Over the years the raw power of GPUs has been steadily increasing, today even the mid-range boards can push almost any game above 60 frames per second. These developments have caused the creation of a specialized class of products, gaming monitors. These monitors first and foremost have a refresh rate that is higher than 60Hz, most often it is 120Hz or 144Hz.
Very often gaming monitors come equipped with a pair of speakers which can be a decent solution for sound reproduction from your games. In the past, it was technically impossible to find a computer monitor with decent built-in speakers, but today they are on par with external 2.1 systems.
ARE BUILT-IN SPEAKERS GOOD?
In the past speakers that were built-in monitors were downright awful, they would reproduce very low-quality sound which usually lacked both high and low frequencies. You could find them only in the biggest monitors that are probably more resembling TV sets than gaming monitors. They would also break very easily, and their existence was an obvious marketing gimmick from their manufacturers.
With the advancement in speakers technology, especially surrounding the achievements of some big sound equipment companies in the production of high-end laptop speakers, quality sound solutions have started popping up on computer monitors. Today you can find many gaming monitors that have built-in speakers of very good quality, and which are actually useful for playing games.
Their limitation is that they are very often stereo speakers, but if you do not need a surround system they will serve you well. They don’t reproduce low frequencies quite as good as external systems with a separate subwoofer, but for gaming, they can be good enough. If for any reason you absolutely need a surround system, external speakers or a headset are a better solution.
WHAT IS A GAMING MONITOR?
You can often see various monitors, very often with a particularly ugly design, on which their makers have slapped the “gaming” moniker. And many people actually believe that gaming monitors are overpriced monstrosities derived from the “office” monitors. The reality is that no matter how many times monitor makers write in big, flashy letters “gaming” on the packaging of their products, that doesn’t make them good for gaming.
The gaming monitors deserve such a title if it is good for gaming, and there are some objective characteristics it must have so it would be so. The first and the most important is the high refresh rate, especially for the first-person shooter games. For decades, monitors were stuck in the 60Hz of Hell. And if your GPU could push the game above 60 frames per second was useless.
What’s even worse, when moving in-game you would get artifacts such as screen tearing. Computer monitors draw pictures across the screen one horizontal line at a time and drawing full height. If they work at a 60Hz refresh rate it means that from the start of drawing the first line to the drawing of the last line passes exactly 1/60 of a second.
In case that your game is running at more than 60 frames per second, your monitor would start drawing one frame, and in the middle of this 1/60 of the second period get instruction from the GPU to draw the next frame. It will not start drawing lined from the top but will continue from where it was interrupted.
If you are not moving your character in the game you will not notice this, but if you are moving you will notice that the lower part of the screen is not aligned properly. This is called screen tearing, and if your game runs at 60 to 90 frames per second you will see one tear.
Above 90 frames per second, you will have two tears, above 150 frames per second three, and so on, with every additional 60 frames per second, there will be an additional tear. This screen tearing is very annoying and in fast-paced shooters, it will actually ruin your aim.
The old method of fixing screen tearing is Vsync or vertical synchronization. It works by simply limiting the maximum frame rate output of the GPU to the refresh rate of the monitor. While the Vsync fixes the issue of screen tearing, it defeats the reasons why you would want to have high frame rates in games. And that’s where gaming monitors come into the picture.
Lower-end gaming monitors have refresh rates of 100Hz or 120Hz, something of a mid-range has 144Hz or 165Hz refresh rates, while high-end gaming monitors can have as high as 280Hz. In the past few years, gaming monitors support one of two available adaptive sync technologies, AMD’s FreeSync or Nvidia’s G-Sync.
ADVANTAGES OF GAMING MONITORS WITH SPEAKERS
The most obvious advantage of having speakers built-in in your gaming monitor is less clutter on your gaming desk. Standalone speakers take space, that’s a given if they are integrated with the monitor they will slightly increase its dimensions, either it will be slightly thicker or have a larger “chin”. But its footprint will remain the same as if it has no built-in speakers.
Also, it will decrease the number of cables you need to route around your desk. Stand-alone speakers in essence have at least three cables you need to deal with. In the simplest 2.0 setup, you have power cable which connects speakers and power outlet, the sound cable connecting the main speaker with your PC, and another cable that connects primary and secondary speaker.
Monitors with speakers require no additional cables to produce the sound. The HDMI cable you use for connecting them to GPU is also used for transferring audio information from your PC to built-in speakers.
ARE GAMING MONITORS WITH SPEAKERS GOOD FOR GAMING?
Whether a monitor has built-in speakers or not, neither increases nor decreases its qualities as a gaming monitor. For a gaming monitor to be good it needs to have a high refresh rate and to supports the adaptive refresh rate technology which your GPU supports. If you have an AMD GPU you should use a FreeSync monitor and with an NVIDIA graphic card a G-Sync monitor.
While there are some monitors with cross support, and newer GPU drivers from both AMD and NVIDIA somewhat allow the use of competitor’s adaptive sync technology, you will have a better experience by matching monitors with respective GPU. Speakers inside your gaming monitor will allow you to hear the sound in your game.
Sound quality will not be on par with a dedicated surround system but will be with decent 2.0 standalone speakers. In case that you decide to buy a gaming monitor from one of the bigger name brands, you can even find monitors with speakers that are rivaling some of the best 2.0 speakers available on the market.
Many newer gaming monitors actually do have a dedicated subwoofer, which makes their speaker setup a genuine 2.1 system. It is needless to say how much the quality of the sound is improved by the inclusion of a dedicated low-frequency speaker. But that is not the only advantage.
When it comes to the quality of the sound, speaker tuning is a factor that can improve or completely ruin the sound quality. With standalone speakers there is no tuning at all, they are made and sold “as-is”. If you have a glass of water in front of them, their sound can change.
Speakers in gaming monitors are actually tuned specifically to stand on a hard surface and can offer much better sound quality.