With technology moving at an increasingly fast rate, you’ll probably be left wondering how hard you should try to keep up. The flashy capabilities of modern GPUs often overshadow the fact that a monitor with a matching refresh rate is also the key to experiencing high-end graphics. The question is: what is the best refresh rate for gaming?
One of the first things you need to do before buying a fresh 240Hz monitor is to ensure that your graphics card can provide that output. Conventional wisdom errs on the side of the GPU producing more FPS than your monitor’s refresh rate.
For clarity, it’s better to have a system that produces 200 FPS on a 144Hz monitor than to have a 144 FPS producing system on a 144Hz monitor.
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Why Is Monitor Refresh Rate Important?
Games (and other moving images) are displayed on the monitor when the GPU sends a bunch of still images in rapid succession. The better the GPU, the faster images will be sent. Below a certain point, the illusion of movement will be shattered.
If you want to enjoy a smooth showing from your graphics card, then you have to make sure it is up to par with the game you’re trying to play. Surprisingly, another critical factor that sometimes slips through the cracks is the need to have a great monitor that can keep up with the GPU. Otherwise the GPU will needlessly produce frames that the monitor can’t display, and you might end up tempted to fix a problem that isn’t there.
Not to mention that the unnecessary overworking of the GPU might lead to overheating and some other bottlenecking problems.
Now let’s talk about some potential upsides and downsides of each monitor and find out what is the best refresh rate for gaming.
60Hz vs 144Hz
The biggest reason you’re still using a 60Hz monitor is probably due to a tight budget. As it goes with technology, this is the oldest and the most well-established refresh rate tech, but it’s going out of fashion quickly.
The most straightforward answer as to why people that have tried a 144Hz monitor (or even a 240Hz one) can’t go back is that everything, from the mouse cursor on the desktop to actual heavy-duty gameplay, felt sluggish after upgrading to 144Hz. So, if you’re still enjoying your 60Hz monitor, just don’t try higher refresh rate ones.
The stark contrast of the picture above will undoubtedly leave many questioning its authenticity and if it was, in fact, edited. To the surprise of many, the image provides a good comparison of both refresh rates. We chose this specific image because, as it is well known, this discrepancy is incredibly noticeable in racing games.
There is only one good reason why you would stick to a 60Hz monitor in 2021 and that’s a tight budget. If you’re not playing games where the frame rate is crucial, then you shouldn’t have to worry. A ‘Civilization 6’ can be experienced perfectly fine on a 60Hz monitor. However, if you’re playing a game like ‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’, you will factually have a worse experience than on a 144Hz monitor.
The reason for this is that success at FPS games like that is reliant on your ability to see other players quickly and react even faster. If you’re only seeing less than half or even a quarter of the frames your opponent is seeing, then you will be in trouble.
And not only that, but 60 FPS setup has an end to end latency in the range of 55 to 75ms (in full-screen mode), while a 144 FPS setup ranges from 30 to 45ms. What this means in practice is that the setup with more frames per second and with an accompanying higher monitor refresh rate can generate a higher response rate.
144Hz vs 240Hz
Now we’re getting somewhere. For a long while in the best refresh rate for gaming debate, 144Hz has been a minimum requirement for competitive play. But current trends are now a lot more in the 240Hz camp.
One of the biggest reasons why people haven’t dived in headfirst into the 240Hz monitor trend is that the difference between these two refresh rates isn’t as jarring as the jump from 60Hz to 144Hz was.
The difference is nothing to sneeze at though, as it means you’d be going from a frame every 6.95 ms to a frame every 4.17 ms. The jump might seem small, but humans always get used to good things quite quickly, so you shouldn’t worry about that.
One thing that’s very important to note is that if you’re playing an older game, like the previously mentioned CS: GO, you’d still be able to game at 240Hz with a mid-tier CPU and GPU. The video below shows a really good comparison for all previously mentioned monitor frame rates.
A crucial thing to mention when discussing the difference between these two monitor refresh rates is that lately more and more professional eSports gamers are switching to 240Hz and, as time progresses, this will become the new minimum.
The advice for the best refresh rate for gaming here isn’t the same for other hardware. If you’re already moving away from 60Hz, you should definitely just jump directly to a 240Hz monitor and skip the 144Hz point.
However, if you’re on a 144Hz monitor already, you may want to wait a bit and go straight to 360Hz if you’re looking for a competitive edge. Of course, all of this only matters if you have a machine that can support such frame rates.
