Refresh Rate vs. Response Time

images on screen

Refresh Rate vs. Response Time

If you’re a gamer, you may know the frustrations of image lag. With several moving parts and vital reactions in modern games, any skip in the game could fail. If you’re struggling with high image latency (the space between one image and another), you might be looking at aspects such as refresh rate and response time. However, you may also be wondering what the difference is. Both of these concepts deal with speed, but at totally different levels. Do you need one more than the other? If you’re trying to compare response time vs. refresh rate, check out the information below.

Response Time vs. Refresh Rate: Side-by-Side Comparison

Refresh RateResponse Time
What does it do?:Affects the number of times the monitor can show an image per second.The amount of time it takes for a pixel to change colors (gray to gray).
Measurement Units:Hertz (Hz)Milliseconds (ms)
Range:60 Hz or aboveFive ms or less
Scale:More Hz results in better latency.fewer ms results in smoother transitions.
Sweet Spot:144 HzOne ms
Complications:30 Hz or less10 ms or more

Refresh Rate vs. Response Time: Eight Must-Know Facts

Refresh Rate

  • Affects the number of times the monitor can show an image per second.
  • The amount of frames caps at a monitor’s Hz, even if the CPU can handle higher FPS.
  • Lower Hz ratings can result in image tearing or ghosting.
  • Most video game monitors feature 60 Hz, and 144 Hz is preferrable among enthusiasts.

Response Time

  • Represents the time it takes for a pixel to change colors.
  • Manufacturers typically display a monitor’s response rate based on its grey to grey (GTG) time.
  • Response time works alongside input lag to make up a display’s image latency.
  • Response times of five ms or less are ideal for gaming, although some manufacturers still produce monitors with response times of 10 ms or more. 

Refresh Rate: What Your Monitor Can Do For You

The refresh rate is measured in Hertz (Hz).

If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably heard of refresh rate. This is the concept that refers to the number of times a monitor sends out an image. It’s measured in Hertz, which represents how many times an image can be shown per second. For instance, if a monitor has a refresh rate of 60 Hz, it can show up to 60 images per second.

In general, the lag that comes from the refresh rate has to do with the number of images your monitor is showing. If there aren’t enough frames per second (FPS), your brain can’t make the connection from one frame to the next, resulting in scenes that skip.

On the other hand, your monitor will typically cap the FPS in a game. If your CPU is capable of processing 120 FPS but your monitor only has 60 Hz, your game will only show 60 frames.

Screen Tearing and Ghosting

Maybe you’ve noticed a sharp line across the screen of your video game where the image doesn’t line up. This is what’s called screen tearing; a desync of the CPU sending information to your monitor. It typically happens when the FPS rating of your CPU is different than the Hertz capacity of your monitor. 

Another display issue you might experience with your monitor is image ghosting. This is when moving images on your screen leave blurry trails or discolored images following behind them. It typically occurs when the refresh rate of your monitor is too low to refresh the image in response to the moving scene on your screen.

To remedy these image issues, all you have to do is adjust the settings of your monitor and CPU to optimize your FPS. You want your refresh rate as high as you can get it, and for your computer to match its output. An easy way to achieve this synchronicity is using a G-Sync or FreeSync monitor, which automatically matches the frame rate of your monitor to what your computer is producing. 

Response Time: How Long is Too Long?

The response time is measured in milliseconds (ms).

The response time is the time it takes for your monitor to change the color of a pixel. While its true measurement goes from black to white, which takes the longest, most manufactures measure display their monitor’s gray to gray (GTG) response time. 

This aspect of your monitor is measured in milliseconds (ms) and people find smoother transitions the lower this number is. At 5ms or lower, video games run smoothly without much lag or ghosting. However, with more response time, moving images can trail, resulting in a less enjoyable experience.

Input Lag

The measurement of response time works hand-in-hand with input lag in the overall input latency. Where the response time measures how quickly the pixels can change color after they’ve received the command, the input lag represents how quickly your computer can process an input command (such as keyboard taps) and create the next image to send to the monitor.

With these two aspects in mind, the perceived lag can get out of hand. You can improve performance with updated peripherals, such as monitors with low GTG ratings or wired keyboards and mouses.

Refresh Rate vs. Response Time: Which is More Important?

When looking at optimizing your experience for gaming, you’re likely to compare refresh rate vs response time. But in actuality, you need good metrics in both of these aspects for the smoothest images. Gamers looking to update their rigs should look for high refresh rates and low response times. 

When it comes to which one is more important, you’ll find your greatest improvement in better refresh rates. However, this improvement becomes marginal the higher the number. While you’ll notice a large difference from 30Hz to 60Hz, it’s hardly worth the money past 120Hz.

When it comes to response time, you won’t find noticeable improvements unless you cut out several milliseconds. Because response time only makes up a part of the overall image latency, you’ll have to improve aspects of input lag in conjunction for the best results.


Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between refresh rate and response time?

Refresh rate is the number of images that your monitor can display in a second. Response time is the amount of time it takes to change a pixel from one color to another.

Is refresh rate more important than response time?

The refresh rate has more potential to improve image latency than response time, with exceptions. Anything over 120Hz will become hardly noticeable.

What response time is good for gaming?

5ms or less is a good response time for gaming. Reducing your input lag will also improve your gaming experience in this area.

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