You’re looking to buy your new gaming monitor and you’ve read a lot about 144Hz and 60Hz screens, you’re wondering how this affects your buying options? Is it worth spending extra for 144Hz or will 60Hz be good enough for navigating the wastelands of Fallout 4? What refresh rate is best for gaming?
If so, this post is for you, on this page we will attempt to summarise the pros and cons of higher refresh rates and help you to think about which one is right for you.
You might also be looking at 120Hz or 165Hz screens and to be honest most of the arguments you’ll read apply to these too. The biggest difference is going to be between the current standard of 60Hz and the high rate monitors (120Hz, 144Hz and 165Hz). Once you’ve made the initial leap the return on investment diminishes so it probably doesn’t so much which of the latter you go for.
So, what is refresh rate?
The Hz rating is a frequency, it represents the number of times per second your screen is refreshed. Think of it as the number of frames that are displayed on the screen each second. To get a smooth animation, and to satisfactorily convince our eyes that we are looking at something that is really moving, a high rate is needed, especially during moments of high action.
A higher rate is better but there are some limitations. For a start our eyes have an upper limit in their ability to detect motion. So after a point there will be little incentive to increase the update frequency. Secondly, your PC must be capable of producing frames at the higher rate else the benefit of a gaming monitor will be lost.
What is the advantage of a 144Hz gaming monitor?
The biggest win is the ability to show more than 60 frames per second on the screen. With a 144Hz monitor you can let your graphics card produce 144 fps and see them all on your screen each second. This allows for a smoother blur free image, and it can also minimise “input lag” this is when it feels like there is a small delay on your actions and what is happening on the screen.
Note that adaptive sync technologies such as G-Sync or FreeSync can help give you a smooth stutter free image if your graphics card can’t output frames fast enough to your screen. Without these systems in place you’ll find that your games might stutter, appear laggy, or, if you use the v-sync solution your frame rate will be locked to a lower fps anyway.
Some also argue that higher refresh rate reduces eye strain, a more stable image is more comfortable for us to look at. However it tends to be screens that flicker that cause problems. People sensitive to this report head aches from looking at computer screens for long periods. If you feel this is a problem then a high refresh rate could help, but you’ll also want to look for flicker free technologies.
Does a 144Hz monitor really make a difference compared to 60Hz?
This is the subject of many arguments in threads all over the Internet. On that basis I can’t say for sure that it will change your life. Many gamers do claim that it makes a big difference.
Personally I used to be a serious Unreal Tournament player (before family life took over!) and the winner of several ClanBase (RIP) tournaments, and I remember going up to my first high refresh screen and instantly noting a difference. Perhaps it was in my head, perhaps it was just that I moved to a bigger screen – I have no way to objectively quantify the difference, but I certainly seemed to get better results!
If you consider the difference we are talking about, it’s not great. We’re talking about 0.01ms. Given the context of human perception it’s hard to see that this can make a real world difference:
- 60hz – 60 frames / 1 second = 1 frame per 0.017 seconds
- 144hz – 144 frames / 1 second = 1 frame per 0.007 seconds
This at least does explain why going from 144Hz to 165Hz isn’t going to change your life. But when it comes to 60Hz vs 144Hz, every little bit helps and having decent hardware makes a difference if you like playing to the limits of your ability.
So, should I buy a 144Hz monitor?
You can be forgiven for finding this confusing! If you have the funds, a 144Hz monitor is well worth a look for any gamer. If you’ve splashed out on a top line GTX1080 then it would seem inappropriate not to pair it with a monitor that can display frames as fast as they can be delivered. And actually even the mid range cards of the new generation can hit these frame rates at 1080p.
If funds are limited, you have some options. How about looking for a 120Hz monitor? And remember that sync rate isn’t everything. Cheaper monitors are still capable of great performance, look out for a fast response time, blur reduction technologies and the adaptive sync (G-Sync, FreeSync) systems can all help.
One final thought, monitors are something that we tend to update less frequently, in my experience at least. I tend to buy new insides for my PC every 2 years and have done so since the mid 90s, but I have only ever owned 3 monitors throughout this time. I’m looking to upgrade right now – hence the sharing of my research on this site – so I don’t mind investing in something that will see me through for another 10 years.