Whenever you see a device with a gamer tag attached to it, it’s only natural that you’ll be expecting high-end specs and a pageant for a very wicked-looking exterior. Most of the time, that’s a pretty accurate assumption.
When it comes to gamers, one cannot deny that they need powerful PCs to run their games at the highest video settings, run them smoothly at 120 FPS, or both. But then again, gaming is a very visually-oriented hobby, and the monitor you are using plays an important role in immersing yourself in your virtual worlds.
In the article below we will be looking over the most used screen resolutions, and we will be discussing which is indeed the best for gamers. To that end, we will be balancing out pros and cons, and at the end when we’ll draw the line, we hope that you can finally decide which is best for you.
What Are the Most Common Resolutions Used in Gaming?
As of the writing of this article, there are 6 different resolutions used in mainstream gaming monitors, with some being more popular than others, and these are the following:
While we already covered the use of 2K vs 4K monitors, this article will look over all of the most commonly used resolutions and expand upon them.
720p is also called HD-ready or standard HD and has a standard screen resolution of 1280×720 progressively displayed pixels or 0.9 Megapixels. It is the oldest of the screen resolutions on our list, and while it is slowly losing terrain for the bigger ones, it still holds an important market, especially for those that use older monitors, or those gaming on older TV sets.
The standard aspect ratio is 16:9, and because of this, it is also known as widescreen HDTV.
1080p is also called Full HD or FHD and has a standard screen resolution of 1920×1080 progressively displayed pixels or 2.1 Megapixels. This particular resolution is the most popular one on our list based on market share, and other than the actual number of pixels involved (and therefore the superior image clarity), there aren’t any other differences between it and 720p since, for example, both of them share an aspect ratio of 16:9.
The widespread popularity of the format is due to its application in pretty much every form of media imaginable. For example, the 1080p standard includes television broadcasts, Blu-ray Discs, smartphones, YouTube videos and Netflix TV shows and movies, TVs and projectors, PC monitors and gaming consoles.
Even small handheld devices such as cameras, phones and tablets support the 1080p format, even the entry-level ones.
1440p is also called QHD (Quad HD) or WQHD (Wide Quad HD) is a term used to describe an entire host of displays that have a vertical resolution of 1440 pixels.
Common 1440p resolutions include:
- 5120 × 1440
- 3440 × 1440
- 3200 × 1440
- 3120 × 1440
- 3040 × 1440
- 2960 × 1440
- 2880 × 1440
- 2560 × 1440
- 2304 × 1440
- 2160 × 1440
- 1920 × 1440
Because of this great variety of possible resolutions, the display ratio can vary greatly anywhere between 4:3 to 32:9, and the Megapixel value can be anywhere between 7.37 and 2.76 Megapixels.
However, the most common 1440p resolution is that of 2560 × 1440 with a display ratio of 16:9 and 3.69 Megapixels, and it can usually be found in smartphone displays, and for PC monitors and console gaming monitors or TVs, especially due to it being a transitioning resolution that is somewhere between 1080p and 4K.
1440p is the most widely used screen resolution in gaming monitors, precisely because of the wide variety of screen ratios that it offers, especially since you may have noticed have gamers have a soft spot for ultra-wide and maybe even curved monitors that can give them advantages in shooters or RTS games.
In fact, many GPU manufacturers specifically target and optimize their products to create GPUs that work perfectly with 1440p monitors.
Just as with 1440p, 2K is a term that describes an entire family of displays, all of which have a vertical resolution of around 2000 pixels, and the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) defines 2K as having a standard of 2048 × 1080 pixels.
Other common 2K formats include:
- Native resolution: 2048 × 1080
- Flat cropped: 1998 × 1080
- CinemaScope cropped: 2048 × 858
One thing worth noting about 2K and 1080p is that. although 1920 × 1080 does indeed have a horizontal resolution of around 2000 pixels, most media usually treat the 1080p and 2K resolutions separately, and the DCI along with other industry standards do not recognize 1080p as a 2K resolution either.
Note: While 2K is indeed present in some monitors and supported by certain games, they are too few in numbers to make talking about it worthwhile.
4K is the most heavily discussed resolution nowadays, since it is available everywhere in all forms of digital content, from standard online media to the common smartphone screen. Besides, it is slowly gaining popularity as being the most popular screen resolution on the market, coming in close second to 1080p.
