What’s the Best Viewing Distance for a 1440p Gaming Monitor?
Gamers have become spoiled for choice. So many resolutions and options to choose from, and more games than they could possibly have enough time to enjoy on multiple platforms. And things will only get busier (and happier) in the future for gamers. Yet some nagging questions remain. One of them has to do with viewing distance. But to make the most of such a screen, where should you place yourself relative to the display? What’s the best viewing distance?
Basic Concepts of Viewing Distance and Eye Sight
Things become murky and complicated because human vision is neither analog nor digital. While we have tests to measure eye sight quality, none offer precise standards. We can’t determine people’s vision in pixels or resolutions as neatly as we do with technology – not yet at least!
That means viewing distance tends to come across as very subjective, almost like a taste test. You have people that think good 1080p content looks like 4K and others who can’t tell the difference between 8K and 720p. But assuming “perfect” eye sight in a theoretical person (20/20 vision, also known as 6/6 and other terms), we can assert reasonably applicable markers you can use for the best results possible.
To be blunt, if you sit too far from a display you’ll waste whatever benefits it may offer. From far enough even 16K looks the same as 480p. Humans simply can’t notice details beyond a certain distance, usually 7m or farther out. Go to a movie theater and check that for yourself. Can you tell if the movie’s playing in 4K, QHD, or 1080p? We’ll answer that for you, you can’t. And at movie theater distances it doesn’t really matter. You could sit really close to the screen, but then your field of vision may get drowned out or you’ll see individual pixels, which makes for a very unpleasant experience.
Field of Sight, Eye Resolution, and Pixel Density
Your preferred viewing distance depends on your field of vision, or FOV, and size of your gaming monitor. Eye experts believe healthy, average humans have an FOV of 140 degrees. Imagine an arc extending directly in front of your eyes as you sit still. That arc covers 140 degrees, and research indicates a person with perfect vision can notice details as small as 1/60th of a degree. That 1/60 should also provide a hint to why monitors use refresh rates based on multipliers of 30Hz and 60Hz.
In any case, if those numbers are more or less accurate then a quick calculation tells us someone with ideal eye sight detects 8,400 “details”, or as we’ll just call them, pixels. Since QHD or 1440p runs 2560 pixels wide, even people with less than ideal vision should be fine as long as the entire screen fits within their 140 degree FOV.
Taking all of that into account, a 27” gaming monitor running at 1440p or QHD would be best viewed from about 80cm to one meter (three feet). Sit too close and your FOV won’t cover the whole screen. You’ll need to move your head constantly to track details, causing fatigue, plus you’ll notice individual pixels.
Sit too far and you lose the benefit of QHD, since your gaming monitor will start to look like 1080p, then 720p, etc. Details will blur and image quality won’t matter.
If you choose a 32” QHD monitor, the ideal distance goes up a little from 80cm to 96cm, and the maximum to 1.3 meters (4.5 feet). However, for QHD we strongly recommend 27” as the highest fidelity form factor.
These figures use recommendations from the SMPTE, or the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Another authoritative source is cinematic entertainment company THX, which certifies movie theaters. Their standards call for a similar ideal viewing distance of 80cm from a 27” 1440p screen to maintain enjoyable gaming experiences without incurring fatigue.
Rounding this part out, 27” for 1440p gaming monitors works so well because of ideal pixel density. It’s largely agreed human sight is best adjusted for a pixel density of 100-120 pixels per inch (PPI). Less than that and graphics look overblown, smudgy, or lacking in detail. Extreme screen density makes everything look tiny and cramped, like too much has been forced on screen. That’s why 4K works best on 32” monitors, while QHD shines on 27”. Both form factors maintain optimal pixel density.
By the way, panel type has little to nothing to do with viewing distance. Viewing angles, yes. Not distance, so make sure you don’t confuse the two.
Determining the Distance
Between eye doctors and technology associations and companies, you’ll get a lot of different opinions on viewing distance. The above figures for a 27” 1440p gaming monitor are confirmed by our own experience and research by monitor manufacturers such as BenQ. However, you’ll have to figure out your ideal viewing distance by yourself. The objective is to avoid strain of any kind – eye or neck. You don’t want to tire out your eyes by sitting too close and seeing pixels one by one, nor should you injure your neck muscles by repeatedly moving your head left to right to take in a display.
Importantly, if your eye sight isn’t 20/20 then you need to adjust viewing distance to compensate – typically by sitting closer or getting a bigger display.
The Squint and Head Swivel Test
Aside from all of that numerology, ultimately you’ll figure out the best viewing distance for you through trial by gaming. If you need to lean in and squint to make out details on a regular basis then you’re sitting too far. If you constantly swivel your head side to side to focus on details you’re sitting too close. If the whole screen fits within your field of vision more or less comfortably – you’re good.
Remember though, there’s an absolute “too far”, even for a 100” screen showing 8K. That seven meter figure sign trade show mentioned at the start holds true for pretty much anyone. So exercise common sense and listen to your eyes and body movements to get the gaming joy you want.