• Acer Predator XB253Q Gwbmiiprzx

  • Dell S2721HGF

  • How We Tested

  • What Size Gaming Monitor Do I Need?

  • Other Gaming Monitors We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Gaming Monitors of 2021

  1. Best Overall

    Acer Predator XB253Q Gwbmiiprzx

    Pros

    • Excellent image quality with 280 Hz refresh rate

    • Highly adjustable stand

    • Great build quality

    Cons

    • Unattractive design

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    Dell S2721HGF

    Pros

    • Vibrant color

    • 144 Hz refresh rate

    • Good dark scene performance

    Cons

    • 1080p is low for a 27-inch monitor

    • Limited stand adjustment

    Skip to the full review below
Acer Predator XB253Q GW
Credit: Reviewed / Matthew S. Smith

Acer's 24-inch beauty packs a punch on all fronts, making it the best gaming monitor for most people.

Best Overall
Acer Predator XB253Q Gwbmiiprzx

Acer’s XB253Q GW is a 24.5-inch, 1080p monitor that may seem humble at first glance, but it packs the very best in current monitor technology. This is a cutting-edge competitive gaming monitor with excellent image quality and incredible motion performance.

The Acer XB253Q GW has extremely accurate color straight out of the box. It rivals the accuracy of monitors designed for professional work, which is a surprise. Better still, its contrast ratio is as high as you’ll find from a monitor with an IPS panel. It’s an extremely bright monitor, as well, so it’s great for gaming in a bright room and can do some justice to HDR games.

This monitor has a super-quick 240 Hz refresh rate that can overclock to 280 Hz. This leads to outrageously smooth performance. It’s great in fast games, but it’s obvious everywhere. Even web pages look clear and crisp in motion. The only monitors that have better motion performance are new models from Asus and Alienware with a 360 Hz refresh rate. However, we don’t think they offer an obvious improvement over the Acer Predator XB253Q GW, and they’re hundreds of dollars more expensive.

Although the design's spindly stand and oversized lower bezel won't be for everyone, the display is well built and feels rock solid. The stand is small but balanced and adjusts for height, tilt, swivel, and pivot. The monitor also offers two USB ports along its left flank. Acer even provides a two-year warranty, an advantage over the one-year warranty on most monitors.

This is an expensive monitor for a 24.5-inch 1080p display, but it's far from the most expensive, and it’s a good value given its specifications and performance. Because of its small size, its 1080p resolution will look great in any game, and also makes it easier for your gaming PC to achieve high framerates in games.

The Acer Predator XB253Q GW’s impressive combination of image quality and motion clarity puts it ahead of the pack.

Pros

  • Excellent image quality with 280 Hz refresh rate

  • Highly adjustable stand

  • Great build quality

Cons

  • Unattractive design

Dell S2721HGF
Credit: Reviewed / Matthew S. Smith

The Dell S2721HGF is brilliantly balanced and comes at a price that nearly any serious gamer can agree with.

Best Value
Dell S2721HGF

The Dell S2721HGF is an outstanding value pick for gamers on a budget. It’s among the least expensive 27-inch gaming monitors available, yet its image quality can stand up to much more expensive displays.

Contrast ratio is this monitor’s key advantage. It uses a VA panel that is capable of displaying deep, rich black levels without much sacrifice to brightness. The result is a better sense of depth and improved performance in games with dark scenes, like horror games or space simulators.

The Dell S2721HGF has vibrant, accurate color. Its performance is not far behind our top pick. This combination of contrast and color accuracy is key to the S2721HGF’s outstanding image quality. It looks realistic, yet dramatic.

This monitor has a 144 Hz refresh rate for smooth, responsive gaming. Its motion performance isn't as good as some monitors on our list, so games look softer and less clear during fast action. Still, it’s a big upgrade from an office monitor with a 60 Hz refresh rate. AMD FreeSync is supported, while Nvidia G-Sync is unofficially compatible. We’ve tested G-Sync support and can confirm it works well.

What’s the catch? This is a 27-inch, 1080p monitor. Its lower pixel density for a monitor of its size can lead to some jagged edges along fine fonts and unattractive shimmering. While we generally think 4K is overkill for most monitors, at this size we would have liked to see 1440p for optimal picture quality. It’s also a curved display. The S2721HGF is well built and feels durable, and its stand can adjust for height and tilt, but it can’t swivel or pivot. The monitor also lacks USB ports.

