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The Top 3 Gaming Monitor Buying Considerations – Including MSI Monitor Round-up and Buying Guide

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Disclaimer: this article includes sponsored promotion, but all content, opinions and commentary are our own

Introduction

We cover a lot of news, information and reviews of gaming monitors here at TFTCentral, but if you’re in the market for a new screen it’s not always obvious where you should start or what you should look for. All the talk about new technologies, different panels, resolutions, refresh rates and additional features. How do you even try to narrow the selection down? If you’re new to this area and need some help making a decision, we thought it would be useful to run down what we would consider to be the top 3 gaming monitor buying considerations. Once you’ve figured out what you want from these areas, it’s much easier to narrow down some popular models to read more about.

We’ve partnered with MSI for this article to help bring you a new gaming monitor buying guide, and we will also give you an overview of their product range in case you want to look at some of their popular gaming screens. This will include a look at some of their key capabilities and features, and then we will break down some options for you in different categories that are well worth looking in to.

The Top 3 Gaming Monitor Buying Considerations

If you would rather a video walkthrough of this subject, you can check that out here:

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1. Screen Size

This might seem an obvious one to start with, and it is, but it’s often over-looked when you’re considering a new monitor. This consideration is especially relevant if you’re upgrading from an older screen that maybe you’ve had for 5 years, 10 years, or maybe longer. Sometimes you get used to a screen of a certain size, and expect to want something similar, when in fact the market has shifted quite considerably over time with larger displays being a lot more common and affordable. You might well find that you’re missing out on something better if you restrict yourself to screen sizes you’ve used in the past.

Screen size is measured diagonally from corner to corner, although keep in mind that monitors can have different aspect ratios, with most being a standard 16:9, but others offering ultrawide formats with 21:9 or even much more stretched 32:9 aspect ratios in some cases. Of course one of the first things you need to figure out is how much desk space you have for your new monitor, and what your viewing position is going to be. If you’re sat further away from the screen you probably want something bigger. With monitor sizes continuing to increase, we would recommend getting a larger screen size if you have the space, unless you have a specific use case like some of the examples below.

Smaller screens <25″

There is generally less innovation and investment in smaller gaming screen sizes nowadays, but the smaller end of the market is still popular for competitive gamers and esports players. The main focus for these screens is in driving higher refresh rates and reducing response times, to meet the demands of competitive gamers. This audience tends to favour a smaller screen size for more focused gaming, without needing to scan your eyes across a larger screen or move your head as much. They’re also smaller, lighter and easier to transport around if you need to take it to an event.

The smaller gaming screen are all limited to lower 1080p resolutions (discussed more in a moment), which is easier to power from your system and graphics card, allowing you to instead prioritise frame rates for your games. You will also find some of the fastest supported refresh rates in this smaller screen size range too, allowing support for those higher frame rates. This preference for frame rate from competitive gamers helps give you the edge in fast-faced action, while also helping to support lower overall system latency, and improving the motion clarity of moving content visually. There are a couple of super-high refresh rate monitors available in these sizes up to 540Hz maximum today, but the majority of models are still in the 240Hz or 360Hz range. 360Hz especially is almost exclusively limited to these smaller screen sizes at the moment and is a popular choice for competitive gamers.

This is also the only segment nowadays where you can find some TN Film panel technology gaming screens, which we will discuss more in a moment. There are no OLED monitor options this small, nor are there any which offer any real HDR capabilities (e.g. Mini LED backlights). Think of these sizes as being almost exclusively focused on 1080p, very high refresh rate competitive gaming.

27″ screens

The 27″ segment is the most popular size in today’s monitor market and most of the innovation and development starts with 27″ sized displays and larger. You will get not only a larger screen area to work with by moving from those smaller screens up to 27″, but also make available a jump in resolution to 1440p which gives you a lot more desktop area to work with. This upgrade is not to be under-estimated. You will also find some 4K resolution options in this segment, although for many people that’s an unnecessary overhead at this size. 1440p is generally the sweet spot for gaming at this size. The increased resolution available in this segment makes 27″ models much more suited to multiple uses, not just for pure gaming. They are far more versatile. Unless you’re specifically after something in a different size, we would certainly recommend looking at 27″ models instead of smaller options.

