Featured image: VRS
Gaming monitors come in many shapes and sizes, and because manufacturers offer such a wide array of features and specs these days, it’s hard to keep up with every update. In fact, from one model’s release to the next, the updates can be so incremental that you might even struggle to notice what’s changed. Besides, more and more brands seem to be entering the monitor marketplace, some with outstanding high-quality products, while others may be lacking in the technical prowess department.
I recently improved my sim racing rig with a much-needed PC upgrade, along with a few new pieces of driving hardware, so I thought what better way to complement my new additions than with a shiny new monitor that would allow me to make the most of my virtual driving experience.
When you think about it, whichever monitor you use will have a significant impact on your overall immersion in your sim rig, and unless you’re using VR, in my opinion, the importance of a good gaming monitor to your overall sim-racing experience cannot be overstated.
How to find the right monitor for Sim Racing
As I began looking through the seemingly never-ending choice of monitors, I noticed a few patterns, which make perfect sense for the typical PC gamer but less so to us sim racers. By that, what I mean is that most games like shooters, role-playing, adventure, etc., are all usually played while sitting at a desk, and thus the monitors for these games are designed to make desk-playing as ergonomically pleasing as possible.
Unfortunately, while the market for these types of gaming monitors is undoubtedly vast, which is fair enough considering they take up the lion’s share of the market, those suitable for sim racing are relatively few and far between.
It makes sense since, in comparison to those other gaming genres, sim racing, while it has enjoyed a spike in popularity over the last couple of years, remains pretty niche, so finding a monitor was proving a bit more challenging than, say, if I was planning to play Monster Hunter or Resident Evil. But if that’s true, then what is a suitable monitor for sim racing?
The answer to that boils down to one essential factor; field of view (FOV). Essentially, FOV refers to how much of the game is observable through your monitor at any given time. Basically, sim racing requires a larger FOV than many other gaming genres, allowing you to simulate what it feels like to be in the driver’s seat of a real car, where your FOV is approximately 180°. That means you will need a monitor that lets you see the entire windscreen and what’s beside and behind you through your side windows and mirrors.
Effectively, you should have the feeling of being fully immersed in the game, with the display curving around you, as when racing, what’s in your peripheral vision is often just as important as what’s right in front of you.
In order to achieve this FOV, sim racers have a few different options. We can go for a single ultrawide /super ultrawide monitor, or there’s the option to go for a triple-screen setup. While ultrawide monitors obviously offer less FOV than the super ultras, those with 34″ screens still offer enough display to allow you to use the cockpit view in a racing game and see the entire windscreen, plus enough of the side windows to let you see the side mirrors and spot cars running alongside you. With that said, it’s safe to say that anything less than 34″ doesn’t make the cut here.
So next, I’m going to share some of the best monitors out there right now for sim racing, and I’ll let you know which ones I think are the best you can buy in each of the three categories mentioned above. Keep in mind that this list is based on the research I undertook while upgrading my rig, and each selection is my personal opinion, but I have based it upon crucial factors like G-Sync or FreeSync compatibility, panel type, resolution, response time, and refresh rate.
Read on for advice on how to choose the best monitors for sim racing and what technical specs to look out for, or for monitor recommendations use the links below:
- Best 34” Ultrawide Monitor
- Best Super Ultrawide Monitor
- Best Triple Monitors
- Bezel Free Kit
- Monitor Stands and Mounts
Should I choose single, triple-screen or ultrawide gaming monitors?
Whether you plan to go down the single or triple-screen route is your call. One thing I would like to point out, however, before we get started is that triple-screen monitor setups help increase sim racers immersion and their awareness of their surroundings by increasing the size of the visual field around them.
To demonstrate, you must imagine what the correct field of view would look like on a sim rig with a single screen. You will likely only be able to see what’s directly in front of you, and your view will be limited to the width of the car’s windscreen. It’s drivable, but racing in close quarters is a bit awkward, to say the least.
If you add in two extra monitors, everything looks a bit more natural. You can see the side mirrors and generally have a better sense of what’s around you in the car, much like in a real car.
However, that increased immersion always comes at the cost of performance. It s also possible to expand your field of view with a single screen by choosing an ultrawide or super ultrawide monitor, and I’ve covered some of them below, however, you still won’t reach the levels of immersion three screens can offer.
