There are a million specifications to look for when picking a gaming monitor. We need to stay focused on the most important few:
1)Refresh Rate Often expressed as hz (Times per second). A display's refresh rate signifies the maximum amount of times a particular display's screen refreshs (think of it as pictures per second). The higher this number, the more "smooth" the display will feel. However the perception of smoothness is limited by the source material being displayed. For example a movie typically has a 24 Frames Per Second (Meaning it contains only 24 frames of information to be displayed at any second). Most YouTube videos are between 30 and 60 Frames per second. Video games can have as many Frames as the PC is capable of outputing. Having a high refresh rate than the Frames Per Second (FPS) of whatever source material the PC is outputing, will NOT contribute to a smoother experience.
Important concept: Person often conflate Refresh rate (expressed in Hz) with FPS (expressed in number). One easy way to distinguish the two: think of Refresh rate as the upper limit. Its what a particular monitor is theoritically capable of displaying. On the other hand FPS represent what the experience is actually like (up to the limit of Refresh rate of course). FPS is a property of the source material (i.e. movie, games and such) while Refresh rate is a property of the monitor itself.
Non-gaming monitors usually have a Refresh rate of 60hz to 75hz. While gaming monitors will have 120/144/165 or even up to 280hz. While higher refresh rate will definitely contribute towards a better gaming experience, it is important to keep your expectations grounded.
As of 2022, a high Refresh rate is the number one contributing factor to a monitor's cost. A 27 inch 4k monitor with 60Hz Refresh rate cost around 300USD, while the same monitor with 144hz can cost as much as five times more. Esports company often glorify high refresh rate monitors (frames wins games, they say). Reality is not everyone needs a 280hz monitor.
If you're not looking to build the most expensive PC money can buy, chances are whatever PC you end up with will only be able to run simple games (such as the classic CS:GO or Valorant) in super high frame rates. For most games even remotely graphically demanding, a typical Mid-to-High end gaming PC will only be capable of around 100FPS (Which is already very smooth to most people). Not to mention the higher Refresh rate you go, the less the jump will be noticible (going from 60hz to 144hz is a world of difference. 144hz to 280hz? not so much).
Resolution signifies how many pixels are displayed on the screen at any time. The higher the resolution the more clear the picture will appear. (It's a bit more complicated than that but this simple explanation will do for now). When it comes to gaming monitors there are three major resolutions that are relevant today. We usually classify the resolution by the vertical pixel count. For example 1080p signifies 1920 by 1080 pixels (also known as full HD).
Here are the three major resolution classifications by their vertical pixel counts.
1080p or FHD: 1080p is the most common resolution. Buy gaming monitor standard it is the bare minimum. Since there are fewer pixels to drive, 1080p monitors usually comes in very high refresh rates. Even at 280 Hz 1080p monitor can be had with reasonable prices.
1080p is an ageing standard in today's monitor which are typically sized 27-in or above, 1080p image can appear somewhat blurred. However 1080p does have the advantage of being a lighter burden on your PC, which will result in a higher frame rate. This is especially useful in esports titles where framerate is everything. If you're planning to build an entry level to mid level gaming PC this is the resolution you should aim for.
To build a 1080p machine, you can pick from either the Intel Core i3/i5 series, or AMD Ryzen 3/5 series CPU. Since these CPUs are more affordable they will leave you with more budget to pick a good GPU. For GPU, anything from RX 6400 to RTX 3060 will work, depending on your games and budget. It is generally more beneficial to your gaming experience to pick a better GPU than to pick a higher end CPU (Unless you're playing competitively, in which a top CPU with a mid range GPU will make sense). 16GBs of RAM is usually enough for 90% of the games, although 32GB is recommended if you do multi-task or stream.
