Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game lovers, we will provide additional reviews, tutorials, interviews and other game related stories from August 19-23.
Any monitor can work for games, but a good game monitor will make your virtual exploits more polished. With their high refresh rate and adaptive sync, they can take your games to a new level of smoothness. But since the market is flooded with confusingly selected choices, it can be difficult to find those that are worth buying.
So for Ars Gaming Week, we set out to help. After spending the last three months researching dozens of gaming monitors and ultimately testing 14, we came up with a few recommendations that should suit players of all kinds, whether you're faster online shooters or contemplative stories.  Contents
Some test notes
Let's start with a little information about our testing process. Our main tool for measuring this guide was the Datacolor Spyder5Elite colorimeter and its accompanying software. This helped us to evaluate the accuracy of colors, peak brightness, contrast ratios, color gamut, uniformity of brightness, color uniformity, and more with solid data instead of personal opinions. That said, there are spectrophotometers and other high-tech equipment that we didn't have access to that could give more accurate readings. The results of our tests are still the basis of the pros and cons of each monitor – if the panel has poor contrast or colors, inaccurate enough to be distracting, we will know otherwise – but that difference made us hesitate to use specific test results in this manual. As we tested everything with the same lighting tools and conditions, however, each monitor was still rated against a consistent baseline.
To test motion and game specific features, we played games on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, be sure to play faster multiplayer shooters like Apex Legends and Overwatch as well as single-player color games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Tetris Effect . We also used a set of Blur Busters tests to help us better measure motion blurring, reaction time, ghosts, and other movement qualities.
As this is a guide to monitors gaming we place greater emphasis than usual on the smoothness of motion, slowing down inputs and maintaining variable speed refresh technology (VRR) like Nvidia's G-Sync and FreeSync AMDs that dynamically adjust the panel refresh rate to avoid stuttering and tearing of the screen while playing. Meanwhile, a high refresh rate will benefit both gaming PCs and consoles from the next gen. However, we have not put these features far ahead of picture quality and design, as most people will still spend a lot of time surfing the web and getting their monitor running. We also talk more about box performance, as most monitor users tend to avoid getting too mixed up with their picture settings. (That said, picture quality will improve on all our photos after calibration, so it's worth doing if you can.) And while 4K monitors are ripe to be useful for non-gaming purposes, we we don't recommend any here: the 4K game's benefits are not massively superior to 1440p in practice, and it requires high GPU power to consistently push 4K at a high refresh rate.
Our favorite gaming monitor for everyone around: Gigabyte Aorus AD27QD
Different game settings have different needs, so it's hard to say that one monitor will work definitively for everyone. But of the monitors we tested, our favorite was the Gigabyte Aorus AD27QD.
This is a 27-inch panel, which we think is the sweet spot between having enough space to keep you from getting stuffed and overloading your desk. It has a resolution of 2560×1440 – some competitive gamers will rightly say that the 1080p monitor makes it easier for more GPUs to press at higher refresh rates, but not every game is as demanding. You can reduce the resolution in many games to get more stable frames per second (FPS), and the crispness gain is immediately noticeable on a panel larger than 24 inches. The ability to mount multiple windows on the screen when you are not playing a game is a significant plus.
The AD27QD is technically an Innolux AAS (Azimuthal Anchoring Switch) panel, but the end result is an effective IPS display. Like its TN and VA counterparts, IPS comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, which the AD27QD follows very closely. The monitor has wide viewing angles, so the colors will not be very distorted when you do not look directly at the screen. It has excellent color accuracy outside the box, with a DeltaE score below 2 in our testing. (To put it simply: any rating above 3 means that colors are inaccurate, anything under 2 has inaccuracies that are barely audible to viewers, and anything under 1 is practically perfect.) Its colors are pretty much the same throughout the display and its peak brightness is higher than most IPS panels. It has a particularly generous color gamut so it can show a wider than usual color gamut. And it maintains an expanded 10-bit color depth for further magnification – technically 8-bit + FRC rather than natural 10-bit, but the difference is minimal for most. You'll need a powerful GPU to push the GPU, and it requires you to stay at 120Hz refresh rate to work.