What technical specifications should I be looking out for in a gaming monitor?
One of the significant factors to consider when choosing a new display is screen resolution. Depending on the PC and GPU you own you should always try to choose the highest resolution and the fastest refresh rate possible. Most modern gaming PCs can easily handle 1440p triples.
More and more buyers are moving to 4k gaming, largely because the price of the monitors themselves is falling. Here is a breakdown of the screen resolutions you’re likely to see advertised when you begin searching for a new monitor:
|Resolution||Manufacturer monitor category name|
|1280×720||HD / 720p|
|1920×1080||FHD (Full HD) / 1080p|
|2560×1440||QHD/WQHD (Quad HD) / 2K 1440p|
|3840×2160||UHD (Ultra HD) / 4K 2160p|
|7680×4320||FUHD (Full Ultra HD) / 8K 4320p|
Frame Rate and Refresh Rate
Frame rate is measured in frames per second (FPS). This is the frequency at which consecutive images called ‘frames’ appear on a screen. Ideally, you’ll want to aim for a steady 60 FPS as an absolute minimum for smooth gameplay.
A monitor’s refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz) and is the rate at which a new image can be created by the screen. A faster refresh rate reduces (or alleviates) flicker visible to the human eye. This is independent of frame rate, which describes how many images are stored or generated every second by the device driving the display. If your hardware has the power to run a 120Hz monitor at a true 120hz with a frame rate of 120 fps (frames per second) then that’s more than enough for a high-quality image during gaming.
What is response time?
Response time is a millisecond value and represents how rapidly a monitor can update a pixel from grey to grey. In today’s money, a response time of more than 1ms is disappointing for hardcore gaming monitors and 5ms should get left where it belongs: in the office!
FreeSync and G-Sync
FreeSync (AMD) and G-Sync (NVIDIA) are proprietory graphics card communications protocols that allow a variation in refresh rate to keep in sync with the frame rate of the game render. These systems are not cross-compatible, so you need to check for FreeSync or G-Sync when you’re buying a monitor and of course, it entirely depends on your GPU manufacturer.
The perfect monitor for sim racing would be the highest resolution and screen size your budget will with anything close to a 120Hz or higher refresh rate, a low response time. Plus, either FreeSync or G-Sync support. This is of course if your hardware can manage it! Generally, any GPU over an NVIDIA RTX 2080 ti certainly can, especially with titles like iRacing. Of course, when you begin to enter into the 4K market, finding screens with these stats is going to get a little pricier.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that while some 8K monitors are starting to appear on the market, the response times and refresh rates of these screens is still relatively low. So, in my personal opinion, when it comes to selecting a monitor for sim racing where split seconds can make all the difference, it would be better to hold off on buying one of these until the technology catches up to that of their lower-resolution counterparts.
Best 34” Ultrawide Monitor
In this category, there are a few worthy contenders such as the exceptionally well-equipped ASUS TUF Gaming VG34VQL1B, with its 3440 x 1440 resolution, 165Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and FreeSync Premium, or the extremely well-priced Gigabyte G34WQC, which offers very similar specs albeit with a lower 144Hz refresh rate.
However, one downside to these two monitors is their curve radius as far as sim racers should be concerned. While they’re still much better options than flat gaming monitors of the same size, their 1500R curve is a little too shallow to get the true feeling of immersion when you’re seated in a racing chair.
Instead, take a look at the Samsung G5 Odyssey (C34G55T), which again offers very similar specs, but comes with a 1000R curve, which provides a better FOV for sim racing. However, the G5 is just pipped to the post by the AOC CU34G3S/BK, which also comes with the same specs and a 1,000R curve, but offers more in terms of features like NVIDIA G-Sync compatibility, much more connectivity, and another critical point for sim racers which I haven’t mentioned yet which is a more streamlined design.
Having slim bezels may be considered nothing more than an aesthetic option by some gamers, but in reality, it helps you stay more focused on the action, making the AOC CU34G3S/BK the clear winner for me in this segment if you can find it in stock!
