Constantly upgrading their hardware is a necessity for gamers if they want their systems to eventually reach peak performance and improve their gaming capabilities.
Investing in a high-end, powerful monitor is something every gamer has to do if they want to take full advantage of their GPU and CPU. The primary reason for that is that a better monitor usually comes with better refresh rates that improve a gamer’s ability to react to events in a game.
However, the converse is also true as you need a GPU and CPU that can support your new high-end monitors. But what exactly are refresh rates? Why are they so important? How do they improve a person’s gaming capabilities?
These are all questions we’re about to answer in the article below as we focus on spreading all the knowledge we have about refresh rates and how they can help you.
What is Refresh Rate?
Refresh rates are usually measured in Hertz (Hz) and refer to how often a display updates the image on the screen. Simply put, refresh rates determine how quickly subsequent frames or images on the screen appear in front of you.
Now, it’s pretty obvious that if the frames appear in front of you quicker, that should give you an edge over your opponent who perhaps has a monitor that doesn’t supply frames as fast as yours, thereby improving your gaming capabilities (more on this later).
This should also make it crystal clear that the higher the refresh rate, the quicker each frame appears in front of you. 60 Hz, 120 Hz, and 144 Hz are the standard refresh rates found in most gaming monitors nowadays.
But you can opt for a 160 Hz or 240 Hz monitor if you’ve got the funds to afford it. The refresh rate of your display refers to how many times per second your monitor or display can draw a new image on the screen. Remember that the video on your screen is just an array of images one after the other.
In this regard, a 144Hz refresh rate means your display can refresh 144 times in one second. For a gamer who enjoys playing first-person shooters like Call of Duty, a 144 Hz refresh rate should be more than enough. Provided that it is paired with the correct GPU and CPU.
How to Achieve Good Refresh Rates
It’s pretty vital for gamers who regularly play ranked first-person shooters and intense Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) games to have extremely good refresh rates to give them an edge over their opponents.
However, achieving good refresh rates isn’t just about buying a better monitor and attaching it to your system. It requires synergy in your system, especially between your monitor, CPU, and GPU.
To explain this better with an example, even if your monitor possesses the ability to refresh quickly but the CPU isn’t fast enough to provide your monitor with the data it needs to take advantage of that refresh rate, then that extra number of refreshes are going to waste. The same goes for the GPU.
Thus, if you truly want to achieve good refresh rates, you need to focus on three essential aspects of your system:
- A monitor that refreshes quickly.
- CPU that can provide rendering, data, and AI instructions at the same speed.
- A GPU that can execute these instructions and create and push the graphics at the same speed.
The games you’re playing also play a crucial role in the number of refreshes you need to have a smooth, fast-paced gaming experience.
First-person shooters and cutting-edge AAA titles usually require the highest number of refreshes as the action is incredibly fast-paced, with the gamer having to stay switched on throughout the entire game.
Whereas slower, story-driven, older games that don’t emphasize on the latest graphics technologies can be played with higher refresh rates even on less powerful hardware. The refresh rate of the monitor also heavily depends on the resolution it provides.
These two properties have a direct relationship which usually means that a high-resolution monitor needs a high refresh rate as well to supply its user with peak performance.
However, the resolution, unlike refresh rates, can be adjusted manually. This can be lowered if the user is trying to take full advantage of the monitor’s fast refresh rate. Since it’s only logical that a monitor can refresh an image more times in one second if its resolution is lowered and the graphical detail is dropped.
The same goes for a system’s graphical settings, as reducing these settings can lead to higher refresh rates at peak performance without taxing their hardware too much. This includes disabling unnecessary game animations, eliminating shadows, etc.
In these cases, even systems with slightly older hardware can provide frames at around the same speed that a monitor can refresh an image, allowing gamers to reap all the benefits of playing on a high refresh rate display.
Maintaining the Balance Between Frame Rate and Refresh Rate
We previously talked about how the CPU and GPU of a system need to keep up with the refresh rate of a monitor in terms of its speed.
We’ve also mentioned the word frames at some point in this article. Well, we’re now here to tell you that there’s only one definitive way to measure a CPU and GPU’s speed and that’s through Frames Per Second (FPS) that they provide.
These FPS measurements not only signify the actual speed of our processor and graphics card but also how compatible it is with the refresh rate of the display.
The general rule when trying to attain peak performance and run games at the highest graphic settings and with blazing-fast refresh rates is to make sure that the frame rate your system provides is in a perfect 1:1 ratio with your monitor’s refresh rate. On top of that, they both also need to be high enough to run the most graphics-intensive games that you want to play.