The IronClad Destroyer mid-size gaming PC is the perfect starting point of a value oriented 1080p machine: https://ironcladforge.com/products/destroyer
1440p or QHD/2k: This is in our opinion the best balance between clarity and smoothness. With a typical resolution of 2048 x 1440 (Or 3440 x 1440 for ultrawide, which also fall under the same catagory), it is not too demanding for today's mid-high range gaming PCs, making it easy to break over the 100fps mark.
As of today, this is without a doubt the most popular resolution for people looking to build a new PC. Any PC with a GPU of RTX 3060 or better can expect to run most games on high settings in 2k resolution without any trouble (for Ultrawide the story might be a bit different, but not by much). If you decide to buy a 2k monitor, be aware that anything larger than 27 inch (or 34 inch in case of ultrawide) might appear blurry to the eye as the pixel density decreases with increase in screen size.
PC building recommendations: a 2k machine is usually the sweetspot for adult gamers who have the financial means don't want to commit too much. Start with a -K suffix Intel Core i5 series (overclockable and higher base/boost clock) or even a normal i7 series (AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 series will also work). For GPU we recommend at least an RTX 3060 Ti / RX6600XT, which runs almost any game comfortably in 2k. 32GB of RAM is recommended because you won't have to shut down any programs in order to run games. For SSD storage anything above 1TB should be fine.
For 2k gaming the IronClad Deep-striker offers the best balance of performance in a small footprint. For more info please visit https://ironcladforge.com/products/ironclad-deep-striker-mid-size-gaming-tower-pc
2160p or UHD/4k: The ultimate resolution, the holy grail of gaming everybody aspires to. While there's nothing that can beat a 4k gaming experience, there are still things to look out for once you've committed your wallet to a 4k gaming setup.
The first is screen size. While the most popular screen size is in fact 27 inch, this is a bad place to be when it comes to 4k monitors. 4k doesn't really look much different from 2k when viewed in 27 inch screens. You'd usually want something bigger, such as 32 inch or even 43 inch. This is because the advantage of higher pixel density only comes into play once you're at the higher ranges of monitor sizes. A larger monitor will allow you to actually make out the tiny details your gaming rig spend it's efforts to render, where similar size but lesser resolution monitor faulters.
Second is refresh rate. Although 27 inch 4k high refresh rate (120hz or above) monitor can be had for reasonable prices, as states above they are generally not worth getting. Larger size high refresh rate 4k monitors however, can quickly balloon in price, taking up a huge chunk of your budget. In this case it is almost necessary to build the gaming PC around the monitor, instead of selecting one as an afterthought. Even the most powerful gaming PC can struggle to run triple A titles pass 100fps, so getting any 4k monitor above 144hz is usually a waste of money.
When it comes to PC specs, should you decide to go for a 4k setup, here's what to pick:
counterintuitively, running 4k require the least amount of CPU power. This is because since the GPU will be rendering much fewer frames compared to the lessor resolution, the CPU does not need to process as fast (GPU will be the limiting factor here in terms of fps). Hence an Intel Core i5 series (preferrably with a -K suffix, stands for overclockable and with higher base and boost clocks) or AMD Ryzen 5 series will usually do. However due to the total cost of the system likely being high, it might not cost much percentage-wise to go for the top CPU.
As for GPU, you'd definitely want to put the best model your budget can afford. For 4k gaming an RTX 3070Ti or RX 6800XT is the entry point (anything below will struggle to run things pass 60fps). If budget is a constrain, it is generally better to go for a higher GPU model rather than a higher CPU model.
You'd also want at least 32GBs of RAM because games that emphasize on 4k experience usually require more RAM (Flight sim 2020, Star Citizen etc.). SSD space of at least 1TB is also recommended as 4k textures are known for their huge sizes (Call of Duty can be up to 200GB in size for example).
For a 4K gaming rig we recommend the IronClad Battlecruiser, which comes with substantial cooling capacity to handle the most demanding hardwares: https://ironcladforge.com/products/ironclad-battlecruiser-large-size-gaming-tower-pc