Screen settings are an often overlooked tool in a gamer’s arsenal. You may already know how to overclock your GPU for best performance, and you have a great mechanical keyboard for the most responsive inputs, but have you calibrated your monitor?
If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your monitor’s settings, there are probably a lot of important things to change, from color and contrast to unique gamer-focused features that some monitors come with.
Set refresh rate and resolution
Most gaming monitors will default to the best resolution and refresh rate the first time you plug them in and turn them on, but not all do. Make sure you activate yours by right-clicking on your desktop and selecting Display settings. Select the monitor you want to adjust the settings for and use the resolution drop-down menu to select your preferred resolution (probably the highest). For update frequency, select Advanced display settings and then use Update frequency drop-down menu to select your preferred refresh rate (again, for games, probably the highest).
Even if your monitor has a default refresh rate, some have the ability to be “overclocked” to run at a higher refresh rate. This is where you’ll find that option, so even if you think your monitor is running at the refresh rate you want, it doesn’t hurt to check.
Brightness and contrast
There’s a reason that every time you start a new game, you’re prompted to adjust an in-game brightness slider: being able to see what you need to see while keeping dark elements in shadow is essential to immersion and ensures that you play the game as the developer intended. However, in-game settings are only half the battle. You need to configure the screen brightness and contrast correctly first. If it’s too bright, blacks will look gray and the whole picture will look washed out, but if it’s too low, you’ll lose all nuance in darker scenes. Similarly, if the contrast is too high, you lose detail in brighter scenes.
Download a brightness and contrast calibration image or find one in Google Images and use them to properly adjust your screen’s brightness and contrast.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a competitive edge, turn up the brightness higher and the contrast lower. This reduces the effectiveness of shadow cover in games, which can make it easier to spot your enemies. Some monitors also come with settings such as Black Boost which reduces this further, but you have to look for it in the display settings.
Alternatively, there are sites like TFT Central that have configurations you can load yourself that will set brightness, contrast and other elements to subjectively attractive levels.
While every monitor has contrast and brightness controls, not all monitors have gamma settings. For those that do, tweaking it can make a big difference to how a game looks. Like the options above, you can find recommended gamma levels on sites like TFT Central, or you can simply adjust it while in-game to find your preferred value.
A good rule of thumb is to adjust to around 2.2 and then adjust it to your preference. Higher than 2.2 can look too dark and oversaturated, while lower values really start to lose contrast in darker scenes.
Most monitors come with a range of color temperature options, allowing you to choose between a muted, cool blue and a much warmer palette with a yellow/orange hue. This tends to be more down to personal preference as it won’t affect how your game feels, but will have a dramatic effect on how it looks.
This may be a setting you change depending on the game you’re playing, as their different color palettes may be better suited for certain temperatures. On the other hand, if you like your games to look a little grainier without colorful pops from the brighter objects in your game, setting something with a lower color temperature might be preferable. If you prefer game worlds to feel more alive, or just want some elements of the game to stand out more, choose a color palette that’s on the warmer end of the spectrum.
If you’re playing on a monitor that supports AMD’s FreeSync, or Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, you should enable them. Doing so ensures no tearing or stuttering, and means you don’t have to use V-Sync to get it, which could otherwise result in worse input lag.
The exact implementation of FreeSync or G-Sync will depend on your monitor model, and which one you can use will also depend on your GPU. Typically, you’ll find the ability to enable these features in your graphics driver software.
If your monitor supports HDR and the game(s) you’re playing support it, enabling HDR can make your games look far more lifelike, with greater color depth and range, and improved contrast and highlights. You can find a switch for it in Windows 10 and 11 by going to Settings > System > Show.
Blue light filter
If you play a lot late into the night, or tend to struggle with eye fatigue, it’s a good idea to consider setting your screen’s blue light filter to a more aggressive setting. This is very much a matter of personal taste, as it will make the screen look warmer – even yellowish whites at higher settings.
There are also apps, Windows settings, and even in-game settings that can make this adjustment for you, often with more nuances than the heavy-duty solutions on your screen, giving you plenty of ways to protect your eyes.
Enabling Overdrive on supporting monitors can improve the monitor’s response time, which can help reduce ghosting and reduce input lag, making you a more accurate and responsive player.
However, too much exaggeration can introduce new artifacts to the final result, so use this setting with care, and if it seems to make things worse, scale it back or turn it off completely.
There is some debate as to whether motion blur is worth enabling or not. It can make panning and other movements appear smoother, especially at lower frame rates, but at the expense of accuracy and image clarity. It’s best to try it both on and off to see what you prefer.
For many, disabling it in-game is one of the first settings they change, while others don’t mind keeping it on. Some monitors come with motion blur as an option, so decide if it’s a feature you like and disable or enable it according to your preference.
Sharpening in standard configurations can be too aggressive, especially on higher resolution displays. The best way to find your preferred setting is to change the sharpness to maximum, play a game and look at the fine details, and then gradually reduce the sharpness to a point that gives you maximum clarity, without destroying the image quality.
Some monitors have their own upscaling algorithms and hardware, much like many living room TVs. As much as these have improved in recent years, they add latency to the display process and are not as efficient as the GPU-driven upscaling available on AMD, Nvidia and Intel GPUs.
Leave screen upscaling disabled and use Deep Learning Super Sampling, Fidelity FX Super Resolution, or Xe Super Sampling, depending on GPU brand and preference.
This setting applies to the LED lighting on the back of the display, not the brightness of the backlight that powers it. Backlighting can help reduce eye strain, especially when playing in the dark, and can even enhance the mood if it matches the color palette of what you’re playing.
Like blue light filtering, it’s a good idea to have some sort of backlight enabled to protect your eyes, so consider enabling this if it doesn’t interfere with gameplay too much.
Many gaming monitors come with a few game-specific settings, such as hardware-threaded crosshairs and timers. These can be useful in games without any kind of crosshairs, or if you want to time an element in a game so you’re ready at the right time.
You can easily get around this with a timer on your phone or a dedicated app too, so these settings are nice to have for those who need them, but far from must-use options.
Standing height, tilt and turn
This one may sound obvious, but having good posture while gaming is the best way to maintain a healthy back and an overall comfortable gaming experience. Although everyone’s setup and physical needs are different, a good rule of thumb is to have the screen about an arm’s length from the face, and the resting eyeline should be about a third of the screen.
Use the monitor’s stand, or change the height of the desk itself, to put the monitor in the ideal position for comfort and accurate gaming.
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