Those detractions aside, it’s hard to go wrong with the Dell S2721HGF at this price. It offers incredible value for the money, making it the perfect companion for a budget gaming PC.

Pros

  • Vibrant color

  • 144 Hz refresh rate

  • Good dark scene performance

Cons

  • 1080p is low for a 27-inch monitor

  • Limited stand adjustment

Related content

How We Tested

The Tester

Matthew S. Smith is a technology journalist, reviewer, and editor with 14 years of experience. He’s tested over 600 laptop and desktop displays over the past decade, keeping a log of his results for future reference. In addition to evaluating monitors, laptops, and other gear for Reviewed, you can find his monitor reviews published at Insider, IGN, and Digital Trends.

The Tests

We used a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration tool for objective evaluation of monitor quality for this list. This tool can measure numerous technical details of a monitor including: brightness, black levels, contrast ratio, white point, color gamut, color accuracy, gamma curve, and uniformity.

Gaming monitors must also be tested for motion clarity and responsiveness. We judged this by first observing Blur Buster’s UFO Test and then launching several games to gauge real-world performance. We look not only for clarity in motion but also signs of ghosting and overshoot, problems that can cause visible trails or halos behind fast-moving objects.

We also consider a monitor’s features and ease of use. The best monitors have an ergonomic stand that’s easy to adjust. They also provide USB ports and a wide range of image customization. We consider these features when making our final selections.

These results are logged and placed in a spreadsheet. Reviewed uses an in-house rubric to balance our recorded results and provide an objective ranking.

Price is important, as well. The most expensive monitors do tend to perform well, but that’s unsurprising given their cost. We think a great gaming monitor should provide amazing visuals, smooth gameplay, and unrivaled value.

What Size Gaming Monitor Do I Need?

  • 24 inches: Some gamers steer away from 24-inch monitors because of their size, but 24-inch monitors are popular among both competitive and casual gamers. They offer the highest possible refresh rates, which is important to players seeking the smoothest, most responsive gameplay possible.

  • 27 inches: A 27-inch monitor is the common next step up, and the largest size that makes sense for most people. A monitor of this size will look large and immersive on most desks. There’s a wide range of gaming monitors available in this size, from budget options to extremely high-end displays priced over $1,000.

  • 32 inches: Especially popular as gaming peripherals, a 32-inch monitor will dominate your desk. This size is actually too large for many desks, but it’s a good choice if you sit further from your monitor than usual. These monitors are popular in setups where they’ll serve double-duty as a small television.

  • 34-inch Ultrawide: A 34-inch ultrawide is as tall as a 27-inch widescreen monitor, but about 25 percent wider. This provides a more immersive field of view. A 34-inch ultrawide is a good choice for open-world games, simulation games, and other immersive titles.

  • 38-inch Ultrawide: Less common than 34-inch ultrawides, 38-inch ultrawides deliver the same immersive experience at a larger scale. A monitor this large might not fit on every desk or in every gaming den. It’s worth consideration if you sit more than three feet from your monitor.

  • 49-inch Super-Ultrawide: This rare but attractive size provides an incredibly immersive experience that will completely fill your horizontal field of view. It’s awesome for simulation games, racing games, and some open-world role-playing games. It’s a poor fit for competitive gaming, as large portions of the monitor will be in your peripheral vision.

What Resolution Do I Need—1080p, 4K, or Something Else?

Gamers have a lot of choice in resolution, but your choice is likely to be guided by your budget and the performance of your gaming PC.

  • 1080p: 1920 x 1080 resolution, better known as 1080p, is extremely common on budget gaming displays, and found on most displays that exceed a refresh rate of 144 Hz. It doesn’t provide the sharpest picture but can offer extremely smooth gameplay. It also works well alongside a mid-range video card which, given the insane pricing of video cards in 2021, is a major perk.

  • 1440p: 2560 x 1440, shortened to 1440p, is a resolution rarely spoken of outside of PC gaming. It’s extremely popular in mid-range gaming monitors, and for good reason as it provides a great balance between smooth gameplay and sharpness. It’s a big upgrade over 1080p and worthwhile (especially for larger monitor sizes) if you can afford it.

