With technology progressing at an increasingly fast rate, you might be left wondering how hard you should try to keep up.
The impressive attributes of modern GPUs often overshadow the fact that a monitor with a matching refresh rate is also key for experiencing high-end graphics. The question is: what is the best refresh rate for gaming?
Before you decide to buy a brand new 240Hz monitor, you need to ensure that your graphics card can provide the necessary amount of output. Conventional wisdom is to usually have 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 with a 240Hz monitor.
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Why Is Monitor Refresh Rate Important?
Games (and other moving images) are displayed on a monitor when the GPU sends multiple still images in rapid succession. The more powerful the GPU, the faster the images will be sent. Below a certain speed, the illusion of movement will be shattered.
If you want to enjoy smooth visuals from your graphics card, then you will need to make sure it is powerful enough for the game you are trying to play.
Another crucial factor that is sometimes overlooked is the need for a great monitor that can keep up with the GPU. Otherwise, the GPU will produce more frames than the monitor can display, and you might end up wanting to fix a problem that isn’t there.
The unnecessary overworking of the GPU might lead to overheating and other bottlenecking problems.
We will now explore some potential upsides and downsides of each monitor to determine what is the best refresh rate for gaming.
60Hz vs 144Hz
The main reason that you might still be using a 60Hz monitor is probably due to a restricted budget. This is the oldest and the most well-established refresh rate but, as is often the case with technology it is quickly going out of fashion.
The most common answer as to why people that have tried a 144Hz monitor (or even 240Hz) can’t go back is that everything, from the cursor movement on the desktop to intensive gameplay, felt sluggish when returning to 60Hz.
If you want to continue enjoying your 60Hz monitor, don’t try higher refresh rates, at least until you have the money to upgrade.
The stark contrast of the picture above will probably leave many questioning its authenticity and whether or not it was edited.
In truth, the image provides a good comparison of the two refresh rates. We chose this particular image because the discrepancy is particularly noticeable in racing games.
There is only one good reason to persist with a 60Hz monitor in 2021 and that’s a tight budget. If you aren’t playing games where the frame rate is critical, then you don’t need to worry.
A slower-paced game such as ‘Civilization 6‘ can be experienced perfectly well on a 60Hz monitor. However, if you’re playing a faster-paced game such as ‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive‘ (a first-person shooter), you will likely have a worse experience than on a 144Hz monitor.
The reason for this is that success at FPS games is dependent on your ability to see other players and react quickly. If you are only seeing less than half or even a quarter of the frames that your opponent does, then you will be in trouble.
In addition, a 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. This means the setup with more frames per second and with an accompanying higher monitor refresh rate can generate a higher response rate.
144Hz vs 240Hz
This is a more complicated comparison. For a long time, 144Hz has been considered the minimum requirement for competitive play. However, an increasing number of gamers are moving into the 240Hz camp.
One of the major reasons why people haven’t dived headfirst into the 240Hz monitor trend is that the difference between these two refresh rates is far less startling than the jump from 60Hz to 144Hz.
The difference is still noticeable, as it means going from a frame every 6.95 ms to a frame every 4.17 ms. This jump might seem small, but humans often adapt to good things quite quickly, so you should still consider it.
One aspect that is important to note is that if you’re playing an older game, such as the previously mentioned CS: GO, you would still be able to game at 240Hz with a mid-range CPU and GPU. The video below displays an enlightening comparison of all previously mentioned monitor frame rates.
Something important to mention when discussing the difference between these two monitor refresh rates is that more and more professional eSports gamers are switching to 240Hz. As time progresses, this will inevitably become the new minimum.
Our advice for the best refresh rate for gaming isn’t the same for other hardware. If you’re already moving away from 60Hz, you should try to jump directly to a 240Hz monitor and skip 144Hz.
However, if you’re already using a 144Hz monitor, you might want to wait a while and go straight to 360Hz if you’re looking for a competitive edge. However, this only matters if you have a system that can support these frame rates.
