120Hz vs 144Hz Monitor: What’s the Difference?

So you’re looking to buy a monitor that has a high refresh rate and you’re trying to decide between 120Hz vs 144Hz.

What’s the difference? Is it noticeable? What are the pros and cons? Let’s take a look. Don’t buy a monitor before reading this article!

When it comes to 120Hz vs 144Hz monitors, the 144Hz monitor is better because it has a higher refresh rate which allows you to receive information faster.

A 144Hz monitor can show 144 frames a second, while a 120Hz monitor shows 120 frames. In competitive games, the extra 24 frames on the 144Hz monitor can give you a slight advantage.

120Hz vs 144Hz: Is it Noticeable?

Now you might be wondering if the difference between 120Hz and 144Hz is noticeable. After all, it’s only a 24Hz difference. While it’s not a dramatic upgrade, 144Hz is slightly smoother than 120Hz. It is noticeable but not a major difference.

Is the small improvement in refresh rate worth it? That depends on what system you use and the games that you play. 144Hz is better for people who have PCs and play games that reach 144 FPS or higher, such as first-person shooters.

Another point to consider is frame times, which is the amount of time it takes for a monitor to show a frame from a game. As a refresher, when you’re playing a game the CPU (processor) is working with the GPU (graphics card) to render each frame in a game.

Frame Time

The number of frames that you can achieve in a game will depend on the capabilities of your hardware and the game’s graphics settings. Generally, the goal is a steady and consistent frame rate because that creates the most enjoyable experience. Nobody wants stutters.

With that in mind, here’s a chart with frame rate and frame time.

  • 30Hz – 33.3 ms
  • 60Hz- 16.7 ms
  • 120Hz – 8.3 ms
  • 144Hz – 6.9 ms
  • 240Hz – 4.16 ms

To understand, at 30Hz (frames a second) it will take 33.3 milliseconds for one frame to be shown on screen until it refreshes. That is the reason games at 30 frames a second don’t feel very smooth.

At 60 FPS, the frame time is twice as fast, taking 16.7 milliseconds for one frame to show on the screen. And as the refresh rate increases, the frame time decreases, so more frames can be shown in the same amount of time.

As you might have noticed, the difference in frame time between 120Hz (8.3ms) and 144Hz (6.9ms) is 1.4ms. In other words, each frame at 144Hz is shown 1.4ms faster than the frames at 120Hz.

For the quickest frame time, a 240Hz monitor (or even higher) is ideal. The frame time on a 240Hz monitor is 4.16ms.

Upgrading Monitors

Another thing to consider is the monitor that you’re upgrading from.

For example, upgrading from 120Hz to 144Hz won’t be that much of a difference. Granted 144Hz might feel a little more responsive and smooth because it can show 24 more frames, but it won’t be that big of a deal. The average user won’t be able to tell much of a difference between 120Hz and 144Hz.

However, moving from 60Hz to 144Hz is a completely different story, it’s a massive upgrade, and pretty much everyone can notice the difference. If you’re looking to upgrade to a 60Hz monitor, I highly recommend moving to 144Hz because it will make your games so much more enjoyable.

If you’re on a budget, 120Hz is an option too, but 144Hz is usually about the same price anyways.

Refresh Rate Means More Frames

And you also need to consider your hardware and games. Generally, high-refresh-rate monitors are best for games that involve a lot of movement such as first-person shooters because you can get visual information faster.

But if your computer can’t generate enough frames in the game to match your monitor’s refresh rate, having a high refresh rate monitor might be overkill (unless you plan to upgrade soon).

Another way to look at it, is if your game only runs at 60 FPS and your monitor is 144 Hz, the monitor can only show 60 of those frames, so it would be the same as gaming on a 60Hz monitor. Ideally, the FPS in a game should either match or be greater than the refresh rate of your monitor.

You can also use features like V-Sync to lock the game’s frame rate to your monitor’s refresh rate. V-Sync is a good idea for some games because it eliminates screen tearing but it also adds input delay which is an issue for games that require fast reaction times.

For example, nobody uses V-sync when playing CS GO or Rainbow Six Siege because it adds input delay.

Consoles Gamers

What about console gamers?

If you’re looking for a monitor for your new console, you might not need a 144Hz monitor because the new consoles don’t support 144Hz at the moment. The new console support 120Hz at 4K. For consoles gamers, I recommend buying a 4K 120Hz TV instead.

But in this case, a 120Hz monitor is a good option for console gamers.

The Bottom Line:

The thing is when it comes to 120Hz vs 144Hz the differences are small and not very noticeable. There is a difference, and people with motion-sensitive eyes will likely notice that 144Hz feels slightly smoother and more responsive.

However, it’s a very small improvement. What I would do is choose a monitor that has the features you need for your personal needs and tastes.

I recommend going with 144Hz because it’s slightly faster than 120Hz. The price won’t be much of a difference, there are plenty of budget 144Hz monitors on the market today. In some cases, there are 144Hz monitors that are cheaper than 120Hz models.

Of course, when it comes to buying a monitor, refresh rate is not the only feature to consider. There are plenty of high refresh rate monitors that have all kinds of issues.

You also need to consider the resolution, response time, colours, and other features. In other words, you don’t want the absolute cheapest 144Hz monitor on the market.

If you have a mid-range computer, you might want to consider 144HZ 1440P monitors, because that’s the sweet spot between performance and visuals.

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About Tim Gagnon

Timothy Gagnon is a tech blogger and writer. When he's not dissembling computers, he's researching the latest tech gadgets and trends.

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