For example, a monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate needs an equally capable CPU and GPU that can provide a frame rate of 144Hz to provide the smoothest gameplay.
This smoothness can be achieved with a 60Hz refresh rate and subsequent 60Hz frame rate. However, this would mean that your system won’t be able to run the latest games which require the highest graphics capabilities.
Achieving the perfect balance is not always necessary though as you can achieve above-average gameplay performance with a 144Hz refresh rate and a 110 Hz frame rate, but this situation won’t be ideal.
Afterward, you can focus on investing in a better CPU and GPU. But if you’ve got a CPU and GPU that can’t provide more than 60Hz, we would advise not to invest in a high frame rate monitor as you won’t be able to take advantage of its capabilities.
Learn the difference between Refresh Rate, FPS, and Response Time.
Investing in an Adaptive Sync Display (Variable Refresh Rate)
High-end monitors usually come with adaptive sync display technology in addition to their high refresh rates.
Investing in these technologies comes in handy when a system can’t achieve the FPS that’ll allow the display to function at its maximum potential.
Adaptive sync allows the monitor or display to connect and communicate with the GPU directly to achieve superior synchronization allowing the refresh rate to work according to the frame rate even if the FPS is a little wayward.
This helps fill the void that was made by the imbalance between the frame and refresh rates and makes gameplay smoother, even if the difference between frame rates and refresh rates is a little larger than average. Plus, adaptive sync technologies like VSync can also help reduce screen tearing.
This feature of refresh rate adaptation is also called “Variable Refresh Rate (VRR).” Other proprietary technologies, like G-Sync and FreeSync, also possess the same characteristics of iterating their refresh rates to match the incoming frame frequency and give an optimal user experience.
How Does Refresh Rate Affect Your Gaming?
We’ve touched on this briefly earlier but we’ll say it again, a higher refresh rate can enable a gamer to react more quickly to in-game events, allowing them more time to make decisions according to their situation.
For example, in first-person shooters, a high refresh rate can give a gamer the ability to react that millisecond quicker than their opponent, allowing them to fire off their shots quicker and in turn improve their chances of winning in a firefight.
Even some story-driven games like Elden Ring require players to be at the top of their game if they want to progress the story as the difficulty levels of the enemies are extremely high.
Having a monitor with a high refresh rate and a CPU and GPU that can provide the frame rate to support that refresh rate can make all the difference in this case, as it allows players to react to the enemy’s attack quicker and opens up new windows for them to attack.
Cost of Upgrading your System Consideration
One simple thing that might have slipped through the cracks while we were delicately explaining the importance of refresh rates is the cost of buying a monitor that supplies a refresh rate over 120Hz.
These monitors are perhaps the most expensive on the market right with their basic selling point being their high refresh rates. However, this is where we want to stress that it’s not always important to opt for a display that offers 144Hz or more.
The important thing is to find a monitor that offers the right combination of features that can work with the specifications of your system.
Finding a monitor with a refresh rate, resolution and screen size that fits the performance capabilities of your PC should be at the top of your list.
Thus, the bottom line is that you don’t need to spend all your hard-earned money on buying the highest-end monitor you can, but on a monitor that supports your current PC’s performance capabilities.
Does Cabling Affect Refresh Rates?
Before we move toward the conclusion of this article, there’s one very important question that we’d like to answer once and for all. This is if your cabling can affect your display’s refresh rate.
Generally, your cable shouldn’t interfere too much with your refresh rate if it has enough bandwidth.
A low-bandwidth cable is the only thing that can interfere with your display’s refresh rate as that means that your cable doesn’t can’t carry all the pixel data efficiently to the monitor to match its refresh rate.
Apart from the cabling, other factors also affect the refresh rate of your screen. For example, most modern TVs have the “Motion Interpolation” feature where the device itself inserts frames to match its refresh rate. This technology is currently not available in consumer monitors though.
However, some devices do perform “Black Frame Insertion (BFI)” which does exactly what its name suggests. Black, empty frames are inserted in between static frames to reduce persistence blurs. These black frames are rarely seen by the naked eye, but some people might think of it as “annoying flickering.”
With this information, that’s all we have for you when it comes to monitor refresh rates and their importance for gamers. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that you’ve gleaned some important previously-unknown information from it that’ll help you pick out the next hardware piece for your system.