So, you've started looking into monitors. There are so many different options out there, from so many different brands. But what is most confusing is the stats: resolution, refresh rate, panel type and more! We'll take you through the basic statistics you need to pick out your monitor with purpose and conviction.
The first thing you look at pertaining to any monitor is the size. Monitor sizes are usually in inches, and are measured diagonally. This is very important to know especially when buying used monitors. Today, the lowest size most monitors will go to is around 21 inches - anything smaller than that is probably from 3+ years ago. Most monitors today will be around 23 inches, and can go up to 49 inches for ultrawide monitors (more on that later).
Aspect Ratio and Ultrawide
The aspect ratio is the ratio of the screen size. Almost all monitors today are of the 16:9 aspect ratio, which means for every 16 pixels the monitor has horizontally, there will be 9 vertically. However, ultrawide monitors do not follow conventional aspect ratios because their purpose is to be, well, ultra-wide. The reason they're not also super tall is that it would be straining on your eyes to have to look up when you're so close to a monitor, but it is not straining to look slightly more to the sides. Many ultrawide monitors have a 21:9 aspect ratio, although some even have a double 32:9 ratio. Ultrawide monitors are curved so you will have an optimal viewing angle sitting in the middle of them.
The refresh rate is arguably the most important element of a monitor for gaming. Even if your gaming rig can achieve 500fps in a game, the number of frames per second displayed on your screen is limited to the monitor's refresh rate. This number, measured in hertz, tells you how many times per second a monitor refreshes its screen. So, if a monitor was rated for 75hz, that would mean it refreshed its screen 75 times per second. The standard these days for refresh rate is 60hz, although many monitors are 75hz as well. Many gaming monitors are rated to a blistering 144hz or 165hz, and the fastest ones right now can achieve a mind-blowing 240hz. There is even a Razer laptop with a 300hz refresh rate monitor. Something that also falls in this category is response time. This is the time it takes for the monitor to display something it has received from the computer. Most modern monitors have a sub-5 millisecond response time, which is all you will need except for the most hardcore gaming. For those hardcore gamers, there are monitors with a ridiculously fast 0.1 millisecond response time.
For many people, the resolution is the most important statistic. The resolution is how many pixels are in the screen, regardless of how big the screen is. Instead of being listed as one massive number, they are listed by width and height. For example, 1920x1080. As you might have noticed, those two numbers have the 16:9 aspect ratio to fit the monitor. Another way monitor resolutions are listed is by the height, with width assumed (because of ratio). So, 1920x1080 would just be 1080p. 2560x1440 would be 1440p. The three most common resolutions are 1920x1080, 2560x1440, and 3840x2160. 1440p is also called 2K and 2160p is also called 4K, although the amount of pixels in a 1440p screen is not half that of a 2160p screen. Also, 1080p is often called FHD (Full HD), 1440p called QHD (Quad HD), and 2160p called UHD (Ultra HD). Confusing, I know! For gaming, people often opt for 1080p. The reason for this is that the computer only has so much graphics power, which means projecting to a screen with more pixels will not leave as much power for raising frames per second. This means that you have to make a tradeoff: do I get a 4K monitor, but only get 45fps, or do I get a 1080p monitor, and get 160fps? This also means that most companies will not make monitors with massively high refresh rates and resolutions, as this will not be practical for most people.
Panel and Color Accuracy
There are three main types of screens on monitors (panels): IPS, TN, and VA. I'm not going to go into how each of these panels work, because that would take a whole different article - I'm explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each.
TN panels are the most basic. They are used by many gamers since they are cheaper to produce, have very low input times, and gamers don't need extreme color accuracy. TN panels often do not cover the entire spectrum of color, and therefore display "estimated" colors to make up for this. They also have low viewing angles; if you've used one and looked at it from the side, the colors will invert. Both of these traits make TN panels awful for work that involves color grading, such as photo or video editing.
IPS panels are much more geared towards color accuracy. Many can cover the entire color spectrum, and have way better viewing angles, which means they are overall miles ahead of TN in terms of graphical editing. They are also capable of high refresh rates; the Asus VG279QM is capable of an astounding 280hz. However, they are more expensive to produce than TN panels, and you will also have to pay extra for low latency times.
VA panels are a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. They have excellent color reproduction, good viewing angles, and are capable of high refresh rates. There are even VA panel 240hz monitors now. However, many hardcore gamers avoid VA because the high latency times that are inherent with VA panels can cause ghosting. Additionally, although the color reproduction is good, it is still beaten out by IPS, so many professionals in the field of graphical editing use IPS. Overall though, it is a good option for general-purpose use.
G-Sync, Freesync, and V-synch
Ah, G-sync, Freesync, and V-synch... three pieces of software that do the same thing, have basically the same names, but are made by different companies. Basically, these softwares aim to prevent ghosting, which is a phenomenon that occurs when the framerate of the PC is much higher than the refresh rate of the monitor, and the monitor can't keep up. Ghosting includes a jittery cursor, which means it is a no-no for gaming. What these softwares do is sense what the maximum refresh rate of your monitor is, then cap your framerate at that level.