  • 4K: 3820 x 2160, better known as 4K, receives a lot of hype but isn’t frequently used in gaming monitors, as 4K monitors with an enhanced refresh rate are impractically expensive. In fact, no 4K high-refresh monitor is recommended in this guide. Aside from the price of the monitor, you also have to factor the price of a new high-end video card (assuming you can even find one to purchase).

The Three LCD Panel Types: IPS, VA, and TN

A monitor’s LCD panel sits between the glass or plastic on its surface and the LED backlights at the rear, and is largely responsible for the image quality of a monitor. There’s three distinct technologies common in the budget market.

  • IPS: This means "in-plane switching." IPS panels tend to be bright, with good color and subdued ghosting behind fast-moving objects. However, IPS can’t show deep black levels, which is a problem in movies and games. Despite this, many gaming monitors use an IPS panel because it’s an affordable and effective way to achieve smooth motion. Gamers are often willing to trade some image quality for this perk.

  • VA: This means "vertical alignment." This panel technology has far superior contrast than IPS or TN, and its color performance isn’t bad, either. VA panels have poor viewing angles compared to IPS, but this problem is less noticeable on a monitor, since you’ll usually sit directly in front of it. The best VA panels have motion clarity similar to an IPS display, but there’s more variance. In general, this technology is best for gamers willing to trade some motion clarity for better image quality.

  • TN: This means "twisted nematic." These are the cheapest panels and generally perform poorly in color, contrast, and viewing angles. They have fast response times and remain a popular option for extremely affordable, high-refresh gaming monitors. With that said, newer and more responsive IPS panels have eroded TN’s advantage, and we expect TN to be entirely obsolete within a few years.

Want more general help in buying the right kind of monitor? Check out our guide to buying a monitor.


Other Gaming Monitors We Tested

Alienware AW2721D

Alienware’s AW2721D is the best monitor for gamers who don’t need to worry about their budget. This 27-inch, 1440p monitor uses the latest technology to deliver a 240 Hz refresh rate, the best currently available at 1440p resolution. It supports Nvidia G-Sync but doesn’t support AMD FreeSync.

The result is an outstanding combination of image quality and motion clarity. The AW2721D is an outrageously bright display, has a great contrast ratio for a monitor with an IPS panel, and serves up accurate, pleasant color across an extremely wide range of shades. Its out-of-the-box image quality can rival displays designed for professional use.

This monitor supports HDR, and while it can’t rival an HDR television, its performance is among the best you’ll find for a monitor. It's enjoyable in bright, colorful games that play to its strengths. That said, the AW2721Ds HDR struggles in darker games. While it has local backlighting, it has just a handful of backlight zones, so the display can look unevenly lit in HDR.

Alienware’s AW2721D is built to an unparalleled standard of quality. Its sci-fi design is attractive from any angle. The monitor has a heavy stand that adjusts for height, tilt, swivel, and pivot. The monitor also ships with a 3-year warranty, which is rare for a gaming monitor.

Pros

  • Great image quality with 240 Hz refresh rate

  • Highly adjustable stand

  • Excellent build quality

Cons

  • Very expensive for its size

  • Doesn’t support AMD FreeSync


Dell S2721QS

Dell’s S2721QS is the only monitor on this list that isn’t sold as a gaming monitor, and one of two that doesn’t support a refresh rate above 60 Hz. It remains a worthy choice because it provides 4K resolution at an attractive price. AMD FreeSync is supported, but Nvidia’s G-Sync is not.

The Dell S2721QS has a 27-inch 4K panel. This leads to razor-sharp image quality that renders individual pixels virtually invisible at a normal viewing distance. The S2721QS is also an extremely bright display with an excellent contrast ratio. Its color performance isn't the most accurate or realistic available, but the S2721QS has a wide color gamut, which means it can display a wide range of colors. This gives it punchy, engaging image quality.

This monitor supports HDR, but its brightness is only slightly above the best SDR monitors. You shouldn’t expect great results in HDR movies and games and may prefer to stick with SDR.

Because it’s primarily marketed as a home office monitor, the S2721QS has an attractive but subtle look with slim bezels. The included stand offers a wide range of adjustment for height, tilt, swivel, and pivot.

The Dell S2721QS is best for gamers who want outstanding image quality and don’t care about competitive gaming. It’s a great fit for strategy titles like the Civilization franchise or big, open-world role-playing games like recent Assassin’s Creed titles.

