So you want to improve your competitive gaming performance but you’re confused about terms such as frame rate (FPS) and refresh rates (Hz). There’s a lot of confusion about these factors out there, and it’s easy to get confused. I was struggling with the same issue, so I decided to research the subject, and what I discovered might be useful to you.
You might have seen gaming monitors that advertise all kinds of cool specifications designed for gamers, such as high Hz rate, G-sync, response time, and whatnot. Here are some of the questions I’ll be answering in this guide:
What is Hz? Should you lock your framerate or leave it unlimited? Should you lower your in-game graphical settings to increase FPS? What’s a good FPS range for competitive games? What’s the best Hz monitor for competitive games?
Let’s dive in.
No. Hz (refresh rate) does not affect FPS (frame rate) because Hz is your monitor’s maximum refresh rate, and FPS is the number of frames your computer can generate. These are separate things. Your monitor can only show the frames that your computer sends it. Gaming on a monitor that has a higher Hz rate will allow you to see extra frames and react faster to in-game cues, which can improve your performance.
I’ll show you how that works.
As mentioned earlier, Hz represents the number of times your monitor can refresh in one second. FPS or frame rate is the number of frames your graphics card can potentially generate in one second. For best results, your frame rate should either be matched or higher than your monitor’s refresh rate.
The problem here is that your computer generates frames at variable speeds, which means not every frame is created at the exact same time. There are lots of factors that contribute to how fast or slow a frame is generated, the most notable would be your graphics card, the number of effects in a game scene, CPU speed, and several others.
Monitors, on the other hand, can only show frames at a certain speed, which is determined by the maximum refresh rate. On normal 60 Hz displays (the most common today) one image would be on the screen for 16.6 milliseconds before refreshing to a new one. When the refresh rate is higher, the time it takes for your display to show one frame is drastically reduced.
Here’s a quick chart:
- 30 Hz = 33.3 ms
- 60 Hz = 16.6 ms
- 144 Hz = 6.9 ms
- 240 Hz = 4.1 ms
Remember, monitors can only refresh at a constant rate, it doesn’t change like with the frame rate. When your computer is sending too many frames, it can sometimes become out of sync with your screen.
When this happens, you’ll likely see a graphic artifact called a screen tear, it looks like two images sliced together. On higher refresh rate monitors, screen tearing is much less obvious, and with the help of features like V-sync or G-sync, you can eliminate it entirely. I’ll talk about that a little later on.
In my opinion, upgrading from a 60 Hz monitor to 144 Hz is definitely worth it because it can help you become a better video game player and you won’t have to deal with visual artifacts as often. Tasks like browsing the internet and general computer use will be much more responsive and smooth too.
Deciding which Hz rate is right for you will depend on your budget, your goals, and your computer’s hardware. If your computer can get between 60 and 120 frames per second on games, you might want to consider a 120 Hz or 144 Hz monitor.
For most people, a 240 Hz monitor is overkill, unless you have an extremely powerful PC and you plan to play competitive first-person shooters. In other words, you need to make sure that you’ll actually get the benefits of a new monitor.
The theory is that you can see more with high refresh rate monitors, for example, you can see enemies coming around a wall much sooner than with a lower Hz monitor. On high Hz displays, animations are smoother, aiming is easier, and doing large movements like 360 spins are much more fluid. It can also help reduce motion sickness.
But does this actually affect the average gamer’s performance? As it turns out, yes it does. While simply buying a new graphics card and monitor won’t instantly make you a better player, it does provide you with an advantage that starts to show after several gaming sessions.
One study from Geforce revealed that gamers who moved from 60 Hz to high refresh rate monitors saw a dramatic increase in their kill to death ratios in popular games. The study tracked performance from graphics cards paired with monitors with various Hz rates.
The players with the best kill to death ratio improvement (51%) had a GTX 1080/TI card on 144 Hz monitor. The second best was a 51% increase with an RTX 20xx card at 144 Hz. To compare, the stats also revealed upgrading the card but remaining on a 60 Hz display showed better in-game performance, but only a 10% – 17% increase. The most noticeable jump in K/D ratios was with a 144 Hz monitor.
There have been other tests, studies, and videos (most notable Linus Tech Tips), too, and the main takeaway is that moving beyond 60 Hz will make the average player perform better in games, particularly shooters like CS GO.
