Comparing Refresh Rate and Frame Rate for Monitors

September 8, 2021

For many computer users, including gamers and others, the monitor chosen for a given setup plays a major role in performance and quality. Specifically, there are two metrics that computer owners tend to consider most closely when it comes to their monitor and how it works with the rest of their operations: Refresh rate and frame rate.

At Xidax, we’re happy to offer comprehensive assistance with the building of any custom gaming computer, workstation or one of our other computing products — including help with proper monitor selection and the factors that play a role in it. What are both refresh rate and frame rate, why are they often mixed up for one another, and how should they be considered when you’re choosing an ideal monitor for your computing setup? Here’s a primer.

Refresh Rate (Hz) Basics

For a computer monitor, refresh rate refers to the number of times the image on screen is refreshed every second. It is measured in hertz, or the number of times per second an image is refreshed. Refresh rate is also often given in a unit called ‘Ks,’ which means “per one thousand.”

For general use, refresh rates above 60Hz are considered ideal for gamers who want to play at competitive frame rates (the standard FPS range is 30-60), while those who mostly use their monitors for regular office work or other tasks requiring high detail may find that a rate of 75Hz or more is ideal.

Refresh rate may seem less important than frame rate, but there are a few reasons why it has such prominence:

  • Refresh Rate is an industry standard metric — Display manufacturers have worked to establish refresh rate as the industry-standard method of measuring this value. Though some customers still think in terms of frame rate (fps), manufacturers have made great strides in helping customers understand the advantages of high refresh rates.
  • Because monitor refresh rate decreases with a user’s distance from it, this is one way to reduce pixelation and blurring. Because it takes time for pixels on screen to change — according to the total refresh rate of the monitor — reducing the refresh rate results in a reduction of this time, leading to greater clarity.
  • Having high monitor refresh rates also reduces what is known as “input lag.” This is the time it takes for your computer’s graphics card to render an image and send it to the monitor — higher refresh rates simply mean that images are refreshed more rapidly, reducing input lag.

Frame Rate (FPS) Basics

Also known as frames per second, or FPS, frame rate is another metric in the computer monitor world that measures the amount of frames a monitor can display in one second. It’s commonly used to measure game performance, though it is also useful for other tasks where several images are being displayed rapidly.

Unlike refresh rate, which is standardized as hertz (Hz), frame rate is calculated by singular moments, measured in seconds: So, 30 FPS would mean that a monitor can turn each frame on screen every thirtieth of a second.

Generally speaking, any gaming enthusiast looking to build the best rig possible will set high frame rate (FPS) as their goal; competitive gamers who need to maintain consistent frame rates set this as their highest priority, and customers building workstations usually do so as well. Most businesses and other non-competitive users find that a rate of at least 30 FPS is suitable for their needs, though — unlike gamers — they won’t be playing any games on the monitor.

There’s also one important thing to consider when it comes to frame rate: Unlike refresh rates, which can vary from monitor to monitor, a video card is limited in the frame rates it can provide. While most modern cards can push 30 FPS on high settings very easily, they may struggle to do so on ultra-level settings.

How Refresh Rate and FPS Are Related

The important things to remember are that both refresh rate and frame rate are useful metrics that should be considered when selecting a monitor suited for your needs — and, while they are related in a few ways, it’s important to understand how they work together.

To begin with, high frame rates usually result in high refresh rates: Especially when you’re playing games or otherwise need your monitor to be working as hard as possible, you’ll want the highest refresh rate possible. This is because high FPS results in more images per second, which means the monitor has to work harder to keep up with it.

Because higher refresh rates mean that image refreshes happen very quickly, this can allow your video card to push even higher frame rates. This is important, since most monitors are limited to a certain frame rate on any given resolution by their native refresh rate. For instance, if a monitor can only display images at 60 Hz (60 fps), it’s unlikely that your system will be able to achieve higher than 120 FPS or so, even with the best components available.

Also remember that there are different types of high frame rates: Having 60 FPS on a monitor that refreshes every second means that you have 60 unique frames every single second, while 120 FPS results in an image being displayed twice per frame – but this is still considered “high.”

For more on refresh rate and frame rate for any computer monitor, or to learn about any of our gaming computers or other products, speak to the staff at Xidax today.

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