Your graphics card is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a gaming monitor. Your GPU and monitor work in tandem to deliver the visual experience. If you have a great high refresh rate monitor but your GPU can’t deliver the frames, you won’t experience the benefits. And vice versa, if you have a great GPU but your gaming monitor is outdated. Frame rates are fairly important when it comes to gaming; high frame rates are even essential for FPS games like overwatch and counter strike. The resolution of your monitor has a huge influence on the number of frames produced by your GPU. And your monitor’s maximum refresh rate determines how many of these frames you can actually see at most. GPU frame rates can also affect your monitor’s adaptive sync effectiveness since they operate in a specific range. So You have to make sure that your GPU can deliver enough frames to provide you with the benefits of an expensive high resolution and high refresh rate gaming monitor before buying one. Or if you already have a great gaming display and you are looking for a GPU to utilize its full potential. Since I run a hardware store and have access to many different graphic cards and monitors, I took the liberty to test different GPUs against different screen resolutions to measure the number of frame rates produced.Read our guide on best gaming chairs.
Note: Because of many requests from you guys, I have updated this guide to include GTX 980Ti 6GB, R9 Fury X 4GB and R9 390X 8GB.
Testing and Methodology
I have tested 15 GPUs against 1080p, 1440p and 4k resolutions. I tested them on two of my current favorite games Overwatch and Battlefield 1. I have tested each of the GPUs included in this guide with the computer specs listed below. Some of these specs may be overkill, and the performance results in this piece can be reached with a lower processor such as the i5 6600k or similar. Also, most builds tend to have 16GB instead of the 32GB I have, but this would not change the results that much.
Testing Computer Specs:
Processor: Intel i7 6700K 4.20ghz
CPU Cooler: Custom Liquid Cooling Loop
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7 Rev. 1
Ram: 32GB Gskill Ripjaws V 2400mhz
SSD/HDD: 500gb Crucial BX200 SSD, 1TB Western Digital Black
PSU: Corsair HX850 850watts Gold
Chassis: Coolermaster HAF-X Full Tower Case
Drivers: Latest GeForce and Crimson WHQL drivers
I chose the Ultra presets in Overwatch and Battlefield 1 with V-Sync disabled and adaptive sync disabled. To measure these numbers, we used Fraps instead of more complicated applications so a wider audience can relate to these results without having to understand technical jargons or difficult setups. Each test for each model mentioned here took 15 to 20 minutes of regular gameplay to ensure that a stable frame rate is reached. I then calculated an average frame rate from that time frame. Since these numbers can vary from build to build, your results may differ from what I got. The GPUs I included here comprises of each company’s latest offerings from their entry-level up to the high-end models. I have also included their previous generation iterations to widen the results further.
1080P (1920 x 1080 Full HD)
1080p is the current most popular monitor resolution and has been for quite some time now. Most games also scale to this resolution admirably, presenting a perfect mix of detail and optimized performance for a multitude of GPUs. But I generally don’t recommend 1080p resolution for monitors bigger than 24 inches to keep the pixel density at a fair level.
The Monitor I used for 1080p: ViewSonic XG2401
Response time: 1ms GTG
Refresh rate: 144Hz
Overwatch Results 1080p Ultra Settings (V-Sync off DX11)
In this graph, we can clearly see that even the entry-level models from both Nvidia and AMD are capable of playing the game at an average of approximately 60fps. For ordinary 60Hz monitors, that is acceptable but for 144hz+ monitors; you at least need either a GTX 970/1060 from Nvidia or an RX480 or R9 390 from AMD. These frame numbers are, however, based on Overwatch’s Ultra preset, so to get more frames with the lower cards, you could lower your settings. 1080p is the standard format for most professional competitions, and most of the contestants only use low graphics settings to enable highest frames per second. By doing this, even the entry-level cards can maximize your 144hz monitor refresh rate at 1080p.
Battlefield 1 Results at 1080p Ultra Settings (V-Sync off DX11)
Battlefield 1 is currently, one of the most demanding games available. There are amazing effects, and physics in this game, so most entry-level builds will find it difficult to play this game at maximum settings. For 1080p, a gameplay experience with a lot of eye-popping visuals is readily achievable. If you want to reach your 144Hz monitor’s full refresh potential, you will at least need a GTX 1070 and 1080.