4K refers to any screen that has a horizontal resolution of around 4000 pixels, and it is also known as Ultra HD (UHD), although the DCI does have two different resolutions as far as 4K is concerned, and it depends on the type of media in question:
- Television and consumer media: 3840 × 2160 (4K UHD)
- Movie projection industry: 4096 × 2160 (DCI 4K)
8K resolution the highest resolution defined in the UHDTV standard, and it refers to an image or display with a horizontal resolution of around 8000 pixels, the most commonly used being 7680 × 4320.
While 8K devices already exist, the format is still relatively new to the market, and the hardware that can allow efficient 8K playback in gameplay hardly exists, except if you are talking about the latest GPUs that Nvidia has launched, but even they can have a difficult time rendering modern-day games with the video settings at ultra-high, at 8K resolution and at least 60 FPS.
Which Resolution Should I Get for Gaming?
Are More Pixels Worth It?
720p vs 1080p
Before starting to talk about whether more pixels means a better image, one thing worth mentioning for anyone looking to buy a new monitor or TV is that they should stay away from 720p ones for good.
For starters, you’ll barely find any new devices that are of that resolution, and they are only really worth it if you’re only ever planning on playing really older titles that would look just sad on higher resolution displays, games like Diablo II, Heroes III, Age of Empires, and more.
That being said, a 1080p monitor is a minimum of where you should start your browsing queries, especially since producing them has reached a point where you can actually get a really good one for around $100, and some of the really good ones come with features lunch as AMD-Sync or Nvidia G-Sync to help reduce screen tearing.
Even console gamers can rely on a good old 1080p monitor, especially if they still play on the Xbox One, and they work well even with the most affordable gaming GPUs.
As mentioned earlier in our article, while 1080p is the entry-level resolution, 1440p is THE most popular gaming resolution, with monitors of all shapes and sizes using 1440p as their main point of reference.
You get more pixels which means that the image will be clearer, and yet the load that rendering 1440p content is not so high, so you don’t need the latest GPUs either, and even if they do, the upgrades won’t be that high anyway.
If we’re talking about visuals alone, 4K is on an entirely different level compared to our other entries, and anyone that will buy such a monitor will instantly see the difference, especially when all the game’s settings will be set to ultra-high and you can clearly see every single blade of grass while playing something like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Sure, you will need a monster PC to run 4K content at reasonable FPS levels, but if you already have a powerful PC, then 4K is indeed the best resolution for a monitor that you should aim to.
8K monitors do exist, and since they have twice the number of pixels as 4K ones, this also translates into much better image quality.
Unfortunately, as of the writing of this article, there are no GPUs on the market that can render modern-day games in 8K at even 60 FPS, so you’ll just have to use the monitor to watch 8K movies, while playing the games at more manageable resolutions, such as 1440p or 4K.
Do You Have the Hardware to Render It?
Most modern-day gaming PCs (and even some non-gaming PCs for that matter) can render games in 1080p without a problem, so unless you have a desktop that is made somewhere around 2015, you can upgrade to a 1080p monitor without having to worry too much.
1440p gaming monitors usually come with above-average refresh rates, and even average GPUs can handle the resolution without a problem, which in turn eliminates blurring and tearing which can really be off-putting in fast-paced games such as shooters.
One last reason why upgrading to a 1440p monitor is recommended is that because there isn’t that much of a difference between it and 1080p, you can easily check out whether your PC could handle it.
Simply observe how it is currently handling 1080p content, and use a reliable benchmark tool to see by how much (if at all), will the video performance go down once you make the switch.
Jumping from 1080p or even 1440p to 4K is not as easy as it sounds, since we’re basically talking about rendering about 4 times the number of pixels, and while the difference in image quality is indeed astronomical, so is the cost of a PC that can render it efficiently.
For example, you need a real space-age PC to run 4K games at ultra-high settings, since even the RTX 2080 Ti can struggle with rendering 4K content, and since gamers need to find a fine line between performance and visuals, 120 FPS on a 1440p will beat 15 FPS on a 4K monitor every single day of the week.
If you’re also looking to purchase a new GPU but have no idea where to start, we’ve already covered an article listing the best gaming GPUs that you can buy, and while none of the affordable ones can handle 8K, most of them can easily handle 4K of less.
However, if your budget isn’t so flexible as to allow the purchase of both a new monitor and a GPU, you can always follow a few simple tricks to increase your FPS in gaming.
The PlayStation 5 supports 8K graphics, and so does the Xbox Series X, and PC users that want to game at 8K will have to buy the Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3090 which promises to enable 8K 60 fps HDR gaming, recording and streaming with ShadowPlay on PCs.
