Best Budget Gaming Monitors

Best Budget Gaming Monitors of 2021

Find the best budget gaming monitor for a powerful gaming setup that's easy on the wallet.

Nov 22 by Alyse Stanley
 Redd, Unsplash

Gaming monitors have enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past few years. There are more choices available on the market than ever before. All these choices can make it difficult to find the best budget gaming monitor, especially if you’re not ready to invest a small fortune in a premium gaming setup.

Technological innovations previously confined to high-end monitors have steadily trickled down into more affordable versions. You can now find a stunning, top-tier display at practically any price point. In short, there’s never been a better time to be a PC gamer. As for what qualifies as a budget gaming monitor, all the options we’ve included in this guide are $400 or less (to put that price into perspective, the most advanced gaming monitors run into the thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars).

Whether you’ve only just started building your gaming rig, are looking to upgrade your current display, or just want a high-end monitor to hook your consoles up to, here’s our guide to finding the most affordable gaming monitor that fits your needs—because nothing tanks a game’s momentum like screen tearing and lag.

Best Overall: Samsung 27-inch CRG5 240Hz Curved Gaming Monitor
Best 1440p Budget Gaming Monitor: Viotek GFI27DBXA
Best 4K Budget Gaming Monitor: Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q1A
Best Ultrawide Budget Gaming Monitor: MSI Optix MAG301CR2
Best 1080p Budget Gaming Monitor: Acer Nitro VG240Y

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How We Picked the Best Budget Gaming Monitors

Methodology

To pick our top contenders for the best budget gaming monitors, we extensively researched and analyzed models from the industry’s leading brands, then compiled critical consensus from reviewers, gamers, and videophiles worldwide.

To determine the best value monitors available on the market for under $400 (our cut-off to be considered a budget monitor), we compared specifications, form factor, and any special features a monitor comes with out of the box.

Visual Quality: To gauge the quality of each monitor’s visual output in relation to both its price and competitors, we took into consideration each one’s color gamut, contrast ratio, refresh rate, response time, resolution, screen size, and whether it features adaptive-sync compatibility or support for high-dynamic-range imaging.

Display Type: We considered each monitor’s display panel type (e.g., twisted nematic [TN], in-plane switching [IPS], or vertical alignment [VA]) and how well each monitor is optimized to work with the strengths and weaknesses endemic to each category. Twisted nematic (TN) monitors are the cheapest and fastest monitors. They deliver quick screen refresh times, but typically don’t offer the best color accuracy or image quality. In-plane switching monitors (IPS) are built with a layer of parallel liquid crystals. These displays offer beautiful picture quality and quick refresh times—albeit usually less quickly than TN monitors for the price. Vertical Alignment (VA) monitors improve upon TN technology to offer higher contrasts and richer color depth—especially in shadows. These monitors accurately display dark colors without immediately defaulting to black. However, VA monitors typically sacrifice Hz speed and refresh rates except at the premium price points. VA and IPS monitors offer different approaches to high image quality, while TN monitors prioritize speed and budget prices.

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Design: Finally, we took into account the design of each monitor, because if you’re going to upgrade your gaming rig, you need something that won’t clash with its overall aesthetic.

Related: The Best Gaming Routers

The Best Budget Gaming Monitors: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Samsung 27-inch CRG5 240Hz Curved Gaming Monitor

Quick Response, Samsung

Why It Made the Cut: The CRG5 240Hz curved gaming monitor from Samsung ticks all the boxes any gamer could want, which is why it’s our top pick for the best budget gaming monitor.

Specs:
Dimensions: ‎9.86 L x 24.26 W x 18.6 H inches
Size: 27-inch curved display
Display Features: Adaptive-sync compatible, 240Hz

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Pros:
Super fast refresh rate
Works with G-Sync
Stunning color accuracy
Gameplay optimization options

Cons:
Stand isn’t adjustable
Slow response time

If you’re a competitive gamer looking for a top-of-the-line, 240Hz display, the CRG5 240Hz Curved Gaming Monitor from Samsung is one of the most affordable options out there.

