If you consider yourself a gamer or just someone who plays games, then you can benefit from playing on a higher refresh rate monitor. You don’t have to be a competitive gamer to tell the difference between 60Hz vs 144Hz vs 240Hz vs 360Hz. Although you might struggle to see much of a difference between the top two refresh rates, a 144Hz display is far, far smoother than a 60Hz one, and most can still feel the difference in responsiveness between 144Hz and 240Hz.
If you’re a competitive gamer, however, then you really are doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t playing at the highest refresh rate possible. Doing so gives you the most up-to-date information and it lowers your input lag, as well as helps to ward off screen tearing and even motion sickness in those most affected.
If you’re still trying to figure out what the difference is in the 60Hz vs 144Hz vs 240Hz vs 360Hz debate, here’s everything you need to know about high refresh rates, and why you might want to pick one specific one over the others.
What is Refresh Rate?
A monitor’s refresh rate is how often the image on the screen is updated per second, typically given as a number of Hertz, or Hz. It’s a term that originated from cathode ray tube (CRT) displays, where it was often called vertical refresh rate, or vertical scan rate. Then, higher refresh rates would make a more responsive game, but would also reduce flickering, which could help with eye strain.
Most modern computer monitors and televisions use a refresh rate of 60Hz, so they refresh the picture up to 60 times per second, depending on the source being provided. Higher-end monitors and TVs, especially those targeting gaming, may have higher refresh rates, like 144Hz, 240Hz, or even 360Hz. However, they will only be able to display content at up to the maximum frame rate it is provided at. For example, most broadcast TV is set to 30 frames per second, while there are some Blu-ray movies and streaming services, like YouTube, which can display at 60 frames per second, on these kinds of displays.
When displaying a 24 or 30 FPS movie on a 60Hz TV, smart technologies like motion interpolation or black frame insertion are used, to remove the judder that would otherwise be apparent.
When it comes to gaming, however, frame rates can be much higher, so they require higher refresh rates for the best experience. The latest generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles support refresh rates up to 120Hz at 4K resolution, so if you have a 120Hz TV, one of the new games consoles, and an HDMI 2.1 cable that supports 120Hz at 4K, you can play those games at up to 120 frames per second and see every one of them.
On some gaming PCs, with powerful processors and graphics cards, some games can run into the hundreds of frames per second, so you’ll need a high refresh rate display to see all of them.
However, frame rates in gaming aren’t as consistent as in movies or broadcast TV. One scene might easily hit 100 frames per second, and yet turning your character around might see that frame rate drop to 50 FPS. That causes screen tearing on some monitors – especially those running lower refresh rates – where two portions of the screen will render different frames, leading to mismatched imagery on screen. To get around that, variable refresh rates (VRR) are used. There are a few different technological solutions to this, but the two most popular are Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s Freesync. Both technologies synchronize the monitor’s refresh rate with the frame rate of the game, so screen tearing no longer occurs.
What Does Hz Mean?
Hertz, or Hz, as it is abbreviated, is a unit of measurement that denotes how often something happens per second, and in the case of refresh rate, it’s how many times a monitor can update per second. So a 60Hz monitor will update its picture 60 times per second, a 144Hz monitor will update its picture 144 times per second, 240Hz 240 times per second, and so on.
The 60Hz vs 144Hz vs 240Hz vs 360Hz debate is really about what is the most ideal number of times to update a monitor per second. It depends on what you’re doing, but no matter the eventual decision, the refresh rate you settle on will be measured in hertz.
It’s important to recognize that this is different from frames per second, or FPS, however. While the refresh rate, measured in hertz, denotes how many times a monitor will update its picture per second, the frame rate it displays is dependent on the number of frames per second that your PC can render. When simply displaying the desktop, that number will almost certainly be the same as whatever your monitor’s maximum refresh rate is, as rendering the desktop doesn’t demand much of modern computers. In games, however, this frame rate can, and does, vary dramatically, with powerful computers rendering low-end games in hundreds of frames per second, and low-end PCs rendering demanding games at mere handfuls of frames per second.
Synchronizing those is important, but FPS and Hertz (Hz) are entirely distinct metrics that measure different things.
The Benefits of High Refresh Monitors
High refresh rate monitors update what’s on the screen more often than slower refresh rate monitors, and that holds all kinds of advantages, mostly for gamers, but non-gamers can enjoy the benefits too.
For starters, a high refresh rate monitor feels smoother and looks more natural. With a higher refresh rate, your mouse movements are more linear, with less of a jump between where the mouse pointer was, and where the mouse is. This can be more comfortable on the eyes, too, because there’s less imperceptible flickering.
For gaming, however, the benefits of high refresh rate monitors are much more pronounced. The reduction in input lag is the most oft-cited improvement with higher refresh rates. Where a 60Hz monitor cannot have an input lag lower than 16.67 milliseconds because that’s the amount of time between each time the display updates, a 120Hz monitor will have a maximum input lag of just 8.33 milliseconds. For a 240Hz refresh rate, it’s a maximum of just 4.16 milliseconds, and for 360Hz, it’s even less.
That means that when you click your mouse, press on your keyboard, or tap a button on your controller when playing on a 240Hz monitor, it will take a few milliseconds less for your action to be represented on screen than it would if you were playing on a 60Hz monitor, for example. All other things being equal, if you have a high refresh rate monitor and your opponent doesn’t, you’ll win every time.
