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Last Update: Apr 18, 2019

Top 5 Cheap Gaming Monitors

Published 05:58 AM
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Gaming is a wonderful hobby, but it’s rarely a cheap one. Sometimes you just have to spend most of your cash on the rig itself, which doesn’t leave a lot left over for a monitor—or maybe you’re doing an entire gaming package on a budget, in which case I applaud your financial discipline.

As long as you’re willing to settle for a “low” resolution (i.e. full HD), there are a gazillion awesome gaming monitors to be had for less than $300. 🖥️ 💰

Many gamers prioritize response time and refresh rate over resolution anyway, and most of our top picks for budget-friendly screens positively nail those two things. Heck, the hardest part of putting together this buying guide was limiting our choices to just five monitors.

For this article, we’ve defined “budget-friendly” as under $300. Most of our top picks are well under that figure; monitors close to $300 compete in the “premium option” bracket. Bear in mind that, to a certain extent, you’re going to be limiting your choice of features when you need to stay in the lower end of the price spectrum.

Fear not, though—our top five budget gaming monitors may not be the best gaming monitors ever, but they’ll serve you well in your day-to-day Apex Legends matches, or in The Division 2’s Dark Zone. Around here, cheap doesn’t mean crappy.

1

Best Choice: ViewSonic VX2476

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ViewSonic has an impressive track record when it comes to budget-friendly monitors. The VX2476 is one of their best offerings to date.

Key Features

  • Slim and lightweight
  • Built-in blue light filter
  • HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA inputs

ViewSonic VX2476 Monitor Review

$140 for a 24” full HD display is a steal to begin with, but for that price, you’d expect to get a cheaper panel or a lackluster warranty. Not so with the VX2476—it comes with a highly viewable 178° LCD IPS panel and a rock-solid 3-year warranty. It even comes in 22, 23, 27, and 32-inch versions if 24” isn’t quite right for you, and all of them (except the 27”) are priced excellently.

If you don’t want to go over your budget but really want to get the aforementioned screen size, check out the best 27-inch gaming monitor available.

There are a few other nice-to-have features bundled in, too. The VX2476 has a built-in blue light filter to reduce eye strain, flicker reduction technology, and an ultra-slim lightweight design. The refresh rate and response time—75Hz and 4ms respectively—both earn a B+ from us.

If you were judging it in comparison to monitors that cost twice as much, it would still be a solid contender, but in light of its high degree of affordability, the VX2476 is a clear winner for “best overall.”

The only thing we can think of to complain about is the fact that this display is “only” 1920 x 1080. Full HD is gradually moving towards obsolescence, but it’s still a perfectly usable resolution and will be for years to come. This complaint is a more legitimate one when directed at some of the more expensive monitors in this guide (like the next one).

+Pros
  • Very affordable
  • IPS panel for wide viewing angles
  • Solid 3-year warranty
-Cons
  • Only 1920 x 1080, but that’s not really a “con”
2

Best Quality: Asus VG248QE

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ASUS has long been a major player in the premium gaming accessories market, and with superb products like the VG248QE 24” 1920 x 1080 monitor, it’s not hard to see why.

Key Features

  • Beautiful range of rich colors
  • Ready for 3D games and movies
  • 3-year ASUS Rapid Replacement warranty

Asus VG248QE Monitor Review

Yes, 24” is kind of a small screen in 2019, and yes, 1920 x 1080 hasn’t been an ultra-gorgeous resolution for some time, but the ASUS VG248QE brings plenty more to the table to justify its $260 price tag. First and foremost, note the 144Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time; neither could get much better.

Neither ghosting nor input lag should ever be a problem. If you’ve got a newer GPU (say, a good 1080 Ti card), try to view the sorta-low resolution as a good thing—you’ll probably have more than enough graphical horsepower to get near that upper limit of 144 frames per second.

