If you’re shopping for a new monitor to upgrade your workstation, you might be bewildered with the number of choices you have out there, from types of monitors, their panels, specs, features, inputs, etc. In the past couple of years, we have witnessed tremendous developments and innovations in the world of computer display, one of the latest features that has hit mainstream monitor is refresh rate, particularly 120Hz panel technology, which is then followed by 240Hz panel technology. Is it really an important aspect to have? Dual Monitors Guide will explain 60Hz, 120Hz, 240Hz and beyond.
Refresh Rates Explained
If you have been searching for reviews of the best monitors out there that fits your computing and viewing needs, then you have probably read a lot about “speed.” When ads and reviewers talk about speed, they actually refer to ‘Refresh Rate’, or the speed of the monitor to change its picture. Casual users relate 120Hz to performance, the way processor’s clock speed works. However, it doesn’t exactly work that way. Refresh rate is measured by ‘Hz’ which is read as ‘Hertz.’ TVs and movies don’t show the actual motion, rather, they are shown as hundreds of frames flipping quickly on screen, like a film reel or a big flip book. The faster the display, the more frames it displays per second.
Note, though, that refresh rate is NOT the same as frame rate. The former is an attribute of the monitor, while the latter is an attribute of the information sent to the monitor. Improving refresh rate will not improve frame rate, unless the content’s frame rate exceeds the monitor’s refresh rate.
So what are the benefits of higher refresh rates? And why would you want to have it? Here are three good reasons.
Here's a short and simple explanation from Techquickie that explains how refresh rates work.
Improved Motion Resolution
The first and biggest obvious advantage of monitors with higher refresh rate is improved motion resolution. This can be described as improved sharpness for moving images and objects. Blurring happens as the human brain tries to process set of individual frames in a monitor display. The brain blurs series of frames to make sense of the moving picture. Some details however, are lost along the way.
Monitors with higher refresh rates reduce the blurring, by providing our brain more information to process, which in turn perceived as reduced blurring. Obviously, unlike computer hardware, our brain is not made up of the same set of specifications. Some can easily distinguish the difference in motion quality between 60Hz and 120 Hz display, while others can seem to notice. Also, the difference between 120Hz and 240Hz is even more subtle, but again, some can still notice.
Many newer models out there offer 120Hz refresh rate, some even run their motion demos to show off this feature. Also, you can refer to your past experiences; if you can notice blurring or stuttering on your TV or in movie house, then you definitely can benefit from monitors with higher refresh rates.
Good for Games, Reduced Tearing and Ghosting
As said earlier, refresh rate and frame rate are two different things, and in games, the difference between these two can cause a known hated artifact called as ‘screen tearing.’
(Creative Commons 'Screen tearing', by Vanessaezekowitz)
Screen tearing happens when the video card is spitting out frames at a rate beyond the refresh rate of the monitor connected to the computer. Because a lot of frames are being spit out than the monitor can process, it causes the monitor to show half frames, quite a distracting problem that even the least sensitive viewers can notice.
Diablo 3 for example, is a big title, but easy for most computers to run. Many gamers will enjoy playing the game at a frame rate even beyond 60 FPS (frames per second). However, a monitor with 60Hz can only refresh 60 times per second. This means gamers will not be able to enjoy the full advantage of improved responsiveness of higher frame rate, as it can result to tearing of the images, as the monitor struggles to keep up with the data being sent to it. A monitor with 120Hz displays twice as fast as those with 60Hz, this means it can support up to 120 FPS, and 240 Hz can handle 240 FPS. The result is zero tearing in most games.
One of the most common solutions many display manufacturers equip their 60Hz monitors is the V-sync technology. V-Sync helps in reducing tearing by capping the frame rate of games at 60 FPS (in most games). However, it also introduces input lag and limits PC’s potential performance. Many gamers like monitors with 120Hz and run without V-sync better, as they are more game responsive than monitors at 60Hz with enabled V-sync.
However, Asus engineered a new technology to push gaming even further. Asus PG278Q is easily one of the best gaming monitors you can find today, as it comes equipped with Nvidia’s G-sync technology. This feature syncs the display’s refresh rate to GPU’s frame rate, which is said to make gaming experience way better than ever before. It also comes with 3D Vision 2, Ultra low motion blur technology, WQHD quality, 1ms response time, 144Hz refresh rate, 1440p, and super-slim bezels. All of which contribute to provide the best gaming experience.
Better Responsiveness in Games
Monitor’s refresh rate has input lag impact. 60Hz monitors for example, will not have a visible input lag lower than 16.67ms. Input lag is the amount of time that passes from one refresh to the next. Monitors with 120Hz on the other hand, come with 8.33ms, while 240Hz monitors have a whopping 4.16ms.
Lag times less than 10.9 milliseconds may not see much for most users, even hardcore gamers. However, displays with good input lag performance ensure smooth performance, even in hardcore and demanding titles. Again, not all users can notice the difference though.
