PC Gaming 101: Part 5: Gaming Monitor Buyer's guide

PC gaming is quite big in India. As games become more intense and compelling, gamers find themselves wanting the latest and greatest hardware to run these games smoothly. That being said, the majority of gamers wanting to build or upgrade their machines don’t have much of a clue, and are often at the mercy of vendors and salesmen, due to which, more often than not, they end up making the wrong decisions. This is an attempt to address this lack of information, and help all PC gamers make the best of their resources. This is PC GAMING 101.

 

If you own and regularly use a PC, you know what a minitor is. However, when it comes to gaming, not all monitors are built equally. So, what makes a monitor "good for gaming" ? (Well for starters it should connect to a device that runs videogames.) Let's have a look at the things you should look out for, while choosing a monitor for your gaming setup: 

1. Inputs 

 

Most gaming monitors these days have DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI input ports, or a combination of the three. (You can read more about display technologies and standards in Part 4, here). If you're gaming on a PC, and you want to keep things as simple as possible, you should go with DVI and DisplayPort with confidence. HDMI will work fine, unless you want the resolution to be higher than 1080P, or a refresh rate over 60Hz. HDMI 2.0 is coming out soon to address these issues. Not that HDMI inputs are totally useless though, you can use them to connect secondary gaming devices such as gaming consoles and switch between your devices as you choose. 

2. Size Matters 

Yes, a monitor's size does matter, but not for the reasons most people think it does. A larger monitor just puts a larger image in front of you, and isn't any more difficult for your graphics card to power. So you should pick a size that's comfortable for you, for the distance you want to sit from it. The spec that determines how hard it is to power the monitor, is the resolution. A 24 inch 4K monitor will be about 4 times more difficult to drive than even an 80 inch 1080P "Full HD" TV, because of the sheer number of pixels. Higher resolution monitors deliver a clearer, more "retina-like" display so resolution isn't a problem, in and of itself. It's just a factor you need to consider in your overall build/upgrade budget. 

Now that we've gone through the basics of monitors and displays, let's look at what makes a monitor "good for gaming". 

Response Time  

The rendering process of pixels on an LCD/LED display is very different from the old, tube style CRT monitors, and when the image updates, the pixels gradually shift from one colour to another. So, the slower the pixels of the monitor, the more "motion blur" or ugly streaking that you'll see behind moving objects on the screen. 

So, while buying a monitor for gaming, look for a monitor with a "Grey to Grey" response time of

8-16 milliseconds for  casual use

1-2 ms for competitive use.  

Refresh Rate 

60Hz versus 144 Hz

Expressed in Hertz, the refresh rate is the number of times an image is sent to the display, every second. If your eyes are getting more updates per second, you're getting information slightly faster than your opponent. It's a definite advantage, and the fastest monitors these days can run at upto 144 Hz, at 1080P. That means you can get screen updates upto 10 milliseconds faster than your opponent using a 60 Hz display. 

Input Lag

Now, this is a spec that most manufacturerd don't report, but is really quite important. When the CPU sends signals to the monitor, the monotor needs to translate that information into a format that the panel can understand. This processing introduces a delay which means that you could be seeing an individial frame that is anywhere from a few milliseconds later than it was output by your graphics card, all the way upto 50 milliseconds later, or more. For competitive use, look for a monitor that has an input lag of less than 10 milliseconds. But don't just take the manufacturer's word for it, LCD manufacturers are notorious for inventing completely new specifications to suit their marketing purposes. So, be sure to check out sites like Blur Busters to get the latest info and specs on gaming displays. 

Other Features

Apart from the factirs mentioned above, there are other factors to look out for as well, such as 

Now, if this guide raised more questions than it answered, or you'd just like to go hands-on and choose which specs matter for you, just check out online forums, they might really help out. 

Prev>> Part 4: Display Technologies

Next>>Part 6: Computer Cases

 

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Smartphone Battles of 2014- Hype, Disappointments and an Unexpected(?) Winner!

The mobile tech annual release cycle is in full swing, and with CES and MWC out of the way, we have now seen most OEMs announce and launch their flagships for 2014 (with the notable exceptions being Apple and LG). The embargoes have lifted, the blast of buzz has come and gone, and the length and breadth of the internet is stocked full of articles, editorials and blog posts. Comment threads have burst into activity with haters and defenders, and now lay dormant for the most part. It’s around this time that the tech press says that “The dust has settled”, but I beg to differ. As from how I see it, none of the top OEMs- be it Samsung, Sony or HTC have kicked up any dust in the first place. 

