Experience ultimate smoothness.
If you have an Nvidia graphics card, you owe it to yourself to invest in a G-Sync monitor. Variable refresh rate technology makes a huge difference in the smoothness and responsiveness of your games. But there are lots of G-Sync monitors out there, and you (probably) only need one, so we’re here to help you figure out which one to buy.
A little background: G-Sync is Nvidia’s proprietary technology for variable refresh rate (VRR) monitors. The company embeds a display controller in the monitor (which makes it cost a little more) and then it can sync the monitor’s refresh rate with the frame output from any modern Nvidia graphics card (Kepler or newer). If you’ve got an AMD graphics card, a G-Sync monitor will just act as a normal monitor and you’ll need a FreeSync display instead, which uses similar technology not controlled by Nvidia, if you want to join the VRR club.
So what is VRR? Basically, a normal monitor is locked to a single refresh rate—that’s the number of times per second that it changes the color and brightness of the pixels on the screen. Your graphics card draws a frame, and then waits until the monitor’s next refresh cycle to display it. This has the effect of making your game jump frame rate between even multiples of the display’s refresh: with a 60Hz monitor, your game will run at 60fps, 30fps, 20fps, 15fps, or 12fps, for example. Disabling vsync will also allow your graphics card to run as fast as possible on any monitor, but it produces an ugly visual artifact called tearing, where the monitor displays partially-drawn frames on top of the previous frame.
With VRR technology (G-Sync or FreeSync), the monitor refreshes whenever the graphics card is done drawing the next frame. So your monitor might max out at 60Hz and your game at 60fps, but if your game is running at 52fps the monitor will refresh at 52Hz, drawing the frame immediately instead of waiting for the next 60Hz cycle. So you’ll see the frame rate your graphics card is capable of, not a big downgrade to 30fps. As a final reminder: there are two VRR technologies gamers should know about: G-Sync and FreeSync. G-Sync is Nvidia’s proprietary technology and only works with Nvidia graphics cards. FreeSync is AMD’s brand for a VRR technology built on top of the VESA standard and only works with AMD GPUs. G-Sync requires extra hardware in the monitor, driving monitors costs up (usually about $200), but maintains consistently high quality. FreeSync requires no special hardware and thus monitors are typically cheaper, but quality control is a little less consistent.
With all that out of the way, these are our picks for the Best G-Sync Gaming Monitors:
Best 1080p G-Sync Monitor: Alienware AW2518H
Alienware’s 25-inch gaming monitor uses a TN panel, which means super-fast response times, high brightness, and high refresh rates at the expense of a wide color gamut and wide viewing angles. It’s pricey for a 1080p monitor, but it offers a blistering 240Hz maximum refresh rate and 1ms response times. That’s some top-tier eSports performance right there. And that’s what you buy a 1080p gaming monitor for, generally; you pair it with a high-power graphics card and get those super-high refresh and frame rates for the smoothest and most responsive gaming possible. It’s also pretty stylish (a bonus for something that sits up on your desk all day), and you get four USB 3.0 ports to plug in accessories, and an HDMI port to plug in a game console.
Best 1440p G-Sync Monitor: ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q
When we recently took a look the best 27-inch gaming monitors, we just slightly preferred the Viewsonic XG2703-GS to the ASUS ROG Swift PG279QR. The chief reason? The Asus monitor’s TN panel didn’t have the nice wide viewing angles of the IPS panel in the Viewsonic monitor. And though TN has faster switching speeds, we didn’t really notice the difference in gaming. Well, you should know that ASUS makes two versions of that monitor. There’s the one we reviewed, ending in “QR,” which uses a TN panel. Then there’s the one simply ending in “Q,” which has an IPS panel; that’s the one we’d recommend. Honestly, either this ASUS monitor (the IPS version) or the Viewsonic XG2703-GS would be an excellent pick. They have similar refresh rates (144Hz with 165Hz overclock), similar IPS panels, similar inputs (HDMI and DisplayPort, plus some USB ports), and a similar price (usually $700-750). We prefer the red and black design of the ASUS, but it’s really your call.
Best 4K G-Sync Monitor: Acer Predator XB271HK
Acer’s excellent Predator XB271HK will cost you about $700, which isn’t cheap, but it’s actually around the same price as the best 1440p monitors. Of course, running triple-A games at 4K requires a beefy graphics card, and those 1440p monitors have the benefit of super-high refresh rates while today’s 4K gaming monitors top out at 60Hz. Before you buy a 4K gaming monitor, you should know that there will soon be 4K monitors with G-Sync and FreeSync technology that also have support for HDR and high refresh rates. They’re expected to ship in early 2018, and they’re going to be expensive. But if you want the very best and you want it to last you for years, you might want to wait. A couple of its USB ports can be a little hard to reach, and the on-screen display for adjusting settings is awkward. But for great visual quality and performance at a reasonable price, you can’t beat it. Read our review for more.
Best Ultrawide G-Sync Monitor: AOC Agon AG352UCG
If you want that super-immersive 21:9 experience, you may be tempted to purchase a monitor with a 2560 x 1080 resolution. That’s definitely going require a less expensive graphics card to maintain high frame rates, but the pixel density is likely to disappoint you. What good is filling your peripheral vision to immerse you in your game if you’re looking at big fat pixels? Instead, consider one with a 3440 x 1440 resolution. Your eyes will thank you.
There aren’t many monitors in that club that support higher than 60Hz refresh rates, G-Sync technology, and have excellent color, contrast, and viewing angles. AOC’s Agon 35-inch monitor delivers all three, and costs less than $1,000. Most competing monitors cost a couple hundred bucks more, and don’t offer a better experience. It’s got a generous 35-inch size, a quality VA panel, a couple USB ports and an HDMI port (in addition to the main DisplayPort input), and a 100Hz refresh rate—on par with the best 1440p Ultrawide monitors out there. It’s even got a neat little flip-down peg to hang your headset on, which is a nice touch.
Best budget G-Sync Option: Acer Predator XB241H
The 24-inch Acer Predator XB241H is a well-received 1080p G-Sync monitor that won’t break the bank. At only $350, it’s one of the most affordable ways to get into variable refresh rate technology for those with Nvidia graphics cards. It uses a TN panel and has a top refresh rate of 144Hz (180Hz with overclocking), so you don’t get that crazy-fast refresh rate of the Alienware or the fantastic viewing angles and color gamut of an IPS display. It also doesn’t have any extra USB ports to plug in peripherals, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into (though it does have both DisplayPort and HDMI inputs). But it costs hundreds less than the very best 1080p G-Sync monitors, and if you’re a gamer and the choice is between “cheap G-Sync or no G-Sync” then you should go for cheap G-Sync every time. Variable refresh rate technology is just that good.