The 2020s have only just begun, and the world of gaming has already been marked by some important forward steps.
One such step in the ever-advancing quest for better, more realistic, and more immersive graphics has led us to the point where 1080p—a resolution that has dominated the scene throughout the 2010s—is being succeeded by 1440p and 4K.
However, despite what you may think, 1080p isn’t obsolete yet! In truth, there are several reasons as to why you might want to get a 1080p gaming monitor even in 2021.
Perhaps it’s because of budget constraints, perhaps you want to focus on performance over visuals, or maybe you just don’t find the higher-resolution panels to be worth the extra cost.
Whatever the case, we have picked out the best 1080p monitors for those who plan on sticking with this resolution in 2021 and in the near future, so if you’re thinking of buying one, you can see them listed below!
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- Solid VA panel with great contrast
- Good value for the money
- Highly affordable
- Some ghosting and black smearing issues
The first monitor on the list comes from AOC, a reliable monitor manufacturer that brings us what might just be the best budget 1080p gaming monitor currently available—the AOC C24G1A.
Even though it’s a budget product, you won’t mistake the C24G1A for your run-of-the-mill office monitor, that’s for sure. The sleek, curved design, the red highlights, and the adjustable VESA stand all make it abundantly clear that this is a proper gaming monitor, even if the price might suggest otherwise.
Equipped with a factory-overclocked 165Hz VA panel, this monitor offers a great combination of performance and visuals, especially for this price point. It has solid viewing angles and accurate colors, and while it can’t compete with an IPS panel in that respect, it makes up for it with superior contrast that the majority of IPS panels simply can’t match.
As far as the performance is concerned, the high refresh rate makes games run buttery smooth at triple-digit framerates, and although VA panels are known to have ghosting and black smearing issues—something that might be a big problem for performance-oriented gamers who frequently play fast-paced games—these are easy enough to minimize with the help of different pixel overdrive modes. Of course, the monitor also has an MBR (motion blur reduction) mode, if you’re willing to sacrifice picture clarity/brightness for more fluid motion.
Moreover, the C24G1A is equipped with AMD FreeSync, which works in the 48-165Hz range in this case and supports LFC (low framerate compensation), a technology that allows you to continue playing smoothly even if your framerate dips below the lower limit—always handy if your GPU is struggling with a newer game or there’s some unexpected FPS drops for whatever reason.
All in all, AOC C24G1A is quite a bargain, considering the asking price, and it has all the features that someone who is on a tight budget might want in an affordable gaming monitor: a panel that strikes a good balance between visuals and performance, an adjustable stand, and a distinctly “gaming” design. Granted, there are better monitors out there if you’re willing to pay more, but the C24G1A should be your go-to choice if you’re pinching pennies.
- Good-looking IPS panel with vibrant colors
- Good value
- Not the best contrast ratio
Moving on, we have another highly similar budget solution that also comes from AOC—the AOC 24G2—albeit this one shifts the priorities slightly while still keeping the same great value for the money that the previous monitor offers.
One look at the monitor, and you can immediately tell that the 24G2 sticks with the same design philosophy seen in the C24G1A, with a thin frame and red highlights that are there to give it some “gaming” flair and make sure your high-performance monitor is easily recognizable for what it is. Now, as you might expect, the biggest differences lie under the hood.
The main feature distinguishing this monitor from the previous model is its panel—a 144Hz IPS panel that maintains similar levels of performance, all the while taking a step up when it comes to the quality of the visuals. As we’ve mentioned above, IPS panels generally offer more vibrant and accurate colors than VA panels do, although this does come at the cost of contrast.
As for the performance, the AOC 24G2 easily rivals the C24G1A in this respect, as it has a similar maximum refresh rate and response times. Although the gray-to-gray response time isn’t clearly specified, it’s safe to assume that it’s around 4ms, as we’d expect from an entry-level IPS panel.
There is some noticeable motion blur in fast-paced games but it’s not as noticeable as with the VA-equipped C24G1A, which is the main reason why a performance-oriented gamer might want to make this monitor their first pick, if they’re on the fence between the two models. Plus, as before, different pixel overdrive modes and MBR are always there if you need to minimize ghosting and motion blur.
Finally, the AOC 24G2 comes with the same version of FreeSync as its VA-equipped counterpart, meaning that it works in the 48-144Hz range and supports LFC.