Its 27-inch VA panel, a type of LED panel display, has an intense contrast ratio, resulting in darker blacks and more vibrant colors. If you have an Nvidia graphics card powerful enough to handle 240Hz, the CRG5 is certified G-Sync compatible, meaning it’s been thoroughly vetted by Nvidia to guarantee that this monitor can keep up for a playing experience that’s free of tearing or stuttering.

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While the hardware itself doesn’t come with any significant extra bells and whistles, it does feature several different modes you can toggle to optimize your monitor for whatever game you’re playing. Picture mode tweaks the black gamma levels, contrast, sharpness, and color to fit the game genre. Low input lag mode cuts down on delays between your controller or keyboard and the display. Then there’s eye saver mode, which minimizes blue light and reduces screen flicker with the goal of relieving eye strain.

The CRG5 loses a few points for its stand, which lacks any swivel or height adjustments, and its middling response time occasionally results in ghosting (i.e., a visual distortion where a trail of pixels follows moving objects, almost like motion blur except unintentional). All things considered, though, Samsung hit it out of the park with this one, offering high-end performance at an affordable price point for one of the best budget gaming monitors.

Best 1440p Budget Gaming Monitor: Viotek GFI27DBXA

Chroma on a Budget, Viotek

Why It Made The Cut: The Viotek GFI27DBXA is easily one of the best 1440p gaming monitors on the market, and it’s a fraction of what similarly powerful displays cost.

Specs:
Dimensions: ‎24.22 L x 9.65 W x 21.46 H inches
Size: 27-inch display
Display Features: 180Hz refresh rate

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Pros:
High refresh rate
Adaptive-sync compatible
Superb high-dynamic-range
G-Sync and FreeSync compatible

Cons:
Short power cord
Clunky input switching

To cut down on the cost, your budget gaming monitor might forego the bells and whistles available in more premium options—particularly when it comes to color technology. Bucking that trend, the Viotek GFI27DBXA is a stunningly colorful quad HD display.

This budget gaming monitor renders more than 100 percent sRGB, which significantly bumps up the vibrancy and contrast of colors in whatever game you’re playing, and is capable of supporting HDR 600 performance, a benchmark that eclipses most other HDR monitors in its price bracket.

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And these superior graphics capabilities don’t come at the cost of horsepower. It’s compatible with both Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync while boasting a refresh rate of 180Hz, putting it on the same level as higher-tier gaming monitors. Between that, its 27-inch display, and 1440p resolution, the Viotek GFI27DBXA is powerful enough for your average gamer’s needs. Priced at well under our cut-off of $400, the Viotek hits a sweet spot between price and performance.

Where this monitor falters is in its form factor. Its power cord is on the short side, and the stand it comes with out of the box is not very high quality with a noticeable wobble. This gets frustrating fast if you have pets, or if your gaming rig is set up in a high-traffic location in your home. Thankfully the monitor is wall-mountable, so you may want to opt for that configuration instead. Manually switching inputs is also a pain, requiring you to navigate through a multi-step menu instead of simply pressing a button on the display’s frame, as is common with other monitors.

Best 4K Budget Gaming Monitor: Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q1A

All the Pixels, Asus

Why It Made the Cut: In general, 4K displays don’t come cheap, but Asus somehow managed to pull it off with its TUF Gaming VG289Q 4K monitor without sacrificing quality.

Specs:
Dimensions: ‎25.18 L x 18.13 W x 8.42 H inches
Size: 28-inch display
Display Features: 4k ultra high definition IPS display, with great color reproduction

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Pros:
HDR support
FreeSync compatible
Built-in speakers
Intuitive on-screen display

Cons:
Mediocre refresh rate
Not great for dark rooms

Just because you’re assembling a gaming setup on a budget doesn’t mean you have to skimp on having the best 4k gaming monitor. Asus’s TUF Gaming VG289Q1A 4k Gaming Monitor isn’t the most powerful or future-proof 4k display, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find the best 4k gaming monitor for under $400. It features top-tier picture quality, incredible color accuracy, quick response times, and some nice extras you don’t usually see in budget monitors, like built-in speakers. It’s a solid 4k display and a great option for console players that won’t break the bank.