This is also the smallest size where you will find OLED monitors at the moment, discussed more in a moment when we will talk about panel technology. You will also start to find decent HDR gaming capabilities in this size, including a growing number of Mini LED backlight options.

32″ screens

The next jump up in size takes you to 32″, giving you a larger screen that can offer you increased immersion for your gaming. They are also a good option if you want a screen that can handle not only close-up PC gaming, but also handle console gaming a bit better, where you will likely be sat further away from the screen. The same applies if you are PC gaming with a controller too. The additional screen size makes that more practical.

This is also the segment where most people start to see the value of higher 4K resolutions. They are more practical than on smaller 27″ screens, allowing you to also benefit from a larger desktop area with a lower % scaling used, as well as the increased pixel density for gaming which increases detail and sharpness. This also allows full support for 4K gaming from modern devices like the Xbox Series X and PS5 for instance. You won’t find any OLED panels in this size…yet, but you will find high end screens with premium HDR capabilities and Mini LED backlights.

34″ and larger ultrawide

The other size range you might want to consider would be those which are 34″ or above, but these are generally in a different aspect ratio and offer an ultrawide format. These screens are usually 21:9 in aspect ratio (or the close 24:10), being wider than the common 16:9 aspect ratio models in the smaller sizes discussed above. If you’re looking for a screen that can handle multi-tasking and general work very nicely along side your gaming, then these are a really good choice. They’re a good alternative to dual-screen setups as well, and there’s plenty of games which now offer support for widescreen aspect ratios too. That will give you a much wider field of view in your games, and this is particularly enjoyable for many game genres. 34″ is the most common ultrawide format available, but you will also find a few 35″, 38″, 40″ and even 49″ sized options in the gaming space. OLED is available in some of these sizes too.

Gaming monitor size summary

Screen sizeGeneral target marketsNoteworthy
<25″esports / competitiveTypically low 1080p resolution
Highest refresh rates, including common 240Hz and 360Hz options
Only segment where you will find TN Film technology
Very limited HDR capabilities
27″General and mainstreamTypically 1440p resolution
Refresh rates typically up to 240Hz
More innovation and development starts from this size upwards
Smallest size where you will find OLED technology available
Better HDR capabilities including Mini LED available
32″Larger screen PC gaming
Console overlap
4K gaming audience
Often offering 4K resolution
Lower refresh rates up to ~160Hz typically due to higher resolution
No OLED screens….yet
High end HDR capabilities including Mini LED available
34″ and
larger ultrawide
Wide screen gaming
Multi-purpose usage
Replacement for dual screens
Typically 3440 x 1440 resolution
Refresh rates up to 175Hz typically
OLED available in some sizes

2. Resolution and Refresh Rate

Very closely linked to the screen size choice is the resolution and refresh rate of the panel, with the larger screens offering a big enough screen size to warrant higher resolutions. There is a fine balance here for gaming though between increasing resolution, which will give you more detailed and sharper images, and increasing frame rate and refresh rate. A 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) for instance is four times as demanding as a 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080) on your system, so you won’t get as high a frame rate in your games if you use 4K.

Your priority will really depend on the power of your system and graphics card, your competitive standard and level of gaming, and the type of game you’re playing. If you’re playing competitive FPS type games then you will probably want to prioritise frame rates / refresh rate, and therefore a lower resolution screen will probably be preferrable. This is one of the reasons why smaller <25″ screens with 1080p resolution are still very popular in that market.

If you’re playing slower paced RTS / RPG type games, you might want to instead focus on resolution and image quality instead of refresh rate, and so a larger screen that supports 1440p or 4K resolution will probably be better. If you’re primarily gaming from a games console you don’t really need anything above 120Hz refresh rate (the limit of modern consoles like the Xbox Series X and PS5), but you probably want the higher resolutions up to 4K which the consoles can support. If you’re only a casual gamer but also need to use your monitor day to day for work or more general uses then maybe an ultrawide format would be more suitable with a widescreen resolution, even where the refresh rates are in the mid range around 175Hz typically.

One final note is that panel scaler and video interface support for the highest refresh rates is currently restricted to lower resolutions too, so you will for instance find high 360Hz available commonly at 1080p, but 4K screens generally only reach up to around 160Hz maximum at the moment.