All in all, while it is a bit more expensive, the AOC 24G2 is also an improvement over the AOC 24G1A in virtually every respect but the contrast ratio. With wider viewing angles, better color accuracy, comparable performance, complete with lower motion blur and none of the black smearing commonly seen in VA panels, the 24G2 is another great pick for those who are looking for a good 1080p gaming monitor but are on a tight budget.
- High-quality IPS panel
- Fast response times
- HDR support
- Limited HDR capabilities
Moving on, we get to some pricier, higher-quality options with the BenQ EX2510, which is a part of the Taiwanese manufacturer’s gaming-oriented MOBIUZ lineup.
Design-wise, the EX2510 definitely does look like a gaming monitor, that much is clear. However, it is a bit thicker and chunkier than what you’d commonly see in gaming monitors today, both when it comes to the monitor itself and the included VESA stand.
Taking a look under the hood, the EX2510 boasts a 144Hz IPS panel not unlike the one seen in the AOC24G2, although it comes with a couple of notable differences—the 2ms gray-to-gray pixel response time makes the panel feel more responsive, it is brighter, has better color reproduction, and is even HDR-compatible.
Needless to say, with a 2ms GtG response time (something that was impossible for IPS panels to achieve up until recently), the BenQ EX2510 can deliver some of the most responsive gaming experience that you can get in this price range without sacrificing image quality for the sake of performance.
As for the aforementioned HDR support, this monitor uses something that BenQ calls HDRi—intelligent HDR. What this proprietary technology does is it uses an onboard sensor to detect ambient lighting and adjust the HDR image accordingly for an optimal viewing experience. While good on paper, it sadly doesn’t do much here, as the monitor simply cannot deliver a truly immersive HDR experience with a peak brightness of 400 nits and without any local dimming.
Granted, HDR support is a welcome addition for viewing HDR content and there’s nothing stopping you from enabling it in-game, too, since the version of FreeSync implemented here also supports HDR. However, a display simply needs much higher brightness and better contrast than what the EX2510 can offer in order to really make an HDR image “pop”.
Overall, the BenQ MOBIUZ EX2510 is a great monitor for those who are looking for a 1080p monitor that can fully deliver on both the performance and the visuals fronts. However, while it does offer good value for the money, it is a somewhat middling solution.
That is to say, one of the cheaper monitors might be a better fit if you’re on a budget, and if you’re not, there are better, slightly pricier alternatives out there that might be worth considering.
- Factory-overclocked 240Hz IPS panel
- Very fast response times
- ELMB Sync
- G-Sync Compatible
- A bit pricey
- Underwhelming HDR
The next monitor we have lined up comes from Asus’ TUF brand that is known for quality, performance-oriented products. That said, you can already guess what kind of monitor the Asus VG259QM is.
Unlike the more well-known Republic of Gamers (ROG) products, TUF adheres to a cleaner design philosophy that isn’t as RGB-heavy. However, the angular exterior design, the red highlights, and the extensive patterns on the back of the monitor and the base of the stand, all of which serves to establish the VG259QM as a proper gaming monitor.
Being an IPS monitor, there’s no need to reiterate that you can expect accurate colors and good viewing angles from the VG259QM, but what really sets it apart from the competition is its extremely high refresh rate—a whopping 280Hz when overclocked. On top of that, it even features extremely fast 1ms GtG response times, which means minimal motion blur at high refresh rates.
On top of that, the monitor also comes with ELMB Sync, which stands for “Extreme Low Motion Blur”. This is a proprietary technology introduced by Asus relatively recently, and unlike your usual MBR that relies on backlight strobing, ELMB can be turned on at the same time as VRR.
Speaking of VRR, the monitor comes equipped with FreeSync that works in the 48-280Hz range but is also certified as G-Sync Compatible, meaning that it supports G-Sync VRR but without the extra features afforded by Nvidia’s proprietary scaler modules e.g., the reduced motion blur, reduced input lag, etc.
We should also note that this monitor comes with HDR support and is HDR400-certified, although as mentioned above, this is hardly a high-priority feature considering that this kind of peak brightness (400 nits) and a lack of local dimming mean that the monitor can’t really bring HDR to life the way that a higher-quality monitor or TV could.
Overall, the Asus VG259QM is clearly a superb monitor, especially for those who consider performance to be their top priority when choosing a gaming monitor. Granted, it’s a bit pricey as far as 1080p monitors are concerned, but with its vibrant colors, HDR support, ELMB Sync, ergonomic design, and top-notch performance, those who need this kind of monitor won’t lament the extra expense.
