Gaming Monitor vs. Regular Monitor: What’s the Difference?

By Robert David Orr / Last updated: Nov 21, 2022

If you’ve been looking for a new computer monitor, you’ve probably been asking, “What’s the difference between a gaming monitor and a regular monitor?” With many different types of computer displays to choose from, it’s easy to get confused.

A gaming monitor is designed to streamline gaming by prioritizing fast refresh rates and short response times to maximize the gaming experience. Normal monitors usually have more accurate colors, but since fast response times and refresh rates aren’t needed as much are slower.

Your first step should be to decide how you will primarily use your monitor. If you will play a lot of high-intensity PC games, a gaming monitor is probably the right choice for you.

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What Is the Difference Between a Regular Monitor and a Gaming Monitor?

Are gaming desks ergonomic?

Depending on how you use a monitor, you might not immediately notice any significant differences. Your personal experience with both a normal monitor and a gaming monitor might be pretty much the same.

However, there are some important differences that set gaming monitors apart from normal monitors.

As the name indicates, a gaming monitor is most suited to the ultra fast paced world of computer gaming, and designed to maximize the a user’s gaming experience. Gaming monitors are manufactured specifically with higher refresh rates and faster response times than average monitors on the market because every millisecond counts!

What Is Refresh Rate On Computer Monitors?

A monitor’s refresh rate refers to the number of times the display refreshes each second.

Video games are run at a certain frame rate and are constantly sending different images to the display. A faster refresh rate means a better overall visual experience.

Gaming Monitor Regular Monitor
Refresh Rate 120-360Hz 60Hz

Regular monitors have lower refresh rates. While 60 hertz is fine for most tasks, certain demanding games require more.

The maximum refresh rate any modern gaming monitor can achieve is currently 360Hz. However, 144Hz and above is fast enough for current displays to meet video game needs.

Competitive gamers will sometimes opt for 240Hz monitors that can keep up with even the most intense, demanding games.

Faster Response Times

When it comes to response times, lower is better. A monitor’s response time refers to the time it takes for a pixel to change color from black to white.

For gamers who constantly have moving objects on screen, using a monitor with the lowest response time is essential. Those who only need a monitor for tasks outside gaming can deal with higher response times.

Gaming Monitor Regular Monitor
Response Time 1-5ms 10ms or below

Currently, the lowest response time is one millisecond. It’s important to keep in mind that only certain display technologies can achieve the 1ms response time.

Keep in mind that most users probably won’t notice a difference between one and two milliseconds. During a high-intensity online game, though, one and 10 milliseconds can get to the point where it’s noticeable and can affect your in-game performance.

Images on the display can blur onscreen or fade out while the pixels work to change colors causing annoying motion artifacts.

When Is a Gaming Monitor Better?

black flat screen computer monitor with keyboard and mouse

Despite its name, a gaming monitor isn’t just for gaming. While certain specifications are specifically designed to cater to the gaming experience, gaming monitors can also be used for other things.

Playing Video Games

A dedicated gaming monitor is obviously going to create a better gaming experience. Today, PC game developers are releasing more and more demanding games.

Gaming monitors, as noted, run faster and more smoothly when playing intense games, giving users an edge during competitive gaming.

Rendering Videos

Both gaming and video streaming manifest moving images on screen, so a gaming monitor can manage them both well.

However, it’s important to note that gaming monitors often have less color accuracy than multimedia monitors. That’s because a gaming monitor will prioritize response time over color accuracy.

What Makes a Good Gaming Monitor?

A Woman Playing Video Game

While there are plenty of gaming monitors on the market, they aren’t all created equally. Some monitors will have great specs and yet fall short in other areas.

It’s important to look at a monitor’s entire list of specifications before purchasing it to ensure it will do the job you need.

Professional gamers, for example, need gaming displays with crisp images. They also require the lowest response time and maximum refresh rate for motion blur reduction.

Low Input Lag

Input lag refers to the time between when a computer’s graphics processing unit generates an image and when that image appears on the external display.

Onscreen lag can be detrimental when playing games with others online. Enough lag and you or your team can get wiped out without any warning.

Low input lag sounds a lot like fast response time, but it’s not quite the same. The ideal input lag should be between two and four milliseconds. Like response time, the lower, the better.

