It’s a debate that’s been going on for a while now:
Is upgrading to a setup that can support 144, 240, or even higher frames per second worth it for competitive gaming?
If you just want the short answer: of course! Graphics cards and monitors are more powerful than ever and with a wide variety of graphics cards available you can get exactly the performance you need at the price you can afford.
For the longer answer we’ll delve a little deeper. We need to go into the specific advantages that gaming at and will give you as a competitive gamer, and we’ll later supplement our conclusions with stats and figures from the professional players and what they are using.
For the sake of simplicity we’ll compare the different breakpoints of 144Hz and 240Hz because they’re the most commonly used high refresh setups, though there are also 360Hz monitors out there these days. Of course, a high refresh rate monitor is required and your graphics card needs to be able to push enough frames towards it. As a rule of thumb you want a setup that can exceed the refresh rate of your monitor in frames per second. A setup with a 240Hz monitor hooked up to a system producing 350 frames per second is still better than a system with a 240Hz monitor that produces just over 240 frames per second.
Advantages of high FPS and refresh rates
If you’re not quite convinced how a low framerate might hamper your ability to track whatever is going on around you we can point you to the excellent video by NVIDIA above.
Moving images (such as games) are essentially created by displaying a series of still images in rapid succession, and the lower the the ‘choppier’ the moving image appears.
A 144Hz gaming monitor (that’s hooked up to a graphics card and system that can produce 144+ frames per second) refreshes the image on your screen more than twice as fast as what a regular 60Hz display would be capable of, so it should come as no surprise that these higher refresh rate monitors make it a lot easier to accurately track whatever is going on inside the game. So in essence, a 144Hz monitor will make the game world appear a lot smoother and more ‘lifelike’ when it comes to motion.
The advantages don’t end there, however. A regular 60 FPS setup has an end to end latency in the range of 55 to 75ms (if you’re playing in fullscreen) while a 144 FPS setup ranges from 30 to 45ms. A setup that’s running at 240 frames per second has an end to end latency between 20 and 35 milliseconds, which means that a high FPS setup gives you advantages that go beyond only the visual aspect.
A high framerate setup translates your inputs much faster, which can give you an advantage in those close fights. That’s why you’ll see (for example) Counter-Strike professionals with framerates that are well above their monitor’s refresh rates. You might think that that’s overkill, but the advantages of a rig that can push a lot of frames go beyond what you can see on your monitor.
In addition to that, higher refresh rates also reduce the amount of visible screen tearing (see: ‘) and motion blur (see: ‘‘) which is another big advantage when it comes to image clarity.
Summing up, we can say that a 144Hz (or higher) setup gives you a much smoother and responsive image, as well as a more direct and responsive connection to the game. This is an invaluable advantage if you’re playing competitive games.
240+ Hz as the competitive minimum
Looking at the graph below, it’s quite clear that 240 Hz really is the current competitive standard.
240Hz is the most popular refresh rate at the time of writing this article, as you can see. Higher refresh rate monitors have been out for a while now, but these initially didn’t get adopted as widely and as quickly as what we saw with the 240Hz monitors back when they came out. This could have had something to do with the fact that there are diminishing returns when going for higher framerates, and also with the fact that a lot of games simply couldn’t reliably run at 360 frames per second or higher, but with recent PC technology this is becoming more and more of an option.
Going for a 240Hz setup is nowadays a valid option, even for people who are on a budget and looking to build a mid-tier setup, and that’s something that we can only applaud. In fact, PCs are becoming so powerful that we might see of competitive gaming in the next couple of years.
Most used refresh rates (pro scene)
240Hz vs 144Hz vs 60Hz
A lot of gamers say that the jump from 144Hz to 240Hz isn’t as massive as the jump from 60 to 144, and we tend to agree. Looking at the image refresh times, you can see that the jump from 60 to 144 Hertz is larger than the jump from 144 to 240 Hertz.
However, that does not mean that the difference isn’t worth it.
