In the prime age of PC gaming where the barrier of entry is arguably lower than ever before, the last thing you’re going to want to do is to spend more of your budget on a screen than you have on your whole build. With the newest low-end GPUs being released by Nvidia and AMD being priced so reasonably and still being able to run millions upon millions of pixels, it’s becoming easier to think that you need a 4k, 240Hz OLED screen that costs upwards of 5 grand. Depending on the type of gaming experience you’re looking for a lower resolution, higher refresh rate might be exactly what you need. Heavily story-driven, linear games, or even open world, gameplay-driven games like Horizon Zero Dawn or Red Dead Redemption don’t really benefit from high refresh rates and look much better with a nice panel and higher resolutions.
How We Picked
In this list we’re going to be looking at the top 5 played and top 5 streamed games currently to build a criteria list for the monitors to meet. Most of the top played games are competitive multiplayer games that prioritize high fps over high resolutions. Games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, PUBG, and Fortnite all benefit from being able to see your opponent for more frames compared to more pixels. Another aspect of a good gaming monitor is its contrast and color reproduction. Being able to differentiate a possibly camouflaged enemy in Warzone or a jazzed up bean in Fall Guys from the background can be the difference between a win and an elimination.
The features we’re going to be judging the monitors on are the refresh rate, the size, the panel type and stand. For the reasons we stated above, we’re also only looking at 1080p/FHD screens. You get an HD screen for a reasonable price. We’ve also decided to keep the size under 24” as this is a good balance between size and budget and it also takes into account desk space.
Best Cheap Gaming Monitor in 2021
23.6” total diagonal size.
Low power/eco friendly monitor.
Uses a TN panel.
This entry level gaming monitor from Acer is a great place to start when looking for your first gaming focused screen. Acer has manufactured a monitor that includes all of the main features of a high quality gaming monitor without pushing the budget too far.
This is a 75Hz monitor which sits nicely between a standard 60Hz screen and a 100Hz screen. You get the benefits of a higher refresh rate without the price tag. With some knowledge of screen overclocking you can get this panel to 100Hz. The increased refresh rate means you’ll be able to play at a higher frame rate and get the competitive edge you need to triumph over the opponent.
At 23.6” this monitor is the right size for its resolution, any larger and you’d be able to differentiate individual pixels and have a blown out image. At 2 to 3 feet away from this monitor you’ll get a clear image without sacrificing viewing angles.
This monitor uses a TN panel which is one of the easiest to drive but it does suffer from low color accuracy and bad viewing angles if improperly adjusted. Appropriately it makes this monitor a low power screen that is eco rated.
There aren’t a huge amount of notable features with the stand on this monitor but you get a decent amount of tilt and it’s sturdy enough to reduce desk wobble. It does have VESA mounting capabilities though so you can easily mount this monitor for a better viewing experience.
Overall this is a good monitor all around but if you’re looking for good color accuracy and viewing angles you may want to consider one of the other monitors on our list.
High refresh rate at 165Hz max.
23.6” curved panel.
Not an IPS panel.
The next monitor on our list is part of ASUS’s TUF Gaming line. ASUS normally saves this standard for its highest quality gaming components and this monitor deserves the name.
With a 144Hz panel capable of reaching 165Hz with some minor overclocking. At this refresh rate you would be able to experience high frame rate gaming. It goes without saying that higher refresh rates matched with high frame rates make for the best gaming experience and competitive edge. ASUS has also included FreeSync technology with this monitor meaning that you will be able to play without screen tearing or artifacting.
Similar to the previous monitor this is a 23.6” screen and so works perfectly for any desk setup. With the same 1080p resolution as all of the monitors on this list, you should be able to drive this monitor at high frame rates without spending too much on your PC. The monitor can sit comfortably about 2 feet from your face without having issues with pixel differentiation. On top of its ideal size, the screen is also curved with a curvature of 1500R meaning that the viewing angles are further improved.
This monitor uses a VA panel. A VA panel is one of the best for color accuracy and viewing angles, when paired with the high refresh rate and a curve you get an unparalleled gaming experience from a cheap monitor. The only panel type that is better than VA is IPS and you’d be looking at significantly increasing the cost for such a high refresh rate with IPS.
The stand works well to support the curved monitor and its base is very sturdy, you get a small amount of height adjustment with plenty of tilt and you can even swivel the monitor from its base. You also have access to a 100×100 VESA mounting plate on the back once you remove the existing stand.
24” screen size.
ViewSonic SuperClear IPS technology.
Highly adjustable monitor stand.
Low refresh rate.
This monitor from ViewSonic is a great monitor for gaming that works well for all of your other PC needs.
The monitor has a standard 60Hz refresh rate and runs smoothly at this frame rate. There isn’t a huge amount of benefits from having a lower refresh rate except that the monitor as a whole is less power consuming.
The monitor sits at 24” inches total diagonal size meaning that it sits perfectly on a desk about 2 to 3 feet from you. ViewSonic has made this a monitor with even bezels along each side, they are also very minimal. It gives the whole thing a seamless look.
The monitor comes with an IPS panel which is one of the reasons it doesn’t have a higher refresh rate. It may be a worthwhile tradeoff as the color accuracy and viewing angles of an IPS panel are completely unrivaled by VA or TN panels. The panel used in this monitor meets 100% of the sRGB color gamut. ViewSonic’s SuperClear IPS panels really make for a great story based gaming experience.
The stand that comes equipped with this monitor is one of the best we’ve seen so far. You get a great amount of height adjustment, full tilt ability and you can rotate the monitor 90 degrees either way. This essentially means that you can use this monitor in portrait mode which is great for coders, streamers or even document editors. You also get VESA mounting capabilities with the monitor so you can mount it for more adjustability.
