We take you through our favourite cheap 1080p, 1440p and 4K gaming monitors
Choosing the best budget gaming monitor for you is no easy task: even after you’ve assembled the gaming PC, selected a keyboard/mouse and constructed the gaming chair, picking a good gaming monitor is a major hurdle to clear. The problem is, most of the best gaming monitors are seriously expensive.
Fortunately, it is still possible to nab a high-quality monitor for less – if you know where to look. You’ll have to be willing to make a few sacrifices: monitor manufacturers keep the costs down by opting for less impressive panel technology, and often by removing a few quality-of-life features such as height/swivel adjustments.
If these things don’t bother you – or you’re desperate to save some cash – then read on. You’ll find our pick of the best budget gaming monitors to buy below; before that, though, take a look at our handy guide to buying the best monitor for you (and your wallet).
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How to choose the best budget gaming monitor for you
Here are the things you need to consider before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Picking a resolution
Choosing the best resolution for you is reliant upon the kind of device you’re going to be gaming on.
If you own a PS4 or Xbox One, your choice is limited to monitors that have a resolution of up to 1,920 x 1,080, more commonly known as Full HD. The Xbox One S can play 4K Blu-ray discs, and also supports HDR (High Dynamic Range), but buying a monitor that supports these things will push the price up considerably.
If you’ve splashed out on a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, meanwhile, we recommend buying a monitor with a maximum resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, or 4K/UHD. Although these monitors tend to be more expensive, there is very little point in owning either of the above consoles if you can’t take full advantage of their extra power.
Owners of a gaming PC can explore anything from Full HD, through Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) all the way to 4K. The only caveat here is that the monitor you can purchase is limited by the power of your hardware: given that you’re here, on this page, looking for a budget gaming monitor, we would recommend sticking to Full HD – although Quad HD is generally perceived to be the ideal resolution for PC gaming.
Refresh rates vs frame rates: A budget explainer
A frame is a still image. Your gaming PC combines a vast number of frames into a sort of virtual flip-book to create what you see on your monitor. The number of frames your gaming PC can combine in a second is known as a frame rate (measured in frames per second), a figure that will vary depending on the intensity of the task. Got it?
Measured in hertz (Hz), a monitor’s refresh rate is the maximum number of times it can refresh the entire panel per second, to show each individual frame being created by your gaming PC. This means that the refresh rate is ALSO a measure of how many of those frames per second your monitor can display – a 60Hz monitor will display a maximum of 60 frames per second.
The higher the refresh rate, the more frames your gaming PC can pump out onto your monitor, and the smoother moving images will look. It’s like a flip-book: the faster you flip the pages, the more fluid the animation looks.
Ordinarily, we’d advise looking for monitors with a refresh rate of 144Hz. Given the price point, however, that might be a struggle, but don’t worry: 60Hz (or even 75Hz) is still very smooth indeed.
AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync
If your monitor refreshes at 60Hz, and your gaming PC is pumping out 120 frames per second, you’re losing a total of 60 frames every second because your monitor cannot refresh fast enough. This deficit might cause “screen tearing”, which looks like it sounds: horizontal lines that run across your screen and distort what you’re seeing.
AMD and Nvidia both offer technology that removes screen tearing by synchronising the refresh rate of your monitor with the frame rate of your PC. This technology is known as FreeSync and G-Sync respectively, and you’ll find at least one built-in to just about any given gaming monitor.
FreeSync is more common among budget gaming monitors, as it costs nothing to implement – there’s a hefty premium on Nvidia’s G-Sync. While there is a list of monitors that support G-Sync, nowadays both technologies are supported by graphics cards from both AMD and Nvidia.
To read more about the technologies and even learn how to get Nvidia G-Sync working on an AMD FreeSync-certified monitor – even one that might not be officially supported – read our dedicated article.
Response time is the time it takes a monitor to go from displaying one colour to another. Manufacturers quote the time it takes a pixel to shift from grey to white and back to grey (often written as GTG or G2G in monitor specifications) and denote this number in milliseconds (ms).
The lower the number – say 1ms vs 10ms – the more quickly your monitor will be able to display onscreen action, which makes for a better gaming experience.
In the past, Twisted Nematic (TN) was the only panel type a gamer would have considered: it’s not just the cheapest tech on the market, it also boasts the fastest response time. However, rival technologies such as Vertical Alignment (VA) and In-Plane Switching (IPS), once avoided for their slow response times, are now considered to be an excellent choice for gamers.
Input lag is often confused with response time, but it’s just as important if not more so: it’s the delay between your graphics card sending an image to the monitor and the monitor displaying said image. Input lag – also measured in milliseconds – is crucial in games, as it determines how quickly you can respond to onscreen action; a monitor with low input lag will feel more ‘responsive’ and thus be more suitable for competitive gaming.
Input lag isn’t quoted by manufacturers but should you be in the market for a gaming monitor, be on the lookout for the term in our full-length reviews.
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The best budget gaming monitors to buy
1. BenQ EL2870UE: Best budget 4K HDR gaming monitor
Price: £287 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’ve been looking for a 4K monitor that supports HDR (high dynamic range) for your PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, look no further. The BenQ EL2870UE is a basic 27.9in 4K (3,840 x 2,160) display that ticks a few crucial boxes without costing the earth. The TN panel doesn’t offer the best viewing angles in the world, but the inclusion of HDR support at this price is commendable, and we certainly weren’t disappointed by the image quality.
