The gaming industry rapidly advances every day, bringing its consumers a better and overall enhanced gaming experience. Hardware and software are advancing so quickly that it’s hard for consumers to keep up with the latest innovations.
The latest games tend to demand more horsepower from our computers than ever before. Having a faster CPU, a stronger graphics card, and lots of RAM might not be enough to make your games as pretty as you’d like them to be. Monitors have exponentially advanced in the last decade, bringing us to a point where getting the best gaming monitor is crucial to getting a buttery-smooth gaming experience.
So, 60 Hz vs. 120 Hz vs. 144 Hz refresh rates—what do they each mean for gaming?
Let me refresh your memory.
144 Hz vs. 120 Hz vs. 60 Hz: Does it Matter?
The specifications, features, and characteristics of a monitor now make a big difference to the average consumer, whereas 10–20 years ago, only professional tech nerds really cared. If you want to find a balanced solution that will do you right both for your gaming experience and your budget, you should know the pros and cons of various refresh rates.
In this article, we’ll explain what refresh rates mean for gaming monitors and how to use that knowledge to pick the best monitor for your gaming setup. Most importantly, we’ll give you some insight into the 60Hz vs. 120 Hz vs. 144 Hz debate.
If you’re already bored with nerdy language, simply jump to our other article and check out the best 27-inch gaming monitor on the market.
Refresh Rates in Gaming
Most modern gaming monitors have refresh rates of at least 60 Hz. This standard was established because 60 Hz is the lowest refresh rate that provides a smooth picture without flickering. Building up from that point, gaming monitors today can provide 70 Hz, 120 Hz, 144 Hz, and 240 Hz refresh rates.
For some time, there was a general consensus that the human eye couldn’t discern a difference between a 60 Hz refresh rate and anything faster. However, it’s fairly common knowledge by now that refresh rates of 120 Hz and 144 Hz do look significantly better. On the other hand, a jump from 144 Hz to 240 Hz refresh rate doesn’t show much of a difference, which could be due to the limitations of our eyes.
So, both the believers and the non-believers were right, in a way.
There are still some common misconceptions about monitor specifications and what they mean for gaming. For casual gamers, high refresh rates may not be a big deal. However, a high refresh rate is of vital importance for competitive gaming, especially in hectic games such as Counter-Strike, Battlefield, and Fortnite. While the refresh rate doesn’t influence that picture quality (that’s the monitor’s resolution), it does influence how clearly and accurately you see what’s happening on the screen.
If you’re unsure about your monitor specifications, you should learn how to check your monitor refresh rate. Also, with some monitors, it’s possible to change the refresh rate manually and thus “overclock” your display.
60 Hz Gaming Monitor
Today, 60 Hz monitors provide the best budget-friendly solution for flicker elimination and eye-strain reduction. Even though it’s considered the minimum standard for gaming monitors, that certainly doesn’t mean they’re inherently of poor quality.
In the 60 Hz category, we recommend the BenQ EW3270U. This is a 32-inch 4K HDR monitor with FreeSync. It displays a relatively smooth high-resolution picture in 4K (3840×2160). The response time isn’t the greatest, but it’s far from bad. Also, it features anti-flicker and eye care technologies that reduce eye strain and fatigue.
AMD FreeSync technology makes this monitor synchronize with your AMD GPU to provide the best quality picture. Of course, this is only possible if you already have one of the best AMD graphics cards for gaming.
120 Hz Gaming Monitor
A monitor with a 120 Hz refresh rate is a game changer. At double the frequency, these monitors will improve your gaming experience significantly. A 120 Hz refresh rate will display images that appear smoother and more fluid. However, you should keep the overall setup in mind, since it will demand more resources from your GPU.
In the 120 Hz category, we recommend the Dell Alienware 1900R. This monitor sports a 34-inch curved screen with a resolution of 3440×1440 and a 4ms response time. Its design eliminates screen tearing and input lag. It also features NVIDIA G-Sync for synchronization with NVIDIA GPUs and has both HDMI and DisplayPort inputs.
144 Hz Gaming Monitor
If 120 Hz is twice as good as 60 Hz, is 144 Hz a lot better than 120 Hz? Well, it is better, but not a lot better.
If you believe that the highest possible refresh rate is vital for your gaming experience and if your budget allows it, this is the range that you should consider. Most gamers will likely decide that the small increase in performance isn’t worth the higher price.
In the 144 Hz category, we recommend the ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ. This monitor has a 27-inch screen in 4K HDR resolution. It also includes NVIDIA’s G-SYNC HDR technology for lifelike contrast and color. Eye care technology reduces eye strain and fatigue through anti-flicker and a blue light filter.
Keep in mind that if you’re using a budget graphics card for gaming, you might need to replace it before rocking a 144 Hz monitor. We already talked about high-resolution and high-refresh-rate monitors putting a considerable strain on GPUs; older models might not be able to keep up with high refresh rates.
Resolution vs. Refresh Rate
The resolution of your monitor is another important aspect that you should consider. If your budget is limited and you must choose, it’s generally better to prioritize resolution over refresh rate.
There’s a delicate balancing act here and your results may vary, but generally speaking, more pixels that refresh a little more slowly will look better than fewer pixels refreshing twice as fast. For most gamers, getting one of the best 4k gaming monitors with a 60 or 120 Hz refresh rate will be the best bet.
60 Hz vs. 120 Hz vs. 144 Hz: Which Monitor to Buy?
When it comes to choosing a gaming monitor, ask yourself three questions:
- What kind of gamer are you?
- How powerful is your GPU?
- How much money are you ready to spend?
If you are a competitive or full-time gamer, a 120 or 144 Hz monitor is a sweet investment if you can comfortably afford one. It makes a difference. A 60 Hz monitor is perfectly serviceable, though, and 240 Hz would be overkill in most cases. Instead, get a powerful GPU for gaming and a 120 or 144 Hz monitor.
- Ronald Kim, Refresh Rate (Hz) Explained, Benq, November 17th, 2015