There's no definitive way to help you select the right display for gaming. That said, there are a bunch of small things to consider when purchasing one, and we're here to help break down the important features that will come in handy when it's time to pull the trigger at the checkout. That, and offer up what we think are the top five gaming displays.
What You're Looking For
Glossy or Matte: Matte, also called "anti-glare," is a non-reflective type of screen. Glossy, on the other hand, is the hyper shiny bane of all displays. Most players will choose matte simply because they plan to stare at their displays for long periods of time. Although unproven, most consumers say that glossy displays are harsher on the eyes, mainly because they're focusing harder in order to dodge reflections.
With glossy displays, colors are often more vibrant, which is great for watching movies that tend to last no more than three hours, but for long gaming sessions, it's less than ideal. Glossy displays also tend to be slightly cheaper. Of course, there is no right or wrong decision when picking between the two. Ultimately, it'll come down to your preference.
2D or 3D: The concept here is called future-proofing. 3D has been available for select PC games for years before Sony started making a ruckus about it on the PlayStation 3, but there's never been a better time to pick up a 3D display. With today's movies, games, cameras and smartphones all trying to sell consumers on the third dimension, we're starting to see a larger 3D push in content to support the pricey hardware investment.
Refresh Rate: Forget everything you heard about more hertz (Hz) and less motion blur. In an LCD shoot-out, DisplayMate president Raymond Soneira compared various HDTVs set to different refresh rates of 60Hz to 120Hz and concluded that no notable difference was found while video was in motion.
If you're going the 3D-route, though, it's better to pick up a display with as high a refresh rate as you can, because when viewing 3D content, the refresh rate is cut in half (per eye), so 120Hz becomes 60Hz and 60Hz becomes 30Hz, with resulting differences in sharpness and clarity.
Brightness: The brightness that's advertised and the setting you'll use will almost never be the same, unless your retinas can take the extreme light. Display makers love to tout how bright their monitors can reach up to, but most people won't need more than 200 to 300 cd/m² (candela per square meter), even though some displays reach up to 600 cd/m² and 800 cd/m². Honestly, you'd never stare directly into a light bulb for several minutes, so what would make staring at a super bright screen for hours seem reasonable?
Size: Your display shouldn't dwarf your peripheral vision. The average display sizes suitable for gaming usually hovers somewhere in the 20 to 27-inch range. Anything larger, and your eyeballs will probably explode. Using Amazon's trusty HDTV size chart, we can conclude that 23 to 24-inches is what most people will want to shoot for.
Personally, I game on a 26-inch LED display sitting at a distance of about four feet and even I get nauseous. Ideally, I think anything under 24-inches (diagonal) of screen real estate is going to provide more than enough for the gamer sitting at desk or table. Only go larger if you plan to sit farther back on a couch.
LED-lit or CCFL-lit LCD: LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) provide more balanced lighting for an evenly lit and brighter picture, resulting in deeper blacks and colors that appear to "pop" more than CCFL-lit (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) LCDs. For the best of the best, LED-lit displays are the way to go by a huge margin. LED-lit displays are also significantly thinner and lighter (most are about half as thin as CCFL-lit LCD displays). Power draw is also about 40 percent less than CCFL-lit LCDs. The only major setback for an LED-lit display is price. They tend to cost an extra penny.
Resolution / Aspect Ratio: Most displays will either be of the 720p or 1080p HD type. Go with the full 1080p HD resolution of 1920x1080 at a 16:9 aspect ratio for that full-screen goodness.
For the most part, regular gamers will not be able tell the difference between 720p and 1080p, but when you do run across a game that crams in the extra pixels (more common for PC games), you'll appreciate the small, but visible difference. Keep in mind that choosing between 720p and 1080p is also affected by the distance between you and the display — particularly if you're looking for a large monitor or an HDTV. Follow the sizing rule outlined above and you should be set.
Viewing Angle: IPS, a.k.a. In-Plane Switching technology refers to how well a display can be viewed from angles other than head-on. Shift your head away from a non-IPS display and you'll likely notice the screen begins to appear dimmed, colors become washed out and pixels become blurred.
With the IPS technology in newer displays, viewing a display from all those odd angles keeps the picture colors the same at all times. Like all electronics, the quality of the IPS will vary, depending on model and maker. In addition, a new type of IPS known as E-IPS (Enhanced) have begun making their way into displays. The viewing angles are said to be even crisper than regular IPS.
Our Top 5 Gaming Displays
Now that you know what to look for when shopping for a display, here's a list of the top 5 displays that we think deserve a badge. All displays are full 1920x1080 resolution screens with at at least 300 cd/m², 60Hz refresh rate, 2ms response time, and at least 1 DVI and 1 HDMI port.
1. Dell UltraSharp U2311H The king of all displays, the U2311H sports a matte 23-inch LED-lit display with E-IPS for incredible viewing angles. It's inclusion of four USB 2.0 ports only sweetens the deal. The only thing keeping the U2311H from perfection is its lack of 3D. $320
2. Asus VG236H Considered my many gamers to be one of the best 3D displays available on the market, the VG236H's 23-inch 120Hz glossy screen and bundled in NVIDIA 3D Vision Kit should justify the slightly high price tag for a display of this size. $500
3. Acer S273HL Measuring at a whopping 27-inch matte screen, the S273HL is pretty affordable at $300. It packs a set of 2-watt speakers and has an asymmetrical stand design that looks pretty futuristic. $300-350
4. Samsung PX2370 Thin is this display's game and at 16.5mm thick and weighing in at nine pounds, this 23-inch LED-lit display is sure to fit into any gamer's nest. $250
5. Asus VW246H If the 3D VG236H is out of your price range, then the VW246H is the next best pick. It has a slightly larger screen at 24-inches, and for budget-conscious gamers, this is one gaming display that won't break your wallet. $200
Honorary Mention: PlayStation 3D Display Sony surprised PS3 gamers at E3 with this 24-inch PlayStation-branded display. The box comes with one pair of 3D glasses, a copy of Resistance 3 and an HDMI cable, but that's not the best part. The coolest bit about this 3D display is that it has a special two-player multiplayer mode that beams two different images to each player when the 3D glasses are worn. Output is in 2D, but there's no arguing that not having to play in split-screen mode or game on two separate consoles and displays is a lot more convenient and cheaper. Pre-Order: $500
Gaming Displays in the Future
As gamers, we're truly ahead of the pack in terms of having the newest and best displays available for full-blown immersive experiences. As far as we can tell, there's still a lot of room for improvement as more consumers choose to adopt LED and 3D displays.
Looking ahead, we're not sure what the future of displays will look like, but we're hoping it'll be filled with glasses-free 3D displays that do away with the eyewear once and for all, 600Hz OLED screens that can cut cake, transparent AMOLED screens that let us realize our sci-fi fantasies, and maybe even flexible displays that when bent, really put that "pop" into 3D.
Via GamerTechTV, Build-Gaming-Computers, PC World, PC Gamer, Computer Shopper, CompReviews (Big thanks to personal buddies Nathan Shaw and Freddy Ying, who fielded my many, many questions while researching this subject.)
Raymond Wong comes to us via SyFy Network's DVICE, the coolest blog on the planet. For even more in-depth news and information, go head over to DVICE and be sure to check out Superhero Week going on right now!