Deciding on your screen size will generally lead you towards a certain resolution, and from there you can select a relevant refresh rate for your gaming needs.

Typical screen size, resolution and refresh rate combinations

Screen sizeAspect RatioResolution options (shorthand)
Most popular/common
option in bold
Actual resolutionTypical Gaming
Refresh Rate
<25″16:91080p1920 x 1080up to 360Hz
27″16:91080p
1440p
4K
1920 x 1080
2560 x 1440
3840 x 2160
up to 240Hz
up to 240Hz
up to 160Hz
32″16:91440p
4K
2560 x 1440
3840 x 2160
up to 240Hz
up to 160Hz
34″ ultrawide1440p UW3440 x 1440up to 175Hz
38″ ultrawide24:101600p UW3840 x 1600up to 175Hz

3. Panel Technology

This third consideration is not directly tied to screen size, resolution or refresh rate, although in some situations you may find some options are not available. For instance TN Film panels are only available in the smaller <25″ gaming screens. The panel technology of the monitor will directly influence the performance of the screen for gaming in a number of ways. Here’s the 3 main LCD panel types you will have available to choose from:

  • TN Film – generally the fastest from a pixel response time point of view, with the snappiest and quickest transitions. However, it’s an ageing technology now and hardly used, as big advancements in IPS technology have taken over. TN Film may be very good for response times for gaming, but is far more limited in overall picture quality, especially when it comes to viewing angles and image stability. Think of TN Film really as just a pure gaming-focused technology. You will find TN Film only in a few monitors in the <25″ size range and none of them have any real HDR capabilities unfortunately.

  • IPS – this is the most common and popular panel technology in the market. It has very strong all-round performance, including much better viewing angles and overall image quality than TN Film. It might not be quite as quick and fluid (although it’s very close in some cases), but it’s a much stronger all-round performer. IPS is not as good though for darker content, with a fairly limited contrast ratio and black depth, and the panels often show pale glow on darker content when viewed from an angle. You will find some HDR capabilities from IPS panels, including higher end Mini LED backlights, although the overall HDR gaming experience can suffer a bit due to the viewing angle-related glow.

  • VA – is generally a slower technology than IPS and TN Film, and therefore more suited to slower-paced gaming. The response times are often quite restrictive, especially on certain dark transitions. VA is however much stronger than IPS and TN Film when it comes to contrast ratio, and has better black depth and much less glow from an angle compared with IPS. It’s therefore a better technology for darker games, and also for HDR content. It’s viewing angles and overall image quality are in between IPS and TN Film.

Those are the 3 common LCD panel technologies. The other technology to mention here is OLED, which is a completely different display technology, but is now becoming much more readily available in the gaming monitor market:

  • OLED – these panels have only started to appear over the last year or so, but there’s now a pretty wide choice of screens available in 27″ and above sizes. OLED panels will offer amazing response times and high refresh rates. One advantage of OLED panels is that because their response times are so quick, the resulting motion clarity for gaming is approximately 1.5x as good as an equivalent LCD screen. So a 240Hz OLED for instance will look visually very similar to a 360Hz LCD screen (240 x 1.5 = 360).

    OLED also offers amazing blacks and contrast ratio (in the right lighting conditions), as well as excellent HDR experience as each pixel can be individually turned off. OLED technology is more restrictive for non-gaming uses though, with an ever-present concern around image retention and image burn-in when used for a lot of static content, and also some text clarity issues caused by the unusual pixel structure of these panels. For pure gaming, they are an excellent choice, but if you want a more multi-purpose screen then the LCD options might offer you a better option.

Choosing a Monitor

We’ve talked about the the top 3 gaming monitor buying considerations you will need to make when selecting a new display. Let’s take a look at some example recommendations, focusing on the extensive range offered by MSI in this space. We’ll try and break this down by size, giving you various options when it comes to resolution, refresh rate and panel technology.