Its 60Hz refresh rate (really the minimum standard you want for gaming), leaves a lot to be desired, but that’s the ceiling you’re going to hit at this price point if you’re looking for 4K resolution. A display with enough muscle to handle thousands of pixels at 120Hz or above comes at a real premium. However, this monitor does support Adaptive Sync and is compatible with both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, which should keep screen tearing and stuttering to a minimum on all but the most graphically demanding games.

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Another thing to consider: According to several reviews, this monitor has some of the best black levels of any IPS panel, but you’re still going to struggle with backlight bleed and glow if you play in a dark room just by virtue of the technology.

Best Ultrawide Budget Gaming Monitor: MSI Optix MAG301CR2

Smooth Visuals, MSI

Why It Made The Cut: MSI’s Optix MAG301CR2 is the best ultra-wide gaming monitor that has a beast of a display with a lightning-fast refresh rate that provides a movie-like experience from the comfort of your desk.

Specs:
Dimensions: 27.7 L x 11.3 W x 20 H inches
Size: 30-inch curved display
Display Features: 200Hz refresh rate

Pros:
High refresh rate
Frameless design
HDR support
FreeSync compatible

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Cons:
Slow response time

Not everyone wants a massive monitor for their gaming setup. But trust me, once you try playing on an ultra wide monitor, it’s hard to go back to using anything else. MSI’s Optix MAG301CR2 gaming monitor is one of the cheapest displays out there for its size — a whopping 30 inches. While it’s not the absolute largest option on the market, most players will find its 21:9 aspect ratio and curved display to be plenty to get lost in, offering the same kind of expansive field of view you’d expect from a premium ultrawide monitor.

Most budget gaming monitors stick to bare-bones feature lists to cut down on cost, but this display boasts a few extra goodies like customizable lighting panels, an adjustable stand, multiple ports, and several game modes optimized for different genres like first-person shooters and role-playing games.

Its 200Hz refresh rate and compatibility with FreeSync make for super-smooth visuals, albeit hampered by slower than advertised response times. Many owners complain about persistent problems with ghosting, while fiddling with the monitor’s response time settings produce little to no effect. Some players may not even notice any issues, but for videophiles, this issue could be a dealbreaker.

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Best 1080p Gaming Monitor: Acer Nitro VG240Y

Surprisingly Solid, Acer

Why It Made The Cut: The Nitro VG240Y from Acer is a powerful little monitor with a refresh rate and response time that rival higher-end displays, making it our top choice for best 1080p gaming monitor.

Specs:
Dimensions: ‎21.3 x 9.4 x 16.2 inches
Size: 23.8-inch display
Display Features: 144Hz refresh rate

Pros:
High refresh rate
FreeSync compatible
Great color accuracy
Small footprint

Cons:
Flimsy, non-adjustable stand
Not good for dark rooms

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I’ve long been a fan of Acer products, which are surprisingly solid for being so cheap, and their monitors are no exception. The Nitro VG240Y is powerful enough for your average gamer’s needs, sporting a super-fast refresh rate of 144Hz, on par with higher-end displays, and adaptive sync with FreeSync compatibility to cut down on input lag and tearing. And measuring at just under 24 inches, its footprint is small enough to fit into most desk setups. It is a pretty bare-bones option though, so don’t expect lots of extra features.

As far as visuals go, its viewing angles and color accuracy are just as great as you’d expect from an IPS monitor. IPS monitors use liquid crystal displays that deliver gorgeous image quality. By that same token, though, you’ll need to use this monitor in a well-lit room to avoid the kind of issues endemic to these types of panels (i.e., motion blur, backlight bleed, and IPS glow).

For the most part, it holds its own against higher-end displays twice its price, with one exception: its stand. The stand it comes with is on the flimsy side and can’t swivel or be adjusted for height, belying the monitor’s budget price tag.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Gaming Monitor

Trying to find the best budget gaming monitor can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re only just getting into PC gaming and still learning the ends and outs of all the tech lingo. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

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PC Power

Picking the right gaming monitor starts with knowing what’s under the hood of your computer. You can have the best, most expensive monitor on the market, but you’ll still see stuttering and other graphics issues if you don’t have a CPU and graphics card (GPU) with enough horsepower to keep up with it. Adaptive-sync is designed to help on that front – it automatically adjusts and syncs things up so that your GPU is rendering each frame of video just as fast as your monitor is updating the image on the screen. But this feature can only help so much. Whatever monitor you choose, for the best performance, make sure its refresh rate (Hz) is optimized to your graphics card’s frames per second (FPS) output.

