What Are Refresh Rates And Monitor Response Time?

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refresh rate vs response time

With the advent of computers, many new technological components came into being like processors, motherboards, etc. These components work in the background to produce results from the data you provide.

But where do you see those results? For that purpose, one necessary component, monitor, is needed. It takes inputs from the user and shows you a result based on that input.

Nowadays monitors with 1080p, 4k, 8k resolutions are the market leaders. High-resolution and high refresh rate monitors are mainly used by gamers for a better gaming experience.

You might be wondering, what is refresh rate? If you want to buy a good monitor, then the resolution is not the only characteristic you need to look at. You also need to know about the refresh rate and response time of the monitor.

In this article, I will be discussing this in detail. This information will help you in making the best choice for your monitor.


Refresh Rate vs Response Time: The Real difference


A monitor needs to refresh itself a specific number of times. This helps to stop the tearing of graphics. With each refresh, the monitor decides which pixels need to be assigned which color.

Refresh rate is the degree of smoothness while using a monitor. The time that each color needs before it is shown is known as Response Time. Both play an important role in the working of the monitor.


What Is Refresh Rate?


Have you ever been hit with the graphics tearing apart? If yes, then this might be something related to your graphics card. The rate or speed at which a monitor refreshes itself is known as Refresh Rate; why does a monitor need to refresh itself?

Whenever the monitor needs to show something new, it refreshes the whole screen. If you open a game from your desktop, the monitor performs it instantly for you.

This is what you see from the outside. Each frame is refreshed a set number of times. How many times does each pixel refresh?

That solely depends on your monitor’s refresh rate. The most common refresh rate monitors are 60Hz, 144Hz, 240Hz. These number of refreshes are done in one second; keep that in mind.

example of refresh rates from 60hz to 240Hz
@Nvidia

Such fast refreshes make you feel that a smooth transition was made from one application to another. Have you ever heard of the term “Frame Rate”?

Frame rate (FPS) is the number of frames that your computer can refresh in a second. But do remember FPS and refresh rate are two different things. FPS is more of a processor and GPU thing. Whereas refresh rate is related to the monitor.

Refresh rate is the frames that a monitor can show, whereas the FPS is the frames your CPU can produce. If you have a high-end computer, then your CPU can produce more frames, then your monitor can show (given that the monitor you’re running does not offer a respectable refresh rate).

Let’s discuss the point of Graphics / Screen tearing. You experience the screen tearing when your PC produces a higher FPS than the refresh rate of the monitor.

Screen Tearing effect in video game

The higher the refresh rate of the monitor, the smoother the gaming experience will be. Sometimes you feel like you have pressed the button, but the result is shown with a delay.

This means your FPS is lower than your monitor’s refresh rate. In that case, you need to update your computer’s components.

So do keep in mind what is a monitor’s refresh rate while buying a monitor. The size and resolutions are not the only important thing to look at while buying monitors.


Understanding Refresh Rates


There are a lot of different types of refresh rate monitors in the market. Each one has its own set of features. Some are good for daily use, while others are necessary for gaming. Now let’s have a detailed look into each of these refresh rate monitors.

30Hz

First up are the 30Hz monitors. They are not considered good unless you have a mediocre setup. Such monitors are mostly part of the old computer setups. Most of the new setups start from higher refresh rates than this.

If you play a game like snow bros on full low graphics. There could be a chance that you will be able to play games on it. But for competitive gamers, these are not the way to go.

The mouse movement in these monitors is very slow. Competitive gamers need a fast movement of the mouse. Therefore 30 Hz monitors are not a good choice for gamers.

Lastly, your chances of running into these monitors on a store shelf are next to none. They’ve been pretty outdated and discontinued by most manufacturers.

60Hz

These are the most abundant monitors you will find in the market. Almost every gamer must first go through a 60 Hz monitor before reaching higher refresh rate monitors.

These monitors can be used for both gaming and daily use. Games like CS: GO can easily be played on these monitors.

For competitive gaming, they are usable but are not recommended. From the analysis, it has been confirmed that the players with higher refresh rate monitors take the lead in a competitive scenario.

Every normal monitor has at least a 60 Hz refresh rate until you specifically buy a monitor of 30 Hz.

120Hz

These monitors are better than the 60 and 30 Hz monitors. The 120 Hz is not so common in the market. It has been the trend in the market that people buy 120+ Hz monitors more often than this monitor.

