Tested: Do high refresh rate monitors make games faster?
PC gamers understand that high refresh rate screens make video games look smoother. But do higher refresh rate display screens make video games feel smoother, too? After getting our grubby paws on equipment that measures system latency, we can certainly say that yes, quick screens provide more responsive gameplay experiences for esports lovers– though its efficiency depends on the visual settings you’re utilizing to play those video games, and the tangible benefits taper off the much faster you go.
We just recently received a 1080p Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR display in our labs. This silky-smooth 360Hz G-Sync monitor runs a massive six times faster than a normal 60Hz screen. Much better yet, it includes Nvidia’s Reflex Latency Analyzer tool. Built into select 360Hz G-Sync Esports monitors, Nvidia Reflex Analyzer can measure the length of time it considers your mouse clicks to register as an action on-screen. Take a look at our Nvidia Reflex guide if you wish to find out more about GeForce’s suite of responsiveness-focused features.
While we had a latency-measuring tool in our hands, we decided to evaluate the efficiency of refresh rate on general responsiveness, by locking the ROG Swift PG259QNR’s speed using Nvidia’s control panel. Here’s a take a look at just how much faster games become when you increase your display’s refresh rate.
We benchmarked Valorant, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Fortnite utilizing their greatest in-game visual settings in a strictly managed screening situation at 1080p resolution. We measured each game using both the GeForce RTX 3070 Creators Edition as a high-end choice, and the original GeForce GTX 1660 for a more mainstream comparison.
The numbers in these charts show the total latency of your system and screen– everything except the time it takes for your mouse click to sign up– in milliseconds as measured by Nvidia’s Reflex Latency Analyzer. The lower the number beside each result, the quicker your clicks become in-game actions. The basic considered deserving of competitive esports is usually 20ms of latency.
As you can see, latency lowers widely across the board as the display’s refresh rate boosts. With both the GeForce RTX 3080 and the GTX 1660, the tested video games are more responsive at 144Hz compared to 60Hz, and a blistering-fast 360Hz display shows faster yet. Terrific!
There are a couple of deeper takeaways though. First, note that the jump from a 60Hz display screen to a 144Hz screen supplies a substantial jump in responsiveness, but the leap from 144Hz to 360Hz is a lot more modest. That makes 144Hz the sweet area from a price-to-performance standpoint.
Likewise think about the difference in reaction times between the 2 graphics cards themselves. High refresh rate monitors don’t magically make games quicker; rather, they’re simply able to reveal the frames your graphics card is spitting out that much quicker. If your GPU isn’t powerful sufficient to feed your monitor enough frames, responsiveness will not enhance. Experience how the GTX 1660 hovers around the same 45ms mark at both 144Hz and 360Hz in Fortnite, or how the far more effective RTX 3080 outpunches the GTX 1660 across the board.
How you play your video games deserves considering too. If you swipe a page from the playbook of esports pros and dial your game’s visual settings all the way down, putting your system’s bottleneck on your CPU rather than your GPU, you’ll drastically increase your frame rates. In our tests with both graphics cards, every video game fell at or listed below the esports pro-grade 20ms barrier, even on a 60Hz display with low visual details enabled.
That said, if you desire even lower latency for ultimate responsiveness, upgrading to a 360Hz display screen can still minimize latency by a substantial quantity, though it gets harder to feel in the varieties we’re talking about here. Moving from a 17.6 ms reaction time with a GTX 1660 on a 60Hz panel in Valorant to a 9.5 ms reaction time on a 360Hz panel implies your movements are registering nearly twice as fast. However unless you’re an esports professional, the responsiveness feels blisteringly fast in both scenarios.
Bottom line: Yes, much faster screens can make video games more responsive, however just if you’re getting frame rates fast enough to push high refresh rate display screens to the best of their abilities. For the best bang-for-buck, think about upgrading to a 144Hz panel, then pump the rest of your spending plan into getting the fastest GPU possible. Our guide to the best graphics cards for PC video gaming can help if you need it.
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