The VG248QE has a hefty, sturdy stand that tilts up and down. It also rotates 90° to enter portrait mode, which is handy for some artistic professionals and for gamers who want to line up 3-5 of these things to make a multi-monitor portrait array that will totally work with only some games and with ~50% consistency.

We’ve been clear throughout this article that 1920 x 1080 isn’t a bad resolution, even by modern standards, but like all other statements about all other things, that one has to be evaluated in the right context. Full HD is fine and great for a monitor that costs under $200 or so.

In this case, we think the price is a bit too high for the resolution (or that the resolution is too low for the price). After all, you can find 2560 x 1440 displays with similar features for about the same price.

Lastly, we can’t help but shake our heads at ASUS’s use of the totally meaningless marketing term, “80,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.” That means exactly nothing; in fact, “dynamic contrast ratio” could describe one of a number of different static contrast ratios, which is the only one you should care about.

In this case, it translates to about 1000:1, which is on the low end of okay. ASUS is using a huge number to make a so-so tech spec sound better than it really is, and that’s not cool.

+Pros
  • Stellar refresh rate and response time
  • Adjustable stand tilts and rotates 90°
-Cons
  • 1920 x 1080 resolution seems low for the price
  • Alleged “80,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio” is actually more like 1000:1
3

Best Value: BenQ Zowie RL2455

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If you’re both on a budget and into competitive gaming, BenQ has you covered with the Zowie RL2455.

Key Features

  • Customizable Color Vibrance technology
  • Useful RTS, FPS, and fighting game presets
  • Flicker reduction technology

BenQ Zowie RL2455 Monitor Review

We know what you’re thinking: why does the “best value” option cost more than the “best overall” winner? At $170 vs. $140, it’s a fair question.

We think the BenQ Zowie RL2455 gives you the best value for your dollar in terms of gaming features; it has better pros and worse cons, whereas the ViewSonic VX2476 is a more middle-of-the-road display that’s not bad (and not superb) at any one thing.

The RL2455 offers a stellar 1ms response time, but only a decent 60Hz refresh rate. It’s been designed with competitive e-sports in mind—namely shooters, real-time strategy games, MOBAs, and fighting games. It even has pre-configured display presets for each genre.

It makes sense that BenQ would skimp (a little) on the refresh rate in favor of response time, which is more important for highly competitive titles.

The most obvious and potentially serious drawback with this monitor is a higher-than-normal occurrence of dead or stuck pixels.

Several Amazon reviewers mentioned this problem, but none (that we could find) had anything to say about warranty claims, so it’s unclear how BenQ responds to and fixes such issues. Buy at your own risk—maybe with a third-party extended warranty.

+Pros
  • 1ms response time
  • Low price
-Cons
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • Prone to dead/stuck pixels
4

Best Brightness: Acer G257HU

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The Acer G257HU is the only 2560 x 1440 gaming monitor that made our top five, so if extra pixels matter to you, go check this one out before the price goes up.

Key Features

  • WQHD IPS panel for crisp 178° viewing angles
  • DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort inputs (one of each)
  • Slim and lightweight

Acer G257HU Monitor Review

Competition for the “best premium option” title was fierce, and the Asus VG248QE only barely beat out the equally excellent Acer G257HU, which goes for $251.26 as of right now.

Which monitor you prefer will likely depend on how much you care about pixels—this one is a 2560 x 1440 16:9 WQHD display that looks better than Asus’s champion, but doesn’t perform at quite the same level.

It has a 4ms response ratewhich is great response time. In fact, it’s a little better than most IPS panels can manage (5ms), even if the Asus VG248QE (1ms) blows it away. The Acer G257HU’s 60Hz refresh rate is just okay; the Asus (144Hz) definitely wins there, too.

However, the Acer does display prettier images—provided you’re not using it in total darkness— in spite of having exactly the same static contrast ratio as its competitor. Bright colors look much better here than they do on the Asus, but blacks look a little worse, especially in dim lighting. In combination with the Acer’s significantly higher resolution, this makes it look noticeably better.