One more noteworthy point here is that all four of the monitors that I’ve covered so far come with a VA panel, which typically offers better results when gaming than an IPS panel. Generally, IPS panels perform better when it comes to multimedia work like graphic design and video editing. Although, LG has been known to make some exceptional IPS gaming monitors, so it’s not always as simple as black and white.
Best Super Ultrawide Monitor
Competition in the super ultrawide category is much less fierce, but there are still a few options to consider. By sizing up and choosing a super ultrawide monitor, you’ll get more FOV, equating to a better sim racing experience.
I’ll start with the ASUS ROG Strix XG49VQ, which comes with an enormous 49″ VA panel display, max resolution of 3840 x 1080, 144Hz refresh rate, 4ms response time, and a 1,800R curve. Of course, the response time and curvature are not ideal for sim racing, but overall, it’s still a great piece of kit. Another worthy mention here goes to the AOC AGON AG493UCX, which offers an equally massive 49″ display, a much faster 1ms response time, a higher 5120 x 1440 resolution, an identical 1,800R curve, but a lower 120Hz refresh rate.
However, the current champion in the super ultrawide monitor category is the Samsung G9 Odyssey Neo (G95NA), the newest iteration in the G9 series which replaces the older CHG90 model. This beast of a monitor offers a 240Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, 5120 x 1440 resolution, but best of all, it has the same 1,000R curve as its younger brother, the G5, except this time offered in a glorious 49″ display.
These specs and features make the G9 Neo the new heavyweight in the sim racing world and will definitely be on many people’s Christmas lists this year!
Best Monitor for Triple-Screen Setup
Finally, we come to the highly-debated yet never-goes-out-of-style triple-screen setup. Using three screens as one display hands down offers the best FOV for sim racing, but you do need to accept that you will not get the same unbroken continuous display as you get with the ultra/super ultrawide monitors.
Now, the amount of flexibility and combinations in monitor size and even shape that can be utilised to make a triple-screen display is nearly infinite. Some people will argue how one monitor size is better than another or why curved triples are better than flat triples, but the truth is it simply comes down to personal preference and what works best for you. Of course, what works for one rig might not work for another, but the key thing to remember and what I have tried to reinforce throughout this post is that FOV trumps all opinions.
So long as you can find three identical monitors that offer a fast response time, high resolution and refresh rate and have bezels as thin as possible to avoid obscuring your view, you can pretty much go with any brand and any size. But, if you pushed me to choose the best monitor to make a triple-screen display in 2021, I would recommend the LG UltraGear 27GN950-B.
Offering some of the best premium gaming experiences to be had, this is the only monitor on my list to offer a 4K resolution (3840 × 2160). It comes in at 27″, placing it in the sweet spot in terms of size to create a tremendous triple-screen setup, plus it has a 1ms response time, 144Hz refresh rate, and is the only monitor mentioned here to be both G-sync and FreeSync compatible, as well as the only one to feature an IPS panel.
Bezel free kits for triple monitor setups
A “Bezel free kit” is an accessory that can be slotted between each of the monitors to eliminate the black gaps (bezels) between screens. Essentially, you have the illusion of an ultrawide single monitor rather than 3 separate monitors with visible bezels. Bezel free kits refract light from the edges of each display and blend the two light sources almost seamlessly.
They’re basically an angled plastic corner, that clips in place. This makes the picture between the lenses slightly dimmer than the rest of the display but easily less of a distraction than black bezel gaps!
Monitor Stands and Mounts
The next consideration is how you’re going to mount your monitors. If you race at a desk, this is likely something you won’t need to think about too much, but if you have a standalone rig, you’re going to need a monitor stand. Monitor mounts come in several shapes and sizes, but in general, they’re designed to stand over your rig and allow you to adjust the height, spacing, and angle of your monitors.
This is an area that’s going to vary a lot depending on your requirements, and it’s something that I would put a reasonable amount of time into during the planning stages. It’s essential to make sure that whatever stand you choose can cater to the sizes of your screens. With that said, here are some great choices on the market to suit different types of setups.
GT Omega Simulator Triple Monitor Stand
- Price: $249.95
- Fits up to three 27″ Monitors
- Multi-Adjustable arms allowing for rotation and height control
- Fits up to three 49″ Monitors
- High-grade aluminium profiles with no flex
- Fits up to three 65″ Monitors
- Lockable castor wheels allow for portability