Like most IPS monitors, the AD27QD has so much contrast. In fact, it's better than most IPS panels tested, so it's not as difficult as a compromise, but in a vacuum it can't distinguish between white and black tones, as well as a good VA panel. Its black uniformity is also poor, so to a large extent, the black screens will appear uneven and smudged. The AD27QD also suffers from the slight effect of IPS glow, which causes the lower corners of the screen to lose details in a darker environment. All this means is that the monitor is best used in a lit room rather than in a dark one. (Although only good at reflecting glare so you don't want to put it directly in sunlight.) Gigabyte advertises HDR support and VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification, but since the monitor lacks local dimming, it doesn't have much meaning. All that said, while the AD27QD is not a professional photo panel, it is better than most of its peers in making the 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 frame rate is lower than this, the monitor supports FreeSync's Low Frame Rate Compensation (LFC) technology. This makes it set the refresh rate to multiples of whatever frame rate is below the VRR range. If the game is running at 34 fps, for example, FreeSync will double the frames it sends to the monitor and adjust the refresh rate to 68 Hz to keep screen torn and stuttering to a minimum.
The important thing is that it all works with Nvidia Graphics Cards, not just AMD models. The AD27QD is one of a handful of FreeSync monitors that has been officially certified as "G-Sync compliant" by Nvidia. Several others work fine without the official title, but that means the AD27QD has been tested and approved for GTX 10 series and RTX cards by the company that made them. FreeSync had some minor quirks with Nvidia cards – screen flickering between games, for example – and compatible G-Sync mode only works for DisplayPort. But in principle, Adaptive Synchronization Technology works as it should on the AD27QD, enabling itself automatically and deleting all breaks and jitter.
The rest of the AD27QD's motion presentation is good. Response time is fast for the IPS panel with the monitor's overspeed setting enabled, with little noticeable motion blur and very low delayed input. The AD27QD is not as slick as a good TN panel, but considering how dramatically its better picture quality is elsewhere, it is strong.
One of the notable problems here is the skipping or reverse harassment. In other words, this is when the movement of the panel causes the pixel to "capture" its final color value and create a shadow effect around a moving object in the opposite color of the object mentioned. The AD27QD's Speed setting causes a noticeable amount of this at a lower refresh rate. So if you are using a monitor with a PS4 or a PC game that does not come close to the full 144Hz, it is better to switch to standard Balance overdrive mode. This will slow down the reaction a few times, but the overall image will look cleaner. If you can keep your game at around 144 Hz, skipping the Speed setting is insignificant, so sensitive eyes should be able to enjoy faster titles without compromise.
The design of the AD27QD is comfortable and well made. The wind is light and its stand is thin, so it doesn't eat up a ton of room on your desk. Its small frames make it fit into a second monitor. There is enough metal in the structure to feel solidly built. We haven't done much with the low RGB lighting on the back of the monitor, but it's there and it's adjustable if you're into it. The adjustability is that the monitor is excellent, has a wide wide range for rotation and height adjustment, as well as the ability to rotate the panel 180 degrees in a vertical orientation. One-touch screen access (OSD) switching is easy to use and easy to reach, and the OSD is expanded in a non-dominant manner. The choice of port is solid: one DisplayPort 1.2, two HDMI 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, a microphone and 3.5mm audio output jacks. Unfortunately, there are no built-in speakers, but there is a unique "Active Noise Canceling" feature that reduces ambient noise when speaking through a connected microphone. That way, low-grade noise is pretty good, so it might be helpful if you're trying to talk to your teammates in a noisy house.
There are a few other extras beyond that, but the point is that the AD27QD is a great jack for all gaming commerce monitors. For less than $ 600, you get perfect size and resolution, useful design, good enough motion, effective VRS compatible with FreeSync and G-Sync, and color reproduction that plays well anywhere.
- Well-built 1440p monitor with great colors, fast motion, FreeSync and official G-Sync compatibility certificate.
- A few ghosts, noticeable at the highest overdrive setting with a lower refresh rate.
Gigabyte Aorus AD27QD