Going from 144Hz to 240Hz still means that you’re (roughly speaking) going from a frame every 6.95 ms to a frame every 4.17 ms, and opting for a 360Hz panel cuts that down to a mere 2.8ms, which does mean that there’s definitely a benefit when it comes to the clarity and fluidity of the image on the screen.
If you’ve got the machine to handle it (and the money to spend) we always recommend going for a 240 or 360 frames per second setup as that’s simply better in every way, but if you’re on a bit of a budget or your PC cannot push enough frames for a 240Hz display you can opt for a lower refresh rate monitor (i.e. 180, 165, or 144 Hz) in a pinch.
240 frames per second is the target though, so we do recommend you to start steering your hardware in that direction if you want to be serious about competitive gaming.
High refresh rate gaming requirements
Before you invest in a shiny new high refresh rate setup you should make sure that your PC is up for the task. It’s no secret that games get more and more demanding with each passing year. New technologies and rendering techniques help developers push boundaries when it comes to visual fidelity, but competitive games usually focus on being able to run on as many machines as possible. So with system requirements for (most) competitive games remaining stagnant (by design) and PC components getting more and more powerful, we’re seeing the standards rise every single year. We went from 144Hz to 240Hz, and now we’re seeing a move towards 360Hz and even 1440p resolutions.
At ProSettings.net we believe that framerate takes precedence over visual fidelity, so we always recommend people to turn down (a few) ingame video settings in order to achieve the best balance between having enough frames to get that silky smooth and responsive gaming experience while still maintaining a game that doesn’t look like a pixelated and confusing mess. With this in mind, you can really get yourself a very decent gaming PC on a budget in this day and age. It’s a different story if you want to play at 1440p 360Hz, but 240Hz 1080p gaming doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg anymore.
You don’t need any special software to play games at higher refresh rates, but it’s important that you make sure that your higher refresh rate panel is fully enabled in Windows. To do this, go to settings -> system -> display -> advanced display settings -> display adaptor properties -> monitor and select the native refresh rate of your monitor (make sure to click ‘Apply’) under monitor settings – screen refresh rate.
Aside from that, you should also run your game of choice in full screen. This is always recommend in our settings guides, but we thought we’d mention it here again. Running a game in full screen gives you the least amount of latency, which is what you want if you want to get the most out of a high refresh rate.
You should also make sure to enable your game to run at higher refresh rates. This setting is normally found under the video settings tab of your favorite game.
G-Sync and FreeSync
and often get mentioned when people are talking about high fps and refresh rates, and many ask themselves the question ‘do I need it?’ The answer is twofold; when you’re gaming at, for example, 240 frames per second on a 240Hz monitor there will probably be instances where you drop below that 240 mark, which can cause screen tearing. Technologies such as G-Sync eliminate that entirely, which results in a smoother experience, even when the action gets tough.
These technologies can introduce a bit of input lag, though. Very visible tearing, even at 240 FPS, can distract you in critical moments, which can lead to lost fights and matches. Given the fact that the latency that’s introduced by G-Sync in particular is almost negligible, it’s definitely something to consider in case you’re struggling with tearing, though we do recommend to leave it off if that’s at all possible.
60 vs 144 vs 240 Hz conclusion
There’s a particularly stubborn myth/meme on the internet that says that ‘humans can’t see more than 30/60 fps‘ but that is categorically false. A high refresh rate setup (we consider 144Hz to be the absolute minimum) greatly improves the smoothness and fluidity of the image on your screen, as well as the overall responsiveness, and it reduces latency. On top of that it also greatly reduces screen tearing and ghosting issues, so it’s not hard to see how a high refresh rate monitor can improve your gameplay.
In fact we are seeing 99.9% of our analyzed professionals across all of our games using a setup that’s capable of displaying at least 144 frames per second.
In summary: If your main focus is competing in multiplayer games, a PC that can hit 144+ frames (and a monitor that can display them) should be on or near the top of your ‘must buy’ list. You won’t want to go back to 60Hz for competitive gaming ever again.