The reason is that the performance on the 240 Hz monitor is more noticeable than the 60 Hz or 120 Hz monitor. Also, a 144 Hz monitor is a choice for users. So, most people try to get the 144 Hz as it is close to 120 Hz and a bit better.

144Hz

144 Hz monitors are another type of monitor that most users buy. These monitors are also used by professional gamers.

They have almost the same cost as that of a 120 Hz monitor, which is why they are more opted for. There is a noticeable difference when you change from 60 Hz to this one.

144 refreshes per second is a tremendous amount. Most of the users, after upgrading to 144 Hz, feel a game-changing difference. It surely is a good choice if you are a gamer. I am doing a comparison with 60 Hz only because it is the most common.

240Hz

These are the monitors that refresh the screen 240 times in a second. Do keep in mind, that these are high-end monitors.

They are expensive, and because of this, not many buy these monitors. In professional gaming, most gamers use these monitors. Also, a low specification PC might not be good with this monitor. Buy this only if you have a high-end PC.

240 Hz monitors a new addition to the PC market. They don’t have the same popularity as 60 Hz or 144 Hz, still, they are a good choice for gamers.

360Hz

360 Hz is the highest refresh rate monitor in the market nowadays. These monitors provide 360 refreshes to the monitor in a second. These are the latest monitors in the market. These monitors provide 50% faster movement than a 144 Hz monitor.

Also, they have six times the refresh rate compared to the 60 Hz monitor. They are not too old. This is the reason that their sales are not that much.

Not only that, but they are also more expensive than your normal 144 Hz or 240 Hz monitor. They are said to be the new esports meta.


Should I Get A High Refresh Rate Screen For Gaming?


Given that your understanding of what are refresh rates is pretty clear by now, you should definitely get a monitor with a higher refresh rate. If you happen to be a game enthusiast, then opting for a low refresh rate monitor can be a death blow.

There are different types of gamers. Some are competitive gamers while others are semi-competitive gamers; some play games just for fun, etc.

image of a professional pc gamer

If you are a gamer who plays on competitive platforms, then 144 Hz or higher is necessary. A 60 Hz monitor won’t do in such cases.

Most esports facilities and competitive gaming platforms use 144 to 240 Hz refresh rate monitors. One problematic thing in gaming is the lag.

If every gamer feels the same gaming experience, then a game is playable on a competitive level. A professional gamer needs to practice on the monitors that they will be provided in esports tournaments.

Semi-competitive gamers like me sometimes play games on a competitive level and sometimes just for fun. If given I can play on a 60 Hz monitor with ease, but currently, I own a 144 Hz Monitor and primarily use it.

Read on to know further about the refresh rate vs response time. Knowing about both will help you buy the best monitor for gaming.


Black Frame Insertion & Motion Interpolation


With a high refresh rate, the problem of stutters in the gaming experience has also become common. This problem mainly occurs when your computer is generating less FPS than the monitor’s refresh rate.

Due to this, the graphics on your screen can’t move at the same speed as that of your refresh rate. This causes issues like stuttering and unclear pictures on your display.

These are some annoying feelings while gaming. To cope with these issues, two methods have been created. One is known as Black Frame Insertion, and the other one is Motion Interpolation.

Black Frame Insertion is a technique developed to solve the blurring of images issue caused due to low FPS. This technique is also known as motion blur.

In most games, you will find this feature. The Black Frame Insertion technology uses a backlight to counter this issue. This backlight is strobed in such a way that the out-of-position dots are filled. This technique has its setbacks.

showing how black frame insertion works
@Anonymous

If the light is not flashed correctly, then the quality of the image might decrease, which is a disaster. But if perfectly placed, the image quality is increased.

The basic principle behind Black Frame Insertion causes the image to dim down noticeably. This becomes an issue when you are continuously watching the TV, and suddenly the brightness gets lowered.

Frankly, if you are a gamer, then Black Frame Insertion is not the way to go. This also causes stuttering sometimes, which is not a good feeling when you are playing a game. This is more of an LCD technology.

Next up is Motion Interpolation. If your FPS is lower than your refresh rate, you feel the game stuttering. For such a problem, this is a great technology.

This procedure in return reduces your image quality and increases your FPS as much as your refresh rate. This technology is highly useful if you get 30 FPS on a 60 Hz refresh rate monitor.

Some people think that this increases the refresh rate of your monitor. That is not the case your refresh rate remains the same only your FPS change.