As an added bonus, the G257HU is (allegedly) super-duper efficient when it comes to power consumption. Acer claims that it draws up to 63% less power than comparable monitors, though that’s a hard claim to evaluate without some fairly rigorous extended testing.

Even if you’re skeptical about your long-term electricity savings, the Acer G257HU is nonetheless a superb mid-tier gaming monitor. By the way, if you like WQHD and ultrawide displays, check out our review of some of the best ultrawide gaming monitors.

+Pros
  • 4ms response time is better than most IPS displays
  • Great picture quality
  • Impressively low power consumption
-Cons
  • Maximum 60Hz refresh rate
5

Best Adjustability: AOC G2460PF 

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If you want a highly adjustable full HD monitor with superior gaming performance, the AOC G2460PF would be a great alternative to the ViewSonic VX2476.

Key Features

  • AMD FreeSync
  • VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort inputs
  • Raises, tilts, and rotates 90°

AOC G2460PF Monitor Review

A full HD gaming monitor with a 1ms response time and a 144Hz refresh rate for $200 is already a pretty sweet deal; anything you get on top of that (like AMD FreeSync) is basically just a bonus. The wide variety of input ports and the hefty stand (which is portrait-mode compatible) round out a nice set of features on a generally excellent monitor.

Our recommendation of the G2460PF does come with a few caveats, though. It’s a TN panel, which has a more limited viewing angle than the IPS panels that you’ll see in the majority of gaming monitors.

In the (fairly distant) past, you had to view a TN panel pretty much head-on in order to see anything at all, but they’ve improved somewhat. In this case, the real viewing angle seems to be about 120°.

If you plug this monitor in and start using it without adjusting anything, you might be displeased. Its default color settings look too bright—even washed out, in some cases. If you spend some time fiddling with the color settings manually, you should be able to get it to look pretty (most of the pre-defined settings aren’t much better than the default, so don’t bother).

Despite those two potentially divisive complaints, we still wholeheartedly recommend the AOC G2560PF as an all-around stupendous gaming monitor.

+Pros
  • Awesome 1ms response time and 144Hz refresh rate
  • Highly adjustable stand
  • Killer price-to-performance ratio
-Cons
  • TN panel means narrower viewing angles
  • Colors may look too bright or washed out on certain settings

Budget Gaming Monitor Buying Guide

There’s a lot to know about gaming monitors, and let’s face it, manufacturers’ marketing departments aren’t always completely transparent about the advantages and limitations of their products. In this buying guide, we’ll break down seven of the most important things to evaluate in a gaming monitor: refresh rate, response time, resolution, aspect ratio, HDR, contrast ratio, and panel type.

By the time you’re done here, you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to make an informed purchase amidst a dizzying amount of information.

Refresh Rate & Response Time

We haven’t done extensive research on this specific question, but we think it’s fairly safe to say that refresh rate and response time are probably the two biggest things gamers tend to care about in a monitor. (They’re certainly pushed hard enough in marketing to make us think so.)

Response time is a pretty simple concept—it’s how long it takes for a monitor to register an input, such as a button press on a controller or keyboard. The delay between your actions and seeing the result of your actions is obviously an important factor in gaming, especially in any kind of PvP setting. 5ms is considered “pretty good” for gaming, while 1-2 ms is awesome and 10ms or slower is problematic.

monitor display

The refresh rate is a little more complicated. This term describes how often your monitor refreshes itself, i.e. re-draws an image. It’s related to your GPU’s maximum frame rate, but it’s not the same thing.

If your monitor’s refresh rate is 75Hz, you’ll never see more than 75 frames per second, even if you have one of the best GPUs for gaming is capable of more. Think of refresh rate as an upper limit on your frame rate. Many gamers today consider 60Hz to be a minimally acceptable refresh rate, with 100Hz being excellent and 144Hz being top-tier.

Resolution & Aspect Ratio

Resolution and aspect ratio are related to one another, but it’s a somewhat complicated and nonlinear relationship.

