Welcome to the October 2015 edition of our peripheral staff picks, where we recommend the best monitors, mice, keyboards, and more to complete your PC. If you're loading up your shopping cart with parts from our latest System Guide and want to finish off your system with some worthy peripherals to match, this is the place to be.
Where possible, we're recommending stuff that we've personally reviewed, but the vast world of PC hardware keeps us from touching every single product out there. If there's a hole in our coverage, we'll turn to reliable external sources for perspective.
If you like this article, don't miss the rest of our guide series: our main System Guide, in which we recommend PC components and custom builds; our how-to-build-a-PC guide, where we walk readers (and viewers) through the PC assembly process; and our mobile staff picks, where we talk about our favorite notebooks, phones, and tablets.
Our guides are sponsored by Newegg, so we'll be using links to their product pages throughout this article. You can (and should!) support TR by using these links to purchase the products we recommend. If Newegg doesn't stock an item we want to recommend, we'll link to other resellers as needed.
Where would we be without displays? Not reading this guide, that's for sure. In general, a good display should have an IPS panel with accurate color reproduction, wide viewing angles, and a decent complement of inputs. The dreaded TN panel is getting much better, however, and we've reviewed a couple of premium TN displays that hang right with IPS panels for overall quality.
Variable-refresh-rate displays are still gaining steam. Since we last surveyed the marketplace, Dell has announced its plans to produce a G-Sync display that'll arrive this month, and LG has incorporated AMD's FreeSync tech into an appealing 4K display that we'll examine in our recommendations.
Graphics card and monitor manufacturers still haven't agreed on a universal standard for VRR displays, though. Nvidia is off in one corner with its proprietary G-Sync tech, while AMD and the VESA standards body are sort of mushed together in another with FreeSync and the Adaptive-Sync standard. Intel has announced its intent to support Adaptive-Sync at some point in the future, though, and the weight of that company's support has the potential to tip the VRR wars in Adaptive-Sync's favor.
For now, G-Sync monitors only work with some Nvidia GeForce graphics cards, and FreeSync only works with compatible AMD Radeon cards. Yeah, it's a bit of a headache, but the result is so, so worth it.
You might also be thinking about a 4K monitor to pair with a top-of-the-line graphics card. We're happy to report that some of the issues with 4K monitors seem to be smoothing out a bit. For example, dual-tile displays are now pretty rare. More new 4K monitors seem to be using DisplayPort's single-stream transport feature, which means that the monitor appears to PC firmware, Windows, and games as a single 3840x2160 display, rather than as a pair of lower-res displays. That avoids a lot of headaches, and it's a feature worth seeking out.
Finally, curved displays are becoming more and more popular. They're especially good for creating sweeping multi-monitor vistas that wrap around for a more immersive experience. We'll consider a couple of these monitors in both VRR and non-VRR flavors in our recommendations.
|Acer XB280HK||28" 3840x2160 TN, 60Hz, G-Sync||$799.99|
|Acer XB270HU||27" 2560x1440 IPS, 144Hz, G-Sync||$799.99|
|Asus ROG Swift PG278Q||27" 2560x1440 TN, 144Hz, G-Sync||$669.99|
|Samsung S24E370DL||24" 1920x1080 PLS, 60Hz, FreeSync||$249.99|
|Asus MG279Q||27" 2560x1440 IPS, 144Hz, FreeSync||$579.99|
|LG 27MU67||27" 3840x2160 IPS, 60Hz, FreeSync||$549.99|
|Acer XR341CK||Curved 34" 3440x1440 IPS, 75Hz, FreeSync||$1,099.99|
G-Sync at 4K: Acer XB280HK
For those who want the highest resolution possible in a G-Sync-enabled display, Acer's XB280HK is still the only way to get there. This 28", 4K display packs a TN panel with a 1-ms response time and a maximum refresh rate of 60 Hz. The XB280HK also comes with a fully-adjustable stand and a built-in USB 3.0 hub.
If you're turned off by the idea of a TN panel in a display this expensive, we'd encourage you to take a second look. We've found that premium TN panels are very nearly as good as the average IPS displays these days, so there's no reason to dismiss the XB280HK based on its panel tech alone. If you're still not convinced, check out the Acer XB270HU (or consider the 4K, FreeSync LG 27MU67 and its IPS panel, as long as you're willing to pair it with a Radeon graphics card).
G-Sync and IPS: Acer XB270HU
If the TN panel in the XB280HK above is a deal-breaker, Acer's XB270HU is a fine alternative. It's a 27", 2560x1440 display with an IPS panel. The IPS tech does increase response time to 4 ms, but the XB270HU comes with a fast 144 Hz refresh rate, which might make up for that slightly more laggy spec. Like its 4K stablemate, the XB270HU comes tricked-out with a height- and tilt-adjustable stand and a built-in USB 3.0 hub.
An Asus alternative with G-Sync: Asus ROG Swift PG278Q
If either of the Acer displays we recommend are out of stock, or you dislike their styling, Asus' ROG Swift PG278Q is an excellent display in its own right. This G-Sync-equipped screen features a 27", 2560x1440 TN panel with a 1 ms response time and a 144 Hz maximum refresh rate. It also features a fancy OSD control system and a chiseled, angular exterior that makes a statement on a desk. Its lower resolution versus Acer's XB280HK may be easier to drive for some systems, too.
Be aware, though: Asus has announced an IPS-based follow-up to this product, and we expect to see it in stores soon.
Affordable FreeSync: Samsung S24E370DL
FreeSync displays seem to be on the cusp of affordability in absolute terms, not just relative to their G-Sync competitors. Samsung's S24E370DL looks to be leading that charge when it arrrives in November (you can pre-order one today).
For just $249, this display offers a high-quality 1080p PLS panel and wireless charging for Qi-compatible devices through its stand. The S24E370DL's maximum refresh rate is only 60Hz, but we're not complaining about that when buttery-smooth VRR goodness can be had for this little money.
FreeSync and IPS: Asus MG279Q
For a step up from the Samsung display above, Asus' MG279Q should be an excellent bet. This 27", 2560x1440 IPS display can run at up to 144Hz (though it tops out at 90Hz in FreeSync mode). Check out our video review for all of the details.
FreeSync and 4K: LG 27MU67
LG's 27MU67 ticks several boxes we want to see in a high-end display: FreeSync, 4K resolution, and a 27" IPS panel. Despite that high-end feature set, the 27MU67 doesn't carry a premium: its $550 price tag is lower than the MG279Q's, and it's comparable to that of 4K non-VRR displays. If you can assemble the pixel-pushing power to drive it, the 27MU67 looks quite compelling.
Curved FreeSync and IPS: Acer XR341CK
Want a curved vista to go with your IPS FreeSync display? Acer's XR341CK delivers. This 34", 3440x1440 monster can run at variable refresh rates up to 75Hz. It's got a monster price tag, too, at about $1100, but there's nothing else quite like it on the market.
Acer tricks out the XR341CK with built-in speakers, ambient lighting, and a USB 3.0 hub. Pair a couple of these beauties with a powerful graphics setup, and you'd probably have the most immersive gaming experience this side of a VR headset.