The world of gaming has seen some very drastic improvements these last few years. For instance, SSDs are replacing HDDs, quad-core CPUs are being driven obsolete, all the while 1440p and 4K resolutions are becoming more and more popular when it comes to gaming monitors.
Now, if you’ve decided to get a new monitor in 2021 but can’t afford to spend too much, don’t worry – there are plenty of great budget-friendly options out there that won’t set you back too much.
So, if you’re ready to take a look at some of the best budget gaming monitors of 2021, read on!
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- Simple but effective exterior design
- Decent visuals and performance
- AMD FreeSync support
- Great value for the money
- Basic stock stand
- No VESA mount support
- No DisplayPort
- Small by today’s standards
The very first monitor on the list is also the cheapest one, so it is bound to appeal to gamers who are on a very tight budget. Acer is a well-known name in the hardware world, and with the SB220Q, they are offering a solid display at a very low price. So, is it any good?
Well, the Acer SB220Q is a relatively simple 1080p IPS monitor with a 75 Hz refresh rate, which is a bit surprising considering that TN panels are usually the cheapest options that you’ll come across.
So, not only does the SB220Q look better than most TN alternatives in this price range, but it also has an increased refresh rate and FreeSync support, something that will ultimately make games feel a bit more fluid and responsive if you can push the FPS counter that far.
Granted, there’s no way that 75 Hz can have an effect that’s anywhere near a proper 144 Hz panel, but considering the price tag, it’s quite impressive overall.
The same goes when it comes to the visuals – the SB220Q offers decent colors and viewing angles that can’t really compete with what some of the more expensive IPS panels can do, but it’s still great considering how little it costs.
Now, as with most low-end products, it has some notable drawbacks, too. First and foremost, there is no VESA support, so you’re stuck with the stock stand that can only be adjusted for tilt.
Moreover, the SB220Q only comes with a single VGA port and a single HDMI port. Finally, it is a bit small by modern standards, with a diagonal of a mere 21.5 inches, and we feel that a 24-inch diagonal is the sweet spot for 1080p monitors.
In any case, while it is by no means the perfect monitor, the Acer SB220Q is definitely the go-to choice for anyone who is pinching pennies and looking for the cheapest yet serviceable monitor that they can find.
Again, the visuals are good for a $90 panel, and the inclusion of FreeSync in the 48-75 Hz range is also a welcome addition.
- Decent color accuracy and viewing angles
- 144 Hz with FreeSync support
- Good price
- Unimpressive stand
- Some noticeable motion blur
Moving on, we get to a monitor from yet another reputable company – the Asus VP249QGR. This, too, is a budget-friendly 1080p IPS monitor, but it costs a bit more.
It is also more performance-oriented, featuring a panel with a 144 Hz refresh rate that is bound to appeal to anyone who likes the extra fluidity and responsiveness or just wants an extra edge in multiplayer games.
Since it’s an IPS panel we’re talking about, you can rest assured that the monitor offers solid color accuracy and viewing angles, plus the 24-inch screen is the sweet spot for 1080p, as we’ve mentioned above. FreeSync works in the 48-144 Hz range, which is more than satisfactory considering the price tag.
The main drawback to the VP249QGR is that it has some motion blur that’s especially noticeable during fast-paced sequences. The response time is a bit high, but the ghosting isn’t as bad as what you might get in some cheaper panels, so it’s still a pretty good display.
Apart from that, the stock stand is once again a basic tilt-only solution, though fortunately, the VP249QGR is actually VESA-compatible, so getting a more adjustable stand won’t be a problem.
Ultimately, the Asus VP249QGR is the ultimate 144 Hz budget gaming monitor, as it has all of the most important bases covered if you’re looking for a performance-oriented solution at a low price.
Much like the previous model from Acer, the visuals aren’t as great a what you’d get with a higher-quality IPS panel, but given the price, it’s quite good. More importantly, the monitor is fast and responsive, which is the most important thing if you place performance first.
- Affordable for a 1440p 144 Hz monitor
- Good contrast and colors
- Appealing design
- Adjustable VESA stand
- Great overall value
- Some ghosting issues
- Color accuracy not as good as with an IPS panel
Moving on, we get to something a bit more serious – the AOC CQ27G1. While it’s not exactly as cheap as the previous two models, this is a monitor that will give you the best value for your money that you can get if you’re after a monitor that can offer both good visuals and excellent performance at an approachable price.
