If you’re thinking about jumping into the PC gaming scene for the first time or looking to replace a creaky display that’s starting to show its age, there are several decisions you’ll have to make before you even start your search for a new gaming monitor. One consideration involves curved vs. flat monitors–for PC gamers looking to up their immersion, curved monitors are an increasingly popular option, both in standard 16:9 resolution and in their ultrawide format. But which display, curved or flat, is better for gaming, and what are the key differences? The answer, of course, depends on your gaming habits, your budget, and a number of other factors, but here we’ve broken down the key things to keep in mind about curved and flat gaming monitors to help you determine which display best suits your lifestyle.
Benefits of a curved gaming monitor
- Added immersion for supported games
- Ultrawide screen is great for having multiple open tabs
- Supports high resolutions
- Improved picture quality
- Reduces eye strain
- Improved color consistency
- The wider the monitor, the heavier it is
- More demand on graphics card
- Takes up a lot of desk real estate
- Curved shape can make it difficult to assess visual work
If you haven’t used a curved monitor before, you may be wondering what advantages this kind of display has over the traditional flat-screen monitor. The most basic answer is that curved monitors are designed to extend the image in an arc around your field of vision so that you view the edges of the screen with your peripheral vision, instead of viewing it as a flat image. As a result, curved monitors are primarily beneficial for their heightened immersion–the image (or what’s happening in your game) surrounds you instead of just being in front of you.
For those seeking better productivity, curved ultrawide monitors can be great for multitasking or working on a project that requires you to have multiple tabs open at once. Some studies even suggest that curved monitors may also reduce eye strain, which can help decrease fatigue over long, competitive gaming sessions. The curved screen also ensures that each pixel is angled toward you, providing better color consistency than a similarly sized flat-screen display.
On the other hand, a larger curved monitor won’t natively display all of your PC games at the right resolution. In order to take advantage of the full display, a game will need to include support for ultrawide resolutions like 3440×1440 or 2560×1080, which can make supported games look great. However, curved monitors will add black bars to the side of the screen while playing unsupported games. And if you intend to use your PC for art or video editing, a curved monitor may make it difficult to tell if your lines or crops are straight. Alternatively, what looks good on an ultrawide monitor may look off on a standard display or phone screen.
Benefits of a flat gaming monitor
- Tends to be more lightweight
- Better for certain kinds of work
- Natively supports aspect ratios for the vast majority of games
- Generally cheaper
- Good for dual-monitor setups
- Loses the immersion of ultrawide displays
- Picture quality and color consistency worsen near the edges of the screen
While a flat monitor can’t provide the added immersion that a curved monitor does, it has the benefit of being able to display the vast majority of games without any tweaks–and for less money, as they’re generally smaller and cheaper. Most games are designed with a flat monitor’s 16:9 aspect ratio in mind, so they will look great out of the box with a wide variety of resolutions. Additionally, if you plan to use your PC for creative work–such as digital art or video editing–a flat monitor will give you a much better idea of what your typical audience will see when they interact with it. And if you plan to have more than one person view your monitor, whether you’re watching a movie or playing co-op, a flat screen works better.
Of course, if you want some of the benefits of an ultrawide curved monitor, you can shell out for a second screen and accomplish a similar effect with a dual-monitor setup. However, using one flat-screen monitor won’t get you the same immersion as a curved screen. Whereas a curved display hugs your peripheral vision and provides a more consistent image and color quality, these aspects get slightly worse toward the edges on a flat-screen display.
Curved vs. flat monitors: How they compare
Though one isn’t inherently better than the other, there are a few key aspects that affect your overall gaming experience with a curved or flat monitor. Here’s a closer look at how they compare:
Size and weight
Curved monitors are usually significantly wider than flat-screen monitors, and, as mentioned above, this is designed to heighten immersion–the screen needs to be wide in order to encompass the player’s peripheral vision. Compared to a flat monitor, the curved edges also make it easier to see the whole screen at once while sitting close to your monitor.
Flat screens tend to range in width from 23 to 27 inches (though you can still find plenty ranging from 32 to 43 inches and even bigger). At 27 inches, the Acer Nitro XV272U is a fairly average size for a flat-screen monitor. Curved monitors, on the other hand, typically begin at 27 inches and stretch out from there. Samsung’s CHG9 Series ultrawide, for example, is staggering at 49 inches wide–over four feet.