Different Refresh Rate From Different Sources


I have gathered a list of devices where different monitors are used. I will be looking at the refresh rates that they mostly run on and the purpose they are used for.

image of a playing warzone on ps4

First up is the Xbox One S/X. It usually uses a 24Hz to 120Hz monitor for its working, this console was compatible with 120 Hz screens but wasn’t powerful enough to run games at that speed.

Then comes the next-gen Xbox Series X, which is the most recent gaming console by Microsoft and is way more powerful than the Xbox One S/X. It uses 24 Hz to 120 Hz monitors too and can play games at 4K/60Hz or 1080p/120Hz.

PS4/PS4 Pro both use 24Hz to 60Hz monitors, both these are very similar but Ps4 Pro is just a little bit more powerful and can output at 4K/60Hz, whereas Ps4 can only output at 1080p/60Hz at max.

Now comes the next-gen gaming console by Sony, the PS5 just like Series S/X, it’s one of the most powerful consoles ever it can output games at 4K/60Hz or 1080p/120Hz.

Chromecast and Apple TV use 24 Hz to 60 Hz signals and can be used on any device with HDMI.


What Is Variable Refresh Rate?


We know that some issues occur when a PC generates FPS greater or less than the refresh rate of the monitor. To stop such issues, there are two ways only. One way is to either limit or increase the FPS somehow to match the refresh rate.

The other method is using variable refresh rate monitors. But what is a variable refresh rate?

Variable refresh rate means a monitor that refreshes itself based on the FPS that your computer can generate. It adjusts itself accordingly.

If you are playing a game in which your CPU can generate around 120 FPS. Then your variable refresh rate monitor will change its refresh rate to be 120 Hz.

This technique is highly helpful for monitors as it eradicates stuttering issues. Motion blur also does not remain a problem with this technology.

The variable refresh rate is widely known as adaptive synchronization or A-sync, as you see in most games. The smooth movement of graphics is caused by this property of monitors.

Not all monitors have this property. Some specific companies like TCL, LG, Vizio have this ability in their new monitors.


FreeSync, V-Sync, And G-Sync


To solve the screen tearing problems and other issues with the display. Some companies like AMD and NVIDIA decided to add some features of their own.

The aim is that it will solve these problems. They decided to use different synchronization techniques for its working. The first and the most used technique is the V-sync. While playing a game, tearing apart of the graphics horizontally is a common problem.

image of screen tearing error

To cater to this issue, V-sync was introduced. V-sync, also known as vertical synchronization, is a method that works by limiting the FPS.

It limits your FPS to the point they become equal to the refresh rate of your monitor. This helps smoothen the graphics on the monitor, thus stopping horizontal tearing of the screen.

Soon AMD released its synchronization procedure, namely, FreeSync, Free-sync is a complete AMD synchronization procedure.

If you want to use it, you must have an AMD GPU, it works on the opposite principle of V-sync. As you already know, the refresh rate is dynamically changeable. This is what Free sync works on.

Free sync dynamically changes the refresh rate of the monitor according to the FPS that your PC produces. This provides the user with a clean and beautiful display.

Seeing the Free sync, NVIDIA decided to launch its synchronization procedure for NVIDIA devices specifically. This synchronization procedure is known as G-sync.

As of today, you need to have a GPU higher than GTX 650 Ti to use this feature. This feature is the same as Free sync with a different name.


What Is Response Time?


Have you ever felt the character on your screen getting blurred out? Or motion blur showing up even when you have not turned it on in the game settings. This might be due to the low response time of your monitor. Well, what is the response time?

Response time is defined as the time taken by the monitor to change from one color to another. This phenomenon is also known as Gray to Gray.

A monitor uses pixels to show a picture. A ray gun throws different colored rays on the pixelated surface. Each pixel shows the color thrown on it.

This makes a picture with different colors on your screen. But while playing a game, the screen changes each second. To keep up with this fast change between colors is needed.

The time taken by a pixel to change from one color to another is known as response time. Unlike refresh rate, the relation of response time with image quality is not an increasing one. If a monitor has less response time, then a better and clearer quality image is produced.

image of white pc gaming setup

Higher response time means that pixels are taking more time to change colors. The mechanics behind the gun throwing the colors does not check if the color has reached the pixelated screen or not.

Therefore, two colors get mixed up a lot of the time, which creates a blurred-out image as a result. This means high response time monitors produce blurred images if the images are complex.

The response time and refresh rate have a very deep relationship. If a monitor has a high response time and 144 Hz+ refresh rate, then you will get a very blur image.

Response time and refresh rate have an indirect relation. The best monitor will be the one that has the best refresh rate and lower response time.