The design isn’t exactly gaudy and over-the-top but the red highlights definitely make the CQ27G1 stand out as a gaming monitor, in contrast to the simple black exterior design of the two models we’ve listed above.
It features a curved 1440p VA panel with a 144 Hz refresh rate, meaning that it can deliver both on the visuals and on the performance front.
As you might expect, FreeSync is implemented well and works in the 48-144 Hz range, the colors, and the contrast are both on point, and it comes complete with a sleek, fully adjustable stand.
But of course, no monitor is perfect, and as far as the CQ27G1 is concerned, the main drawbacks here are the ghosting issues that are primarily noticeable in darker scenes, something that is a common issue with VA panels in general.
Truth be told, the colors aren’t as vibrant as what you’d get with a quality IPS panel, but the resolution and the high refresh rate help make up for this.
All in all, at this price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better 1440p 144 Hz monitor, so if you want to have both the crispness that 1440p offers and the responsiveness that a 144 Hz panel can provide, the AOC CQ27G1 makes that possible without being too expensive.
It even comes with a good, adjustable VESA stand that complements the design quite well.
It’s also worth mentioning that both a 27-inch and a 32-inch model are available, something that is good if you’re after an extra-large curved monitor, but in that case, an ultrawide model might be a better fit (more on that below).
- Crisp and sharp image
- Very affordable for a 4K monitor
- 60 Hz refresh rate
- Tilt-only stand
Next, we have a budget 4K monitor lined up, and yes, you read that right. You no longer have to worry about spending massive amounts of cash on a monitor if you’re after a 4K panel.
The Philips 278E1A is a remarkably affordable 4K solution that utilizes an IPS panel, which is a combo made in heaven if you prioritize visuals over performance. Needless to say, if you’re on a budget but want to get a 4K monitor, then that’s pretty much guaranteed to be the case.
To put it simply, the picture quality on the 278E1A is spot-on, with accurate and vibrant colors, good viewing angles, and the kind of image clarity that only 4K can provide. But, as you might have guessed, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, especially not at this price point, so there are also some drawbacks to consider.
Most notably, this is a 60 Hz monitor, so it’s not as responsive as a 144 Hz panel, plus the response time is also a bit higher, though you’re unlikely to notice this unless you’ve gotten used to gaming on a 1ms panel.
On top of that, the 278E1A also comes with a basic tilt-only stand, though it is VESA-compatible, meaning that you’ll easily find a third-party stand if you need extra adjustability.
At the end of the day, as we have already mentioned, this monitor will primarily appeal to those who mainly want to have good graphics in their games and don’t really care about performance. However, running games in 4K can still be tough in 2021, especially when it comes to demanding AAA titles.
Refresh Rate: 200Hz
- Solid visuals
- Immersive curved ultrawide screen
- 200 Hz refresh rate
- Good value
- Basic tilt-only stand
- Noticeable ghosting
The next entry on the list comes from a lesser-known company called Sceptre, and their C305B-200UN monitor is a great pick for those who are interested in getting an affordable ultrawide gaming monitor.
First of all, this is a 1080p monitor, which is expected considering that it manages to offer not only a 30-inch ultrawide curved screen but also a 200 Hz refresh rate at its reasonably modest price.
It uses a VA panel, so the colors are good, and it offers some great contrast, albeit the response time and the overall color accuracy aren’t as great as what you’d see in similarly-priced IPS panels.
It goes without saying that it also supports FreeSync in the 48-200 Hz range, so there’s nothing to complain about on that front.
The only major drawback to the C305B-200UN is the response time mentioned above, as it leads to some noticeable ghosting and motion blur that many VA panels suffer from.
As usual, there’s also the unimpressive tilt-only stock stand, but the monitor is VESA-compatible, so it can be used with any third-party VESA stand or wall mount.
At the end of the day, the Sceptre C305B-200UN offers the kind of immersion that you can only get with a curved ultrawide screen, but it also has an exceptionally high refresh rate that makes it appealing for those who want a high refresh rate in their monitor, too.
- Beautiful ultrawide VA panel
- 1440p with a 144 Hz refresh rate
- Fully adjustable stand
For the final entry on the list, we have another ultrawide monitor, though this one is a more serious solution that’s also a bit more pricey compared to the previous model from Sceptre.
