We analyzed 561 gaming monitors and here’s what we learned

A couple of years ago, we decided to perform a large-scale monitor study and learn the state of the gaming monitor market. That study is available here. Two years later (well, technically three years now), we’ve decided to conduct a new study, the results of which you can read below. The new study is way more extensive than the last one. The number of models analyzed went up from 276 to 561. We’ve also included some new info, such as curvature. Read on and learn the state of the monitor market in 2022. And if you want to read more about gaming monitors, check out our monitor section. It features lots of quality buying guides. It also includes lots of articles answering most of the potential questions you might have about PC monitors.

This gaming monitor study includes models from more than 20 monitor brands. Brands such as ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, Acer, Samsung, AOC, Dell, and others. Note that Gigabyte releases their monitors under two brands – Gigabyte and Aorus. For the purpose of this study, we’ve decided to group these under one brand: Gigabyte. Also, note that we only included monitors with a refresh rate of 144Hz and higher. Sure, you have 100Hz and 120Hz monitors out there that can be considered high refresh rate gaming monitors. However, for this study, we have decided to set the cutoff at 144Hz. After all, when talking about budget gaming monitors, 144Hz is usually the refresh rate taken as a baseline. Now, let’s kickstart the 2022 gaming monitor study with monitor resolution.

Resolution – 1080p is still dominating

According to the latest Steam Hardware Survey (December 2021 at the time of this writing), the most popular resolution among PC gamers is 1920 x 1080 or 1080p. And our results corroborate Steam data. 1080p monitors make up 54.55 percent of the monitors we analyzed. In other words, there are more 1080p gaming monitors than every other resolution combined. 1440p (2560 x 1440) resolution is second, found on 31 percent of the monitors included in our study. We have expected this, given that most gamers consider 1440p as the sweet spot for gaming these days.

The first thing that sticks out is that, compared to our 2019 gaming monitor study, 1080p resolution increased in popularity among monitor makers. It has risen from 53 percent in 2019 to almost 55 percent in 2022. A slight but noticeable bump, especially when you realize that this year’s study has more than double the number of monitors included. The second thing that’s quite interesting is that 4K gaming monitors aren’t in third place. Nope, the third most popular resolution, at least when it comes to gaming monitors, is 3440 x 1440. More than 6 percent of the surveyed monitors feature 1440p ultrawide resolution. In other words, ultrawide monitors are pretty popular among gamers, for a good reason. Based on our experience, single player games are super immersive when played on a large ultrawide display.

4K gaming monitors are in fourth place, making 4.63 percent of the included models. Still better than Steam, where only 2.35 percent of users included in the Steam hardware survey have a 4K monitor. As for other resolutions, the only one found on more than 1 percent of models (1.96 percent) is 2560 x 1080. Again, an ultrawide resolution. Less than two percent of the monitors included in the survey feature one of the other four resolutions. This data tells us that if you’re looking for a 144Hz monitor or faster, the lowest resolution you can get is 1080p. Also, it’s interesting to see that if we account for all ultrawide resolutions, ultrawide gaming monitors make more than 10 percent of the gaming monitor market.

Monitor Size – 27 inches is sweet spot for gaming and data confirms general consensus

Note – We’re using advertised sizes instead of actual panel sizes. This makes more sense since it massively decreases the number of categories and creates a better, easier-to-digest overview of the gaming monitor market.

These days, 27 inches is considered a sweet spot when it comes to the size of a gaming monitor. And our data shows that the majority of models fall into the 27-inch category. Speaking in numbers, we have 239 27-inch gaming monitors, or almost 43 percent of the total number. 32-inch models are in second place, making up almost 20 percent of the gaming monitor market. This is an interesting change compared to our previous gaming monitor study.

In 2019, second place was taken by 24-inch models, with 32-inch panels landing in third place. Here, we’re seeing a trend skewing towards larger panels considering that 24-inch and 32-inch panels swapped places. In 2022, 24-inch panels land on the third spot, with 93 models, or 16.6 percent of the total number. We believe this is a positive trend since larger monitors are (almost) always better for gaming.