Just as important is the information you have access to, as the player. Not only will you react faster when you see your enemy, but you’ll be able to see your enemy faster, too. When you’re playing on a higher refresh monitor, your monitor updates more frequently, so from any individual point in time, it’s also updated more recently. That gives you access to more recent, and therefore more accurate, information about the game, than someone playing on a monitor with a lower refresh rate.
If you and your enemy walk around a corner at the same time, the person with the higher refresh rate monitor will see their opponent first, and with that lowered input lag, has a higher chance of getting a shot off first, and a higher chance of being more accurate with their shot, because it’s based on more accurate information.
Don’t care about competitive gaming? You can still benefit from a high refresh rate monitor. Higher refresh rates can also help deliver a smoother-looking game. That makes animations look more fluid and feel more realistic. This is especially important in fast-paced racing and fighting games, due to the improved perception of motion with a higher refresh rate; but any game can benefit from looking that bit smoother. Like input lag, there are diminishing returns past a certain point, but there’s no denying that when it comes to 60Hz vs 144Hz vs 240Hz vs 360Hz for gaming, higher refresh rates tend to look and feel smoother to play at.
It’s important to remember, however, that the benefits of a higher refresh rate are not enjoyed in isolation. You’ll need a powerful PC that can at least match the frame rate to the refresh rate to get the maximum benefit of a high refresh rate monitor, as well as a capable DisplayPort or HDMI cable that can handle the signal. Higher refresh rates at high resolutions, like 4K 240Hz, can be incredibly taxing on a system, and require the most powerful of graphics cards and processors to even approach maximizing the potential.
Other factors that can improve your gaming by reducing input lag include gaming mice and keyboards with high polling rates and more responsive switches, a faster network that sends your commands to the gaming server faster and not to mention your own gaming skill and biological response time.
All gamers can benefit from playing at a higher refresh rate, but it’s not the only factor to consider when it comes to improving your gaming.
60Hz vs. 144 Hz. vs. 240Hz and 360Hz
The most common refresh rates on modern displays are 60Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz, and 240Hz, with a few niche 360Hz displays made recently available, and some hints that future displays could hit 400Hz, or even 500Hz and above. AMD’s RX 7000 graphics cards come with DisplayPort 2.1 connectors, so can theoretically support refresh rates of up to 900Hz at 1080p, although that’s unlikely to be utilized for many years to come.
Out of the four refresh rates in the discussion here, the higher refresh rates do convey some benefit to professional and serious gaming, and all of the higher refresh rates look and feel better than 60Hz. There are, however, diminishing returns after 240Hz, and higher refresh rates are only available on certain kinds of monitors. You can’t get 240Hz OLED monitors; you can’t get 360Hz monitors at any resolution above 1080p, and 240Hz 4K monitors are prohibitively expensive.
Which Refresh Rate is Best
The best refresh rate for you will very much depend on what you want to do with the monitor and whether you have the PC to power it. If you’re a professional or serious hobbyist gamer who wants every possible advantage, then the highest refresh rate possible will give you the greatest benefit. At the time of writing, that’s 360Hz 1080p displays like the Asus ROG Swift PG259QN.
However, since this display is restricted to 1080p resolution and lacks the high brightness, high contrast, impressive coloring, and advanced local dimming of more capable, lower refresh-rate displays, it’s not the ideal solution for everyone. For gamers who are more interested in a high-quality picture but still want a high refresh rate, 240Hz might be your best bet, as you can get 4K options with high brightness at that refresh rate, like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G8.
There’s no option for OLED technology at that refresh rate, though. For gamers who are more interested in the vibrancy of the colors, incredible contrast, or better HDR support, QD-OLED monitors like the Alienware AW3423DW are an amazing choice. Those are limited to 175Hz at the time of writing, though that may improve in the future.
All of the above monitors are very expensive, however. If you just want a great all-around gaming display, then 144Hz monitors are your best bet. They offer a much smoother and more responsive gaming experience than 60Hz monitors, and yet don’t have the same limitations or prohibitive price tags as the very top displays. You can get them in a range of resolutions and display technologies, and you don’t need the most high-end graphics cards and processors to make the most of them.
If you only care about getting the cheapest monitor possible, then 60Hz is likely to be the best choice for you, but then you wouldn’t be reading an article about the benefits of high refresh rates, would you?
Gaming vs Office vs Everyday
Refresh rates affect different day-to-day activities differently from one another. For gaming, higher refresh rates tend to be better because they reduce input lag, give you quick access to the most up-to-date information, and improve motion resolution. That means that gaming on a monitor with a refresh rate at or above 144Hz is of real benefit, though you don’t necessarily need to play on a monitor with the highest possible refresh rate.
In the office, higher refresh rates don’t have the same kind of benefit, although they can still be useful for remaining comfortable staring at the screen for long hours. Higher refresh rates reduce screen flickering, which while imperceptible to the human eye, still contributes to eye strain. The more fluid, and accurate motion of the mouse pointer should also help reduce eye strain to a lesser extent, so having monitors with refresh rates above 60Hz for office work can be a great way to reduce fatigue in your work time.
For everyday use, 120Hz and 144Hz refresh rates are a great way to enjoy the benefits of a higher refresh rate when web browsing, working, or playing. You don’t need as high-powered a PC when gaming to really enjoy their benefits, and they don’t lock you out of additional monitor features and capabilities, like OLED technology and higher resolutions. They can also help reduce eye strain, and improve your well-being while using your computer for long periods of time.