Refresh Rates in Gaming Monitors – Explained

Earlier monitors had CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) Displays, which essentially consisted of an electron gun that moved from the top left corner to the bottom right shooting electron beam that displayed the images. One shot showed one image and then this occurred many, many times to form a series of images, so fast that, to a human eye it looked like a video. These days most TVs and monitor displays are LCD, LED, or OLEDs which work differently and not using electron guns.

The number of times electron guns shoot images into the screen is called refresh rate.

Refresh Rate

What is Refresh Rate and how does it matter?

Refresh rate, as mentioned above, is the number of times electron gun in the screen shoots beams to form images. It is measured in the unit Hertz (Hz). The greater the refresh rate is, the more times an image is loaded into the screen. Refresh rate tells how smooth the video on the display would be. An average of 60 to 90 Hz is good enough for human eye. Although there are various gaming monitors today with refresh rates as high as 240Hz, the earlier cap for a good gaming one was a 144Hz monitor.  60 to 90 Hz is something one would find typically on a consumer level electronic gadget. Anything higher than that could cost a ton of cash but would be worth it if it is specifically bought for certain uses like gaming, or high-level video editing.

How does refresh rate make the viewing experience smoother?

The greater times the monitor or display can draw images describes the number of images it can shoot on the screen. The greater number only tells one how better the motion will be depicted when on screen, with greater number of images, hence better movements.

How is refresh rate any different than Frames per Second?

Refresh rate is something that relates to a PC’s hardware, while FPS is a software characteristic. For example, a game of 60 fps can show 60 frames in one second. But that can only be shown on the laptop screen if the monitor draws 60 images or more in that one second. Hence, in a way refresh rate does put a cap on the fps that can be allowed on the PC through a game.

What if my game allows 120 fps while the laptop only gives 60 Hz?

In that case, screen tearing might happen. It basically means that the game tries to show 120 frames but half the frames miss or are out of tune from the laptop’s refresh rate. Hence, it is important to tune the game’s FPS down to 60FPS or less. It not only leads to screen tearing, it also leads to unnecessary loss of computing power because the software will use the RAM for 120 frames but only 60 or slightly around 60 would be shown. Hence, it is important to keep in mind that a gamer must buy a gaming laptop based on the game’s fps and just blindly not select a computer with higher refresh rates.

How can a game’s FPS be tuned down?

To tune down the number of frames a game can show per second, there are various software available online. These software help in locking the FPS to the one matching the computer screen’s refresh rate and hence minimizing screen tearing. It does not only apply for games. It applies for all the software that can be measured in terms of FPS, basically any motion depicting software.

Note: It must be noted that the monitors with 240 Hz refresh rate is not always greater than the ones lower, and hence keeping all the above points in mind, one should select the best suitable screen or monitor for themselves.