That being said, if you don’t have the hardware or the budget to back up an 8K display, then the only ones that are currently worth it are TVs and those solely for watching 8K content over the Internet.
Is It Cost-Efficient?
The first thing you need to consider when buying a new gaming monitor, and even upgrading to a new resolution bracket, are the costs that will be involved, and we’re not talking only about the cost of the monitor itself.
For example, while 720p, 1080p and 1440p may be in somewhat of the same price range, the jump to a 4K monitor is quite sudden, with even entry-level models having a price tag of around $250.
Add the fact that you’ll most likely have to invest in a $1500 GPU if you’re looking for 4K gaming at ultra-high settings and 60 FPS and you realise that there’s also a big hole in your budget.
Let’s not forget that more resource-intensive activities such as rendering 4K games also means a high electric bill, and maybe even investing in a better cooling system for your PC, or maybe even an entirely new case.
As far as 8K monitors and their prices are concerned, we’ve already established that they have yet to find their place on the gaming market, since they are very hard to find, and they require an enormous initial investment.
For example, the few manufacturers that do have 8K monitors on the market have them at well over $1500. Thus, if you don’t have at least $3000-3500 for both an 8K monitor and the only GPU that can render 8K content, don’t even bother considering it.
What Else Do I Need to Look For Besides Resolution?
Going on an electronics website and browsing for monitors based solely on the 4K tag might sound easy, but there are many things that you need to consider besides just the resolution, especially if you’re planning on gaming competitively, and they are the following:
- Response time
- Refresh rate
- AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync
In the simple of terms, the response time of a monitor is the time it takes to shift from one colour to another, and it is usually measured in the time it takes to go from:
- Black to white and then black again
The response time is usually measured in milliseconds, and the lower the response time is, the better the motions will seem to the naked eye, while high response times may lead to a phenomenon called ghosting, and it can easily ruin the immersiveness of a game, or it can even be a distraction in online games.
Unfortunately, monitors with low response times come with higher price tags, so it’s up to you what models you will choose but, just to have a point of reference, that a response time of 5ms or lower will usually make any signs of ghosting disappear entirely.
The refresh rate is yet another criteria one needs to be careful with when buying a new gaming monitor since it is the number of times per second that a monitor displays a new image to not be perceived as flickering to the human eye.
This particular trait is also dependant on the GPU in your PC since the two need to be of the same value, otherwise, you will be experiencing something called screen tearing where horizontal lines tear the screen as the monitor is struggling to display what the GPU is feeding it.
AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync
These two systems were created by AMD and Nvidia and then can help mitigate screen tearing and input lag caused by incompatible GPU and monitor refresh rates. The two systems work similarly, using software to allow both the monitor and the GPU to adapt to a certain refresh rate so that they can be in sync.
One thing to remember about FreeSync and G-Sync is that they are only supported by the respective GPU, so if your PC has an Nvidia graphics card, don’t buy a monitor with AMD FreeSync, since that particular feature won’t work.
Note: This is just one of the many things that you will need to take into account when building your first custom gaming PC.
Which Is the Best Screen Resolution for Gamers: Conclusion
We’ve already ruled out 720p because it is too dated, 2K because it is far too niche and most games don’t even have native 2K resolution support, and 8K since it is so new that nothing gaming-related really supports it, we are now left with 3 screen resolutions.
However, current market trends seem to favour 1440p monitors, especially since this resolution offers some of the most coveted aspect ratios that gamers usually flock to.
1440p monitors are also incredibly affordable, with a lot of them costing under $300, making them almost as affordable as their 1080p counterparts, yet you gain at least 33% more pixels. More so, most modern-day gaming PC, even the average ones, can easily handle 1440p games, and since most of these monitors have a native 120Hz refresh rate, they are ideal for almost any gaming setup.
They are easy to find, with every major monitor manufacturer having at least a dozen models readily available at all times, and if you’re into curved monitors, you’ll usually notice that the only ones that are actually any good are 1440p anyway.
All in all, between 1080p, 1440p and 4K, it’s all a matter of personal preferences and the budget that you have at your disposal, but no one can judge you for wanting to know what type of monitor will provide you with the most bang for your buck.
Speaking of which, we’ve reviewed some of the best gaming monitors that you can get in 2021, so go ahead and read it up since we might just make your next purchase a whole lot easier.
Let us know what type of gaming monitor you will be going for by leaving us your feedback in the comments section below because we’d really like to know what our readers like to game.