360Hz Monitor Refresh Rate
Originally announced as an April Fools prank in 2019, Nvidia and Asus shocked the world when they announced their very real 360Hz monitor at CES 2020. Many of those who believed that 240Hz was already as good as it gets were in for a surprise with this announcement.
The biggest improvement appears to be the ability to display game frames once every 2.8 ms and it seems that the jump will be similar to the 144Hz to 240Hz. At least on paper, however, it appears that the jump from 144Hz to 360Hz won’t be as jarring as the jump from 60Hz to 240Hz.
For this Asus ROG Swift 360Hz monitor, Nvidia is providing an “advanced G-Sync processor” and that certainly sounds very promising, but it appears we’ll still have to wait just a little bit.
Asus aren’t the only ones with a 360Hz monitor coming out, but they were the first to announce it. Alienware also announced their own version, which will actually be a 240Hz monitor that can be overclocked to 360Hz.
During Nvidia’s September 1 RTX 3000 series launch event, their CEO Jensen Huang confirmed that the 360Hz monitors are coming in the fall of 2020. Other confirmed brands offering a monitor with this refresh rate are Acer, Alienware, Asus and MSI.
Asus’ ROG Swift PG259QN is said to be released in September, with a $699 price tag, while MSI’s Oculux NXG253R is set to release in November, costing a little more at $799. Either way, upgrading to a 360Hz monitor won’t be cheap.
Prerequisites For 144Hz Gaming And Beyond
In order to find the best refresh rate for gaming, you need to consider many things. Bottom line is – a high refresh rate monitor is useless unless you have the necessary hardware.
Of course, it’s possible to get a good frame rate by optimizing a few settings. Sometimes it might even be better (and bring that much-desired competitive edge) if you lower the visual settings in favor of a higher FPS. Still, strive to keep your games playable and not just a bunch of pixels at 300 FPS because who wants that?
However, there’s only so much you can do to increase the frame rate. After a certain point, you’ll simply need a stronger GPU.
Nvidia’s RTX 2080 series seems a great choice at the moment for 240Hz gaming, while the RTX 2060 series would be enough for a 144Hz experience. Keep in mind that these are suggestions based on the most modern titles, as you’ll be able to play an older and less demanding game at 144Hz with a GTX 1080. Also, as new hardware arrives, we’re bound to get more demanding games.
Once you have your hardware at capable levels, there might still be some kinks to iron out. One that’s often missed is enabling Windows to run at your monitor’s native refresh rate. To do this, follow these steps: -> System -> Display -> Advanced Display Settings -> Display Adapter Properties -> Monitor -> Monitor Settings – Screen Refresh Rate.
You probably already do this, but just to make sure, you need to be running the game at full screen. And of course, adjust the in-game settings if possible.
G-Sync and FreeSync
These are technologies developed by Nvidia and AMD respectively, but their job is the same. They fix the nagging issue that can happen sometimes when the monitor refresh rate differs from the GPU’s output frame rate. This effect is called screen tearing.
To fix screen tearing, you’re recommended to use G-Sync or FreeSync, depending on your GPU, but it’s important to highlight that there is some talk going on about them causing input lag. However, when you’re gaming at 240Hz, that makes the input lag incredibly hard to notice while screen tearing will be hard to miss. Conventional wisdom says that this is not a good trade-off, but you’re free to try it yourself and be the judge of it.
So, Which One Is The Best?
So what is the best refresh rate for gaming after all? The answer is 360Hz. It’s a numbers game and you don’t even need a high-school diploma to know that 360 is the highest number here.
However, the more important question is – which one should you get? The answer to this is layered and depends on what games you play and what you want to get out of your gaming experience.
If you enjoy simulation-based games at a leisurely pace, then gaming at 60Hz is great for you. You can invest the money you saved on a cheaper monitor to upgrade your RAM or CPU.
If you’re a casual multiplayer gamer, then a 144Hz monitor should be the bare minimum. It’s actually slowly losing its position at the forefront of the discussion, but for at least a few years you’ll be able to play at 144Hz and not feel like your hardware is limiting you like it would be the case with 60Hz vs 144 or 240Hz.
240Hz monitors are necessary if you’re looking to get anywhere in the world of professional gaming. They’ll give you an advantage if you’re a casual player as well.
While only a few people have tried the 360Hz monitors, not a lot of them have reported remarkable differences. Admittedly, the sample size is rather small, but as of 2021, it’s not worth getting one of those, even if you can afford it.