It’s the time of year when the tech enthusiasts of the world begin forming their opinions about their choice of “Best Flagship of 2014”. A glut of video reviews, unboxings, hands-ons, benchmarks… everything is following the pattern we’ve all come to know of and whether you love it or loathe it- all this talk does affect us in some way. 

This year though, I grew weary of this mobile tech release cycle right from the start. All the leaks, the speculation, and the discussions pointed to yearly refreshes in hardware with some gimmicks slapped on as an afterthought, and in that respect, each and every major OEM so far has followed the trend, so to speak. There were many who hoped for something unexpected, but those hopes were crushed soon enough, and I don’t expect LG or Apple to break the mold, either. 

While I’ve been disappointed by new releases in the mobile tech space for quite some time now, there are times when I really feel like I want a certain device. This phenomenon was very prevalent when I first began following the tech space closely back in 2010. Back then the space was quite different in many ways, android was laggy, processors were beginning to go dual core, and feature phones made up a major chunk of the user base. It was then when I was truly enamored by the Asus Transformer. The design, the specs and the laptop-tablet hybrid form factor really wowed me. Then came the Galaxy S2 in 2011. Since that time though, due to increased coverage, more detailed leaks and the simple face that a lot more people now carried smartphones, annual releases just seemed all too evolutionary. Beefier specs, bigger screens, more ostentatious gimmicks and crazy amounts of marketing- “true innovation” seemed to be lost somewhere in the midst of all this. 

MWC happened this year, and an insane amount of coverage followed it. But amidst all the devices that were announced and launched there, there was one that really caught my attention- the Yotaphone. And after a long time, I felt truly enamored by a device once more. That’s right, my top pick for smartphone of the year, the one to trounce them all, the one I really, really want- the Yotaphone 2014. 

To me, this device brings the best hardware together with the most useful “marquee feature”. The device packs beefy specifications and a good design- but the real story is about what’s at the back- a a multi-touch, color, e-ink display. 

I’ve been using a smartphone for more than two years now, and I know the things people have to deal with when using a smartphone day in and day out. One of the most important considerations though, are battery life, and outdoor visibility. 

Phones these days come with battery packs much beefier than the lowly 1500 MAH battery my device uses, but the battery life situation is more or less the same- upto a day’s worth of moderate to heavy use on a single charge. No matter which phone you have, you’re going to need to plug it into a charging socket daily if you use your phone extensively and want to keep using it. Check the battery usage stats on your device, and you’ll see that the display (screen on time) amounts for a major chunk of the power consumption, and it doesn’t matter whether its an LCD or an AMOLED panel, the more you keep the display powered on, the more battery it’s going to consume.  

Another thing smartphone users have to deal with is poor outdoor visibility. If its too bright outside, you’re going to have a hard time trying to look at your phone’s display, and you’ll find yourself shielding it with your hands making it an overall cumbersome experience. 

The Yotaphone’s secondary e-ink display does away with both those problems very elegantly. For the uninitiated, E-ink displays use a fusion of chemistry, physics and electronics to provide an easily readable display that consumes very less power. One of the most important differences between generic displays and an E-ink display is that while normal displays use backlight to project images, E-ink displays use the ambient light of the surroundings, reflecting it back into your eyes. 

Secondly, E-ink displays don’t need a continuous power supply to work. The display uses special pigments that turn white or black based on an applied positive or negative electric field. Moreover, the new Yotaphone has a color E-ink display rather than a standard black and white one found on eBook readers, allowing for much more functionality. 

The addition of this secondary display also helps outdoor visibility as it has a “matte finish” and no backlight, thus mimicking the look of ink on paper. 

E-ink technology consumes less power, is easier to read and has a longer shelf life than traditional LCD/AMOLED displays. However it’s the secondary screen for a reason- E-ink displays in their current incarnation lack the vibrancy and sheer color gamut that other backlit displays provide. Low light visibility is also another factor. All these factors notwithstanding, an E-ink display can really come in handy when the phone is low on battery and you want to continue working, for example if you’re using maps to navigate. Also, it allows you to get a screen shot of the primary display, and view it even when the phone is switched off- a truly welcome, functional feature with many practical uses. 

A secondary E-ink display at the back of a phone is a good thing. But a secondary E-ink display that supports multi touch and has more colors than just black and white? That just knocks it out of the ball park for me.

The Yotaphone may not have the latest in fingerprint recognition, or heart rate monitors, it may not have the dust and immersion resistance ratings or a glut of gimmicks backed by a marketing machine or the latest in image sensing, but what it brings to the table is a practical and highly useful, truly innovative blend of hardware and software, with the end user kept in mind. 

 

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