High Resolution

Resolution is important for all monitor types. Display resolution refers to the maximum number of pixels a screen can display at any time. Typically, gaming monitors have a lower native resolution than regular monitors.

The higher a monitor’s resolution, the more demanding the display is on your computer’s hardware. Since games require so much from your PC’s hardware already, it makes sense that gaming displays would prioritize other aspects above resolution.

Still, you want to find a monitor with a good balance between resolution, frame rate, and response time. In most cases, 2560×1440 (1440p) resolution, or QHD, is a good high resolution that high-end graphics cards can still reach at more than 60Hz.

Screen Size

Screen size goes along with resolution. The larger the screen size, the more demanding high resolution is going to be on your graphics card.

Most gaming monitors are between 27 and 32 inches. These sizes paired with 1440p resolution are sharp enough for most gamers to enjoy the look of their gaming sessions.

Additionally, higher resolution can put a huge strain on graphics processing systems. That means that to get quality parts for your gaming PC it can be expensive, and such expenses might be too much for most people.

Recommended Monitors for Gaming

There are several monitors for gaming on the market. The following are highly rated. With such a wide range, there is something to suit everyone’s needs.

Gaming monitors are quite a bit more expensive than typical computer monitors because they include more technical and advanced specifications. However, you can find a monitor with decent resolution and excellent refresh rate and response time to fit your budget.

Gaming Monitors: Flat, Curved, Ultrawide

Gaming Monitors: Flat, Curved, Ultrawide

If you prefer extra width and a more immersive experience, you might prefer the extra width of an ultrawide monitor.

Ultrawide gaming monitors provide wide viewing angles that other monitors can’t. Ultrawide monitors provide the width of dual monitors without the annoying bevel that splits your visual display down the middle.

Because we humans have to turn our heads from side to side to see extreme viewing angles, playing on a wide flat screen can cause neck pain and eye strain.

That’s why a curved screen design is best for ultrawide monitors. Flat monitors are fine for monitors with 16:9 aspect ratios, but 21:9 monitors are always better with a curved display.

How Does a Regular Monitor Compare to a Gaming Monitor?

black flat screen computer monitor on brown wooden desk

In some areas, normal monitors outclass gaming monitors. For example, the color quality and color accuracy are usually better on a normal monitor.

These monitors have slower response times and don’t prioritize refresh rates as heavily as gaming displays. So, they can be more color accurate without draining the hardware.

Gaming monitors and normal monitors are different, but they also share some similarities.

Similar Resolutions

As I mentioned above, gaming monitors aren’t going to have higher resolutions. Therefore, gaming monitors and normal screen displays will usually have resolutions in the same range.

Similar Aspect Ratios

Aspect ratios between the two types of monitors will also be the same. The average aspect ratio of any monitor is 16:9. The ultrawide aspect ratio is 21:9.

Useful for Tasks Other than Gaming

Both gaming displays and normal displays are good for everyday tasks. While there will be a large difference when it comes to intensive gaming, a casual gamer, web surfer, or data analyst isn’t likely to see it.

Recommended Monitors for Regular Work

turned-on flat screen computer monitor with speakers and keyboard

The following five monitors are all highly rated.

You can see that monitor resolution varies wildly. However, the refresh rate hovers around the 60- to the 75-hertz range. For regular, everyday tasks, this is plenty.

Are Gaming Monitors Worth It?

Are Gaming Monitors Worth It?

If you are playing a competitive game on your PC, a dedicated monitor for gaming is absolutely worth it. Normal monitors cannot match the same response time and refresh rate necessary for fast-paced, intensive gaming.

If you don’t plan to use your monitor for gaming specifically, the high price tag might not be worth it.

Related Question: Is it better to use a gaming monitor or a TV?

Some 4K TVs on the market today can provide 120Hz refresh rates. This is the minimum you should look for when playing most high-intensity competitive games. However, gaming monitors can reach much higher refresh rates.

To determine whether you should use a TV or a gaming monitor comes down to your specific needs. If you are gaming competitively, a gaming monitor is still going to be the best bet. It will have a faster response time and a higher refresh rate.

However, a 4K TV will usually have sharper image quality, better color reproduction, and an overall larger display size. man in red shirt watching tv

Next Steps

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Robert David Orr

I'm an old school gamer from way back as a kid of the 80s - My first console was the Commodore 64. Since then, I've been gaming on everything from PC games to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the Xbox One. Learn more.

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