FPS vs Hz: Are they the same?

A lot of people are not sure if FPS is the same as Hz, so I wanted to write this article to clear up the confusion. When you’re done reading this article,  you’ll know exactly what are the differences between FPS and Hz.

Is FPS the Same as Hz?

No. FPS is not the same as Hz because FPS is the frames generated by the system and Hz is the maximum refresh rate of a display.

What is FPS?

FPS stands for frames per second or frame rate. The more frames per second, the smoother the animation and motion will appear. In video games, the frame rate depends on the capabilities of the graphics processing hardware. It’s mostly graphics card dependant but the CPU plays a role too.

Unless there’s an FPS limiter, your hardware will attempt to produce as many frames as it can. For example, the FPS in a game could change from 30 FPS to 100 FPS and anywhere in between.

If your computer is struggling to reach a playable frame rate in a game, consider turning down some of the graphics effects. The hardware (mostly the graphics card) renders each in-game scene and then sends that frame to the monitor.

The FPS in a game will fluctuate depending on the complexity of the scene being rendered and the resolution. With more on-screen effects, the frame rate will be lower.

For example, you might have noticed that the FPS increases when you look at the sky in a game. The reason for that is rendering the in-game sky requires very little graphics power and your hardware can produce a lot more frames.

What is Hz?

Hz (Hertz) is a unit of measurement for a display’s refresh rate. The refresh rate is the number of times a screen can refresh in one second. For example, a screen with 60 Hz means it can refresh 60 times a second. It’s the hardware limitation of the display.

Another way to think of Hz is the number of frames the screen can show in a second. For instance, a screen with a 60 Hz refresh rate can show up to 60 frames a second and so on.

Having said that, the frame rate won’t always match your monitor’s refresh rate. FPS is determined by the graphics processing capabilities of your system and the scene being rendered. FPS can either be lower or higher than your display’s refresh rate.

If the FPS is lower than Hz, the display will only be able to show the available frames, so it will match the frame rate. On a similar note, if the FPS is higher than Hz, then the display can show all the frames up to its Hz limit.

What happens when FPS is much higher than your screen’s Hz rate?

Locking Frame Rate to Refresh Rate

Quick note: Some games have built-in framerate limits that are tied to the game engine and can’t be unlocked.

To make FPS match the refresh rate on your display, you can enable features like V-Sync or an FPS limiter. V-sync will lock your frame rate to match your display’s refresh rate. Vertical Sync (V-Sync) is good for casual games because it eliminates screen tearing and can make the motion appear more smooth.

The downside is it can add noticeable input lag on certain titles. If available, try to use the fast version of V-sync. G-Sync (only available on NVIDIA cards) also accomplishes the same thing by using a different method and less input lag. The input lag will vary depending on your hardware and how the game is optimized. Some people don’t notice any input lag when V-Sync is enabled.

Another idea is to manually limit the frame rate with either in-game frame rate limiters or software. These options often have less input lag than V-Sync but don’t completely eliminate screen tearing issues.

The most popular software is Rivatuner which is bundled with MSI Afterburner. To access Rivatuner, download MSI Afterburner. Open the program, click on settings, and in the On-screen Display tab, you’ll see an option to toggle the framerate limiter. You can also manually limit the frame rate in games through Geforce Control Panel.

What should you lock your frame to? It depends on your display’s Hz rate. For basic 60 Hz displays you can either If you have a monitor with 144 Hz, it’s recommended to lock the framerate to 3 – 4 frmes below that limit. With 60 Hz displays, enabling V-sync, ideally the fast version, on casual games is a good idea.

Frame Times

The frame time is the amount of time it takes for a frame to be generated and sent to the display. As you might have guessed, the frame time always changes depending on what’s being rendered. If you have a large variation in frame times, you might experience stutters and other issues.

To get a more consistent frame time, I recommend limiting the frame rate, which should provide a more consistent experience. There’s a chart to measure frame times in the MSI Afterburner app too.

Why Lock FPS to Hz?

Locking FPS to Hz can be a good idea because it reduces stress on your hardware, has more consistent frame times, cooler temperatures, and quieter fans. Not to mention less energy consumption.

Now for competitive esports gamers, it would be best to leave all the settings uncapped because you don’t want any input latency. For casual games, it’s a good idea to lock your FPS to the Hz rate of your monitor. Ultimately, these are settings that you have to play around with and test to see what works for you.

The Bottom Line

To summarize, FPS is not the same as Hz, but they do need to work together to provide you with a consistent experience. FPS is affected by hardware components, mostly the graphics card. Hz is a hardware limit on a display.

If you want more FPS, the best solution is to upgrade your graphics card. On that note, if you don’t want your system to be working at 100% to generate frames above your monitor’s refresh rate, consider limiting the framerate. It will create a much more consistent gaming experience for you.

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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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