60Hz vs 144Hz vs 240Hz – Which Monitor Refresh Rate Suits Video Games?

144Hz vs 240Hz? What does that even mean? Weren’t we just recently debating whether to move on from 60Hz monitors to 144Hz monitors? And how important is the monitor refresh rate in the first place? This and a number of other questions pop up in the minds of almost all video game players.

You’d be inclined towards technical details like the refresh rates and response times more than the screen resolution if you are more performance oriented than a visual junkie. And even if it is the other way around for you, let us assure you that the refresh rate of the monitor will, at some point, become relevant if you are begging to become a hardcore gamer.

The 144Hz vs 240Hz Monitor Refresh Rates and Things That Matter

Before we go neck deep in the debate for and against higher refresh rates, give us a minute to first bring up to speed the readers that aren’t as well versed in display screen technologies. And if you’d want a more detailed guide on everything else that matters in gaming monitors, check out our official buyer’s guide.

Defining Screen Refresh Rates

Often wrongly intertwined with the calculation of frames per second (FPS), the refresh rate of a monitor is a totally separate aspect. For starters, look at it this way: the FPS churned out by a given video game is dependent on the content quality, and processing of that content by the PC. While on the other hand, refresh rates are a measure of the capacity of the display screen.

Technically, the refresh rate means the number of times an image is refreshed on screen in exactly one second. So 120Hz would mean the monitor has the ability to refresh the image one hundred and twenty times in any given second. However, this figure will also work as a cap on the quality of content that can be displayed.

60hz vs 144hz vs 240hz monitor refresh rate

As we all know, the frame rate per second is also a similar measure. However, the power of your graphics card will be capped by the capability of your monitor. Even if the card is running the game at 100FPS, you will not be able to fully enjoy it at a 60Hz or 90Hz monitor. In fact, the expected sublime quality of 100FPS will be ruined by screen tearing.

In short, you will need to buy a monitor that has a higher refresh rate so as to ensure none of the future games get capped in their frames. It is, nonetheless, still a question whether a 240Hz monitor is actually relevant these days or not. In order to better understand that, here’s how we have defined the problem.

Motion Blur

There are a number of things that the monitor refresh rate impacts. For instance, if your gaming PC is able to run your favorite AAA title at high frame rate settings, a matching computer screen (with at least 120Hz refresh rates) will be able to show the difference. Mostly, you will see that the perceived sharpness of the motion is improved if the FPS matches or comes close to the refresh rates.

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What actually happens is that your brain tries to make sense of the motion by blurring the images together and turn them into a moving picture. When the refresh rate is higher it means more detail on the visuals is available for our brain to process. As a result, the higher refresh rate reduces the perceived blur, by allowing the brain to process more shifts in the moving picture per second. Here’s an example of how the change in refresh rates will impact the motion blur at a high constant frame rate.

monitor refresh rates motion blur

Sometimes you’d see pro gamers taking games like CS:GO and Overwatch to 200FPS, but that is far from the standard. It is expected that such higher frames and hence refresh rates will become the standard among the eSports competitive gaming community in the next year or so. But it will take longer for such higher frames and refresh rates to make it to the gaming rigs of every enthusiast gamer.

Screen Tearing

As frame rate depends on the GPU and the refresh rate depends on your display screen’s capabilities, there could be times when the two aren’t in sync. If you buy a lower refresh rate monitor than the frame rates your graphics card can churn out, it will result in some of the frames being shown half which looks something like this:

monitor refresh rates screen tearing

So because of the potential mismatching between frame rates and refresh rates, and the resultant screen tearing or motion blur, the standard of 60Hz monitors is gradually being replaced. As newer games exploit more of the graphical processing powers of the cards, higher frame rates are being flushed for PC games. Additionally, fast-paced games like first-person shooters and MOBA titles also ask for higher frame rates and refresh rates in order for the players to compete with the hardcore competition. This is where your quest of choosing between the superior monitor refresh rates begins.