Pros

  • 4K resolution

  • Good image quality

  • Highly adjustable stand

Cons

  • Only a 60 Hz refresh rate

Samsung Odyssey G9 LC49G97TSSNXDC

Samsung’s Odyssey G9 is an extreme monitor for gamers with unusual tastes. It’s a 49-inch super-ultrawide with an aggressive curvature. It has an incredible 240 Hz refresh rate and 5120 x 1440 resolution. AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync are supported.

This monitor’s unusual aspect ratio is its key selling point. It completely fills your field of view horizontally, offering a level of immersion that only a VR headset can beat. It’s an outstanding fit for simulation games, racing games, and any title designed for an immersive, true-to-life experience.

Image quality is excellent with a wonderfully wide contrast ratio, vibrant color, and impressive brightness. Sharpness is just okay, as the monitor’s resolution is spread across a broad screen, but remains enjoyable. HDR is supported and looks great by the standards of a monitor. However, like its competitors, its limited number of local backlight zones can cause uneven lighting in dark scenes.

Size is a blessing, but also a curse. Because the G9's 32:9 aspect ratio is rare, many games don’t support it. Check to see if your favorite games can handle 32:9 before buying this monitor.

While the monitor is attractive, its build quality isn’t perfect. The monitor we tested occasionally made a loud snapping noise, a problem caused by expansion in the plastic. It doesn’t impact the monitor’s function or durability but is annoying given the high price.

Still, the Samsung Odyssey G9 is the last word in immersion. It’s the perfect display for hardcore simulation gamers who crave a huge field of view.

Pros

  • Immersive image quality

  • Good HDR performance

  • 240 Hz refresh rate

Cons

  • Game support is limited

  • Mediocre build quality

LG 27GL83A-B

LG’s UltraGear 27GL83A-B is a well-rounded display with few flaws at an obtainable price. Its screen size and 1440p resolution hit the sweet spot for many gamers, as well.

The LG 27GL83A-B delivers a bright, vibrant, realistic picture that’s sure to impress. Its color performance is strong, delivering accuracy that displays games just as the developers intended. Its contrast ratio is mediocre, however, because the monitor’s black levels can’t reach a deep, inky black. That’s a problem in games with many dark scenes, like horror games or space flight simulators.

Competitive gamers will love the monitor’s 144 Hz refresh rate and motion clarity. Fast-paced games look crisp and the monitor’s quick response to player input is perfect for serious competition. The monitor also supports AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, so it can synchronize with the framerate of games you’re playing.

The monitor's design is basic, and its glossy plastic chassis feels flimsy for the price. The stand adjusts for height, tilt, and pivot, but its range of adjustment isn’t impressive. There’s no USB ports, either.

LG sells an upgrade called the LG UltraGear 27GL850-B. It has LG’s Nano-IPS panel, which boosts this monitor’s already great color performance to class-leading levels. We don’t think it’s worth the price increase at full cost, but the LG 27GL850-B is occasionally placed on sale with pricing closer to the LG 27GL83A-B. It’s worth checking the price of each monitor before you buy.

Pros

  • Vibrant color and sharp 1440p resolution

  • 144 Hz refresh rate

  • Excellent value

Cons

  • Mediocre performance in dark scenes

  • Limited stand adjustment

Acer Nitro XV340CK Pbmiipphzx

Acer’s Nitro XV340CK is a 34-inch ultrawide monitor with 3440 x 1440 resolution and a 144 Hz refresh rate. It’s an incredible value and easily among the best affordable ultrawides. Unlike most ultrawides, this monitor is not curved.

The XV340CK scores well in many areas. Its color performance is accurate and engaging, and its pixel density is similar to a 27-inch 1440p display, providing a tack-sharp look. The 144 Hz refresh rate provides motion clarity that’s superior to most affordable ultrawides. The monitor officially supports AMD FreeSync. Nvidia G-Sync is not officially supported, but our testing confirmed that G-Sync will work.

This is not a bright monitor, so it may struggle in a bright room. The monitor’s contrast ratio is mediocre and you may see uneven backlighting in dark scenes, which can spoil horror games.

The monitor’s no-frills design is uninspired compared to more luxurious alternatives from Alienware and Samsung. It offers height and tilt adjustments, but the range of adjustment is limited.

Acer’s Nitro XV340CK is a great value. Its image quality is similar to a good 27-inch 1440p monitor but the ultrawide aspect ratio provides a more immersive experience. It’s great for racing games, simulation games, and open-world games.