Now, you could say that we could’ve merged 25-inch and 24-inch monitors into a single category. But since manufacturers advertise those models as having 25-inch panels, not 24-inch, we should look at the two sizes as separate categories. Anyway, 25-inch monitors are making up about 8.4 percent of the gaming monitor market, with 47 models offered in total. Another positive is seeing 34-inch ultrawide panels taking the fifth spot, with 32 models or 5.7 percent of the total number. It looks like gamers love the ultrawide gaming experience.

The five most popular panel sizes take almost 93 percent of the total market. The rest of the categories, thirteen in total, make up a bit over 7 percent of the whole market. In other words, technically, you have a broad range of choices in the gaming monitor market. But, in practice, you’re limited to just a handful of popular sizes. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a 27-inch monitor, you’ll be swarmed with options. On the flip side, if you’re looking for anything smaller than 24 inches, you only have six models to pick from in total.

Aspect Ratio – 9 out of 10 gaming monitors on the market are 16:9

As expected, 90 percent of the monitors included in the study feature the good old 16:9 aspect ratio. 16:9 is the standard among PC monitors and TVs for more than a decade now. And while more and more laptops, even gaming ones, feature 16:10 screens, desktop monitor manufacturers still prefer the 16:9 aspect ratio. The second most popular aspect ratio is 21:9 ultrawide. Finally, about one percent of models have super ultrawide aspect ratios – 32:10 and 32:9.

Panel Type – Most gaming monitors feature VA panels

By far, the most significant change to our previous gaming monitor study is the drastic drop in the number of TN monitors on the gaming market. While they accounted for a staggering 45 percent of the market in 2019, TN panels make only 8.6 percent of all gaming monitors in 2022. This is definitely a positive since, while they do have excellent motion handling, TN panels suffer from poor color quality and narrow viewing angles. Further, they aren’t suited for HDR content. Even the best TN gaming monitors out there, such as the legendary BenQ ZOWIE XL2546K, have average – at best – color reproduction. Not to mention the extremely high price for what’s offered.

IPS panels, which now make 42.2 percent of the gaming monitor market, can be as fast as the best TN panels while offering much better colors. If you want fast response times and solid color reproduction, get something like the ViewSonic Omni XG2431 instead of the XL2546K. Not only you’ll get much better colors and comparable response times, you’ll also pay much less for the IPS option.

Despite the massive rise in popularity of the IPS technology – IPS panels were present in only 14.4 percent of the monitors in our 2019 study – VA panels are on top. Monitors featuring VA panels are making almost 50 – 49.2 to be exact – of the gaming monitor market. A bit strange since VA panels have, on average, slower response times and worse color reproduction than IPS panels. But if we consider that most budget gaming monitors use VA technology, the popularity of VA gaming monitors starts to make sense. After all, budget options make up the bulk of almost every consumer product market, and the gaming monitor market isn’t an exception.

Refresh Rate – 144Hz is standard among gaming monitors

When it comes to refresh rate, 144Hz is by far the most popular, found on almost 48 percent of gaming monitors. While still the most popular option, the 144Hz refresh rate is way less prevalent than it was two years ago. Back then, it more than dominated the gaming monitor market, with almost 74 percent of all models featuring a 144Hz refresh rate. 165Hz refresh rate is in second place, found on 35.7 percent of models. This is a considerable increase compared to the previous study when 165Hz monitors made up only about 11 percent of the monitor market.

Next, despite giving the impression that they are becoming more popular 240Hz monitors kept the same market share of about 11 percent. That said, the last time we did the survey, the market had almost zero 1440p 240Hz options. Back then, virtually all 240Hz monitors had 1080p resolution. Also, 360Hz monitors have entered the market in the meantime and are now making 1.3 percent of the market. A healthy market share considering that 360Hz monitors are a niche targeting hardcore esports gamers who have lots of money to burn.