With added width comes added weight, of course–that Samsung display weighs in at 33.1 pounds. The LG 34WN80C-B, a more typical ultrawide monitor that measures 34 inches wide, is still quite heavy at 23.3 pounds. Though obviously smaller, the 27-inch Acer is significantly lighter, at 10.82 pounds. So if you plan to mount an ultrawide monitor, it goes without saying that you will need a sturdier wall mount than you would for a smaller display. If you don’t plan to mount it, you’ll need to make room on your gaming desk and, depending on how wide the screen is, potentially to the left and right of your battle station as well. As you make a decision about whether a curved or flat monitor is right for you, make sure you look into the quality of their stands. With an ultrawide monitor, the last thing you want is a wobbly stand.
The quality and quantity of colors that flat-screen and curved monitors can display vary with each individual monitor. An increasing number of gaming monitors support HDR, allowing for high-quality luminosity with bright whites and dark blacks. It is worth noting, though, that a curved monitor’s screen can provide better color consistency because every pixel is, ideally, angled toward you. On a flat screen, colors can appear slightly off the further they get away from you and the more extreme the angle from which you’re viewing them.
As the width of the monitor increases, the number of pixels on the display increases as well. So in order to run games on an ultrawide monitor at high frame rates, you will need a graphics card that can handle the additional output. If you can find one, any of Nvidia’s 3000 series of graphics cards should be up to the challenge.
Regardless of whether you go with a curved or flat monitor, refresh rates obviously vary widely, from the standard 60Hz of budget monitors up to 144Hz, 240Hz, and even higher if you aim to play competitively. Because of the size of curved monitors, however–at least if you’re wanting the full experience–you’ll likely end up paying more for a higher refresh rate curved monitor than you would for a flat-screen one.
Final thoughts on curved vs. flat monitors
When it comes to picking the best gaming monitor for you, your mileage may vary depending on which games you play and what you use your monitor for outside of gaming. Flat-screen monitors are reliably useful for a variety of tasks, including video editing and digital art, but curved monitors provide some extra oomph for the games that can make good use of their added pixels. These ultrawide displays can be great for work and play, but it’s up to each buyer to decide if they need the added width and consider the weight and real estate that goes along with it. If you really care about maxing out your visuals, for your own personal enjoyment or for that extra competitive edge, an ultrawide monitor might be the way to go. That said, you should also be prepared to pay more for a good-quality curved monitor than the average flat screen.
If you plan to play games locally or watch movies on it with friends, a flat screen is a better way to go as all participants will be able to see the whole screen. And because flat screens tend to be cheaper, you may want to consider opting for an angled dual-monitor display that achieves a very similar effect to a curved ultrawide, though the angle will be much sharper. Both setups can be great for competitive online gaming, but a curved monitor may make it easier to notice details that you might otherwise miss on the edges of a flat screen. That said, it can take slightly longer to move your cursor across an ultrawide screen, slowing response time.
Productivity is a bit of a wash. The added width of a curved monitor is great for viewing multiple full-sized tabs at once, which can be great if you’re doing research or working in a spreadsheet. But if your work is visual in nature, the curvature of the screen may be unhelpful as you attempt to assess your work.
Curved and flat monitors to consider
For the PC gamer who’s willing to spend for max performance, we recommend the Asus Rog Swift PG35VQ. This 31.5-inch curved ultrawide monitor boasts a 200Hz refresh rate, HDR, a fully adjustable stand, and native support for G-Sync. It’s ideal for anyone serious about competitive performance who doesn’t need to worry about price.
If you’re interested in a curved monitor but price is an object, we recommend the Acer ED323QUR Abidpx. With a manageable price tag, this competitive display still boasts a 144Hz refresh rate and includes support for both HDMI and DisplayPort. With native support for FreeSync, this monitor was designed with AMD graphics cards in mind.
However, if you want to forego the curved screen, the Razer Raptor 27 Gaming Monitor is a great option at a mid-to-high price range. This G-Sync-enabled display features a 144Hz refresh rate, a sturdy aluminum base, and HDR support. See our full Razer Raptor 27 review for more of our thoughts on Razer’s debut gaming monitor.
For more solid options that won’t break the bank, see our picks for the best cheap gaming monitors, and for console gamers, the best monitors for PS5 and Xbox Series X. For more on what to look for in a new gaming monitor, check out our guide to monitor technologies in 2021, from G-Sync and FreeSync to HDR in monitors, refresh rates and response times, DisplayPort vs. HDMI, and more.