The AOC CU34G2X also boasts a VA panel, but it also has a massive 34-inch diagonal and a 1440p panel that makes it even easier for the monitor to pull the player into the game world.
The refresh rate is the more conventional 144 Hz, and while it’s not as high as the Sceptre model’s 200 Hz, the difference isn’t that noticeable, and this AOC monitor more than makes up for it in several ways.
As mentioned above, it packs a 34-inch 1440p display, better color accuracy, a more responsive panel that exhibits less ghosting, and the monitor comes complete with a highly-adjustable VESA stand, all of which makes it a much more attractive solution overall.
However, what is probably the biggest downside to the AOC CU34G2X is its price. While it’s nowhere near as expensive as some other monitors, we are focusing on budget models in this article, and this one is quite pricey as far as budget-friendly options are concerned.
Still, if you want to “have your cake and eat it too” with a monitor that offers both great visuals and great performance, then the AOC CU34G2X is probably the cheapest monitor that you can get and still reach that goal.
How To Pick The Best Monitor For Your Need
Now that we have listed some of the best budget monitors currently available, it’s time to take a look at some crucial features that you should consider before making your pick.
The first and usually the most crucial aspect of a monitor that gamers take into account is the resolution. And why is the resolution so important?
Well, the higher the resolution, the better the games will look. More pixels equals a sharper image, more details, and an enhanced sense of depth.
On the other hand, running games in higher resolutions is also more demanding on the hardware, which means that a higher resolution will usually equal a lower framerate. Therefore it’s essential to keep the capabilities of your GPU in mind, too.
The resolutions that you’ll commonly see in gaming monitors today are:
- 1080p (Full HD) – This used to be the standard resolution in most monitors and TVs a few years back, but it is now being replaced on both the monitor and the TV front. Even so, 1080p is still viable for gaming in 2021, as it still looks good, is less demanding, and leads to better in-game performance.
- 1440p (Quad HD) – This resolution is slowly becoming standard for most gaming setups as it looks noticeably better than 1080p, all the while not being as demanding as 4K, thus making it a good middle ground.
- 2160p (Ultra HD/4K) – This resolution offers some of the best visuals that you can get in a monitor, but it’s also very demanding for the GPU.
So, which should you choose?
Obviously, preferences play a big role, but so does your GPU. Naturally, the exact performance will vary from game to game and from graphics card to graphics card, so it’s best to check out some benchmarks to see what kind of performance you can get with a specific GPU in a specific game.
If we were to make some generalizations, budget GPUs such as the GTX 1650 Super are good for 1080p, mid-range solutions such as the RTX 2060 Super and the RX 5600 XT do well in 1440p, all the while high-end GPUs such as the RTX 2070 Super or the RTX 2080 Super are the ones that can truly make the most of 4K.
But again, those are just generalizations, so always take a look at some benchmarks before deciding on which resolution is the right choice for you, just as you should take into account both the kinds of games that you usually play and the overall performance that your GPU can offer.
The Screen Size
Another important aspect of every monitor that ties in with the resolution is the size of the screen.
When deciding on how large a monitor you should get, the main factor that you should consider is the pixel density.
As far as pixel density is concerned, it’s a fairly simple matter – the smaller the screen, the more densely the pixels will be packed, and so the image will appear sharper.
If we’re talking about a large screen with a comparatively low resolution, you will notice a significant decrease in visual fidelity as the pixel density decreases.
Again, this is largely subjective, but generally speaking, the perfect screen size for each of the resolutions mentioned above is as follows:
- 1080p – 21-24 inches
- 1440p – 24-27 inches
- 2160p – 27-32 inches
Naturally, 4K can look good even on larger screens, but most people agree that 32 inches are about as large as a desktop monitor should get and that anything beyond that is just uncomfortable to view up close.
But of course, that is only if we’re talking about regular widescreen monitors with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which brings us to the next point…
The Aspect Ratio
In addition to 16:9 widescreen solutions, ultrawide monitors with a 21:9 aspect ratio are becoming more and more popular, and for a good reason, as they have some distinct advantages (and disadvantages) of their own.
The first and most evident upside to any ultrawide monitor is simply the fact that a larger screen ultimately allows for a wider field of view in games. Outside of gaming, the extra screen space can also greatly help with productivity and multitasking, even if we’re talking something simple like web browsing.