Resolution describes the total number of pixels a monitor displays, expressed as a length x width measurement. 1920 x 1080, for example, means 1,920 columns and 1,080 rows of pixels, for a total pixel count of 2,073,600 (or some multiple thereof).

A big chunk—maybe even a majority—of budget-friendly gaming monitors in 2019 are 1920 x 1080, simply because it’s a steadily aging technology that’s no longer as expensive to produce as it once was.

monitor with a space background

Aspect ratio is simply an expression of a monitor’s length and width expressed as… well, a ratio. As such, any given aspect ratio encompasses multiple different resolutions.

16:9 is still the most common aspect ratio for gaming monitors and televisions, although 16:10 and 21:9 displays are both growing in popularity. (You’ll notice that 1920/16 and 1080/9 both equal 120; for every sixteen columns of pixels in a 1920 x 1080 monitor, there are nine rows of pixels.) Other common 16:9 resolutions include 1600 x 900, 2560 x 1440, and 3840 x 2160 (although there are many more).

When shopping for a gaming monitor, ensure that you’re looking at resolutions and aspect ratios appropriate for what you want to do. If you’re putting together a multi-monitor setup and you intend to run games across more than one screen, all of them must support the same resolution. It’s also important to understand that certain resolutions (i.e. certain levels of image quality) don’t exist in certain aspect ratios.

For example, you can have a 4K display or an ultrawide one, but you can’t have both in the same monitor (at least not currently). True ultrawide displays are 21:9 and either 3440 x 1440 or 2560 x 1080, both of which contain fewer pixels than 4K and are thus not quite as sharp. The common agreement is that the best 4K gaming monitors have better visuals.

Whatever your priorities are, you should pop into the settings menus of some of your favorite games and ensure that at least most of them support the resolutions and aspect ratios you want in your next display. Not all games support all combinations, but 1920 x 1080 probably isn’t going anywhere for at least another 5-10 years, so that’s definitely a safe bet for the budget-conscious shopper.

HDR, Contrast Ratio, & Panel Type

Simply put, HDR (high dynamic range) is kind of like automatic real-time photoshop. TVs and monitors with this feature process the images differently, with respect to brightness and contrast.hdr monitor

The end result is that both very bright and very dark areas of an image are leveled and clarified, and the viewer’s ability to distinguish fine detail in those areas is noticeably increased. It’s a handy feature to have in a gaming monitor, especially for stealth and horror games, which tend to be quite dark.

Contrast ratio describes the difference in intensity between the darkest blacks and the brightest whites in an image. In effect, a higher contrast ratio means the screen can display more subtle variations of colors. Overall, images will look sharper and colors will appear richer and more vibrant. A stellar contrast ratio (say, 3000:1 or higher) can often do more to make your games look beautiful than a higher resolution can, all else being equal.

Sadly, contrast ratios greater than 1000:1 or 1500:1 can be tough to find in monitors under $300 or so. Beware the phrase “dynamic contrast ratio;” it really doesn’t mean anything and can be calculated in about ten different ways so that marketers can come up with the biggest possible number. A static contrast ratio of 1000:1 is often considered minimally acceptable for a gaming display.

monitor on the table

Gaming monitors can be built with a number of different types of panels. In the interest of brevity, we’ll give you a quick rundown of the four most common types you’re likely to see today.

  • TN stands for “twisted nematic.” These were the first LCD displays; they showed up in the 1980s. They offer superior refresh rates and response times at the cost of poor contrast ratios and viewing angles.
  • VA stands for “vertical alignment.” They were the second generation of LCD technology and they’re the true middle-of-the-road panels. They’re neither great nor terrible at anything.
  • IPS means “in-plane switching.” With exceptional viewing angles and relatively high marks in most other categories, they make for excellent gaming monitors.
  • OLED, or “organic light emitting diode” panels, are likely what your smartphone has in its screen. They’re top-tier for contrast ratios, but also top-tier in price. Refresh rates and response times range from average to good.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions Google gets asked about budget gaming monitors on a daily basis, as well as our answers to them.