Do note that refresh rate (the number of times a monitor can refresh the image during a one-second interval) isn’t be-all-end-all when it comes to gaming monitors. A monitor can have an ultra-fast refresh rate. But if its response time – the lowest possible interval it takes for a panel to shift from one color to another, usually from black to white and then black again – plays a significant role when it comes to motion handling.

If you have, let’s say, a 240Hz monitor with a high average response time (let’s say 15 milliseconds), you will see a lot of ghosting and stuff like black smearing. In other words, the panel used will be too slow to follow the refresh rate. The reason is that 240Hz refresh rate means that the panel needs to have a response time of about four milliseconds. 240Hz equals about four complete refresh cycles during the one-second interval. In other words, the panel has to shift colors in four-millisecond windows to keep up with the refresh rate. Anything noticeably higher than that, and you will experience ghosting and/or black smearing.

And while most monitors have advertised response times of 1 or 2 milliseconds, the reality is different. This is why we highly recommend watching monitor reviews to find out whether a gaming monitor you’re interested in can handle its refresh rate. Also, do remember that a monitor’s response time doesn’t have to be 100 percent in line with its refresh rate. A slight discrepancy is okay since humans can’t notice the difference of a couple of milliseconds. But if the gap is large, like 15 milliseconds, the difference will be noticeable in the form of ghosting and/or black smearing.

PPI – Pixel density options are getting better

PPI or pixels per inch shows how many pixels a screen has relative to its size in inches. These days PPI of about 109 (or 108, depending on the source) is the sweet spot considering this is the PPI of 27-inch 1440p monitors. The good news is that 109 PPI value is the most popular pixel density option in 2022. We found it on 142 gaming monitors included in this survey. This corresponds to 2019 results (64 monitors with 109 PPI) since we’ve more than doubled the number of monitors included in the study.

The second most popular pixel density is 81 – found on 126 monitors. 81 PPI corresponds to 27-inch 1080p monitors. Now, this is less than ideal pixel density. Many users report they start seeing individual pixels on 27-inch 1080p monitors as long as they look at them from an average distance. The third most popular pixel density is 93/92 PPI which corresponds to 24-inch 1080p monitors. This is the lowest PPI we can recommend to most users. It’s not as high as what you’d get on a 27-inch 1440p panel, but it’s still relatively crisp and without individual pixels sticking like a sore thumb.

Higher PPI values are, of course, considered better. Many phones these days come with a PPI of 400 and higher but considering you’re looking at your monitor from a noticeably higher average distance than you’re looking at your phone, 109 or 93 PPI is good enough for most users. Especially when playing games where individual pixels are harder to spot than when reading something in a browser. Higher pixel density also means the need for higher resolution, and not all of us have GPUs that can run games at 4K and high frames per second. Hell, even today, not many GPUs can run games at 4K and 60fps or higher.

If you want the highest pixel density possible on a gaming monitor, look for 27-inch or 28-inch 4K gaming monitors. They feature PPI of 163 and 157, respectively. Both of these are noticeably crispier than 109. With that said, only about a dozen of the monitors we analyzed have a PPI of 157 and higher. On the flip side, we wouldn’t recommend getting a monitor with a pixel density of 69 PPI. This corresponds to 32-inch 1080p monitors.

Pixel density this low means you will notice individual pixels even when looking at the monitor from higher-than-average distances. This can be quite jarring, especially when on the desktop or when reading articles in a browser. Sadly, more than 30 monitors feature 69 PPI. As a general rule of thumb we recommend avoiding 32-inch, 1080p models if you’re looking for a gamer monitor or PC monitor in general.

VRR – Every single monitor comes with either G-Sync or FreeSync support

VRR (variable refresh rate) support is essential when talking about gaming monitors. VRR prevents screen tearing and allows gamers to enjoy their games with lower latency since they don’t have to use V-Sync. And great news here is that there’s not a single monitor that doesn’t support some form of VRR technology. Most of them support some form of FreeSync, an open VRR standard pushed by AMD.