Graphics Cards

A lot of gaming monitors feature adaptive-sync compatibility, but you’ll see better performance if you have a graphics card that lines up with whatever standard your monitor supports. There’s G-Sync for Nvidia GPUs and FreeSync for AMD GPUs. Each has its own pros and cons, but regardless of those benefits, you’ll get more reliable results if you stick to the same ecosystem across devices.

Type of Gameplay

If you’re regularly playing graphically intense games like the latest Call of Duty or Halo Infinite, you’ll need a monitor beefy enough to handle them without stuttering or tearing. To that same end, if you mostly stick to slower-paced games or those with more stylized visuals that don’t strain your GPU, you won’t necessarily get your money’s worth out of a monitor with superior horsepower. In short, figure out your graphical needs before pulling the trigger on an expensive monitor.

FAQs

Q: What monitors are good for gaming?
Some of the best monitor manufacturers include Razer, Asus, Samsung, and MCI. These typically boast displays with top-tier color technology and visuals. Acer offers several solid budget options that can meet the needs of your average gamer. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re into competitive gaming, your best bet is going for a brand used in pro circuits like BenQ or Alienware. Their top-performing models won’t come cheap, though.

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Q: Do I really need 120Hz refresh rate?
Most gamers don’t really need a 120Hz refresh rate for playing video games. A refresh rate is the number of times per second that your monitor updates the onscreen image, as measured in Hertz (Hz). So if your monitor has a refresh rate of 120Hz, that means it’s updating the screen 120 times each second. As a general rule, a higher refresh rate translates to a smoother display with fewer graphical issues like stuttering and lag, which is particularly important for competitive online gaming. A high refresh rate isn’t so much a prerequisite to play games. Rather, it’s a metric that helps determine how seamless your experience playing will be. For casual gaming, you should look for monitors with a 60Hz refresh rate at minimum. If you’re playing competitively or graphically intense games, the gold standard is 144Hz. 120Hz is considered the middle ground between the two.

Q: Is 120Hz good for gaming?
A refresh rate of 120Hz isn’t great for gaming, but it’s good and more than enough to handle casual games. However, opting for a 144Hz monitor, the industry’s current benchmark is more likely to future-proof your display and would support a more responsive experience, especially for competitive online gaming.

Q: Can you use any monitor for gaming?
Technically you can use any monitor for gaming, but your mileage may vary. Compared to standard monitors, gaming monitors are designed to support higher fresh rates and faster response times that handle graphically intense visuals quickly. If you’re looking for an everyday model, the best computer monitors are optimized for everyday tasks like scrolling through social media and browsing the Internet – not gaming. So they tend to suffer more often from graphical issues and lag than gaming monitors.

Q: How much does a gaming monitor cost?
Gaming monitor costs run the gamut. The best budget gaming monitors you’ll find are around $100, while the most expensive go for tens of thousands of dollars. In general, a budget gaming monitor costs between $200 to $400, and a high-end one will set you back at least a grand.

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Q: What makes a monitor a gaming monitor?
In terms of what makes a monitor a gaming monitor, a gaming monitor is essentially a regular computer monitor that’s been optimized for handling the graphically intense visuals you see while playing video games. They’re designed to make whatever your GPU and CPU are pushing out look as good as possible. A gaming monitor does this by employing a higher refresh rate (the frequency at which your display is able to update the onscreen image every second), and a faster response time (how quickly your display can switch from one color to another).

Final Thoughts on the Best Budget Gaming Monitor

Ultimately, the best monitor for your gaming setup is one that complements both your existing PC and bank account. Samsung’s CRG5 Curved Gaming Monitor just about ticks all the boxes your average player could want, but if you’re not playing many graphically intense games, a cheaper option like the Acer Nitro VG240Y may be enough to meet your needs.

Related: Best Smart TVs of 2021 for Streaming and Gaming

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.

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