- Beautiful IPS panel
- Unmatched performance
- Full G-Sync support
- Disappointing HDR
And last but definitely not least, we have yet another Asus monitor, and this one comes from the aforementioned ROG lineup—the ROG Swift PG259QN.
While not as flamboyant as some other ROG products, the monitor nonetheless features a rather aggressive exterior design, with a stand that really stands out (no pun intended), extensive angular patterns on the back, as well as the indispensable RGB-lit ROG logo that RGB enthusiasts will definitely appreciate.
The monitor comes equipped with a high-quality IPS panel with 10-bit color depth and, more importantly, an as-of-yet unmatched 360Hz refresh rate. Combined with the 1ms GtG response time, it makes the PG259QN one of the best monitors that you can possibly buy if you’re after the most fluid and responsive gaming experience that you can get.
And much like the more affordable VG259QM, this monitor comes with an HDR400 certification, so the HDR is still not much better—this is a bit disappointing, as we would have loved to see higher brightness and local dimming included here, especially considering the price tag. However, HDR is obviously not the reason why you’d be after a 1080p 360Hz monitor in 2021, so it’s not as big of a downside as it would be in some other panels.
A notable feature that is in no small part responsible for the monitor’s premium pricing is the fact that it comes with G-Sync and all the features that come with it, including a wider supported range than what you’d see in most FreeSync monitors, along with ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur) and reduced input lag. Needless to say, this will make the monitor all the more appealing to Nvidia users i.e., most of those who’d be willing to invest in a pricey monitor such as this one.
All in all, the Asus ROG Swift PG259QN is evidently a niche product aimed at competitive gamers and enthusiasts who are willing and able to spend big bucks on the fastest monitor that they can find. If you don’t count among that crowd, then your money would probably be better spent on a cheaper 1080p alternative or a higher-resolution 144Hz monitor instead.
How To Pick The Right Monitor
Now that we have listed some of the best 1080p gaming monitors that you can find on the market today, what should you consider when making your pick? We’ll answer some common questions below!
One of the first things you are likely to consider when buying a monitor, in addition to the resolution and the refresh rate, is the size of the actual screen.
Depending on what you’re using the monitor for and what your setup looks like, a larger or a smaller screen could be more comfortable to use, and the two main factors there have to do with how far away from the monitor you’d be sitting and how sharp the image would be when we consider the display’s pixel density.
However, there isn’t much need to elaborate on that here, seeing as all the monitors listed come with 24–25-inch diagonals and since they all obviously come with 1080p panels.
This is generally a comfortable diagonal for desktop viewing and the pixel density of 90 PPI is also quite solid, although it does skirt the line of what some would consider too low for a 1080p panel.
Granted, it’s nothing to write home about, especially if you’ve had the chance to see a 1440p or 4K monitor up close, but this display size is the upper limit of what most consider to be a good fit for 1080p, as larger 1080p monitors tend to look much more pixelated.
It might seem like discussing resolution here, in an article focused on 1080p monitors, would be superficial. However, you still need to ask yourself—is a 1080p monitor the right solution for you?
As we’ve mentioned in the introduction, 1080p is in the process of being driven obsolete by higher resolutions, at least when gaming is concerned.
With GPUs getting more and more powerful and with the prices of high-performance, high-resolution panels dropping, a 1440p or even a 4K monitor is now a viable choice for gaming.
That said, what are the reasons why you’d want to go with 1080p in 2021?
First and foremost, there’s affordability. Naturally, 1080p gaming monitors will be some of the cheapest options available, which is great for those who are on a very tight budget.
On top of that, there’s the question of performance—not only are high-performance 1080p monitors cheaper than their higher-resolution counterparts, but it is also easier to achieve stable triple-digit framerates in lower resolutions.
Needless to say, this is also a big factor for those who are on a limited budget and can’t afford a beefy graphics card.
If budget constraints aren’t a big issue, you’d probably be better off spending extra on a 144Hz 1440p panel that would also offer much sharper visuals, and it would be more future-proof, too.
And if you’re still on a budget but are more concerned with visuals than with performance, perhaps a budget-friendly 60Hz 1440p monitor might be a better option instead.
Here is an obvious factor to consider, and probably the most important one if you’re shopping for a 1080p gaming monitor in 2021—the refresh rate.
As the name suggests, the refresh rate (expressed in Hertz) indicates how many times the monitor can refresh the displayed image per second and, by extension, the maximum framerate (FPS) that the monitor can display.
