitors you can buy today. It’s about to be replaced by AOC’s upcoming G2590FX, which is identical in every way save its significantly slimmer bezels and ever-so-slightly larger 24.5in screen, but until I get one in for testing (just to make sure its TN panel is just as good as its predecessor), it’s the G2460PF that remains my top choice in the 24in gaming monitor category.

Packed inside this tiny screen, you get a TN panel with a 1920×1080 resolution, a generous 144Hz refresh rate, AMD FreeSync support for cutting down on tearing and stutter when you’ve got a compatible AMD graphics card, a full suite of inputs (VGA, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort), a four-port USB hub and a height adjustable stand.

That’s a lot for a monitor of this size and price, and actually gives you more for your money than some of the larger screens further down this list. You’ll need a fairly decent graphics card to take advantage of its high 144Hz refresh rate – see our Best graphics card rankings for more info if you’re in the market for one of those as well – but even if your graphics card isn’t quite up to the task of super high frame rate gaming, its AMD FreeSync support should at least give AMD graphics card owners a bit of a leg up if you can’t quite hit that 60fps sweetspot. One thing you can rely on, though, is the G2460PF’s superb picture quality, which covers 95.2% of the standard sRGB colour gamut.

Read more in our AOC G2460PF review.

UK prices:
£219 from Amazon UK

US prices:
$195 from Amazon US

BenQ EW277HDR

Best 27in 1080p monitor: BenQ EW277HDR

Key features: 27in, 1920×1080, VA, HDR

For those after something slightly bigger than the AOC G2460PF, the BenQ EW277HDR is the next best thing. This doesn’t come with as many features as the AOC (or indeed as many ports or any kind of height adjustment), but it is a heck of a lot cheaper – at least for those buying in the UK, that is.

The EW277HDR may not have a high refresh rate or any kind of variable frame rate technology incorporated into its 27in 1920×1080 VA panel, but it does come with HDR (or high dynamic range) support. You can read more about what HDR means and what it does in our buying guide on the next page, but essentially HDR allows a monitor to display brighter whites, darker blacks and more of every colour in between compared to a non-HDR monitor. This means more vibrant, vivid and life-like images and games, as well as more detail in the light and dark areas of the screen.

There are, admittedly, better monitors out there for those after ‘proper’ HDR, which really go to town on the brightness side of things as well as the extended colour gamut, but you’re certainly not going to find any of those going for less £200 / $250 like the EW277HDR. It may not have the same brightness capabilities as those higher-end monitors, but what the EW277HDR does really well is the colour gamut part of HDR, displaying 99.8% of the standard sRGB colour gamut and an impressive 91.9% of the wider DCI-P3 gamut. For comparison, the AOC above can only show around 70% of this gamut.

That’s pretty damn good for such a cheap monitor, and while its 1920×1080 resolution isn’t exactly ideal for a screen of this size (things start to get a teensy bit fuzzy when you start stretching that many pixels across a 27in panel), it’s still an excellent way to get a big screen without spending an arm and a leg on something with a higher resolution like the MSI Optix MPG27CQ below.

Read more in our BenQ EW277HDR review.

UK prices:
£166 from Amazon UK

US prices:
$230 from Amazon US

MSI MPG27CQ

Best 27in 1440p monitor: MSI Optix MPG27CQ

Key features: 27in, 2560×1440, curved VA, 144Hz, AMD FreeSync

If you really want to go all out on a 27in monitor with a 2560×1440 resolution, the MSI Optix MPG27CQ is certainly one of the better ways to do it. With a curved VA panel, height-adjustable stand and Steelseries RGB integration (those who aren’t firmly embedded in the RGB camp will be glad to know you can also turn it all off), this is one monitor that really commands your attention.

Picture quality is outstanding, too. Covering 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and a respectable 87.6% of the DCI-P3 gamut (which is pretty good going for a non-HDR monitor), pictures look rich and punchy at all times on its default User mode, and its intuitive onboard menu system means it’s easy to make any last minute adjustments or play about with its black tuner control.