How much is a good gaming monitor?

If you move your eyeballs up a few inches, the “cost” column of that handy table is a good place to start. Whether or not a gaming monitor is “good” really depends on what you expect it to do. Are you willing to sacrifice all other considerations in the name of the best response times and refresh rates you can find, or is a high contrast ratio more important to you?

Very broadly speaking, it’s possible to find all-around decent gaming monitors starting around $150—most of our top five choices in this article sell for about that much or a little more, after all. For monitors that truly excel at everything, prices start to rise fast—to $1,500 or more.

What size monitor should I get for gaming?

24” and 32” are among the most popular screen sizes for a number of reasons. Gamers not looking to spend more than they have to often settle on 24” displays because it’s not too expensive to get solid response times, refresh rates, and contrast ratios in a small-ish monitor.

Dell Monitor

Once you start shopping for significantly bigger screens, prices are going to increase sharply unless you’re willing to skimp a little on some of those other parameters. Basically, there’s affordability, screen size, and gaming performance, and in most cases, you can pick two.

Which monitor brand is best for gaming?

Almost every manufacturer out there has produced a bunch of excellent gaming monitors, as well as some that kinda suck. While a manufacturer’s overall reputation is certainly important to consider, we’d encourage you to carefully evaluate monitors primarily on a case-by-case basis.

That being said, ASUS, Samsung, and Dell all have four- or five-star reputations when it comes to the quality, durability, and longevity of their products (but beware ASUS’s customer service and warranty departments, which are markedly less awesome).

ViewSonic makes generally reliable and surprisingly affordable gaming monitors, while BenQ is something of a polarizing force among gamers, who tend to either love or hate their cheap (but sometimes cheaply made) displays.

Is a monitor better for gaming than a TV?

Even as recently as about five years ago, the answer to that question would have been “yes, almost always.” TVs have come a long way, though, and television manufacturers seem to have finally caught on to the fact that a huge percentage of their customers are gamers.

Many TVs come with better response rates and refresh times than they used to (neither is especially important for watching movies, so historically, they haven’t mattered too much).

Even budget-friendly modern TVs frequently have a “Game Mode” feature, which shaves off some (usually barely noticeable) image processing in order to reduce input lag. You should be extra diligent during the research phase to ensure the TV you’re looking at has the features you care most about for gaming, but nowadays, it’s certainly possible for televisions and monitors to be equally great for that purpose.

Does 60Hz mean 60fps?

60Hz means a maximum of 60 frames per second. If your GPU isn’t capable of rendering that many frames consistently, your TV or monitor can’t make up the difference—but if your GPU is drawing 90 frames per second, you’re only going to get 60 of them.


Conclusion

Once upon a time, paying less than $300 for a gaming monitor almost inevitably meant settling for a piece of junk, but a (relatively) free market in tech has brought you a plethora of incredible products at totally affordable prices. Give it another five years and it will probably be hard to find a gaming monitor under $300 with response rates/refresh times worse than 1ms/144Hz.

Any one of the five excellent displays we’ve curated for you here would serve you well (and if you’re married, your spouse will find it hard to get mad about the price tag). Go forth, purchase frugally, and most importantly—game well.


Sources:

  1. Ronald Kim, Refresh Rate (Hz) Explained, Benq, November 17th, 2015
  2. Ruri Ranbe, Square vs. Widescreen Computer Monitor, Chron
  3. Aspect Ratio, Wikipedia
  4. How to Clean the LCD Panel on your Dell Laptop, All-In-One Computer or Monitor, Dell Support
  5. Gouldian Finch, Monitor Curvature, All the Info You Need About Curved Monitors, ViewSonic, August 16th, 2018
  6. David Nield, Everything You Need to Know About 4K Gaming, Gizmodo, June 14th, 2017
  7. How to Connect a Monitor to a PC, Dell Support
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