Given that the EL2870UE costs under £300, the max refresh rate is limited to 60Hz, although that shouldn’t really concern any console gamers. It supports AMD FreeSync to reduce image tearing, and has a response time of 1ms, meaning immersion-breaking stutter or response delay is kept to a minimum. Our only real complaint is that adjustment options are limited, although we should also note that the built-in speakers are nothing to write home about.
Key specs – Screen size: 27.9in; Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160; Screen technology: TN; Video inputs: HDMI 2.0 x2, DP 1.4; Refresh rate: 60Hz; Quoted response time: 1ms; Adaptive Sync: AMD FreeSync
BenQ EL2870U 28 Inch UHD 4K 1 ms HDR Eye-Care LED Gaming Monitor, Free-Sync, B.I. Plus Sensor, HDMI, Display Port, Speaker – Metallic Grey
£259.99 Buy now
2. Iiyama GB2530HSU-B1: Best budget 24.5in gaming monitor
Price: £112 | Buy now from Amazon
This unusually stylish Iiyama monitor is far too well-specced to be worth under £120. The larger 24.5in 1080p panel is definitely a more appealing choice for most gamers, and the 75Hz refresh rate certainly sweetens the deal in that regard. In fact, the display itself is impressive in many ways: with low input lag, excellent viewing angles and AMD FreeSync support, this is a panel that won’t hinder your gaming experience in the slightest.
The stand only supports tilt adjustments, but that can be forgiven at such a competitive price. Three bezel-less sides and a matte black paint job help lift this budget monitor far above its station, and you’ll even benefit from a pair of built-in speakers – an unusual addition at this price.
Simply put, this is the best budget gaming monitor we’ve tested in quite some time.
Key specs – Screen size: 24.5in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: TN; Video inputs: DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI; Refresh rate: 75Hz; Quoted response time: 1ms; Adaptive sync: AMD FreeSync
£111.98 Buy now
3. Samsung C24FG73: Best budget 144Hz gaming monitor
Price: £250 | Buy now from Amazon
Nothing quite compares to the Samsung C24FG73. It offers sublime colour accuracy and runs at a refresh rate of 144Hz. Samsung’s VA-based panel is truly gorgeous; games look vivid and its contrast ratio is second to none.
Its gaming credentials are extremely impressive, as it runs at up to 144Hz in Full HD and its response time is suitable for even the most hardcore gamer.
As for the two model names, the older Samsung 24CFG70 that we reviewed has the exact same panel but opts for a round-style stand instead. Always check for both the C24FG73 and C24FG70 on Amazon, as their prices fluctuate.
Key specs – Screen size: 24in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: VA; Video inputs: DisplayPort 1.2, 2 x HDMI 1.4; Refresh rate: 144Hz; Quoted response time: 1ms; Adaptive Sync: AMD FreeSync
£194.23 Buy now
4. AOC C24G1: Best budget curved gaming monitor
Price: £194 | Buy now from Amazon
The AOC C24G1 is a 24in monitor that oozes a premium look and boasts a responsive VA panel. Much like the Samsung above, the AOC surpasses expectations for colour accuracy and contrast ratio.
It’s no slouch for competitive gaming, either, as it features a low-input lag mode, a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz and its 1500R curvature helps keep you immersed in your favourite games. If you want something a little more responsive and you’re willing to sacrifice on image quality, consider the BenQ Zowie XL2411P instead.
Key specs – Screen size: 24in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: VA; Video inputs: DisplayPort 1.2, 2 x HDMI 1.4, VGA; Refresh rate: 144Hz; Quoted response time: 1ms; Adaptive Sync: AMD FreeSync
AOC C24G1 24″ Curved VA LED FHD (1920×1080) FreeSync 144Hz, 1ms response time, Height Adjustable Gaming Monitor. (VGA, HDMI X 2, Displayport) – Black
£194.00 Buy now
5. AOC G2260VWQ6: Best budget 21in gaming monitor
Price: £99 | Buy now from Amazon
AOC’s small-sized gaming monitor is an excellent pick for those on a tight budget. For around £80, the 21.5in G2260VWQ6 delivers a Full HD resolution at 75Hz.
Its TN panel is extremely responsive and input lag is kept to a minimum, too. Despite its price tag it supports AMD FreeSync. Sadly, though, it suffers from poor colour accuracy and has a terrible contrast ratio. If you’d like something a little bigger, it’s worth considering the Iiyama GB2530HSU-B1 as it features a 24.5in TN panel, instead.
Key specs – Screen size: 21.5in; Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Screen technology: TN; Video inputs: DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI; Refresh rate: 75Hz; Response time: 1ms; Adaptive Sync: AMD FreeSync
£99.48 Buy now
6. AOC Q3279VWF: Best budget 1440p gaming monitor
Price: £206 | Buy now from Amazon
You wouldn’t expect to find a 31.5in 1440p monitor for anything approaching cheap, but the AOC Q3279VWF is exactly that. It even runs at 75Hz. Its IPS panel is fantastic, too; colour accuracy is sublime, viewing angles are flawless and backlight bleed is kept to a minimum.
It’s also surprisingly responsive. You could easily game competitively as its input lag is respectable for a monitor of its class. If you’re looking for 31.5in monitor and your graphics card can drive high framerates at 1440p, though, you should consider the AOC Q3279VWFD8 instead.
Read our full AOC Q3279VWF review for details
Key specs – Screen size: 31.5in; Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440; Screen technology: IPS; Video inputs: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort; Refresh rate: 75Hz; Adaptive Sync: AMD FreeSync