1440P ( 2560x 1440)
The Monitor I used for 1440p: Asus PG278Q
Response time: 1ms GTG
Refresh rate: 144Hz
Overwatch Results 1440p Ultra Settings (V-Sync off DX11)
Battlefield 1 Results 1440p Ultra Settings (V-Sync off DX11)
For titles like these, having Freesync and Gsync is a must if you still want a smooth visual experience. The entry-level cards barely make it to 30FPS, to attain 60 FPS you at least need the R9 390 or RX 480 from the red team and the GTX 980 and GTX 1060 from the green team. For texture-heavy titles, bigger VRAM is crucial and as you can see from each brand’s benchmarks, those with twice the amount of memory offer a substantial increase in frame rates when compared to the cards below them. It is important to keep this fact in mind before buying a 1440p monitor for titles like these, or when you are in the market for a GPU upgrade for your existing 1440p display. If you are a Nvidia user, the cost can be extra since G-sync products have a huge premium added compared to Freesync. But to put these downsides into perspective, Battlefield 1 looks stunning in 1440p.
4K (3840 x 2160 Ultra HD)
Both of the previous resolutions have matured through the years, especially the 1080p category. Most games and hardware are fully optimized for them at this point, and yet they still have a few years before they become obsolete. Fast progression in display tech gave birth to 4K, and for quite some time, interest in this resolution has been steadily growing despite the high pricing. 4K monitors themselves have significantly higher price tags, and the gear required to run them at adequate performance levels are also expensive. At the moment, even the best graphics cards are hard-pressed to produce high frame rates at 4k. In this category, even the spec-friendly Overwatch does not get frame rates that match 1440p displays, but that trade-off is compensated by the eye-popping detail and a massive display area which doubles compared to 1440p.
The Monitor used for 4K: Asus PG27AQ
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Response time: 4ms GTG
Refresh rate: 60Hz
Overwatch Results 4K Ultra Settings (V-Sync off DX11)
At 4K, Overwatch results are nearly similar with the 1440p Battlefield 1 benchmarks despite the stark contrast in textures and effects. Only the GTX 1080 and 1070 is capable of producing frame rates of over 60hz. The current 4k monitors only have a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz so even your GPU produces higher frames it can only show 60 per second. We may soon see faster 4K displays since it is clear that the market is going in that direction. But for this instance, if you want to play near 60hz, your only GPU choices include the GTX 1070, GTX 980, and GTX 970 or if you are on the red team, The RX 480, RX 470 and the R9 390. But five out of these six models are incapable of producing a stable 60FPS rate, so Gsync and Freesync are once again useful for these situations. It’s not a surprising fact since these GPUs are marketed as entry-level hardware for 4K, and this is proof that today’s current products are still behind when it comes to 4k. Keep in mind that Overwatch isn’t a GPU horsepower hog in other resolutions, but in 4K it’s a completely different story.
Battlefield 1 Results in 4k Ultra Settings (V-Sync off DX11)
As for the graphics beast, only the $600-$700 Nvidia GTX 1080 can provide an excellent performance of 66 FPS in Battlefield 1, and the GTX 1070 is a close second with 53FPS. To get to the ideal 60FPS level, these two are your only options for a maximized visual output. All the other cards fall short of this level, but the midrange GPUs still offer decent levels of frame rates. A little tweaking of the settings can increase the rates for these cards. With regards to the entry-level offerings, almost all of them fail to provide a playable experience, and the two lowest performing products cannot even start the game. Also, in this title, it is evident that the larger VRAM equipped models are better at displaying ultra level textures. For example, the GTX 980 with 4GB DDR5 falls 2FPS short of the 8GB DDR5 Equipped RX 480, even if in synthetic benchmarks the 980 naturally overwhelms the other. In practice, this difference is too small to notice, but at a technical viewpoint, the variance further proves that textures at this resolution benefit a lot from larger VRAM. Titles like Battlefield 1 ultimately demonstrate that 4K is still too expensive for the current generation, and further optimization is needed to maximize the visual experience in this resolution. To play games like these in 4k requires a significant amount of cash to invest in hardware. But these graphics-heavy games especially benefits from 4K, since the level of detail for the effects, objects and environment are unmatched, not to mention the degree of immersion the massive viewing real estate.
While even the low range GPUs can run 1080p monitors at very high frame rates, it is totally different when it comes to 1440p and 4k Monitors. Gaming Monitors have reached a temporary limit regarding resolution and refresh rate because of the current GPUs available. So even if we get a 4k 144hz+ monitor tomorrow, the majority of us won’t be able to enjoy the experience until a couple of years from now. When you are looking for a gaming monitor, take your current GPU into consideration, so, you know what to expect. You can use this guide to get a rough idea of how different resolutions could perform on your GPUs. Please keep in mind if you are playing less demanding titles such as Dota 2 and League of Legends your frame rates will surely be higher than the ones we have seen in this guide. These results may not be entirely accurate and should rather be treated as a rough guide to help you decide what to get.