Gamers on a super-tight budget sometimes don’t pay much attention to their monitors. That’s fine, but as I learned, this approach can be a big mistake if you take it too far.
The main reason a gamer on a budget, like myself, doesn’t invest in a good monitor is that it the performance difference isn’t as obvious as with other PC components. I thought that investing in a better CPU and GPU, and more RAM, was a better idea.
I figured that since my old monitor still worked, and I’d played thousands of hours of games on it, it was good enough. Oh boy, oh boy. It’s one thing to be on a budget, but something completely different to be as cheap as I was!
The day I bought my AOC 24G2 (reviewed below), I realized that postponing my monitor upgrade was one of the stupidest decisions I’d made regarding gaming, and computer equipment in general.
It’s not only that a better monitor does improve your gaming performance, but it’ll typically also help you game more comfortably, in a better and healthier position. It makes work easier and more comfortable too, and the free time you spend watching movies, YouTube, and sports will also be improved if you make the right decision.
Today we’re looking at the best budget gaming monitors on the market, with recommendations in each major category. That means there’s something for everyone, and while each of the monitors we mention is a good choice, the right model for you will ultimately depend on your specific needs and just how tight your budget is.
Let’s dive in.
- Screen Size: 24 inches
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (FHD)
- Refresh Rate: 144Hz
- Response Time: 1ms
- Screen Size: 24.5 inches
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (FHD)
- Refresh Rate: 240-280Hz
- Response Time: 0.5ms
- Screen Size: 28 inches
- Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K)
- Refresh Rate: 60Hz
- Response Time: 5ms
- Screen Size: 27 inches
- Resolution: 2560 x 1440 (1440p)
- Refresh Rate: 170Hz
- Response Time: 0.5ms
- Screen Size: 32 inches
- Resolution: 2560 x 1440 (1440p)
- Refresh Rate: 165Hz
- Response Time: 0.5ms
What We Looked For
There are several major criteria to keep in mind when choosing a good budget gaming monitor. These are the factors we considered in making our recommendations in each category:
- Size: in general, bigger is better, and a larger monitor usually means more comfortable gaming, although it does depend on the type of games you play. Going too big can be a problem, since it means moving your head more. This makes it easy to lose focus, a big problem if you play competitive FPS. Most people will find a monitor in the 24-27 inch range to be the best option.
- Resolution: resolution is always important, but especially when you take monitor size into context. For example, a 24-inch 1080p monitor will likely have a sharper image than a 27-inch 1080p model, simply because the latter has the same number of pixels spread out over a larger surface. That’s why you shouldn’t only focus on the size but on resolution, too, namely the pixel density.
- Refresh rate: regular folks don’t worry about refresh rate too much, but this spec is crucial for gamers, since it determines how many times per second images on the screen are updated. Higher is better, since as long as the rest of your gaming rig is up to the job, you’ll get noticeably smoother graphics as a result. 144Hz or better is what we look for here.
- Response time: a shorter response time means that the monitor changes pixel color more quickly, which has a big effect on the amount of blur you perceive. The lower the better when it comes to this spec: 1ms is ideal.
- Price: this is the limiting factor for a budget gaming monitor, of course. We didn’t set a hard price limit, but instead looked for models in each category that fit as many of the above requirements as possible while staying noticeably cheaper than the competition.
Finally, bear in mind that we’re talking about gaming monitors here. There are certainly much cheaper office-grade monitors out there, but they are far from the best choices for gaming.
Monitors usually last a long time, often outlasting the computers they’re connected to. If you plan to game a lot, you’re much better off spending a bit more money on a proper gaming monitor than buying a random office model and putting up with sub-standard performance for years. Please don’t repeat my mistake!
Best Budget Gaming Monitor: AOC 24G2
After many hours spent researching the best budget gaming monitor for my own needs, I settled on the AOC 24G2. Having now used it virtually every single day for an entire year, without encountering a single problem, I’m extremely happy with it, and very comfortable recommending it to others.
The 24G2 delivered more than it promised, and for the price, I really couldn’t ask for more. I can freely say it was the best tech purchase I’ve made in the last twelve months.
The 24G2 is a full HD (1920×1080) monitor with a 24″ screen, good pixel density, and impressive picture quality overall. 24 inches isn’t particularly large, but while some gamers might find it lacking, I find the smaller size helps keeps things centered. It’s ideal for the games I play, mostly CS: GO and LoL, as I don’t have to move my giant head much.
Also, while the FHD resolution isn’t the highest, it also doesn’t put much load on your GPU. That’s particularly important if you don’t have the latest high-end graphics card, giving you more frames per second. Smoother gameplay always beats higher resolution!
Apart from gaming, I’ve found this monitor to be excellent for work tasks as well. It’s big enough to use the “show windows side by side” option without ruining my eyesight, as I use only a single monitor while working.