If your FPS is lower than your Hz, animations will probably appear quite choppy. Some console games still run at 30 FPS on 60 Hz TVs. To make the most of your new display, you’ll want to make sure your FPS is as close to your Hz rate as possible. It’s a matter of personal preference, but most people agree that gaming on 30 FPS is not ideal.
Going a little higher, say 60 FPS on a 144 Hz monitor, the experience will be much smoother, but you still will only be seeing 60 frames a second. It would be the same as running 60 FPS on a 60 Hz monitor. Now, let’s say that you can get somewhere between 70 – 120 frames on a 144 Hz monitor. In this situation, you would actually see more frames, and the animations will be much smoother, but you still won’t be pushing the full potential of your monitor.
To make the most of a 144 Hz monitor (or higher for that matter) you need a game that can at over 144 frames stable, minimum.
No. 60 Hz is the number of times your monitor can refresh a second, and 60 FPS is the number of frames your GPU can generate for your game. While you can lower graphics settings to increase your framerate, you won’t actually see the frames that are higher than your monitor’s refresh rate. In some cases, you can “feel” them, which I’ll talk about a little later on.
So how do we get enough frames to match with a high Hz monitor?
Yes. Most games are optimized to use graphics cards, so upgrading graphics cards is the best way to improve FPS. While you can lower in-game settings to improve FPS too, it still might be enough to reach a reasonable FPS in more demanding titles. Do note that some games are CPU-heavy, so you should consider pairing a modern graphics card with a modern CPU too.
I recommend looking at graphics cards in the GTX 10 Series or newer because those will have more than enough power to run most games at reasonable frame rates. Besides buying a more powerful graphics card, the second-best way to improve FPS in games is to lower the resolution or graphics settings.
Screen size does not affect FPS but screen resolution does. Screen resolution is the number of pixels on the screen, and the higher the number, the more strain on your graphics card. Bear in mind, some large screens can stretch the resolution to fill the physical area of the screen, but the result is lots of pixelation. If you’re having trouble with FPS, try lowering in-game graphic settings. If that doesn’t bring FPS to an acceptable rate, consider lowering the resolution.
There’s also another benefit to lowering the resolution, besides simply improving FPS. The theory is that at lower resolutions the character models are more stretched and pixels are a bit bigger and easier to see, which makes it easier for you to hit your targets. Nowadays, most people play at 1080P or higher, but you can always try out various resolutions to find one that suits you.
You might be thinking that putting a limit on your framerate will allow you to cut out all the frames that are going beyond your monitor’s capabilities.
Adding a frame rate limit to your games can be useful because it stops your computer from overheating which is a problem for laptops. It can also save a bit of electricity but the amount is not very noticeable. In my opinion, the cooling factor is the most important.
There are benefits to limiting your framerate in games but it depends on the game. I wouldn’t limit the frame rate on competitive games such as multiplayer shooters because you need all the reaction time you can get. However, on more casual games like single-player RPGs like Skyrim or Witcher, limiting the frame rate can be useful.
Here are some ways to do that:
When your frame rate is set to uncap, your computer will work its hardest to create as many frames as possible. There’s very little input delay with an uncapped frame rate, it’s the most responsive. The downside is you might run into screen tearing and your computer might get unnecessarily hot, which can be concerning for laptops.
There are two types of frame rate limits, a manual one, and V-sync. The manual one is usually an option in your game’s settings, it’s probably a slider with 30, 60, and 100 or more. You can also sometimes force an FPS limit through a console or launch commands.
V-sync is a mode that syncs your game’s frames to your monitor’s refresh rate. In other words, your computer will only generate as many frames as your monitor can show in a second. The result is a smooth experience, with no frame-tears, but a lot of input delay. I do not recommend V-sync for shooters. It works fine for some RPG or simple games where reaction time isn’t super important.
G-sync is a newer version of V-sync, mainly designed for monitors with higher refresh rates than the usual 60 Hz. It also only works through the DisplayPort connector. The way G-sync works is similar to V-sync but it doesn’t lock your frame rate to one exact rate. The monitor essentially syncs with the speed that your computer is creating frames, so it’s extremely smooth with no tears or stutters.
The Bottom Line
Long story short, HZ does not affect FPS because these are separate factors, but combining high FPS with high HZ will give you an advantage in competitive video games. If you want to increase your rank on games like CS GO, Overwatch, Valorant, and others, I highly recommend upgrading to a 144 Hz or higher monitor.