144Hz panel with FreeSync.
23.6” 1500R curved display.
Best stand configuration.
Lack of overclocking ability.
AOC is a great brand for reasonably priced monitors and this one is no exception. It comes equipped with a 144Hz panel that looks like it was built for gamers. AOC has also built in FreeSync capabilities for the smoothest gaming experience.
The monitor is a 23.6” display that is also curved. With a 1500R curve your viewing angles are increased further. The whole monitor is designed with red accents and sharp edges that make it stand out against standard monitors and give it that gamer look.
The AOC gaming monitor uses a VA panel that means it can run at high refresh rates without sacrificing color accuracy or viewing angles, especially with the curve.
Similar to the last monitor you get a lot of adjustability out of the stand. With a cable routing hole and a rotation function this stand is the best we’ve seen on the list so far. The stand also uses the extended v-shaped legs that make it extremely stable. You do also have VESA mounting capabilities if you’re looking to mount it.
Most cost effective.
75Hz refresh rate.
Can be VESA mounted.
Uses a TN panel instead of VA or IPS.
This is the most budget friendly monitor on our list and is the only monitor under $100 that we could recommend for gaming.
The monitor can output frame rates up to 75 FPS as it has a max refresh rate of 75Hz. At this frame rate you get a slight competitive advantage.
This screen is also the smallest on our list with a total screen size of 21.5”. At this size the monitor can sit comfortably on a normal desk and it actually has a higher pixel density than a 24” monitor.
This monitor uses a TN panel like the first one on our list. This basically means that at its small size it has the lowest power consumption of all the monitors on our list. Apart from that it actually has relatively bad color accuracy and not the greatest viewing angles.
You’ll need to utilize the VESA mounting capabilities of this monitor if you’re looking for any level of adjustability. With the included stand you only get 25 degrees of tilt adjustment without any other option to place the monitor better for yourself.
Things To Consider
As we’ve stated above the refresh rate of a gaming monitor is more than its resolution due to the fact that in competitive games your reaction time is more impactful than your visual fidelity.
A study performed by Nvidia a couple of years ago showed that players of equivalent skill levels performed better in competitive games with an increased refresh rate and frame rate.
Obviously your refresh rate is linked to your frame rate in that your PC can only produce a certain number of frames per second depending on its gaming ability and the refresh rate can only ever show a maximum number of frames per second ranging from 60 to 240 (there are some 360Hz monitors available but these are still widely unpopular, due to pricing and drivability).
With each of these monitors we’re looking at a maximum budget of around $200 which caps our maximum frequency to 144Hz. This works ideally for competitive gaming especially on a budget. In games like GTA V a higher refresh rate isn’t strictly necessary so we’ve included a couple of 60Hz monitors on the list to ensure that you can get a gaming monitor with almost any budget.
To reduce screen tearing, artifacting, and ghosting you can use in game features such as V-Sync. Technologies like AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync have been introduced to the monitors themselves to reduce the effect of mismatched frame rates and refresh rates. At these price ranges it is unlikely you’ll be able to find a G-Sync enabled monitor but we did find some with FreeSync compatibility.
As we said earlier we’ve had to keep the size of each monitor under 24” to make sure they meet the price limit. In practice FHD is simply too low of a resolution for any monitor larger than 24”. You may be thinking that you had or have an FHD television that you still use without any problems and you’d be right.
As the intended viewing distance is so much further away for a television than a monitor, it doesn’t need to be as pixel dense. Essentially you’re expected to sit about 1 ½ to 3 feet from your monitor but anywhere between 10 and 15 feet away from your television.
The smaller details at this distance just aren’t noticeable. Using a 27” 1080p screen 2 feet away from you means that you’re easily going to be able to differentiate individual pixels and that’s why the pixel density is directly related to a good viewing/gaming experience.
The panel type of your monitor is not only responsible for its color accuracy but also the brightness and actually also the refresh rate to a certain degree. There are 3 main panel types on the market for monitors currently, they are IPS, VA and TN.
IPS panels are the best on the market for color accuracy and brightness but can be more costly, they are also harder to find with higher refresh rates. VA panels are easier to run at higher refresh rates and are normally more cost effective.
A lot of the monitors on our list have VA panels for this very reason, you get an even balance between refresh rate and cost. The color accuracy of most VA panels is still fairly up to par but they aren’t going to blow you away with HDR or any other IPS based technologies or standards.
TN panels have been almost completely replaced by VA panels but still are the most cost effective of all panel types. They are the easiest to drive and can still offer great refresh rates and viewing angles given the correct stand and size.
Stand and Mounting
For smaller screens like these the stand isn’t massively important as they aren’t that heavy but a good stand can be the difference between a solid gaming experience and a bobblehead simulator.
The smaller circular bases are normally worse for structural integrity and stability. The instability and lack of structural integrity can be bypassed with a proper mount. Most monitors come with VESA standard mounting abilities. As this is industry standard a screen with VESA mounting abilities are compatible with most monitor arms/mounts.
With a good stand however you get multi-plane adjustment meaning you can adjust the height, the rotation and you can even swivel the monitor to make sure you get the best viewing angle.
A properly adjusted monitor is actually a key aspect to an ergonomic gaming setup. Having the top or center of the screen be at your eye level can reduce RSI, neck pain and overall electronic fatigue. A good quality stand is also an indicator of a higher quality monitor overall. If you’re looking to save a couple extra bucks then getting a cheaper monitor with a lower quality stand with the intention of mounting later is the best option.
If you want the best cheap gaming monitor, we think the Acer KG251Q has to be your pick. It offers up the best overall gaming experience if you’re on a tight budget and even has some features that more expensive monitors also have.