Now that graphical processing power has reached a new high – with the recent release of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3000 series and AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs – high framerates at multiple resolutions are possible for multiple titles and gaming genres.
High framerates that were once reserved only for less hardware-demanding multiplayer titles can now be achieved even for immersive, and cinematic, triple-A titles. Add to this the recent, more affordable, prices of high-refresh-rate gaming monitors, and it becomes all the clearer that gone are the days of forced, and choppy, 30 FPS gaming.
Of course, for the sake of practicality, you still do need to choose a combination of resolution and refresh rate to work with, as this will determine what type of monitor and PC components to purchase. To help you with this decision, this article will analyze different refresh rates and determine which metric is best for different types of intended modes of PC usage.
Budget Builds, Triple-A Single Player & Fighting Games, Content Creation
The first refresh rate we will be looking into is 60 Hz, which should be the minimum for any type of PC monitor. Firstly, 60 Hz will work just fine for entry-level gaming of all types, at low resolutions, making it the best refresh rate for budget builds. Especially for popular multiplayer titles – or even for triple-A games with lowered graphical settings – this refresh rate will scarcely need the latest and greatest hardware components in order to properly function; and 1080p 60 Hz monitors can be found at very affordable prices.
But it is not just budget gaming that 60 Hz is appropriate for, as a low refresh rate gives room for higher resolutions. Demanding single-player titles can be played at 1440p, or even 4K resolutions at 60 FPS, even at their highest graphical setting. This will ultimately provide more utility for games that are otherwise not meant for refresh rates that exceed 60 FPS. Additionally, if you are into the fighting game genre, these games can only be played at 60 FPS, as they have gameplay elements designed around this refresh rate. Each “move” (button, dash, special, etc.) is designed to be executed within a certain number of frames. For example, in Street Fighter V, Ryu’s iconic Hadouken (LP) has 14 frames of startup, and 31 frames of recovery; so it takes 45 frames – or three-fourths of a second – to fully be executed. If one were to increase the framerate to 144 FPS, the 45 frame move would not take ¾ of a second to be executed, but rather it would take 1/3 of a second, which would ultimately be game-breaking – hence why fighting games do not support any framerate other than 60 FPS.
Finally, when it comes to content creation, there are other aspects of a monitor that are more important than the refresh rate, like color accuracy & volume, contrast, and pixel resolution. Given, especially, that most videos and films are shot and edited at framerates between 24 and 60 FPS (depending on the intended medium), anything above 60 Hz becomes impractical.
Hybrid Builds and Competitive Multiplayer Gaming
Going up a notch, we find ourselves at what is, arguably, the current most popular refresh rate: 144 Hz. This refresh rate is popular for several reasons. Firstly, it can be used for any resolution (even 4K), and 144 Hz monitors will always give the user leeway for future upgrades to their hardware components. The refresh rate is incredibly smooth, and gaming monitors that make use of it typically have exceptionally low input lag paired with fast response times (like the Gigabyte M27Q). 144 Hz gaming can be used for 1080p monitors – for mid-end builds that focus on competitive multiplayer titles, like first person shooters or MOBAs, where the refresh rate is an essentially important metric – while at 4K, triple-A gaming titles will make use of the full extent of the graphical processing power of the GPU (even if it is the best the market currently has to offer). The middle-ground resolution, 1440p at 144 Hz, allows for both high-level competitive, and immersive AAA title, gaming.
It must be mentioned, that hardware limitations are present, even for 1440p 144 Hz gaming. To put into perspective what the current generation of GPUs can accomplish on average, a $999 GPU – the Radeon RX 6900 XT – will process games at 1440p with 169 FPS (Techspot), while at 4K the $1,499 GeForce RTX 3090 will process 4K gaming at an average of 108 FPS (Techspot). This, of course, doesn’t mean that a mid-range GPU, like the GeForce RTX 3070, is incompatible with 1440p 144 Hz gaming, as even the 125 FPS average that this GPU reaches is still well above the 60 FPS mark of lesser refresh rates. However, it is indicative of how hardware intensive this refresh rate is, even for expensive, high-end, GPUs.
Professional or Enthusiast Level Competitive Gaming
And if you think that 1440p 144 Hz gaming is hardware intensive, 240 Hz refresh rates are far more demanding. Though initially designed solely for 1080p, a current generation high-end GPU can reach 240 Hz at higher resolutions as well. In fact, some of the more popular gaming monitors in the market feature a 240 Hz refresh rate at a 1440p resolution; like the Samsung Odyssey G7 or the Dell Alienware AW2721D.
Of course, hardware limitations can become an issue at refresh rates this high, as playing on a non-native refresh-rate or resolution will increase the response times and input lag of the monitor, even if these non-native metrics are a downgrade to what the monitor is capable of displaying. Therefore, prior to such a purchase, it is important to know whether or not your hardware can handle metricsfor the gaming title(s) of your choice.
But the question is: Do you need a 240 Hz refresh rate? Well, if you are a professional gamer, or aspire to become one, the answer is most likely yes. Do take into account, however, that even professional players will some times avoid 240 Hz monitors, as they are typically not provided by tournament organizers. A 144 Hz refresh rate can, and will suffice, in most circumstances.
That being said, you do not need to be – or care to become – a professional player to enjoy the incredibly smooth gameplay associated with the 240 Hz refresh rate. If you spend the majority of your time playing multiplayer titles that can be processed at 200 FPS and above, you will find great utility from a monitor with this refresh rate, no matter what the resolution.