As you probably know, a higher framerate means a more fluid and responsive gaming experience, so monitors with high refresh rates have been all the rage in recent years.
Today, you’ll encounter monitors that range from the standard 60Hz to as high as 360Hz.
The most common native refresh rates that you’ll encounter in the wild are 60Hz, 144Hz, and 240Hz, so we can use these as a sort of generalization when talking about refresh rates.
In 2021, 60Hz isn’t really a viable refresh rate for 1080p gaming monitors. Of course, there are 60Hz 1080p monitors out there, but they are generally not worth it for gaming since you can get a 60Hz 1440p or a 144Hz 1080p display instead, usually at a negligible price increase.
That said, the real question is, should you go for 144Hz or 240Hz (or even beyond)?
This is where we have to note something called diminishing returns. Essentially, the higher the refresh rate/framerate gets, the less noticeable it is to the naked eye.
So, for example, while anyone can tell the massive difference between 30 FPS and 60 FPS or between 60 FPS and 120 FPS, going from 120 FPS to 240 FPS is much less noticeable—so much so that some can’t even tell the difference.
So, this is all highly subjective and it’s up to every individual to decide whether they can reap any benefits from higher refresh rates and if said benefits are worth the extra expense. In any case, a 144Hz monitor is probably the safe bet, if you’re uncertain.
Another important factor when it comes to monitor performance is the pixel response time, expressed in milliseconds, that indicates how long it takes for a pixel to change from one color to another i.e., from one shade of gray to another—at least when it comes to GtG (gray-to-gray) response times, which is the most common way response times are measured today.
In contrast to refresh rates, lower is better when it comes to response times, as a lower pixel response time means lower motion blur and less smearing, something that can be particularly problematic for those who play a lot of fast-paced games.
It’s worth noting that some manufacturers list MPRT (Moving Picture Response Time) instead of GtG, which is the apparent response time that the monitor can achieve with motion blur reduction enabled.
Overall, this is simply a marketing trick that monitor manufacturers use to make monitors with slightly higher gray-to-gray response times more appealing.
Today, most gaming monitors are in the 1ms to 4ms range when it comes to response times, but on-paper specs are hardly a good estimate real-life here, since there are additional factors involved.
When it comes to image quality and performance, the panel technology carries a number of implications, as each specific technology has certain advantages and disadvantages. Today, you’ll mainly encounter IPS and VA panels if you’re shopping for gaming monitors.
IPS panels tend to be the most popular, and for several good reasons. First and foremost, they offer unmatched color reproduction and the best viewing angles, but the recent technological improvements have also enabled them to achieve faster pixel response times, making them even more appealing for performance-oriented gamers. On the downside, IPS panels usually don’t have a great contrast ratio and often suffer from “IPS glow”, a type of backlight bleed particular to this technology.
VA panels, on the other hand, have much better contrast and backlight bleed issues aren’t as prevalent, although there’s a chance you might see some clouding.
These panels can generally match IPS when it comes to color reproduction, and while they’re not quite on the same level, the difference is unlikely to be a big deal for gamers. The biggest issue with VA panels, though, is that they tend to be slower in terms of response times, so motion blur and black smearing is a common issue.
It’s also worth mentioning that TN panels also constitute a big part of the market, although they aren’t as popular now that technological advancements have led to IPS panels eclipsing them.
Namely, TN panels are extremely fast, but they also tend to have washed-out colors and very poor viewing angles. Naturally, since IPS has caught up and now offers comparable performance without the major drawbacks in terms of visuals, it’s easy to see why they aren’t as popular a pick in 2021.
HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a feature that first started going mainstream in the mid-2010s with TVs and consoles. Today, it is more and more prevalent in monitors, too, so what exactly is it and is it worth keeping in mind when choosing the right monitor for your needs?
What HDR does is it makes an image more immersive and lifelike through increased brightness and contrast, thus achieving far more realistic visuals than what you could ever get with SDR.
But of course, like with many things in gaming, it’s not as simple and as straightforward in practice.
While many monitors today come with HDR support, not that many of them are actually capable of delivering a proper HDR experience, and we’ve touched upon this throughout the article.
As mentioned before, brightness and contrast are key when it comes to HDR, and sadly, few monitors can actually achieve the kind of brightness and contrast necessary to really make an HDR image truly “pop”.