There’s also a slightly more expensive 27-inch version with the same specs, but you can’t expect the same picture quality because of the pixel density issue we mentioned earlier. There are also 165Hz and curved versions, but the flat 144Hz model that I have is the cheapest, and the one I’d recommend.
That 144Hz refresh rate is enough for good gaming performance for most gamers on a budget, helped by the 1ms response rate. G-Sync adaptive sync compatibility helps ensure a smoother experience when your other gaming hardware isn’t the best. Input lag will never be an issue.
The picture quality of the AOC 24G2 has surprised me, especially from a gaming perspective. Although there’s no HDR, the IPS panel is sharp and has bright, accurate colors. My only real complaint, common to many similar panels, is that if you look at the monitor from an angle, blacks look a bit washed out.
The monitor comes with an excellent stand that makes it very easy to adjust the height and angle. You can also pivot and fully rotate the screen, letting you tilt the monitor when you watch movies from your bed or somewhere else not directly in front. The stand is very sturdy, surprising given how thin the feet are.
Finally, this monitor looks fantastic! Virtually frameless on three sides, the black and red color combination and stylish stand give it a premium gaming look.
And that’s what the AOC 24G2 truly is, a thoroughbred gaming monitor that won’t get you into financial trouble. A whole year of service without a single issue, combined with excellent performance and great looks, means only one thing: I couldn’t recommend this monitor more.Buy on Amazon
Best 240Hz Gaming Monitor: ASUS TUF Gaming VG258QM
When 144Hz and even 165Hz just isn’t enough, it’s time to step things up. If you’ve got a machine that’s fast enough to support blistering gaming performance, 240Hz monitors are where it’s at.
The ASUS VG258QM supports 240Hz out of the box, but can actually deliver up to a 280Hz refresh rate if you overclock it. This, combined with its incredible 0.5ms grey-to-grey (GTG) response time, provides the kind of gaming performance that’s very hard to find in this price range.
This is a 24.5″ monitor, supporting Full HD resolution. Again, like with the AOC24G2, this isn’t the highest resolution you’ll find, but does the job well for gamers on a budget. There’s also a 27-inch version, but it’s still the same FHD resolution, and only available with 1ms response time.
As a result, we’d recommend saving a bit of money and going with the smaller model. The 280Hz + 0.5ms response + low price combination makes the VG258QM unique, and the reason why it’s our pick for the best budget 240Hz gaming monitor.
The monitor supports HDR gaming, which in theory ensures greater contrast and brightness, and a wider range of colors. In practice, however, the limits of a budget monitor start to show here, and it doesn’t really compare to a high-end HDR gaming monitor in the real world. We wouldn’t pick it for its HDR capabilities alone.
As with most TN monitors, the picture quality significantly drops when you start viewing the monitor from an angle. This is corrected a bit by the ergonomic stand that lets you easily adjust the monitor height and angle, but even so, unless you’re directly in front of it, expect noticeable color shifts and washed-out blacks.
As for its design, the ASUS VG258QM looks fine, if a little generic. It’s entirely black, with thin bezels. The build quality is good, and the stand is stable, but that’s about it: appearance-wise, there’s nothing that makes it stand out in a sea of similar monitors.
Overall, the ASUS TUF VG258QM is a good monitor, albeit with a few limitations. Its biggest selling point is the exceptionally low latency: if you’re on a tight budget and need a gaming monitor with 240+ Hz refresh rate and 0.5ms response rate, this is the one to get.Buy on Amazon
Best Budget 4K Gaming Monitor: ASUS TUF Gaming VG289Q
Playing in 4K is every gamer’s dream. However, when a gamer on a budget wakes up, the harsh reality is that 4K gaming is truly a luxury. Even if you have a 4K-capable monitor, a PC hardware configuration that allows you to run games in 4K at optimal settings without sacrificing FPS isn’t cheap.
If you do have that configuration, though, but blew your budget buying it and now find your monitor funds limited, or you’re a console gamer, there is an option that doesn’t cost a fortune: the ASUS TUF Gaming VG289Q.
Also from the Asus TUF Gaming series, this monitor is very similar to the one we mentioned above. Very affordable, it typically only costs a little more than the VG258QM. For the extra money, you not only get 4K (3840×2160) resolution but also an IPS panel, HDR 10 support, and a larger 28-inch screen.
The picture quality is superb, with impressive shadows, vivid colors, bright whites, and deep blacks. The whole picture is crisp and accurate, and this monitor really delivers when you consider its price. HDR is supported, but like its sibling, it won’t blow you away. SDR, however, will!
