In a world where 2K monitors, 4K monitors, and even 8K monitors exist, the question must be asked: what is the best resolution for gaming?
From a theoretical standpoint, the easiest answer would be to say that the highest resolution available would be the best option for playing games at. More pixels would mean sharper, more detailed, more visually-pleasing graphics. And, the better the graphics a game can be played with, the better the experience it will deliver, right?
Well, not really.
The problem is that the higher the resolution you try to run a game at, the more demanding that game will be to run. So, there are definitely tradeoff costs for buying a high-resolution monitor for gaming. And, in this guide, we’ll talk about what some of those trade-off costs are, as well as discuss how the three most common monitor resolutions for gamers stack up against each other and why they may (or may not) be the best option for you to play your games at.
1080P vs 1440P vs 4K: Which Resolution Wins
For those of you who are looking for a quick answer on what resolution is the best for gaming, this section will provide you with the best option for your specific situation.
In my opinion, there are really only two factors that you’ll need to consider in order to determine what resolution is best for you. They are:
- How much money you have to spend on your monitor and PC hardware
- The kinds of games you like to play
So, taking those two into consideration, let’s go over the monitor resolutions that make sense for the different types of users out there…
For Competitive Gamers, 1080P Resolution is the Best for Gaming
Most of today’s top titles are competitive eSports games. Games like PUBG, Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends, Dota 2, Rocket League, etc. are incredibly popular and have huge player bases. And, they all have one thing in common: they don’t become better games when they are played at higher resolutions.
So, rather than spending extra money on higher resolution monitors and the hardware that is necessary to run them, most competitive gamers find that they are better off spending their money on features like higher refresh rate panels and monitors that are G-Sync or FreeSync compatible. These features will help competitive gamers achieve smoother gameplay, which, in turn, can actually improve their experience (and give them an advantage) in these types of titles.
Because of this, for competitive gamers, 1080P is the ideal resolution to play at. You can find 1080P monitors with high refresh rates at fairly affordable prices. There are 1440P 144Hz+ monitors (and, now, even 4K 144Hz monitors) out there, but the problem with them is that they require such a demanding system to run at an adequate level, that they are not worth it for the majority of competitive gamers.
So, until next-gen GPUs make running higher refresh rate monitors with higher resolutions more accessible, a 1080P 144Hz+ monitor is currently the ideal option for most competitive gamers.
For Gamers Who Love Stunning Visuals, Higher Resolution Monitors (4K or 1440P) Are Better
Other top titles, like The Witcher 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry 5, Skyrim, Dishonored, etc. are games where having better visuals can actually enhance the experience of the game. These games are as much about the storyline and the environment as they are about the gameplay. And, so, having better-looking and more detailed graphics can help these games feel even more immersive.
And, since these games aren’t as competitive in nature as eSports titles are, you won’t be at any kind of a disadvantage in the game if you don’t have the highest frame rate possible. Of course, higher refresh rate monitors and monitors with G-Sync/FreeSync can also enhance the immersive nature of these more visually-stunning games, as they will make in-game movements feel more smooth and realistic.
But, ultimately, if you’re a gamer who prefers to play the kinds of titles where higher resolutions can improve the feeling of the game, then a 4K or 1440P monitor would probably be a better option for you if your budget allows for it.
And, if you have an unlimited budget (both for your monitor and your PC), then your best bet would probably be to look for a high-res, high-refresh-rate monitor that has either G-Sync or FreeSync (it will depend on what kind of graphics card you have) on it.
Although, it’s important to note, that if you are looking into achieving the best visual experience in today’s top games as possible by getting a high resolution, high framerate monitor, you’ll want to go with a G-Sync monitor rather than a FreeSync monitor.
The reason for this is that, currently, in order to push today’s AAA titles properly on a UHD monitor with a high refresh rate, there are no AMD-based graphics cards that can accomplish that. In fact, you’ll likely need an NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti (or a next-gen GTX 1180, which is slated to release at the end of August), in order to run a high-res, high refresh rate monitor.
And, since NVIDIA’s GPUs aren’t compatible with FreeSync monitors (and vice-versa), your only real option for the highest-end visual experience possible is currently with a G-Sync monitor.
What is the Best Resolution for Gaming for You?
Whether you’re a competitive gamer whose main objective is ensuring that your system won’t get in the way of your gameplay or a gamer who loves story-driven games with beautiful immersive worlds, or a gamer that likes a mix of both, certain monitor resolutions will make more sense for you than will others.
In the article above, we discussed why higher resolution monitors probably aren’t great options for competitive gamers as well as the kinds of gamers that UHD monitors do make sense for. So, if you were on the fence on what monitor resolution is best for gaming for your needs, hopefully, this guide was able to give you some more clarity on your decision.