If you have a 144 Hz+ monitor, then a response time of 5ms or less is necessary. One thing that many users confuse themselves with is the input lag. To a normal person, there is a relation between Input lag and response time, but there is none. You were able to know what response time is.


Low Response Time For Gaming? Why You Need That?


Games are one of the many things that require continuously updating graphics. Lesser the time that the screen takes to respond to a change, the better will be the gaming experience.

Games are fast-paced in most cases. If you are a competitive gamer, then you should be familiar with this feeling. The feeling when you miss a shot due to motion blur or other issues like that. It annoys out many gamers, even a gamer like me.

image of a person playing games on laptop

Distortion in an image is not a choice for the competitive gamer. So, I would recommend you buy a monitor that has the best refresh rate and the lowest possible response time.

Up till now, the lowest possible response time is 1ms. But such monitors are still under work as they have issues. After quite some research I have come to a set of response times that are a must for specific refresh rates.

If you have a 144 Hz monitor, then a response time of 5ms is essential for your gaming monitor. If it has a refresh rate of 240 Hz, then a response time of 2ms or less is necessary.

Low response time devices like TVs are good for slow-paced and story-based games. Who does not like good graphics on a game?


What Is Latency?


Latency should be a familiar term for people who have been playing games for years. For those who are new, latency is the time taken by a message to reach its destination.

Internet latency is one of the issues that most players face in their games. There are also other types of latencies, but I will only be focusing on the monitor latency.

Monitor latency is the time taken for a result to show on the monitor from when the signal was sent. Suppose I press the mouse to open a file on the desktop. The time is 02:00:00.000 GMT when you did this action. The file opens up at exactly 02:00:00.12 GMT.

This means I got a latency of .12 seconds which in milliseconds is 12ms. On pressing the mouse, the signal was sent to the CPU, which assigned it to the processor.

The processor sends this to the monitor, which works on displaying it. This process is done in just 12ms which is very fast.

If the latency in your monitor is more than 68ms, then it becomes unbearable to play a game on it. On average, 20ms and at max 68ms latency is necessary for a game to be playable on 60 Hz.


What Is Ghosting?


Ghostbusters are needed for catching a ghost and banishing him. But this is a problem that even ghostbusters might get on their computers.

Ghosting in monitors is a common problem that occurs mostly during fast movement on your monitor. A common problem that many gamers get.

While playing a fast-paced game, have you ever noticed. That even though the scene has changed, but still remnants of the previous scene are visible.

Showing how the ghosting happens in gaming
@Nvidia

Well, good for you, you have already encountered ghosting. A monitor is ghosting when a path of an already passed scene is still visible on the monitor.

This feels more like motion blur to many people. Still, it is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when the response time of the monitor is higher than the refresh rate.

When some pixels do not change color before the next image is coming, ghosting occurs. There can be issues with the monitor cable. Try optimizing your PC. This issue occurs in unoptimized PCs a lot of times.

Also, check if any external devices are causing troubles with your PC and monitor connections. If these all are fine, then it should be the problem of high response time.


Different Panel Technologies Explained


Monitor panels are not only in straight forms. There are many different types of monitor panel designs. I will be talking about some of the most common ones. The TN panels or Twisted Nematic panels are based on the Variable refresh rates.

These LCD panels can change the refresh rates as they please. This provides a smoother gaming experience. Also, some TN panels provide double the refresh rate with low response times. The vertical alignment (VA) panels are the monitors which are curved from both left and right sides.

The main idea behind these monitors is to produce high-contrast images. They far surpass LCDs in this aspect. Another one is the IPS-type panels. These panels each have a different name depending on the company they are manufactured by.

These panels are famous for the color contrasts and viewing angles that they provide. Shades do not get intermingled but are distinct. Therefore, they are popular.


Refresh Rate vs Response Time


Refresh rate vs response time both are different things in a monitor. They as such do not affect each other, but changes in them cause changes in the monitor’s performance.

We already know what refresh rate and response times are. Let’s now talk about the relation that these both have with the image quality and monitor’s performance.

Image quality is good for a monitor if there is a balance between the monitor’s refresh rate and response time. Higher refresh rate and lower response time are the relations between both if someone asks about refresh rate vs response time, which is better.

I will give a neutral answer, both have equal weightage. You can not discard one to give priority to another. A monitor with the best refresh rate possible and high response time will face stuttering and ghosting issues.

A monitor with the lowest response time and refresh rate will stutter a lot, and the image might not update fast. To solve this problem, a balance between both the refresh rate and response time is needed. I’ll discuss this later.