As for the design, it looks similar to VG258QM, and doesn’t stand out from the crowd. It has a convenient and sturdy stand, can rotate, and has thin borders: given everything else it gets right, that’s good enough.
When you look at the above specs, it seems like the monitor is by far the best buy on this list. But, it has a couple of big flaws that keep it off the top spot: a 5ms response time and 60Hz refresh rate.
This issue is so significant that we considered not including this monitor at all. Refresh rate in particular is one of our most essential criteria, as it really can affect gaming performance. There is a 144Hz model, but it costs more than twice as much, and certainly isn’t in the budget monitor range.
However, because it is impossible to find a flawless 4K monitor in this price range, we had to include the VG289Q anyway. It does have excellent picture quality, and if you want 4K resolution for other purposes, not just gaming, this is a strong all-round performer.
If you are a low-latency puritan, however, you’ll have to lose some resolution and buy another monitor from this list. If you insist on 4K and still want low latency and a better refresh rate, well, you’ll need to save up a little longer.Buy on Amazon
Best Budget 1440p Gaming Monitor: Gigabyte M27Q
1440p is a good middle ground for those who want something better than 1080p resolution, but don’t have the money for hardware capable of delivering decent gaming performance in 4K.
That said, the Gigabyte M27Q isn’t a compromise by any means! This 27″ IPS monitor ticks all the right boxes: useful size, low latency, excellent picture quality, ergonomic design, and good versatility, with an affordable price tag to boot.
First up, the M27Q has a 170Hz refresh rate, coupled with a 0.5ms moving picture response time (MPRT) response rate. That’s impressive even for many higher-priced monitors, never mind budget models like this, especially given the higher-than-usual 2560×1440 resolution.
As for the picture quality, while it’s not quite as good as the Asus VG289Q above, it’s still pretty impressive. Colors are vivid, and the monitor has a wide color gamut and a good sRGB mode. As with many other budget models, HDR is not its biggest strength.
The M27Q comes with a few extra features that you don’t typically see on budget monitors. This includes a KVM switch that lets you plug your keyboard and mouse directly into the monitor and use them across two different connected devices (like a laptop and a desktop) without unplugging any cables.
Gaming-specific features include a black equalizer that lets you see more details in dark areas without overexposing other parts of the screen, and a crosshair stabilizer that reduces motion blur when taking aim.
The stand allows you to tilt the monitor and adjust its height, but you can’t pivot it, which can cause problems with washed-out colors when viewing from the side. The M27Q is borderless on three sides and completely black, with no detailing. The overall build quality could be better, but it’s acceptable considering the extra features and the price.
The Gigabyte M27Q is a terrific budget gaming monitor. Latency is never an issue with this one, and its picture quality and features make it a great buy. Sure, it could be better-made, and the stand could offer better maneuverability, but who cares, you likely won’t do anything else but play games sitting directly in front of it anyway. 🙂Buy on Amazon
Best Budget Curved Gaming Monitor: GIGABYTE G32QC
Last on our list, we have curved monitors. You don’t have to worry about viewing angles with these, as the only optimal position is central, right in front of the screen. As such, curved monitors are the preferred type for some gamers, and the GIGABYTE G32QC is a great budget pick.
First, this is a large monitor with a 32″ diagonal, making it the widest one on our list. On balance this is a plus for gamers, making the experience more immersive. Although pixel density drops slightly as a result of the extra screen size, the 2560 x 1440 VA display still provides excellent picture quality overall.
As for the performance, G32QC has a high165Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time. That means you’ll be able to play games on it without performance issues, and because it’s 1440p, you don’t need to own the latest GPU to play on high settings. We all know how much good GPUs cost nowadays!
The main issue with this monitor is viewing angles. If you want the best picture, you’ll need to sit directly in front of it. It’s well-known that curved monitors don’t tolerate viewing from the sides, but things get even more complicated with G32QC.
Although you can adjust its height by up to four inches, you can’t swivel or rotate it, which is problematic considering it’s a large monitor. That means you might have difficulty setting it up in the optimal position, depending on your table and chair setup.
For the price, the Gigabyte G32QC ticks many of the boxes that gamers are looking for from a curved monitor: 32″, 1440p, and 165Hz. It does have some flaws, but they’re far from showstoppers, and you can’t ask for much more in this price range.Buy on Amazon
Thankfully, you’ve got plenty of options if you’re in the market for a gaming monitor but your budget is tight. Even though I use the AOC 24G2 and think it’s the best budget gaming monitor for most people, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for the others on this list.
Ultimately, what you should buy will depends on a number of factors tied to your specific needs, which is why we tried to give you monitors of different types, sizes, and features. Although their prices differ, they’re all budget options compared to other monitors of the same kind.
Whichever you choose will be a much better option than a stock office monitor, guaranteed!
Main image via Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com, product images via Amazon