360Hz Monitor Refresh Rate
First announced as an April Fools’ prank in 2019, NVIDIA and Asus shocked the world when they announced their actual 360Hz monitor at CES 2020. Any gamers who believed that 240Hz was as good as it would get were surprised by the announcement.
The biggest improvement appears to be the ability to display game frames once every 2.8 ms, which is a similar jump to the 144Hz to 240Hz transition. 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 the Asus ROG Swift 360Hz monitor, NVIDIA is also providing an “advanced G-Sync processor” which sounds very promising.
Asus isn’t the only company with a 360Hz monitor coming, but they were the first to announce it. Alienware, Acer, MSI, and many others are also poised to enter the 360Hz market.
During NVIDIA’s September 1 RTX 3000 series launch event, CEO Jensen Huang confirmed that the 360Hz monitors were 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 was set to be released back in September 2020 with a $699 price tag, while MSI’s Oculux NXG253R was released a bit later in November, costing slightly more at $799. Whatever you choose, quickly upgrading to a 360Hz monitor won’t be cheap.
Prerequisites For 144Hz Gaming And Beyond
In order to find your ideal refresh rate for gaming, you need to consider many things. The bottom line is that a high refresh rate monitor is useless unless you also have the necessary hardware.
However, it is possible to enjoy a better frame rate by optimizing a few settings. Sometimes it might be better (and bring the coveted competitive edge) if you reduce your visual settings in favor of a higher FPS. You should still strive to keep your games playable and not reduce them to a bunch of pixels just to play at 300 FPS.
However, there’s only so much you can do to increase your frame rate. After a certain point, you will simply need a stronger GPU.
NVIDIA’s RTX 3070 series currently seems like a great choice for 240Hz gaming, while the RTX 3060 series would be sufficient for a 144Hz experience. Alternatively, you could opt for AMD’s RX 6700 XT or RX 6800 XT.
Keep in mind that these are suggestions based on modern titles, as you will be able to play an older and less demanding game at 144Hz with a GTX 2060. As new hardware arrives, we will also see more demanding games.
Once your hardware is sufficient, there might still be some kinks to iron out. One that’s often overlooked is setting 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 might already know how to do this but, just to make sure, you need to be running the game in full-screen mode. You should also adjust the in-game settings, if possible.
G-Sync and FreeSync
These are technologies developed by NVIDIA and AMD respectively, but they perform the same role. They fix the nagging issue that sometimes occurs when the monitor refresh rate differs from the GPU’s output frame rate. This visual glitch is called screen tearing.
To fix screen tearing, it’s best to use G-Sync or FreeSync, depending on your GPU, but it’s important to highlight that there has been some discussion about them causing input lag.
However, when you’re gaming at 240Hz, input lag will be incredibly hard to notice while screen tearing will be difficult to miss. This might not seem like a great trade-off, but you should probably try it for yourself and make a decision.
So, Which One Is The Best?
What is the absolute best refresh rate for gaming? The answer is 360Hz. This is a numbers game and you don’t need a tech degree to know that 360 is the highest number here.
The more relevant question is which one should you get? This answer is more nuanced and depends on which games you play and what you want to get from your gaming experience.
If you enjoy simulation-based games at a leisurely pace, then gaming at 60Hz is plenty for you. You can invest the money you will save with a cheaper monitor to upgrade your RAM or CPU.
If you’re a frequent multiplayer gamer, then a 144Hz monitor should be your bare minimum. This is gradually losing its place at the forefront of the discussion but, for at least a few more years, you will be able to play at 144Hz and not feel that your hardware is limiting you as would be the case with 60Hz vs 144Hz or 240Hz.
240Hz monitors are a necessity if you’re looking to get anywhere in the world of professional gaming. They might also give you an advantage if you’re a casual player.
While only a few people have tried the new 360Hz monitors, not many of them have reported significant differences. The sample size is currently rather small but, as of 2021, it probably isn’t worth getting one of those, even if you can afford it.