Should You Buy A Monitor With A Low Response Time?


Yes, it is a cent percent recommended that you buy a monitor with a low response time. But there is one thing you should keep in mind before buying.

It must have at least a 144 Hz refresh rate. A 60 Hz monitor won’t work. The lower the response time, the smoother and better the image will render.

image of a person playing fortnite on pc

If the computer’s refresh rate can’t keep up with the response time, there is a chance you will face issues. The smoothness of the monitor and the image rendering will be noticeable if you have a 144 Hz + monitor.

At 60 Hz not a lot of changes, so it is just a waste of money. Testing your monitor to the limits is also your task. Who loves to waste money?


Finding The Right Balance Between The Two Terms


Having a balance between the refresh rate of a monitor and the response time of the monitor is a necessity.

If the refresh rate is not compatible with the response time, then issues like a trail of colors occur. Stuttering and motion blur occurs. The latency of the monitor also increases. What is the right balance between the refresh rate and response time? You do not need to worry!

I tried different monitors and calculated some values on which you will get the best performance out of your monitor.

From my research, I concluded that a 240 Hz monitor needs a 2ms response time or less. The 144 Hz+ monitor requires at least 5ms response time for smooth working.


My Final Conclusion:

If you have made it this far, it means you know about all the details. You should have understood by now how important refresh rate vs response time is.

Both these features are what can make your spent money go to waste. The best monitor for refresh rate is the 240 Hz and 360 Hz monitors.

The best monitors for response time are the ones with 5ms or less. The average monitor can have up to 20ms. If your response times are equal to or exceed 68ms, you will not be able to play a calm game.

The relation between response time and refresh rate is an undeniable factor to cope with ghosting and other issues. Hopefully, you will make the best choice for your PC build.


Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – What is 1ms response time?

1 millisecond (ms) response time is the lowest possible response time that manufacturers have been able to achieve. Such monitors are not finished as they have issues.

But some samples were released for them. This much response time is close to being ideal. The smoothness of images is a feature of this less response time.

#2 – Is a 5ms response time good for gaming?

Yes, 5ms is a very good response time for a monitor. The smooth rendering of images and clarity is the brilliance of this response time. 5ms or less response time with 144 Hz or more refresh rate is an ideal setup for gaming. A 60 Hz monitor is not a good choice.

#3 – Is 1ms faster than 5ms?

If we are talking about response times, then 1ms is faster than 5ms when we talk about something concerning time.

The less time the car takes to complete a racing track tells how much fast the car is. This is also the principle used to say 1ms is faster than 5ms.

#4 – Is high response time good?

No, a high response time is not good. High response time means that the screen will take more time before it updates the next frame on the screen. For fast-paced games and works, this is not an ideal situation. Fast rendering is the basis for fast-paced work.

#5 – Can you notice 4ms vs 1ms?

Even though the difference seems minor between 4ms and 1ms. But when you look at a fast game being played on a 4ms response time and another on 1ms.

You will surely feel the difference, and it will become noticeable. The fast movement of the screen tells the difference between such values.

#6 – Why is response time important in gaming?

Response time does not feel that important when you are playing a normal calm game. But as soon as you enter a game in which the graphic rendering is the high speed, you feel the importance. The faster the next scene loads the, better the experience you get.

#7 – Is 120 or 240 refresh rate better?

The refresh rate has the opposite relation then response time. If you have a high refresh rate, the performance of the monitor will be better. Faster and beautiful images are rendered with higher refresh rates. Its combo with response time makes it even a better product.

#8 – Is 144Hz a good refresh rate?

Overall, 144 Hz is a good refresh rate. If you are a professional gamer or a gamer for fun, it is a good refresh rate anyway.

In most gaming zones or competitive platforms, you get 144 Hz monitors for playing. Some platforms do offer 240 Hz monitors, which are even better.

#9 – Is 60Hz or 120Hz noticeable?

If you move from a 60 Hz to a 120 Hz monitor, it will be very noticeable. I saw a huge difference the first time I upgraded.

People from whom I died most of the time in-game were easily killable now. The difference is also noticeable another way around. That is not a good choice.

#10 – Is the 60Hz refresh rate good?

60 Hz is not a very good or top-of-the-line refresh rate, but it is way better than 30 Hz. This is the most abundant display you will find.

99% of laptops have 60 Hz monitors, some pre-built systems come with 60 Hz monitors. They are cheap, easily available, and can run most of the games smoothly.

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