MSI Monitor Range Overview and Key Features

Before we get in to the example recommendations, we should just give a quick overview of the MSI monitor line-up. MSI have their gaming screens split in to 4 main product ranges, with the features, capabilities and of course, price varying between each range. Here’s MSI’s summary of their line-up:

We also wanted to briefly touch on a few headline features that MSI offer with many of their monitors which users may find attractive, and which in some cases may set the screens apart from competing models. Of particular note would be:

MSI Gaming Intelligence

This is MSI’s pretty extensive software app which allows you to control your monitor and settings via your PC, without needing to use the OSD menu all the time. There’s a pretty wide range of options available on many of the monitors in their range, and it makes navigation, setup and quickly switching between modes and presets nice and simple.

KVM functionality and USB type-C connectivity

KVM functionality allows you to connect a single keyboard and mouse to your monitor, and use those to control multiple input devices (like two PCs’). A screen with a USB type-C connection can also support single-cable connectivity from your system, especially useful for laptops, where it can send video and data over that single cable, while also powering and charging the connected device. These two functions are becoming increasingly common in the market, but can be really useful for enhancing productivity and user experience.

MSI Mystic Light

Mystic light is a software package that allows you to control and sync all your RGB lighting products from across MSI’s range, whether that’s your case, fans, keyboards or your monitor. Quite a few models in the MSI monitor range support Mystic light nowadays including the MEG 342C QD-OLED and MAG 323UPF for instance that are covered in this article. A full list of products that support Mystic light are available here.

Smaller competitive and esports screens

As we discussed earlier, competitive and esports gamers will often look at the smaller end of the market and MSI have a good option in their 24.5″ range. The MSI Oculux NXG253R offers a 1920 x 1080 resolution ‘Rapid IPS’ technology panel with a 360Hz native refresh rate. It also features NVIDIA’s Native G-sync module which includes reliable and wide variable refresh rate (VRR) performance, and supports features like variable overdrive and super low input lag.

This is a top-end gaming monitor which also includes NVIDIA Ultra Low Motion Blur (ULMB) mode for reducing your perceived motion blur, and Reflex Latency Analyzer which allows you to track and tweak your system latency and performance. The NXG253R also features Mystic Light RGB which we talked about earlier, and a range of other gaming enhancements.

Oculux NXG253R

* 24.5″ in size aimed at esports gamers
* 1920 x 1080 resolution ‘Rapid IPS’ panel and 360Hz refresh rate
* Native NVIDIA G-sync module for variable refresh rates
* NVIDIA Ultra Low Motion Blur (ULMB) and Reflex Latency Analyzer

> Available on Amazon in many regions
> Product page

Mainstream models and 1440p gaming

The most popular and common screen size and resolution combination currently is 27″ 1440p, and there’s a wide range of models to choose from in this segment. First up and worth looking at in MSI’s monitor range would be the MSI MAG 275CQRF-QD. This is a curved (1000R) gaming screen built around a ‘Rapid VA’ technology panel and it has a 2560 x 1440 resolution and 170Hz refresh rate. It’s got a Quantum Dot coating to offer a wide colour gamut and includes features like KVM functionality, USB type-C input and Mystic Light support.

The very similarly named MSI MAG 275CQRXF is also worth looking at. It has a 1440p resolution, curved (1000R) ‘Rapid VA’ technology panel again, but this time it has a higher 240Hz refresh rate. It also includes features like KVM functionality, USB type-C input and Mystic Light support like the CQRF-QD model does, but this version has a slightly smaller colour space (92% DCI-P3 coverage instead of 96%).

Mainstream gaming monitor options

MAG 275CQRF-QD

* 27″ in size with 2560 x 1440 resolution
* ‘Rapid VA’ technology panel
* 170Hz refresh rate with adaptive-sync for VRR
* KVM functionality, USB type-C connection and Mystic Light support

> Available on Amazon in many regions
> Product page

MAG 275CQRXF

* 27″ in size with 2560 x 1440 resolution
* ‘Rapid VA’ technology panel
* 240Hz refresh rate with adaptive-sync for VRR
* KVM functionality, USB type-C connection and Mystic Light support

> Available on Amazon in many regions
> Product page

Larger screens and 4K gaming

If you’re after something larger then the 32″ market will offer you a nice jump up from the common 27″ models, while making 4K resolution a lot more common, and also a lot more practical. One of the newest models is the MSI MAG 323UPF, which has a 32″ sized ‘Rapid IPS’ panel, 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) and a 160Hz refresh rate. This screen also has some mid-tier HDR capabilities with HDR 600 certification, and includes features like USB type-C (with DP Alt mode and 90W power delivery) and KVM functionality. HDMI 2.1 connectivity also allows solid support for latest generation games consoles.

