While gamers and consumers have become somewhat used to 144Hz displays in recent years, more recent pushes in technology have seen 360Hz monitors emerge on the market. Is a 360Hz monitor a worthwhile upgrade over 144Hz? Here we answer these questions and more.
Understanding Monitor Refresh Rate and Framerate
Refresh rate refers to the number of times a monitor “refreshes” with a new frame in one second. The standard refresh rate for most monitors, TVs, and phones is 60Hz. Refresh rate is closely tied to framerate (FPS), but the two are not exactly the same.
You can run a game at 100 FPS on a 60Hz monitor, but you won’t actually see the full benefits of 100 FPS. This is because your refresh rate determines the maximum framerate that your monitor can actually display.
Additionally, running games at a framerate higher than your monitor can support will result in screen tearing, which is disruptive to any gaming experience.
The GPU-Refresh Rate Relationship
Before moving onto the technicalities of refresh rates, response times and all that other stuff, it’s worth addressing the importance of the relationship between your GPU and refresh rate.
If you have a high refresh rate monitor, you should be able to run Windows at a high refresh rate no matter your GPU situation. You’ll see the difference in your mouse movement, which will be silky-smooth all over your screen, but beyond feeling a bit smoother, it doesn’t make a meaningful difference to your Windows experience.
To play games at a high refresh rate, you need to have a powerful GPU, and even then it’s very unlikely that you’ll be getting anywhere near a 360 Hz refresh rate. For perspective, looking at the per-game benchmarks of one of the most powerful GPUs on the market. On ultra settings at 1080p, it’s capable of achieving frame rates in the region of 100-180fps – nowhere near the 360fps your 360 Hz monitor is capable of. At an estimate, you’ll need to play games 10 years or older on a top-end GPU to achieve those ridiculously high framerates.
Furthermore, if your monitor has a 2560 x 1440 resolution or higher, then you’ll probably be prioritizing utilizing those higher resolutions rather than trying to hit those top frame-rates. From my personal perspective, once you’re going over 120fps, it’s diminishing returns because it becomes harder and harder for the human eye to perceive the difference.
Obviously just about every GPU out there is weaker than that, so the framerate you’ll be getting will be even lower and those 360Hz even less necessary.
To put it simply: 360Hz is for the serious enthusiasts, and 144Hz is the more sensible go-to for most gamers today.
A Quick Note on Response Times and Panel Types
When looking into high refresh rate displays, response time and panel type become much more important.
Response time (more accurately called pixel response time) measures the amount of time it takes for individual pixels to change colors. If your response time is too high, your image will be prone to ghosting and artifacts, which reduces the benefits of a high refresh rate in the first place.
Panel type has a direct impact on pixel response time due to the limitations of the technologies currently on the market. The main three panel types are TN, IPS, and VA.
- TN panels have the lowest response times and highest refresh rates, but at the cost of much worse image quality – especially noticeable when viewed off-axis.
- IPS panels can have great response times and refresh rates and have the best image quality but tend to be prohibitively expensive and slightly slower than TN panels across the board. Viewing angles are the best, too.
- VA panels are a decent in-between with especially good dark room performance, but VA panels are also the most notorious for having poor response times, even on high refresh rate VA displays. Viewing angles tend to be better than TN, though.
With all of this information in mind, we recommend sticking to TN or IPS panels if you choose to opt for a high refresh rate monitor (144Hz or higher), and a response time of 5-1 ms, 1 ms being the best case for a 360Hz display.
How Refresh Rate (and Framerate) Impacts Your Gameplay
Does a higher refresh rate and framerate make you better at games?
Yes and no. Ultimately, your skill and practice is going to be what determines your results, especially in eSports titles. However, low framerates and refresh rates are a bit of a disadvantage, especially if you have difficulty maintaining 60 FPS.
Real life is not perceived in individual frames like movies or games are, but if it were, you could imagine it as an effectively unlimited framerate. The only limiter on your ability to react to things in real life is your own hand-eye coordination.
Monitors are another story, though, and even a 144Hz monitor is a far cry from true-to-life motion. The simplest way to explain the difference between two otherwise-equal players with different monitors is that the one with the higher refresh rate is seeing the game update faster than the other player.
Especially in high octane action games, this can make all the difference. If you want to learn more, check out the study from Nvidia. This research shows a tangible improvement in player performance in Battle Royale titles with higher refresh rates.
Want to test out different refresh rates yourself? Click here to open the UFO Test in a compatible desktop browser. (Note: you will still be limited by your current monitor’s refresh rate but will be able to easily see the difference between high and low FPS.)
Conclusion: Do You Need a 360 Hz Monitor?
For most gamers (and definitely non-gamers and casual gamers), the biggest benefit you’ll see after upgrading from 60 Hz is at 144 Hz. 240 Hz and 360 Hz do offer further benefits, but these are ultimately marginal compared to the 60-to-144 leap and come at a great monetary cost.
Beside the much higher price of the monitors themselves, you’ll need to spend a lot more on your PC hardware in order to actually push 360Hz – and if you’re gaming on consoles, you can’t actually go past 120Hz anyway.
A high refresh rate monitor is a great upgrade to any gaming experience, but ultimately the only way to get better at a game is to… get better at a game. A fancy monitor won’t do that for you.