So Do You Really Need a Monitor with 120Hz and 240Hz?
The last two points mentioned above directly relates to gaming, which would strongly suggests that only those who love to play games in their PC can benefit from monitors with higher refresh rates. But what about regular computer users?
While motion resolution is notable in newer models of computer monitor, their benefits can be hard to notice. TVs today run in 120Hz or 240Hz (some even higher), improving the motion quality with the help of image processors that changes the input sent to the display. Some models can even add frames, improving the frame rate of the content. Computer monitors on the other hand, don’t come with their own processors, they display what is sent through the input. This affects the benefit of the panel when displaying video content.
Also, improved refresh rate doesn’t
guarantee ghosting-free performance. It is quite common for LCD monitors to
suffer artifact issues, causing moving objects to leave one or more faint
trails behind them.
All in all, If you’re not a hardcore gamer, or if you don’t play big titles on your computer very often, of if you are one of the many people out there who can barely notice the difference in motion resolution, then you can put your money elsewhere, rather than monitors with improved motion performance. There are tons of great IPS-based panels in the market that runs at 60Hz but still superior in many monitors running on 120Hz in so many aspects.
Dell Ultrasharp series for example, is known for razor-sharp images and vibrant colors, ideal for graphic design, media creation, and even gaming or any area where clarity and color is important. Dell UltraSharp UP2414Q for example, is a 4K monitor designed for general use, work and home entertainment. It has superb color accuracy and grayscale performance, and generous set of features, such as Ultra HD and High Pixel Density, which shows images in great details.
Another great product under UltraSharp series is the Dell UltraSharp U2312HM. This monitor lets you see vivid images from its screen in almost any angle, in Full HD, crystal-clear and true-to-life quality. Also a great option for anyone who wants to have dual monitor or multiple monitor setups.
How About 4K?
4K displays, also known as Ultra High-Definition (UHD) monitors, though still in its early stage, is starting to gain attention in the world of computing. More and more computer users are now switching to bigger displays for various reasons; more screen real estate for better work productivity, entertainment, gaming, etc. However, there isn’t much 4K contents out there to use for them. As a matter of fact, the HDMI 2.0 standard has just made 60 fps 4K video for certain devices, and a lot of processing is already being done to simply display the much higher 3840x2160 resolution, such as interpolating and adding frames, to make way for smoother action, which has not been the priority of most HDTV manufacturers yet. So basically, if you’re considering a 4K monitor, don’t expect it to break the 60Hz anytime soon.
Acer XB280HK is the brand’s flagship entry to the ever competitive market of gaming. It’s the very first 4K display supported with Nvidia’s G-sync technology, and brings a lot to the table. It packs 3840x2160 pixel on its 28-inch screen, and has excellent color accuracy for beautiful, crisp and life-like picture quality.
This 4K display, to an extent, minimizes the G-Sync’s capacity. G-sync can support higher rates, but 4K only allow 60Hz, as extreme resolution requires significant bandwidth. This results to little improvement in responsiveness of games running more than 60GPs. However, G-sync still delivers through synchronization and frame stuttering, by eliminating them completely. This results to smooth rendering of particles in character animation.
If you want a 4K with faster response time for gaming, then Acer B286HK for you. This beautiful 3840 x 2160 resolution display tries to break the boundary of its TN (Twisted Nematic) panel with decent color quality and generous set of features that IT professionals, gamers, and anyone looking for UHD display will surely love to have. Its best quality however, is its fast pixel response (2ms) and input lag times (10.9 milliseconds). Though slightly off compared to the fastest that we have in the market today, it is an impressive feature consider the monitor’s screen size and massive 4K resolution.
Are Monitors with High Refresh Rates Worth It?
Higher refresh rates can go far. While we have 120Hz refresh rates in many newer mid-range monitor models, HDTVs are pushing it even further to 240Hz or even 600Hz for plasma TVs. However, you should know that you won’t need all the extra speed in most cases. 60Hz can still be more than enough.
Higher refresh rate and motion-enhancing modes will truly make surreal effect when watching TV shows and movies. The extra frames results to smoother animation, which looks different and better that what we’ve been used to, which makes scenes and footages appear fast. For comedy and drama shows, turning refresh rate down to 60Hz would be better, as motion-enhancing mode may cause unsettling effect. For live sports and watching video games, added frames can definitely help reduce the blurring and stuttering, helping you keep track of the action easily.
The Rule of Thumb
Note that refresh rate don’t really add to the video’s details, and different use means require different refresh rate. If you’re going to watch TV series on your computer, then 60Hz will do. If you often watch live sports events in your computer, watch action-packed movies or play games, then 120Hz or higher performs better.
Higher refresh rates are beneficial in certain situations, but it should not be the basis of buying an HDTV. Displays with 60Hz can be more than enough for watching TV shows and movies. 120Hz is great for live sporting games and movies. Anything higher than 120Hz is more of a gimmick than an actual feature that improves viewing experience.
For more tips like this, check out Dual Monitors Guide today!
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