144Hz Monitors: What Are They?

144Hz Monitors: What Are They?

By: Vinh Lam

Most people have probably heard or seen terms like “60Hz Monitor” and “144Hz Monitor” thrown around on the internet. But, what exactly are 60Hz and 144Hz monitors, and why should you pick one over the other?

What does the Hz stand for?

The Hz in the monitor’s description stands for its refresh rate. The refresh rate is the number of times a display refreshes its image per second, hence, refresh rate. For example, a 60Hz display will refresh its image 60 times a second while a 144Hz display would refresh it 144 times a second. To put it in simpler terms, the higher the refresh rate, the quicker the image updates, leading to a smoother experience. This is especially important for FPS or eSports games where a single millisecond can be the difference between victory or defeat. Higher refresh rates only work with specific interfaces and only to a certain resolution. The newest versions of HDMI and DisplayPort (2.1 and 1.4 respectively at the time of writing) can support up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K at 120Hz.

Is the Refresh Rate the Same as Frame Rate?

Sort of. The refresh rate works similarly to how frame rates of a video game work, with some big differences. The frame rate, or frames per second, is basically how many frames are rendered on the graphics card while the refresh rate is how many times the image is actually updated on the screen every second. Therefore, if a graphics card can render 300 frames per second but it outputs to a 60Hz display, the image that is displayed will have 5 times fewer frame updates than what is possible for the graphics card. There is also the matter of screen tearing. This can happen if the graphics card is outputting more frames per second than the refresh rate of the monitor.

An example of Screen Tearing (Wikimedia Commons)

V-Sync can solve the issue by capping the number of frames the graphics card can output per second to the refresh rate, but it comes with a performance penalty. Some displays feature a technology that can dynamically adjust the refresh rate so it matches the number of frames that a graphics card is currently outputting. AMD calls it FreeSync while Nvidia calls it G-Sync. While FreeSync monitors usually cost around the same amount as regular 144Hz monitors and will run over HDMI cables, G-Sync monitors can command a premium of $100 or more and will only run over DisplayPort.

Should Everyone get a 144Hz Display if they can?

No. If the graphics card can’t even achieve 60fps in most games, then moving to a higher refresh rate monitor would be a waste of money, especially considering that 144Hz monitors tend to cost more than their 60Hz counterparts. But if the graphics card is capable of outputting, say, 240fps in many games, then it would definitely be worth it to move to a higher refresh rate monitor. Higher refresh rate displays tend to have worse image quality and color accuracy than 60Hz displays, so if most of the work done on the display is going to be photo editing or video editing, then a 60hz display would be better. That being said, when people who have used 144Hz monitors move back to 60Hz displays, they mention how sluggish everything seems to feel, from the cursor speed to video games.

What about 240Hz Displays?

240Hz displays are fairly new compared to 144Hz displays, but they are becoming more commonplace nowadays, albeit at a higher price. If the computer can reliably output 240fps or above, then a 240Hz display might be a worthwhile upgrade from a 144Hz display. However, users have noted that the improvement from 144Hz to 240Hz is less noticeable than the improvement from 60Hz to 144Hz.

The Final Verdict

So, should people choose 144Hz, 240Hz, or 60Hz? Well, it really depends on the workload. If the monitor is just going to be used for web surfing or if people are going to be editing photos or videos on it, then they should go for the 60Hz monitors, partially because 60Hz displays normally have better image quality and partially because 60Hz displays tend to cost less than their higher refresh rate counterparts. The 144Hz and 240Hz monitors are mostly geared towards gamers as they stand to benefit the most from a high refresh rate. Gamers should pay special attention to the refresh technology of the monitors that they are planning to buy as FreeSync will only work with AMD graphics cards and G-Sync will only work with Nvidia graphics cards. Basically, if you aren’t going to be playing competitive games on the monitor, you should probably go for the 60Hz monitor.

How is this even remotely related to Engineering?

Quite a bit of engineering actually went into developing the pixels on these displays so that they would refresh fast enough to achieve 100Hz or higher. Some displays also feature either G-Sync or FreeSync technologies. Both technologies were engineered to allow displays to dynamically adjust their refresh rate to the current framerate that the graphics card is outputting.

Links to More Information on 144Hz Monitors

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Recommended Gaming Monitors

Video Resources

Comparison of the different refresh rates