Do You Need a High Refresh Rate Monitor for Gaming? Guide
If you’re in the market for a new monitor, whether it’s for gaming or work, how important is getting one with a higher refresh rate?
Things have changed quite a bit these days, with displays featuring super-high refresh rates, adaptive sync technology, and ultra-high resolutions.
So, it’s time you should know about refresh rate and related technologies before committing to a display for gaming.
If you don’t have a budget for a new monitor, I have a simple guide to get the maximum refresh rate out of your 60Hz monitor. How to overclock your monitor for a higher refresh rate.
Also read our Monitor Buying Guide to avoid any issues.
Why is a High Refresh Rate Monitor Good?
A higher refresh rate measured in hertz will not only make many kinds of motion on your screen look smoother but can also be quite important for gaming. Contrary to popular belief, the human eye is very good at detecting changes in motion. There are myths that humans can only see 24 fps are totally wrong.
A higher refresh rate display coupled with a powerful graphics card and processor will make animations appear more realistic by reducing choppiness and blur, thus increasing immersion.
Another benefit is that movements become smoother because you see more frames per second. In other words, you’re catching visual elements that you might be missing with a more run-of-the-mill display.
Advantages of High Refresh Rate in Gaming
This is more than just an aesthetic advantage in a fast-paced game and can even give you a competitive edge. Many competitive gamers and ESports teams value high refresh rate monitors because they allow players to see things just a little more clearly or quickly than their opponents.
To reap these benefits, you will need powerful hardware to spit out frames quickly enough to keep your monitor fed.
For example, if you buy an expensive 144Hz monitor but your graphics card can only muster 30 or 60 frames per second in the games you play. Many of those screen refreshes that you see won’t contain new frames of information. So your experience isn’t going to be any better.
Role of a Graphics Card
Everyone wants to get maximum FPS in their games. But if you don’t pair the right graphics card with the right monitor, you won’t have any benefits.
For example, if you’ve bought a fancy new graphics card and you’re getting 100 frames per second, but your monitor is 60Hz. So, you won’t be seeing the full benefit of your shiny new GPU. What you see is basically capped by the monitor.
Remember, the refresh rate is measured in hertz and is not the same as the frame rate, measured in frames per second. So, increasing the refresh rate will not increase the frame rate.
However, suppose you’re upgrading from a 60Hz monitor to a 120Hz monitor and getting 100 frames per second in the game. In that case, you will then appreciate the full 100 fps rather than the 60 FPS that you were previously limited to because of the monitor.
High refresh rates also help reduce screen tearing in games. Let’s say you’ve got a 60Hz monitor but are getting 100 FPS in your game. The monitor will be refreshing only 60 times per second.
So, not only are you not seeing the game in its full frame rate, but you may also notice screen tearing as the monitor can’t keep up with the game’s frame rate, which is being powered by your GPU.
Read : Portable Gaming Monitors
Of course, you can enable VSync, which caps the frame rate and does reduce screen tearing, but it has other issues like creating a higher input lag.
The good news is that recent technologies like G-Sync and FreeSync have a much bigger impact on reducing screen tearing with little to no side effects other than the price.
So, high refresh rates and G-Sync will be an ideal combination for a gaming monitor as it gives you the same minimal input lag as if it were running at the monitors at maximum refresh rate.
Read more about Screen Tearing.
What is the ideal Refresh Rate for Gaming?
I’m using Acer Predator Helios 300 with a 144Hz display, and it is pretty good. My suggestion would be to go for a 120, 144, or 165Hz gaming monitor and save the budget for other PC components.
Jumping from 60Hz to 120 or 144hz would make a huge difference. A refresh rate higher than this would be overkill unless you are participating in Esports tournaments.
How high of a refresh rate is worth it without spending too much money on a monitor?
Well, it’s quite common to see one tier of high-end monitors that offer a 120 or 144 refresh rate and then another tier of displays that can push out 165, 200, or even 240 refreshes per second.
Unsurprisingly, the monitors tend to get more expensive as the refresh rates increase while offering diminishing returns for many people.
Now the vast majority of us can easily tell the difference between a 30 and 60 frames per second video or game. But it’s a bit harder for some folks to tell the difference between 60HZ and 120Hz and even harder above 200Hz.
So, if it’s convenient for you to try before you buy, then, by all means, do that. This way, you won’t be wasting money on something you won’t truly enjoy. This is especially true for non-gamers as there are very few applications that go beyond 60 FPS.
Even ultra-smooth online videos usually max out at around 60 frames per second. So please don’t pick up an expensive monitor with a high refresh rate, thinking that it’s going to make your entire computing experience better.
Also Read: Guide to Monitor Arms
Furthermore, it’s important to know that there are often trade-offs if you go for the top-tier models with the highest refresh rate.
Monitors with very high refresh rates often use TN panels as it’s more difficult to incorporate high refresh rate technology into IPS displays. TN panels have noticeably worse colors and viewing angles compared to other display types like VA and IPS.
Another thing to mention is that most of the 240Hz monitors are currently limited to 1080p resolution.
The good thing is that more advanced solutions such as one millisecond IPS panels, ultra-wide 200Hz, and even 4k at 144Hz have just made their way to the market, and they promise incredible experiences with HDR and high refresh rates.
But those monitors are quite expensive, so whatever you go with, just make sure that you’re leaving some room in your budget for the games or other PC components.
Assessing Your System’s Performance
Before considering a high-refresh rate monitor upgrade, it is essential to confirm that your system can handle it.
The most effective and simplest method to identify the refresh rates your system can manage is by playing games and observing their performance. Utilize a frame rate monitoring tool, such as Fraps, to show your current FPS (frames per second) during gameplay. Most frame rate monitoring tools offer the ability to measure your average FPS, providing an overview of your system’s performance throughout a gaming session.
Ideally, the game’s frame rate should correspond to the monitor’s refresh rate on a 1:1 ratio for the optimal experience. For instance, your system should be able to produce 144 FPS to fully benefit from a 144Hz monitor.
However, you can still appreciate a higher refresh rate even if it doesn’t reach your display’s maximum potential. Playing at 110Hz is an improvement over 60Hz, and you can always upgrade your CPU and GPU in the future to achieve 144 FPS.
If your system has difficulty running games at over 60 FPS, it is improbable that you’ll gain much advantage from a high-refresh rate display. However, it might be worth the investment if your PC can generate more than 60 FPS.
If you don’t own the game you wish to play yet, you can test similar titles and make an educated guess. Games released in the same year, belonging to the same genre, or built on the same engine often have comparable performance requirements. Additionally, you can research other players’ experiences and compare your hardware setup to theirs to get an idea of what to expect.
Do You Need a High Refresh Rate Monitor for Regular Use?
A high refresh rate sounds good for gaming, but if you only do a bit of work or web browsing on your computer, do you really need a higher refresh rate? Since it’s unlikely that you’ll care about screen tearing and frame rates other than games.
For regular use, like dragging the mouse along the desktop, opening folders, scrolling through web pages, or watching movies, I would recommend getting an IPS panel or a high-resolution monitor.
A high refresh rate won’t make you more productive, but the overall experience will be a lot nicer. It is helpful for gamers, but pretty much everyone will appreciate how smooth and how silky everything becomes.