The Extent to Which Lag Matters

The monitors refresh rate has a direct impact on the input lag you should expect from your screen. Input lag – defined as the delay between an input being received by the monitor and its output being displayed on the screen – is bound to be there at a certain level. For example, you cannot actually ask for an input lag lower than 16.67ms if you are using a 60Hz monitor. Similarly, a 120Hz monitor and a 240Hz monitor will at least have an effective input lag of 8.33ms and 4.16ms respectively. There is no way around because this is the breakdown of the time it will take for an image to appear on screen gave the Hertz per second reading. So does it mean you should aim for the lowest?

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If you are a competitive gamer, playing at the pro level among MMORPGs or FPS titles in the high end, you will want the lag to be lower. But in-product features make the effective lag time (input and output lag) longer than it is on paper. As a result, it becomes a very close call between the 120Hz monitors and 240Hz monitors.

Will Your Graphics Card Match The Display Potential?

The first question you need to ask is whether your gaming rig is even producing such high frame rates that the cap instilled by the display becomes a hurdle? To know this, you just need to check the refresh rate cap from within your PC (see below for process) and compare it with the highest frame rates achieved by your games on your GPU. You can check up average ratings or run a benchmark test for the same (see below). If there is a significant difference between the two calculations, you will need to switch. Otherwise, you will only waste the money on additional screen capabilities that your gaming PC can’t even match.

Human Element – Game of Perceptions

Do keep in mind that the core of the problem lies with how badly the issue is perceived by the user. So when playing your games at higher frames, if you do experience parts of the content being visually blurred or split in two, only then should you worry. I mean on paper there could be a difference but it could also be minimal to the human eye.

The computer is straight forward, calculable in their potential, but humans are not. Human mind’s potential varies from person to person and so it has an impact on the level of detail (blurring and tearing) the naked eye can pick up. Some will notice it more, some will say it is ignorable. If you can pick subtle differences, you will be more prone to being impacted by the changes than a random person.

The Bottom Line

We believe a higher refresh rate is always better as it not only improves potential motion blur, requisite levels of input and output lag, as well as screen tearing on occasion of offset frame rates. However, the extent to which you should go in getting better refresh rates depends on how powered your rig is. If the hardware components are able to churn out over 100FPS on your regular games, regularly, you’d at least want a 120Hz monitor instead of the commonplace 60Hz monitors.

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But that is exactly it: currently we hardly have video games and PC hardware components that can frequently frame rates that are well over the 150 FPS mark let alone going past the 200 FPS mark. We are still watching movies at 24 FPS with The Hobbit being one of the few exceptions that doubled the frame rate. There is a lot more relevance of the 144Hz monitors if you look at the type of content and capabilities of enthusiast rigs.

On the other hand, the only true value in getting a 240Hz monitor is future proofing your gaming PC. Of course, if you are a hardcore PC lover who wants the best that the market has to offer regardless of current usage requirements, by all means, spending the extra dollars you’ll spend on the 240Hz monitor are your own call.

Assisting Tools: UFO Test | UserBenchmark

How to check monitor refresh rate: On Windows 10, find Settings > System > Display > Advanced Display Settings. There you will find a number of details including monitor model, resolution and the monitor refresh rate also.

How to change monitor refresh rate: On Windows 10, follow Settings > System > Display > Advanced Display Settings > Display Adapter Properties > Monitor. There, under the Screen Refresh Rate tab and choose the screen refresh rate that you want the monitor to run at from the drop-down menu.

Buying Suggestions

If you have decided which one to buy for your gaming rig, there are a number of models to choose from. Among 144Hz monitors, one of the more notable ones we found was Samsung CHG70, a 27-inch curved gaming monitor that not only offers the greatest versatility but also a very low response time i.e. 1ms. You could also drop the 4K demand and compromise on a budget choice like ViewSonic XG2402. It offers similar refresh rates and response times albeit at a lower screen resolution.

If you are bent upon future proofing your rig beyond the reasonable requirements of PC games these days, there also are a number of worthy 240Hz monitors to choose from. While the Samsung model above is one of the best AMD FreeSync enabled 144Hz monitors, the Acer Predator XB252Q is the best Nvidia G-Sync enabled 240Hz monitor. If not, this Alienware 25 Gaming Monitor has been thoroughly impressive with its native FUll HD at 240Hz refresh rate.

Image Sources: Chiawei, GamingScan, GamingHardwareReviews.



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