Not only that, but curved ultrawide monitors can also offer an unparalleled sense of immersion.
However, one of the key issues with using an ultrawide monitor for gaming is that many game developers intentionally disable FOV adjustment in competitive games to prevent those with ultrawide monitors from having an advantage over others.
Moreover, not all games come with proper ultrawide support, so some extra tinkering might be required to get some games running properly on a 21:9 display.
Finally, a wider monitor also has a greater horizontal pixel count, which means that you might suffer a performance hit due to the higher resolution. For example, a 1080p ultrawide monitor usually has a resolution of 2560×1080 pixels, and for 1440p models it’s usually 3440x1440p.
The Refresh Rate
In 2021, the refresh rate is very important, and for some gamers, it is actually more important than the display’s resolution. So, why is a high refresh rate important?
Essentially, the refresh rate determines how many times the monitor can refresh the display each second, and it is measured in Hertz (Hz).
That refresh rate corresponds directly to the maximum number of frames that the monitor can display per second. So if you want higher FPS and all the benefits that it brings, i.e., smoother animations, increased responsiveness, and reduced motion blur, a high refresh rate should be high on your priority list.
As you can tell from this article, refresh rates cover a wide range in 2021, going from the standard 60 Hz to as high as 240 Hz (and even beyond, in a few rare cases).
Now, much like with the resolution, both your preferences and your hardware come into play when deciding what kind of refresh rate is the right fit for your needs.
As we’ve mentioned before, the framerate can vary wildly from game to game and from GPU to GPU, depending on how demanding and how well-optimized the game is, as well as on the raw power of the GPU itself.
That said, like with the resolution, it’s a good idea to check out some benchmarks that will let you know the exact kind of performance that you can expect to see in a specific game with your GPU before deciding on whether a 144+ Hz monitor would be a worthwhile buy.
We should note, however, that there are some diminishing returns involved when it comes to higher refresh rates. That is, the higher the refresh rates get, the more dubious the benefits become.
So, for example, the difference between 30 FPS and 60 FPS is very obvious, whereas the difference between 60 FPS and 120 FPS is noticeable but not quite as much, all the while the difference between 120 FPS and 240 FPS is barely noticeable for most people.
The Response Time
When it comes to responsiveness, the refresh rate isn’t the only entry on the spec sheet to keep in mind, as the pixel response times are important as well, albeit not quite as much.
The response time is expressed in milliseconds (ms) and it denotes how quickly a pixel can change color, usually from gray-to-gray (GtG). In practice, the higher the response time, the more you’ll be able to notice motion blur and ghosting.
Most modern monitors have very low response times, usually ranging from 1ms to 4ms. It varies from panel to panel, as TN panels tend to be the fastest ones around, with IPS panels following closely behind, all the while VA panels are usually the slowest of the three and usually tend to have some issues with ghosting.
Now, as to how important the response time is, it ultimately ends up being highly subjective.
Most people don’t notice any significant motion blur unless the response time is higher than 10ms and needless to say, you’d be hard-pressed to find any gaming monitor with a response time that high in 2021.
On the other hand, those who are used to gaming on a 1ms monitor will probably notice the difference between 1ms and 4ms, as slight as it may be. However, if you aren’t used to 1ms, you’d probably find nothing to complain about when it comes to a 4ms panel.
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And with that out of the way, which of the monitors listed here would we say is the best budget monitor for gaming in 2021?
Well, seeing as there are quite a few different models to choose from, we have picked out several monitors:
- Budget Pick – Acer SB220Q – As we have mentioned previously, this monitor is a steal at its price at the moment. Obviously, it can’t come close to some pricier panels in terms of visual fidelity of performance, but for a $90 monitor, it’s a pretty good deal.
- Best Value – AOC CQ27G1 – Being a 1440p 144 Hz VA monitor, we feel that this one offers best overall value for your money, as it has all the important bases covered – resolution, refresh rate, and visuals, plus the exterior design is quite attractive and it has a good, adjustable VESA stand.
- Best Overall – AOC CU34G2X – Finally, this is the best monitor on this list overall, as it does everything that the CQ27G1 does right and adds an immersive, curved ultrawide screen to the mix. However, it is also the most expensive monitor here, so it won’t appeal to those who are on a very tight budget.
But those are only our picks! Any of the monitors listed here is bound to be a good fit, provided that you keep your needs and your PC’s capabilities in mind.