If all that wasn’t enough, it’s also got a 144Hz refresh rate for high frame rate gaming (provided you’ve got a beefy enough graphics card, that is – which you’ll need if your target is 144fps at 2560×1440) and AMD FreeSync support to help eliminate tearing and judder for AMD graphics card owners. Round that off with two HDMI 2.0 inputs, one DisplayPort 1.2 and a two-port USB3 hub and you’ve got yourself one of the best 27in monitors around.

Read more in our MSI Optix MPG27CQ review.

UK prices:
£450 from Scan

US prices:
$413 from Newegg

BenQ EL2870U

Best budget 4K monitor: BenQ EL2870U

Key features: 28in, 3480×2160, TN, AMD FreeSync, HDR

The BenQ EL2870U is by no means the best 4K HDR monitor out there, but it is one of the cheapest, which makes its rather underwhelming HDR a bit more forgivable. Indeed, getting your hands on any kind of 4K monitor these days is a bit of a challenge, but if you really can’t wait for something better to come along or don’t have the cash to splash out on something a bit fancier, then the EL2870U is currently your best bet.

Picture quality is still pretty reasonable, but with an sRGB gamut coverage of 83% (and 62% DCI-P3), it’s not exactly brilliant either. Still, if your primary goal is having a lot of pixels at your disposal, the EL2870U has that in spades. With its 3840×2160 resolution spread across its 28in TN panel, the EL2870’s sharp pixel density of 157 pixels-per-inch (PPI) is significantly higher than any other screen on this list. A 27in 1080p monitor can only ever have 81 PPI, for example, while a 27in 1440p monitor is only a fraction better at 108 PPI.

You’ll probably still have to employ some of Windows’ scaling settings to make things like text and desktop icons even remotely legible, but at least everything will look lovely and crisp in the process. Admittedly, if you’re buying a 4K monitor to max out your shiny new 4K-capable graphics card like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080Ti or AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 (although preferably the Vega given the EL2870U’s AMD FreeSync support), then there are probably better screens to spend your money on than this one. Really, I’d only recommend this as a 4K monitor for working purposes, and 4K gaming only if you’re on a particularly tight budget. I’ve yet to find the perfect 4K monitor that I’d be happy recommending for both work and play, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be updating this list as soon as I do.

Read our full BenQ EL2870U review.

UK price:
£395 from Amazon UK

US price:
$432 from Amazon US

Philips 349X7FJEW

Best ultrawide monitor: Philips 349X7FJEW

Key features: 34in, 3440×1440, curved VA, 100Hz, AMD FreeSync

When I heard Square Enix were adding 21:9 aspect ratio support to Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, I knew what had to be done. No one needs to play Final Fantasy XII in 21:9, but hey, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it on the Philips 349X7FJEW. Out of all the ultrawide monitors I’ve tested so far, this is the one that ticks the most boxes for me.

I’m not the biggest fan of its white chassis, all told, but it’s far by one of the cheapest 21:9 monitors out there these days, and its image quality is just as good as the considerably more expensive AOC AG352UCG and Acer Predator Z35p. Of course, part of the reason why AOC and Acer’s monitors are so pricey is because they come with Nvidia G-Sync support. The Philips, on the other hand, only has AMD FreeSync support, which won’t be much good to anyone with an Nvidia graphics card, but at least you’re saving yourself several hundred pounds / dollars in the process.

To be honest, I’d heartily recommend both the AOC and Acer for anyone with an Nvidia graphics card, as they’re still pretty top-notch monitors with equally good picture quality. Is just depends on which one you like the look of more and how much you’re prepared to spend in order to get it. For those who’d rather save themselves from the dreaded G-Sync tax, though, the Philips is definitely the better value for money choice.

Read more in our Philips 349X7FJEW review.

UK prices:
£600 from Amazon UK

US prices:
$650 from Amazon US

Samsung CHG90

Best HDR monitor: Samsung CHG90

Key features: 49in, 3840×1080, curved VA, 144Hz, AMD FreeSync 2, HDR

This ludicrously wide monitor could easily be our top choice in the best ultrawide category as well, but what really sets the CHG90 apart from the Philips, AOC and Acer monitors is Samsung’s fantastic implementation of HDR, which is easily the best I’ve seen outside the realms of TVs. This is thanks to its AMD FreeSync 2 support (sorry Nvidia graphics card owners) and built-in local dimming zones, which allows smaller parts of the screen to shine more brightly without affecting the rest of the image around it.