Another model that is a good choice for console gaming is the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD. This is 32″ in size again with a 4K resolution and 144Hz refresh rate. It has adaptive-sync for VRR along with ‘G-sync Compatible’ certification and includes USB type-C connectivity, along with HDMI 2.1 for modern consoles. This model also features Quantum Dot coating for wide colour gamut, and supports Mystic Light RGB lighting (not featured on the MAG 323UPF).

Larger screen gaming monitor options

MEG 323UPF

* 32″ with 3840 x 2160 “4K” resolution ‘Rapid IPS’ technology panel
* 160Hz refresh rate
* Adaptive-sync for VRR including AMD ‘FreeSync Premium Pro’ certification
* USB type-C connectivity with DP Alt mode and 90W power delivery supported
* HDMI 2.1 connectivity for console gaming
* Mid tier HDR capabilities with HDR 600 certification

> Available on Amazon in many regions
> Our full review
> Product page

Optix MPG321UR-QD

* 32″ with 3840 x 2160 “4K” resolution IPS panel
* 144Hz refresh rate
* Adaptive-sync for VRR including NVIDIA ‘G-sync Compatible’ certification
* Mid tier HDR capabilities with HDR 600 certification
* HDMI 2.1 connectivity for console gaming

> Available on Amazon in many regions
> Product page

Ultrawide gaming

MSI have quite a few ultrawide models available, although their flagship offerings both fall under their top-tier “MEG” range. First up is their 34″ ultrawide model, the MSI MEG 342C QD-OLED which has a 3440 x 1440 resolution and 175Hz refresh rate, but which is the company’s first (and currently only) OLED monitor. It uses a QD-OLED panel from Samsung Display, offering amazing response times, HDR performance and image quality for gaming. As well as DisplayPort 1.4 connectivity, MSI also offer HDMI 2.1 and USB type-C connections on their model. It also includes a few additional features like KVM functionality, built-in ANC mic, ambient light sensor and Mystic Light RGB lighting.

  • Our best settings guide for the MSI MEG 342C QD-OLED is available here

Their other flagship ultrawide model is the MSI MEG 381CQR Plus, which is a 37.5″ (38″) ultrawide LCD display with an IPS technology panel. It has a 3840 x 1600 resolution (24:10 aspect ratio) and a 175Hz refresh rate. This one also features a Native NVIDIA G-sync module for variable refresh rates, including benefits such as variable overdrive, super low input lag and a wide and reliable VRR range. This includes certification under the NVIDIA ‘G-sync Ultimate’ tier.

HMI interface on the MEG 381CQR Plus display

A unique feature of this screen is a small dial on the side of the screen which MSI refer to as an “HMI” (Human Machine Interface), which along with a small display built in to the bottom bezel allows simple and quick control of various modes and settings. This model also supports Mystic Light

Ultrawide gaming monitor options

MEG 381CQR Plus

* 37.5″ (38″) ultrawide with IPS panel and 2300R curvature
* 3840 x 1600 resolution and 24:10 aspect ratio
* 175Hz refresh rate
* Native NVIDIA G-sync module for variable refresh rates and ‘G-sync Ultimate’ certification
* HDR 600 support with moderate HDR capabilities

> Available on Amazon in many regions
> Product page
MEG 342C QD-OLED

* 34″ ultrawide with QD-OLED panel and 1800R curvature
* 3440 x 1440 resolution and 21:9 aspect ratio
* 175Hz refresh rate and 0.03ms G2G response time spec
* Adaptive-sync for variable refresh rates (VRR) including AMD ‘FreeSync Premium’ certification
* Excellent HDR performance from OLED panel, including VESA ‘DisplayHDR 400 True Black’ tier

> Available on Amazon in many regions
> Product page
> Our best settings guide

Wrap Up

Hopefully this guide has been useful and given you some guidance to get you started on your journey to buying a new gaming monitor. Once you’ve narrowed down the screen size you want that should push you towards certain resolutions, and from there you can decide which panel technology is right for your needs. There’s an extensive range of screens offered by MSI so do check those out on their website if you want more information.


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