The above image shows some of the newer VESA standards used to classify HDR-compatible displays, and as you can see, all HDR monitors listed here fall under HDR400, meaning that their maximum brightness in HDR mode is 400 nits. The general consensus is that you should go for at least HDR600 if HDR is important to you.
On top of that, there’s also the question of local dimming, a feature that allows for portions of the backlight to be turned off in order for the monitor to achieve a deeper contrast.
Seeing as how we’ve already established that IPS panels generally don’t have great contrast ratios and commonly suffer from backlight bleed, it should be obvious as to why local dimming is so important for viewing HDR content or playing games in HDR.
All in all, we’d say HDR isn’t all that important if you’re shopping for a 1080p gaming monitor in 2021.
As we’ve mentioned before, chances are you’re in it for the sake of affordability, performance, or both, and if you’re after better visuals, a higher-resolution display would definitely be a better pick.
FreeSync vs G-Sync
You simply can’t have high refresh rates without a variable refresh rate (VRR) technology.
Screen tearing is never a pleasant thing to witness, and V-Sync simply isn’t an option for high framerates, as it can lead to jarring input lag and stuttering. This is where VRR comes in.
Whereas V-Sync prevents screen tearing by imposing a framerate cap in order to keep the monitor’s refresh rate and the in-game framerate in sync, VRR technologies do this by adjusting the refresh rate of the display on the fly, no matter how wildly the framerate might fluctuate.
In essence, FreeSync is a more accessible, budget-friendly option while G-Sync is a premium option with some extra features that will appeal to those with deeper pockets. The main reason for this distinction lies in the fact that Nvidia requires OEMs to buy their proprietary scaler modules and requires each display to pass a series of tests before being certified.
Meanwhile, FreeSync is an open standard technology, so OEMs are free to implement third-party scaler modules and there’s no certification process involved.
However, the situation isn’t quite as simple as it was a few years ago, and there are several versions of both FreeSync and G-Sync that you’ll encounter today.
For FreeSync, you’ll find:
- FreeSync—Standard VRR (screen tearing and stutter elimination with low latency)
- FreeSync Premium—Adds LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) that helps in the case that the framerate drops under the lower limit of the supported refresh rate range
- FreeSync Premium Pro—Also has LFC but adds HDR support as well
As for G-Sync, you’ll find:
- G-Sync—VRR with the added benefits of motion blur reduction, overclocking, and variable overdrive
- G-Sync Compatible—Basic VRR without the extra features available in G-Sync certified monitors that have Nvidia’s scaler modules
- G-Sync Ultimate—Added HDR support with low latency
Overall, as mentioned above, FreeSync and G-Sync Compatible monitors tend to be more budget-friendly, but for those with deeper pockets who might want to take advantage of the extra features that G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate offer, they would likely be worth the extra expense.
Conclusion: The Best 1080p Gaming Monitors For 2021
Now that we have listed and gone over some important factors that you should keep in mind when shopping for a gaming monitor in 2021, it’s time to highlight some picks.
As is always the case with gaming hardware and peripherals, there is no ideal one-size-fits-all solution, as preferences and budget constraints vary greatly from person to person. As a result, we’ve highlighted three monitors from this list: a budget, a value, and a premium pick.
For the budget pick, the AOC C24G1A is the clear choice. It is very budget-friendly, all the while it packs a solid 144Hz VA panel that is sure to be a great fit for anyone who is looking for a high-performance solution but cannot afford to spend more than roughly $150 on a monitor.
Granted, the AOC 24G2 is just as viable a pick if you’re willing to spend a bit more on an IPS panel.
As for the premium pick, the ASUS ROG Swift PG259QN clearly stands out as the fastest monitor currently on the market that features a quality IPS panel and comes with full G-Sync support.
But, as mentioned before, it’s prohibitively high price and dubious value compared to some higher-resolution, high-performance alternatives make it a dubious pick for all but a narrow niche of enthusiasts who are willing to prioritize performance over everything else.
For those who like things balanced, the value pick would have to be the Asus TUF VG259QM, although the BenQ EX2510 is a very close contestant.
Still, we’re more inclined to go with the Asus due to its higher refresh rate, lower response times, the inclusion of ELMB Sync, and the fact that it is officially certified as G-Sync Compatible, which will undoubtedly make it more appealing to Nvidia users.
And so, that would be our selection of the very best 1080p gaming monitors currently on the market! Let us know which one you intend on getting, and keep in mind that these are only our picks—as mentioned above, priorities and budget constraints differ from person to person, so at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which monitor is the perfect fit for your needs.