Pros

  • Good image quality

  • 144 Hz refresh rate

  • Large screen for the price

Cons

  • Mediocre brightness

  • Poor dark scene performance

Alienware AW3821DW

Alienware’s AW3821DW is a premium ultrawide monitor. It’s a 38-inch screen with 3840 x 1600 resolution and a 144 Hz refresh rate. Its combination of size, resolution, and refresh rate is rare.

The AW3821DW has a crisp, vibrant image. It’s an extremely bright display that covers a wide range of colors. It’s not the most accurate monitor available, but most gamers will enjoy its hyper-realistic look.

Size is a key point. A 38-inch ultrawide may sound like a small bump over a 34-inch model, but it offers a 25% larger display by volume. This monitor will dominate any gaming setup. It’s also great for multi-tasking.

HDR is supported and looks better than most competitors. The AW3821DW has the brightness and color support to provide an obvious leap over SDR. Like its competitors, however, this monitor has just a handful of local dimming zones. This can cause uneven lighting in dark scenes.

Motion clarity is a highlight. The 144 Hz refresh rate is extremely smooth, and is supported by a display panel tuned for fast response times. It’s as good as you’ll find on an ultrawide. This monitor supports Nvidia G-Sync but doesn’t support AMD FreeSync.

The AW3821DW is built like a tank. Its heavy stand keeps the monitor planted and provides adjustment for height, tilt, and swivel, and a bit of pivot. The monitor is covered by a 3-year warranty, which is an impressive span for a monitor at any price point.

Pros

  • Good image quality

  • 144 Hz refresh rate

  • Excellent build quality

Cons

  • Very expensive

  • No AMD FreeSync support

ViewSonic XG3220

A 32-inch 4K monitor, the Viewsonic XG3220 looks sharp at a typical viewing distance despite its large size. This gives the XG3220 an edge over similarly priced 32-inch monitors that stick with 1440p resolution.

The XG3220 performs well by every metric of image quality. It uses a VA panel, which leads to superior contrast performance and deep, inky black levels. The monitor’s strong color performance delivers a lifelike, punchy image that looks fantastic.

While the XG3220 is great for gaming, it’s also among the best monitors for streaming Netflix and watching 4K movies. It lacks the cloudy, hazy look that afflict most gaming monitors when showing dark or shadowy scenes in your favorite movies or TV series.

This monitor’s brightness is mediocre. While usable in most rooms, it’s lower than some competitors. The monitor technically supports HDR input but isn’t bright enough to deliver much benefit. Viewing angles are limited, as well, so you’ll want to view the monitor straight-on. The XG3220 also has a tepid 60 Hz refresh rate.

The XG3220 is a great choice for people who want a large monitor for a PC gaming den, or plan to use a monitor for gaming and movies in equal measure.

Pros

  • Good image quality with great dark scene performance

  • Large screen for the price

  • 4K resolution

Cons

  • Only a 60 Hz refresh rate

  • Narrow viewing angle

Acer XF240H bmjdpr

It’s not hard to find an ultra-affordable monitor that claims it’s built for gaming, but most are office monitors with a gaming label slapped on the box. Acer’s XFA240 is the exception. This 24-inch, 1080p monitor has a 144 Hz refresh rate. It also supports AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync for smooth, stutter-free gaming.

These specifications do the heavy lifting for Acer’s XFA240. Competitive monitors typically offer a few similar specifications, but rarely all of them. The XFA240’s G-Sync certification is particularly unusual in this price range.

This monitor uses aging TN panel technology (see our guide in this article for more info). It provides a responsive, smooth image, but color performance is disappointing.

Build quality is a highlight. This monitor has a hefty stand that can adjust for height, pivot, swivel, and tilt. The monitor also has a broad range of image customization that can help you extract the best performance possible.

Pros

  • 144 Hz refresh rate

  • G-Sync compatible

  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Poor color accuracy

  • Low contrast ratio

Meet the tester

Matthew S. Smith

Matthew S. Smith

Contributor

@Matt_on_tech

Matthew S. Smith is a veteran tech journalist and general-purpose PC hardware nerd. Formerly the Lead Editor of Reviews at Digital Trends, he has over a decade of experience covering PC hardware. Matt often flies the virtual skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator and is on a quest to grow the perfect heirloom tomato.

See all of Matthew S. Smith's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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