This may change once Nvidia’s G-Sync HDR monitors come on the market, however, as screens like the Acer Predator X27 and Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ are far, far brighter than the CHG90 and have 4K resolutions to boot. The CHG90, meanwhile, only has a resolution of 3840×1080, which is 4K length-ways, but obviously not on the vertical. It’s essentially two 27in 1920×1080 monitors in one, so it runs into the same pixel density problem as the BenQ EW277HDR above. That’s not ideal for such an expensive monitor, but at least you get plenty of space for work and games alike.

Personally, I’m really quite fond of ultrawide monitors, and much prefer them to having two 16:9 monitors. The CHG90 may take up a lot more room on your desk than two such monitors, but it certainly beats having to flick back and forth across different screens and having huge bezels interrupt everything in the middle. More and more games are starting to support ultrawide aspect ratios as well, and I managed to get both Final Fantasy XV and Far Cry 5 looking very, very lovely indeed on the CHG90 to stunning effect.

Combine that with its 144Hz refresh rate, stylish design, plentiful supply of ports and inputs and intuitive onboard menu, and the CHG90 goes a long way in justifying its £1000 / $1000+ price.

Read our full Samsung CHG90 review.

UK price:
£1074 from Ebuyer

US price:
$1000 from Samsung US

8 Comments

  1. ninjapirate says:

    What a coincidence, I just stood in front of a few monitors in a store yesterday, contemplating if I should get a new one this summer, all the while wondering how to make sense of all the specs.
    A very helpful article, thank you!

  2. zrb77 says:

    Any opinion on the Viewsonic XG2402 or the Asus MG248Q(R)?

    They are a litte more money, but on r/monitors thats what they recommend for 1080p, Freesync, 24″.

    Thanks.

  3. Theor3m says:

    Your links for the MSI MPG27CQ both redirect to the MPG27C which is the full HD 1920×1080 version of the monitor but is not the 2560×1440 as mentioned in the article.

  4. Darthus says:

    Why are there so few G-Sync monitors covered on RPS? I understand G-Sync adds to the cost of the monitor due to NVidia money grubbing, but I don’t know a single serious gamer who wants the best gaming graphics tech that has an AMD card, yet every monitor either recommended or reviewed is Freesync rather than G-Sync. Is it possible in the future when having recommendations to have both a Freesync and G-Sync recommendation? After having G-Sync combined with a high GPU that can take advantage of it, I’m not sure I can ever go back, and so I click on every one of these articles but just skim to the end to see every time it’s a Freesync monitor and move on. =(

    • snv says:

      Just take high refresh rate with v-sync.
      Even if your GFX-card can’t saturate the high framerate: You will not have tearing and more than double the “slots” to put frames in, which means a new frame will at most be delayed 1/144th of a second.

      High refresh practically makes those *sync-variants obsolete and not worth any extra moneys

      Additionally High-Refresh brings it’s own benefits. Even while working, just using the desktop and some programs where my card does easily push out 144frames per second, just feels so much smoother, more direct and precise.

      • Darthus says:

        Yeah, my current is the 27 inch Asus Preadtor 1440p, with 144hz and GSync. I ideally want both. The high refresh for general use, and buttery smooth FPS when my GPU overpowers a game, but there are still games that push my GTX 1080 at 1440p on Ultra Settings, and as soon as FPS dips below 60, Gsync provides a much better experience than Vsync in my experience.

        My ideal is to replace this monitor with either a larger curved ultra widescreen Gsync, or a 4K HDR Gsync panel (ideally both if my GPU could drive it. Both of those are extreme subsets, so I appreciate the odd review to alert me to one that’s a good deal (since they’re also usually ultra expensive).

    • Katharine Castle says:

      There will be more G-Sync monitor reviews coming in the future, I promise! It just so happens that there are way more monitors that support FreeSync compared to G-Sync, but I’m aware of the shortfall and will be rectifying this shortly :)

      • Darthus says:

        Thanks Katharine, I get that there are many more Freesync options, and many of them are better “deals” for the quality, which is often what you’re writing about, but I would definitely appreciate the best “deals” in terms of cost to quality ratio for Gsync options as well!

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