When shopping for computer monitors, you have probably seen advertisements for specific response times. Does it really matter? What’s the best response time for a gaming monitor? is 5ms good for gaming?
I was in the market for a monitor upgrade, so I did some research, and what I discovered might interest you. As it turns out, there’s a lot of misinformation about monitor response times out there.
What is a Monitor’s Response Time?
A monitor’s response time is the amount of time it takes for one pixel on the screen to change colour, usually from black to white. A monitor that has a slow response time will usually display graphical artefacts like ghosting and smearing that can be bothersome and even cause motion sickness.
Is 5ms Good for Gaming?
A monitor with a response time of 5ms is good for gaming because it refreshes the pixels fast enough not to create motion blur. However, in most cases, it’s very difficult for the average gamer to tell the difference between 1ms and 15 ms.
What Does it Mean?
In theory, a gaming monitor with a low response time will help you perform better because the image changes faster which allows you to react to in-game cues faster. The problem is these amounts are so small (single-digit milliseconds), unless you’re a professional competitive gamer, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference.
Is Input Lag the Same as Response Time?
No. Input lag is the time it takes for a monitor to display commands from your computer, such as a keyboard or mouse click. Response time is the time it takes for a single pixel to change colour. In most cases, gaming monitors have low input lag, and TVs have high input lag, which makes TVs less suitable for gamers.
Response Time vs Refresh Rate
While both these terms are used to describe how quickly the image changes, there are a few important differences you need to understand. For starters, the response time is used to measure a single-pixel change, from one colour to the next. A refresh rate, measured in Hz, is used to measure the time it takes for the entire display to refresh.
Generally, what you want is a display that has a low response time with a high refresh rate. What’s interesting is you can find monitors that have a low response time with a low refresh rate and vice versa. If you have a monitor with a high refresh rate, such as 140Hz, but the response time is high (above 15ms) you may encounter ghosting or motion blur.
How do you know what response time is best? It’s easy. What you want is to compare monitor response times to the list below. If it falls under the number on the right, you probably won’t encounter any issues.
Monitor Refresh Rate Time to Create 1 Frame:
- 60 hz = 1/60 = 16.67 ms
- 75 hz = 13.33 ms
- 100 hz = 10.00 ms
- 120 hz = 8.33 ms
- 144 hz = 6.94 ms
- 240 hz = 4.167 ms
Let me explain what these numbers mean. The first number represents the number of times a monitor can refresh in a second. Divide that number by 60, and you’ll get the time it takes for the screen to refresh one time, which is measured in milliseconds. Another way to think about that is the time it takes for the monitor to create one frame.
As you can see, the higher the refresh rate, the less time it takes for the whole screen to refresh one time. As for our 5ms example from earlier, the 5ms response time is still under the second-fastest monitor, so it’s definitely good enough for gaming at competitive levels.
Problems can occur when your response time is, for some reason, higher than the time it takes for the whole screen to refresh once. When that happens, a pixel can be in the middle of transitioning to a different colour, when it receives a command to change again, creating motion blur and smears.
This can also create a graphical artefact known as screen-tearing which is very noticeable on lower refresh rate monitors. Screen tearing looks like it sounds; the screen is split in a line, and the two images aren’t aligned. It can be very bothersome, especially when gaming!
Another important point to understand is response time is not 100% accurate because it depends on the colour the pixel is changing to. Some colours can be drawn very quickly while others require more time. Most of the time, a monitor’s response time is a marketing ploy that can’t really be measured, not without specific tools, anyway.
The Bottom Line:
When it comes to gaming displays, there are so many features, standards, and terms, that it can be a very overwhelming frustrating experience. It’s very hard to tell if a monitor is “good” or not by looking at the specifications.
My personal word of advice is to choose a monitor with a good refresh rate, and don’t worry about all the other technical specifications. Besides, most of these specifications are not standard. Every monitor manufacturer creates its own or uses the lowest score in the range.
If you’re looking for a gaming monitor, I would personally choose a 140hz monitor because they offer a much smoother experience than 60hz monitors. They’re also a bit cheaper than they once were.
Not to mention non-gaming tasks like office-work and simply browsing the internet feel much smoother on a high refresh rate monitor, everything is easier on the eyes. Don’t forget to read reviews too, and if possible, test the monitor out in person.