Do the update rates of PC monitors matter?

When you are looking to buy new monitors, there are many factors to consider, such as size, resolution and aspect ratio. But one factor that you can also take into account with the monitors, is the refresh rate. So: What exactly is the refresh rate? It's time to find out.

What is an update frequency?

The refresh rate of a monitor refers to the number of times per second that the displayed image will be updated. It is measured in Hertz (Hz). A higher refresh rate means that more information reaches your eyes in the same amount of time, which leads to a smoother movement.

If you have ever had the experience of trying to watch a video through a slow internet connection and the video looks very choppy. Jumping from one frame to another, that is a low frame rate. Monitors with a higher refresh rate are capable of playing at higher frame rates, which is what makes the movement look smoother.

The standard basic monitors are 60Hz, but you can get monitors that have higher rates of 144Hz or even 240Hz.

Why do update rates matter on monitors?

So, if you want your movies and games to look better, should you simply buy a monitor with a higher refresh rate? Well, not exactly.

The refresh rate is the maximum frequency at which your screen can change the image. But if a program really changes your output so quickly, it depends on the frame rate. Frame rate means the number of video frames that are sent to your screen per second.

To take advantage of a screen with a higher refresh rate, your computer has to send data to the screen much faster. Most applications, such as productivity tasks or movies, will not be affected by the refresh rate.

Movies are displayed at 24 frames per second (fps), which even basic 60Hz monitors can handle perfectly. A higher refresh rate will not make your videos look better.

Update rates are only important when you play. Because the games generate the data sent to the screen on your graphics card. If you have a card fast enough, you can send data to the screen faster. This means that you can play at higher frame rates, such as 100 fps or more.

The problem with screen tearing

As the frame rates and refresh rates are often different, a common problem in PC games that you may encounter is the "tear" of the screen. This happens when your graphics card sends frames at a faster rate than your monitor can control.

If you try to play a game at a high frame rate on a low refresh rate monitor, you will encounter this problem. It will look as if the screen is half loaded or "torn" in the middle.

To avoid this, games are usually automatically limited to the refresh rate of your monitor. So, if you have a 60Hz refresh rate monitor, your games should not run at more than 60 fps.

Who benefits from high refresh rate monitors?

The main group of users who would benefit from a high-frequency update monitor are eSports players. For competitive first-person shooters such as Counter-Strike GO and Overwatch, a higher refresh rate will mean a smoother image.

And that can make it easier to track the fast-paced action. Some people say that higher refresh rates make it easier to aim, since the targets move more smoothly, but this varies according to the individual depending on how good their sight is.

The problem is with the blur. When our eyes see a series of pictures, our brains complete the changes from one frame to another, making the pictures look like a continuous video instead of the series of still images that they really are.

But this filling process is blurred. If more information is sent to our brains in the form of more frequent frames, the movement looks sharper. Another problem in the games is the entry delay, or the delay between making an entry. Like a mouse movement or pressing a key. And the game recognizes that entry.

Can monitors reduce entry delay?

High refresh rate monitors can reduce the input delay because a small amount of time passes between the input and the change reflected on the screen. This difference is small, of the order of milliseconds, but that can make a difference in competitive scenarios.

For professionals and gamers, every small advantage is important. And it is true that if money is not an object. Gamers can benefit from the small advantage that a high-frequency update monitor can provide.

But what about the rest of us? If you are a casual player at home, is it worth paying a high upgrade fee?

Are high frequency update monitors worth it?

When deciding whether to buy a high-frequency update monitor, it is useful to consider what else you could spend your money on.

A typical 240Hz refresh rate monitor at a resolution of 1080p in a size of 24.5 ″ will cost you around USD 400. For that same amount, you could buy a larger monitor of 27 ″, at a resolution of 1440p with an impressive 144Hz refresh rate.

Or if the update rates don't matter to you, you can buy a huge 34 ″ monitor with 4K resolution and a standard 60Hz refresh rate for $ 400 as well.

What about other updates?

Alternatively, you can buy a cheaper monitor for 100 USD and take the remaining 300 and put them on a better graphics card. With 300 USD it will allow you to upgrade from an impressive GeForce RTX 2070 (which costs around 550 USD) to a bestial GeForce RTX 2080 (which costs around 800 USD), for example.

In that case, you will see an increase in CUDA cores from 2304 to 2944. In a game like Far Cry 5 at 1440p, that means a jump from 84 fps to 105 fps.

Remember that your monitor must have a refresh rate fast enough to display those additional frames per second. Therefore, it makes no sense to upgrade to a super fast graphics card if you only have a 60Hz monitor.

But you may see more benefits by combining a mid-level 144Hz monitor and a high-end graphics card that would combine a 240Hz monitor and a less good graphics card.

What is the most important factor when choosing monitors?

If you want a monitor for your living room and plan to watch movies and play while sitting on your couch, at a safe enough distance. It will benefit you more to have a bigger screen. You won't be close enough to the screen to really see high resolutions or to benefit from higher update rates, but you will definitely notice the larger size.

On the other hand, if you want a desktop PC monitor for general purposes, in most cases you will want a higher resolution so that the image looks sharper. This will be beneficial when you watch movies, perform productivity tasks and need a lot of space on your desk, and for you to play many games.

Finally, if you want a monitor for your desktop primarily to play and you take your games seriously, you may want a higher refresh rate. Some people find that higher update rates look and feel much smoother than low update rates.

While other people don't notice much difference. Try to find a high-frequency monitor update in a store that you can try yourself and see if it is useful.

Do update rates matter?

Update rates are only important for professional gamers. Casual players and general computer users will generally be better spending their money on a larger, higher resolution monitor.