Buying the right peripherals to accompany your Dream PC will help you make the most of your new system. Choosing the right monitor is incredibly important as whether you are gaming, making music or videos or browsing the web a high quality display is better for your eyes.
The most important characteristics to look out for a gaming monitor are resolution, size, refresh rate and G-Sync support. Higher resolutions monitors display more detail, giving you an edge in competitive multiplayer games, while larger monitors provide a greater sense of immersion. The higher the resolution the more powerful GeForce Graphics Cards you'll require games at a smooth frame rate.
Refresh rate is also important, with a higher rate making games look smoother. Refresh rate isn't quite that straightforward though, as even with a high refresh rate games can appear torn, which occurs when the refresh rate of your monitor is not in sync with the output of the graphics card. This problem can be minimised by opting for a monitor with G-Sync technology which syncs the monitor with the graphics card.
Once you have considered the three primary characteristics you also need to make a choice between the three different panel technologies; Twisted Nematic (TN), In-Plane Switching (IPS) and Vertical Alignment (VA). These all have specific characteristics which we'll summarise below.
|Pros||High refresh rate, low price||Huge colour depth, best viewing angles||High colour depth, good viewing angles|
|Cons||Narrow viewing angles, limited colour depth||High price, older panels have a low refresh rate||Limited availability, older panels have a low refresh rate|
TN panels are the most popular in the market due to their low case and high refresh rate. However, TN panels have the most limited colour palette so colours can appeared muted with colour banding in dark scenes. For these reasons we don't recommend choosing a TN monitor with a Dream PC.
IPS-based monitors have become an increasingly popular alternative to cheaper TN monitors as the technology has matured and become more established in the marketplace. IPS panel technology was initially created to improve the weak viewing angles of TN panels and to further improve colour reproduction and image quality.
A typical IPS display offers viewing angles of 178-degrees horizontal and 178-degrees vertical and is significantly less likely to exhibit any colour or contrast shifts when viewed from off-centre. Furthermore, IPS panels are usually more colour accurate and capable of displaying more colours since they predominantly make use of true 8-bit colour depth panels compared to 6-bit panels on most TN monitors, which often use a technique called dithering and frame-rate control (FRC) to simulate deeper 8-bit colour depth.
IPS panels, in their early years, struggled to achieve reasonable response times though modern IPS panels have improved a lot on this. While TN panels typically offer 2-to-4-millisecond response times, many IPS panels only reach 5-to-10 milliseconds, making them unsuitable for twitch gaming.
IPS panels are available under many different brand names and marketing labels including PLS (Samsung), AH-IPS (LG Display) and AHVA (AU Optronics), but essentially these are all still a variation of an IPS panel. IPS monitors tend to be more frequently available in larger size categories, such as 28in to 40in, and with the unique ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio in addition to conventional 16:9 and 16:10 offerings.
For these reasons we recommend an IPS gaming monitor with our Dream PCs, as they provide the best balance between image quality, viewing angles and refresh rate.
IPS and TN panels differ markedly in terms of viewing angles, refresh rates, responsiveness and colour depth. VA-type panels were developed as an attempt to find a middle ground, meaning a panel with a balance of characteristics of IPS and TN technologies.
The VA-type panel is usually sorted into two main categories - Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment (MVA) and Patterned Vertical Alignment (PVA), although the two are broadly similar and PVA has declined in popularity as display manufacturers have turned more towards IPS. VA-type panels are the least common display type on the market.
VA-type panels have wider viewing angles than TN-type panels, though they do exhibit some off-centre colour and contrast shifts, something IPS panels do not generally have. VA panels are also unique in that the VA technology allows for drastically higher contrast ratios than IPS or TN equivalents: 3000 to 5000:1 is commonplace. Colour depth is typically 8-bit, making VA panels more accurate and vibrant than TN equivalents and quite similar to IPS.
While there are some monitors able to deliver refresh rates up to 120Hz, most VA-type panels have similar refresh rates to IPS counterparts. Similarly, with regards to response times the VA-type panel is closer to IPS, if not a little slower.
Unfortunately, even if you buy the most expensive graphics card in the world you will still experience tearing and stuttering in games. The problem is that when the GPU sends a rendered frame to the monitor while it is in the middle of a refresh, only the part of the monitor that still hasn't been refreshed will be updated with the new frame. This is known as tearing and looks simply terrible, with tall vertical objects split in half across the screen as you can see in the image below.
Because the monitor is running at a fixed refresh rate of 60Hz, the GPU and monitor will only be in sync if the GPU is outputting at precisely 60fps. Anybody who has ever played a game will know that the frame rate varies enormously from second to second as the scenery changes, so it's impossible for a GPU to always output at 60fps.
The common work around for this problem is vsync, a feature that GeForce drivers allow you to enable. What vysnc does is force the monitor to only display whole frames. This does eliminate tearing, but it causes the monitor to skip over any frames that are sent over by the GPU while the monitor is in the middle of a refresh. This skipping however is also visible as a stutter, and is most evident on-screen when the frame rate changes dramatically, such as changing the view from a simple to a complex scene.
However, you can eliminate both tearing and stuttering by combining your GeForce card with a G-Sync monitor. G-Sync monitors have extra circuitry in them which enables the GPU to adjust the refresh rate of the monitor on the fly. This then means that the monitor will only refresh when the GPU is ready to send it a new frame. The end result is a silky smooth gaming experience, rather than one that suffers from ugly and distracting tearing (vsync off) or annoying stutters (vsync on). In short, G-Sync is amazing and arguably the biggest step forward in visual quality since the switch from software to hardware 3D acceleration.