Overall, more than 95 percent of monitors support some form of FreeSync. Nowadays, you have multiple FreeSync versions. The only important thing to know is that if you want VRR and HDR, look for a FreeSync Premium Pro monitor. Less than five percent of gaming monitors have G-Sync. G-Sync is a VRR standard pushed by Nvidia. It offers higher VRR quality but also comes with a higher price point since it requires physical modules. Finally, only about 1 percent of gaming monitors feature G-Sync Ultimate. This is the latest, premium G-Sync certification that includes HDR support. It’s not very popular since getting the certification is quite expensive. Only pricey, flagship monitors come with the G-Sync Ultimate certification.

Back in the day, Nvidia had limited its GPUs to G-Sync monitors. However, you can use Nvidia GPUs with FreeSync monitors for a while now. Almost every FreeSync monitor works with Nvidia monitors without issues. That said, the company does test specific monitors and gives G-Synch Compatible certification to those models. Almost 100 monitors that support some form of FreeSync are also G-Sync certified. But don’t worry. Even if a monitor doesn’t have G-Sync Compatible certification chances are its VRR features will work without issues with Nvidia GPUs. To be sure, check whether someone tested the FreeSync monitor you’re interested in with Nvidia GPUs before making the purchase.

Curvature – Curved monitors make up almost 50 percent of the gaming monitor market

While you may think that curved monitors are still a niche category, they make for 46 percent of the gaming monitor market. The number’s way higher than we expected. The most popular monitor curvature is 1500R, which is something of a middle ground when it comes to curved monitors. The second most popular rating is 1800R, a bit less pronounced curvature than 1500R. The third most popular rating is 1000R, representing an extreme curvature found on Samsung Odyssey G7 and G9 gaming monitors.

Bigger number here doesn’t mean higher curvature. When it comes to curved monitors, the curvature amount corresponds to the radius of a circle created if you’d arranged multiple monitors with the same curve, one next to another. So, a 1500R curvature corresponds to a circle with a radius of 1.5 meters. A 1000R curvature corresponds to a circle with a radius of 1 meter. The rating also tells you about the maximum suggested viewing distance. A 1000R curve equals a recommended viewing distance of one meter. 3600R equals a recommended viewing distance of 3.6 meters, and so on. In other words, if you’re using a monitor with a 1500R curve, it’s recommended to use it at a distance of up to 1.5 meters. 

The main reason for the rise of curved monitors is our vision. The human vision has a forward-facing arc field of view, and using curved monitors is more natural. Studies have shown multiple benefits of using curved monitors vs flat monitors. Benefits such as less eye strain, higher immersion, and less pronounced blurred-vision symptoms. These symptoms are especially pronounced when looking at flat ultrawide monitors. This is one of the main reasons why virtually every 34-inch and larger ultrawide monitor is curved. Using a curved monitor can also lead to better depth perception, higher immersion, and less distortion. But hey, you do you. If you’re using a flat monitor and don’t experience issues, or if you simply don’t like curved monitors, that’s also fine.

Brands – MSI replaced Acer as the brand with most choices

Our last gaming monitor survey showed that Acer was the most proficient gaming monitor brand. Its models made up almost 20 percent of the total number of monitors used in the study. However, this time, MSI took the gold medal with 73 models or about 13 percent of the total number of monitors used in the 2022 gaming monitor survey.

ASUS is second with 64 monitors (11.4 percent of total). Acer landed on the third spot with 61 monitors or about 11 percent. Surprisingly, Sceptre, a budget-oriented brand that’s not very popular outside certain territories, ended fourth with 42 gaming monitors. Finally, ViewSonic is the fifth most proficient gaming monitor brand, its 39 models accounting for 7 percent of the survey. When it comes to other popular brands, LG is in eighth place, Gigabyte is ninth, Samsung is the tenth most proficient gaming monitor brand, AOC is eleventh, and Dell is fourteenth.

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Senior Hardware Editor