Welcome to the March 2016 edition of our peripheral staff picks, where we recommend the best monitors, mice, keyboards, and more to complement 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.
Monitors: an introduction
If you're considering a monitor upgrade right now, you may be wondering whether to choose a 60Hz 4K monitor or a high-refresh-rate, lower-resolution display. I was in the same spot recently. Having used a 60Hz 4K monitor and a high-refresh 2560x1440 monitor side-by-side over the past few months, I think that most people will be happiest with a lower-resolution, higher-refresh-rate monitor unless they specifically need the extra pixels from a 4K screen.
4K monitors do have some advantages. To start, a 4K display is like having four 1080p screens on one panel. That's insane information density, and if your work involves coding, media editing, or research, being able to have tons of information at hand at once can be life-changing. If your eyes can tolerate the tiny text that comes with running a 27" to 32" 4K display at its native resolution, it's possible that one of these monitors might be a good choice. Larger 4K displays like the Wasabi Mango UHD430 might make sense for folks with less-than-perfect eyesight, but the Mango is closer to a TV than a PC monitor, and it might be hard to fit on the average desk.
Display scaling has gotten a lot better in Windows 10, but not all applications or web pages have been updated to look good when they're scaled up. You're also going to need a top-end graphics card to drive games at anything approaching 60 frames per second at 4K, too. Honestly, I can't distinguish between games running at 4K and 2560x1440 on the same 27" 4K screen, but using a lower resolution doesn't save games from running into the display's 60Hz refresh-rate cap or falling out of its narrow variable-refresh-rate range. It's not an ideal experience.
Higher-refresh-rate 4K displays will most likely arrive late this year with DisplayPort 1.3 on board, along with more precise information about the performance of next-generation graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD. Once we know more about how these displays will work together with that next-gen graphics hardware, we'll feel more comfortable about recommending 4K monitors to a wide audience again.
For monitors that are mostly going to display one's gaming exploits, I think a high-refresh-rate monitor is going to make a much bigger difference for the gaming experience than the jump from 2560x1440 to 4K will. That's especially true if you've got a powerful graphics card running older titles. Motion on a high-refresh-rate display just looks smoother (sometimes stunningly so), and the extra speed can make games feel more responsive, especially twitchy first-person shooters.
With that in mind, we think the the best of all worlds for gaming displays right now is a 144Hz, 2560x1440, variable-refresh-rate (VRR) display powered by Nvidia's G-Sync or AMD's FreeSync tech. These displays offer buttery-smooth motion at lower framerates thanks to their VRR mojo, and they can also provide smoother motion with higher frame rates when a graphics card is really churning out the pixels. You really should consider pairing one of these displays with that GTX 980 Ti or Fury X you've got on your shopping list if you're looking for the best gaming experience possible.
Ultrawide monitors are increasingly popular choices for many, too. If you simply want a wider-than-normal display without going to dual monitors, a 34" ultrawide screen provides more horizontal space for side-by-side windows than a conventional 16:9 display does. We'd skip larger ultrawide screens with 1080 vertical pixels, though. The low PPI of these large screens doesn't look as good as an ultrawide with a 1440-pixel vertical resolution.
Ultrawide curved displays can provide a more immersive view of whatever's on screen, since they gently wrap around the viewer's field of vision. That's great for games and multi-monitor setups, but it's not so good for applications like graphics editing where straight lines need to be straight.
With those introductions out of the way, let's get to our recommendations.