Myths and realities of 144Hz monitors: is it a game changer?

Myths and realities of 144Hz monitors
Myths and realities of 144Hz monitors

Going from gaming at 60Hz to playing on a 144Hz monitors are miraculous. It’s like going from night to day. That is what many of the users say – not all of them, beware – who have made the leap to 144Hz monitors monitors especially geared towards gamers, but is that difference so remarkable?

That is precisely what we have set out to discover in tests in which someone like me, an occasional FPS player on a 60Hz monitor, has had the opportunity to enjoy a powerful computer and 144Hz monitor.

Many factors to consider

When trying to find the best video game experience for the PC, the characteristics of the monitor in which we connect the PC are especially relevant.

Technology in this area has advanced remarkably, and today it is important to take into account various characteristics if one wants to get the most out of those sessions.

Among these factors are the following, which we won’t go too far to focus on later on those refresh rates.

Input lag

This component of our gaming experience is the delay from when the monitor receives a signal (a frame, for example) and displays it on the screen.Tthere are several elements that affect this process.

Not just purely technical – our reflexes are part of that equation too. However, there are, as we say, a series of key elements to define that delay, and among them are our network connection (if we play online, of course), our peripherals, the hardware of our PC and, of course, the 144Hz monitor that we use to play.

This parameter is still one of the most used by manufacturers to convince us that these input lag are increasingly reduced on their monitors and that our experience in video games will be optimal, but as we said there are many other factors that affect that experience.

Refresh rate (fixed)

Most monitors operate at 60Hz in their native resolution, which means that up to 60 frames can be displayed every second with a 16.66ms gap between frames. By definition, this fixed refresh rate is the number of times per second that the monitor updates its buffer.

This refresh rate has evolved with the different screen technologies, and for example somewhat older readers will remember that in CRT monitors many of us were looking for that 72Hz support that was especially suitable for our sessions with the computer.

Myths and realities of 144 Hz monitors
Myths and realities of 144 Hz monitors

With the arrival of LCD screens, the standard frequency has been placed in those 60 Hz, although both in one and in the other case models with significantly higher refresh rates appeared and continue to appear.

Some monitors support fixed refresh rates of 120Hz (8.33ms gap) and even higher, such as those we have seen lately with support of 144Hz (6.94ms gap), 200 Hz (5ms), 240Hz (4.16ms) and even more. Even smartphone manufacturers have joined this trend and we already have some phones with 90Hz and up to 120Hz screens.

Variable refresh rate

One thing is the refresh rate that the 144 Hz monitor offers and another is the one that our PC offers with each game (and each level of detail and resolution). The ideal is to have a high frame rate in the game – for that you need a powerful configuration, a good CPU and above all a good GPU – as well as a monitor with high refresh rate support. The difference between the frames that our PC can display and those that the monitor is capable of displaying can generate visual artifacts because both frequencies are not synchronized.

That’s what NVIDIA G-SYNC and AMD FreeSync technologies do, dynamically adjusting the monitor’s refresh rate so that it is equivalent in real time to the frame rate of the video game or content we are enjoying.

Response time

When going from one frame to another (with the associated gap) it is important to talk about the response time of the pixel, which is the time it takes for a pixel to make the transition from one color (or state) to another. It is often referred to as response times between different shades of gray (depending on the intensity of the dark color) that normally range between 2 and 5ms.

There is no universal standard, but what is true is that in TN panels these times are shorter (4-10ms) than in IPS / PLS panels (8-16ms normally) or in VA panels (14-30ms ). That makes precisely the TN panels are appreciated by gamers even when they have disadvantages in other areas. Poor management of these response times and acceleration techniques leads to the appearance of ‘ghosting’, which damages the user experience. So 144Hz monitors are still a better option.

Motion blur

Having a slower refresh rate or response time than adequate can cause the image to appear blurry. If the response times are slow for example and the pixels take a little longer to make the transition from one state to another, a certain trail ends up, a certain ‘ghosting’ effect in which the new image appears superimposed on the old one. somewhat blurred.

We also have motion blur caused by eye movement: our brain can perceive that movement is blurry by how we see the movement of an image on the screen even when this image is static.

A higher refresh rate helps reduce those effects, but there are black-frame insertion techniques between frames.

Recent monitors focused on the realm of gamers also include various systems (often proprietary) to reduce this blur. We have for example LightBoost (NVIDIA), Ultra Low Motion Blur or ULMB (NVIDIA), Dynamic Accuracy or DyAc (BenQ in their ZOWIE), Extreme Low Motion Blur or ELMB (ASUS) or MotionFlow Impulse (Sony).

Playing with 144Hz monitors can change your life (or not)

In recent years we have witnessed an increasingly pronounced trend among both casual and professional gamers. Resolution doesn’t matter so much, especially in the competitive arena where many play with 1080p resolutions or even lower resolutions. The refresh rate matters much more.

Myths and realities of 144 Hz monitors
Myths and realities of 144 Hz monitors

That is what has caused monitor manufacturers to develop increasingly capable models in this regard. Although 4K models with support for 144Hz frequencies are beginning to appear, it is normal to find 1080p monitors with support for native 144Hz (or higher) frequencies with various formats and additional features. In fact, some models that do not offer those high frequencies natively allow even ‘overclocking’ to achieve those higher refresh rates.

The appearance of these models has generated a wave of comments from a large part of the user community. Everywhere we can see debates and articles that seem to have the same conclusion: playing at 144Hz is for those who extol these 144Hz monitors as entering another dimension. Making the leap from 60Hz is a fantastic experience for many of those users

Myths and realities of 144 Hz monitors

The problem is that this theoretical miracle is not for everyone. Just as we found numerous testimonials from users who have made the leap to 144Hz and cannot go back, there are many others who have taken that leap to be greatly disappointed : they have not noticed anything at all.

That can certainly be the case in some occasions, especially since among the requirements to be able to enjoy 144Hz monitors are using the DisplayPort 1.2 connection or the DVI-D integrated in the vast majority of graphics cards on the market. The HDMI 1.4 connectors theoretically allow for example to play at 1080p and 120Hz, but various discussion threads reveal how the HDMI port – because of the connector itself or the cables used – can give problems in this regard.