Dystopian sci-fi RPG Cyberpunk 2077 is deliberately designed to assault your senses. When I installed the game’s well-received 2.0 update, I braced myself for intrusive adverts, the press of Night City’s crowds, and endless neon lights. What I wasn’t ready for, however, was how much my new 27-inch Dell S2721HGFA would heighten the experience with its 1500R curved screen.
As a genre, cyberpunk is not just an anti-capitalist survey of the worst excesses of human greed, but it’s also an aesthetic. Cyberpunk 2077’s over-the-top in-game advertising is meant to be a source of discomfort and disturbance. The neon lights are supposed to be garish. There are meant to be too many people occupying streets that are just too narrow. The game's visuals are intended to be overwhelming.
In practical terms, a lot of the experience comes down to peripheral vision. Whether it’s tracking down Idris Elba’s superspy character Solomon Reed or driving full tilt down the highway, Cyberpunk 2077 often requires a narrow focus on the task at hand. It's through our peripheral vision that extra touches creep in. The RPG's disquieting sights insidiously seep into the edges of your sight, catching in the corner of your eye.
This is where the curved monitor comes in. The best curved gaming monitors are designed to improve the user’s peripheral vision by taking advantage of the shape of the human eye. Since our eyes are round, the human brain processes vision on a curved plane. This means that curved objects that match the roundness of our own eyes are easier for us to focus upon than their flat counterparts. This is the logic behind curved gaming monitors, and it’s why they’re able to improve our peripheral vision; they direct more screen, and thus more game, into our eyes.
This is particularly important for games like Cyberpunk 2077, where the visual design aims to use our peripheral vision to create a sense of crowdedness and excess. Thanks to this change to my setup, I was able to be drawn into Night City like never before. It added to my immersion in a big way, enclosing me in the game world.
However, my new mid-range gaming monitor didn’t just improve my peripheral vision and immersion, it also allowed me to better enjoy the changes to Cyberpunk 2077’s combat brought about by the free 2.0 update that accompanied the release of the Phantom Liberty expansion. As well as changes to major facets of the game like character progression systems, the patch also radically improved the game’s combat experience, endowing enemies with improved behavior patterns that even up the playing field. Rather than simply crouching behind cover and taking potshots at you, enemy gangers will zip across the battlefield using advanced cybernetics to outflank you.
This is where my new monitor’s higher refresh rate comes in. For the uninitiated, a refresh rate is how often a monitor can change the image that’s on a screen. For instance, a 60Hz (Hertz) display will refresh 60 times per second while a 144Hz display, such as my Dell monitor, facilitates 144 images per second. In practical terms, this allows you to achieve higher framerates, letting you enjoy a smoother visual experience.
For faster-paced games, the difference offered by these extra frames is palpable. Thanks to the updates in 2.0, the pace of combat in Cyberpunk 2077 has become far faster, especially if you opt for a high-agility build based around sword-fighting, like I did. With my new monitor, my character’s parries, blocks, and lunges became fluid and easy to read. This, when combined with my improved peripheral vision and immersion thanks to the screen’s curve, gave me a real edge. This added immersion did a great deal to help me appreciate the whip-fast back and forths that make up Cyberpunk 2077’s new approach to combat in 2.0.
Expand your horizons
The subtle but tangible improvements afforded by a curved gaming monitor gently enhance the visual aspect of your experience, offering a sense of refinement that helps bring the most out of games. Whether you’re a fan of the best RPGs or prefer to spend your time gunning down foes in one of the best FPS games, curved monitors, and especially those with higher refresh rates, have something to offer that’s more than a mere gimmick.
You don’t even need to invest in a super-expensive curved gaming monitor to enjoy these features. Many of the best gaming monitors of this kind fall comfortably into the mid-range when it comes to price brackets. For instance, the AOC CU34G2X or the Dell 4K S3221QS represent excellent and affordable options, if the likes of the Alienware AW2524H or the ultra-premium Corsair Xeneon Flex 45WQHD240 are out of reach.
That said, if you can afford it, you could go all out, getting the most out of the peripheral vision afforded by curved monitors by going for something like the Dell UltraSharp 49-inch Curved USB-C Hub monitor. It may be expensive, but this absurdly large 49-inch curved screen is the last word when it comes to this type of gaming monitor.
Curved monitors provide powerful improvements that’ll spice up anyone’s gaming setup. My experience demonstrated to me that even the humblest curved gaming monitor has more to offer than your standard flat screens. High refresh rates and improved immersion facilitate a smoother gaming experience that’s well worth the investment.
After dozens of slick, immersive gunfights in Cyberpunk 2077, I don’t think I could ever go back to a flat monitor. It may not seem like much on paper, but this unassuming innovation goes a very long way.
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.