Do You Really Need a High-Refresh Gaming Monitor?

High refresh rate monitors have gained immense popularity in recent years, making appearances in some of the best gaming monitors and top-notch 4K displays. But the question remains: Do you actually need a high-refresh gaming monitor?

Is a High Refresh Rate Necessary for You?

While a high refresh rate can work wonders for gamers, a higher number doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for everyone. Depending on your computer usage, focusing on factors like screen resolution, panel type, and color accuracy may be a smarter approach. To help you make an informed decision, let’s break down what a high refresh rate does, what it doesn’t do, and why it’s important.

Understanding the Meaning of Hz

Hz, short for hertz, refers to a unit of frequency. In any context, 1Hz equals one cycle per second. For instance, a computer processor running at 4GHz completes 4,000,000,000 instruction cycles per second. Similarly, monitors utilize Hz to measure refresh rate.

Refresh rate is the number of times a display refreshes its image per second. Since motion is displayed through the difference between frames, the refresh rate acts as a limitation on the visible framerate. However, it’s crucial to distinguish between refresh rate and framerate. Refresh rate is a monitor attribute, while framerate relates to the information being sent to the monitor. It’s essential for them to be in sync to produce the desired display.

If you can run a game at 100 frames per second, playing it on a monitor that can refresh 100 times per second can provide tangible benefits. However, when watching a movie at the classic 24 frames per second, a higher refresh rate monitor won’t make any difference.

Enhancing Motion Resolution

If your computer can handle a game with a high enough framerate to match a 120Hz or 240Hz monitor, you’ll notice a significant improvement in the perceived sharpness of moving images. Blurring occurs due to how our brains process the series of frames displayed by the monitor. The brain combines the frames to create a coherent moving picture, but some detail is inevitably lost in the process.

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A higher refresh rate diminishes the blur by providing our brains with more information, resulting in reduced perceived blur. However, our brains aren’t all the same. Some people can immediately notice the difference between a 60Hz and 120Hz display, while others may not be as sensitive. The disparity between 120Hz and 240Hz is even more subtle.

The impact of refresh rate depends on your system usage. Gamers will appreciate crisper visuals during fast action, and mouse movements can feel smoother compared to a typical 60Hz display. Web browsing, particularly when quickly scrolling down a page, can also appear smoother. However, watching online videos or answering emails won’t provide any noticeable advantage.

Dealing with Screen Tearing

Screen tearing occurs when refresh rates and framerates don’t sync properly. It often happens when a computer’s video card outputs frames at a rate exceeding the monitor’s refresh rate. As a result, half-frames are displayed together, causing a visible split on the screen that doesn’t align correctly. This distracting problem is noticeable even to the least sensitive viewers.

In games that aren’t particularly demanding, framerates can often exceed 100 fps. However, a 60Hz display only refreshes 60 times per second. This means gamers won’t fully benefit from the enhanced responsiveness of higher framerates and may experience tearing as the display struggles to keep up. A 120Hz display refreshes twice as quickly as a 60Hz display, allowing it to handle up to 120 fps, while a 240Hz display can go up to 240 fps. This effectively eliminates tearing in most games.

Although the risk of screen tearing persists when the framerate exceeds the refresh rate, it’s only up to a certain point. Games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, where framerates often surpass 100 fps, may exhibit more minor tears. A single noticeable tear is easy to spot, but several minor tears may go unnoticed by most people.

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Frame sync technologies like V-Sync, Freesync, and G-Sync can help prevent screen tearing, but they come with their own drawbacks. V-Sync can cap performance, while Freesync and G-Sync require specific combinations of video card and monitor hardware. Although these technologies are improving, they still require careful consideration of GPUs and displays.

GPUs and the Impact on Refresh Rate

Syncing technologies work in conjunction with GPUs to address issues like screen tearing, but GPUs play a more significant role in display performance. To achieve performance levels of 120Hz or higher, you need a GPU capable of keeping up with your gaming demands.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for GPUs that can consistently output 120 or more frames per second, but higher processing power and increased memory speed are positive indicators. Nvidia’s RTX 3000 series GPUs from the latest generation are excellent options, but they aren’t the only ones available.

Additionally, adjusting game settings or playing less graphically demanding games can help achieve higher framerates, allowing you to fully leverage the advantages of a high refresh rate display.

Input Response and Lag

The refresh rate of a monitor has a direct impact on input lag. For example, a 60Hz display will always have a visible lag of at least 16.67 milliseconds, which is the time between each refresh. A 120Hz display reduces this time to 8.33ms, and a 240Hz display further lowers it to 4.16ms.

Reducing lag by less than 10ms may not seem important to many people, including gamers. However, for ultra-competitive gaming or those who seek the smoothest experience possible, eliminating lag becomes crucial. It’s worth noting that individuals vary in their sensitivity to input lag, with some noticing differences more readily than others.

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Importantly, the refresh rate has no impact on input lag itself. Whenever you click your mouse or input a keystroke, your PC receives and processes the command at the same rate. The refresh rate solely affects how quickly the results of your actions appear on the screen, encompassing the entire input chain.

Do You Really Need a 120Hz or 240Hz Monitor?

We believe that gamers will experience more significant benefits by switching to a high refresh rate monitor compared to upgrading to 4K. Both options can be expensive and demanding on your hardware. Displays with 120Hz or 144Hz refresh rates provide smoother, tear-free gaming experiences with minimal input lag. These improvements are particularly valuable in fast-paced games that require quick reactions, such as Fortnite, Overwatch, Mortal Kombat, and others in these genres.

If you’re not a gamer, higher refresh rates offer minimal noticeable changes in your overall system performance. While it may make your desktop appear smoother when browsing online, the benefits beyond that point are not substantial. Televisions with 120Hz or 240Hz panels enhance motion quality through image processors that modify input, sometimes even adding frames to increase the framerate. Monitors, on the other hand, lack such processors, limiting the panel’s advantages when watching video content. Additionally, an improved refresh rate does not guarantee the elimination of “ghosting.”

Ultimately, dedicated gamers will undoubtedly benefit from upgrading their systems with high refresh rate displays. However, if gaming isn’t your primary focus, there are numerous other features that can better meet your requirements.

For more information about high-refresh gaming monitors and related topics, visit OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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