It’s a debate that’s been going on for a while now:
Is upgrading to a setup that can support 144, 240, or even higher frames per second worth it for competitive gaming?
If you just want the short answer: of course! Graphics cards and monitors are more powerful than ever and with a wide variety of graphics cards available you can get exactly the performance you need at the price you can afford.
For the longer answer we’ll delve a little deeper. We need to go into the specific advantages that gaming at higher FPS and refresh rates will give you as a competitive gamer, and we’ll later supplement our conclusions with stats and figures from the professional players and what they are using.
For the sake of simplicity we’ll compare the different breakpoints of 144Hz and 240Hz because they’re the most commonly used high refresh setups, though there are also 360Hz monitors out there these days. Of course, a high refresh rate monitor is required and your graphics card needs to be able to push enough frames towards it. As a rule of thumb you want a setup that can exceed the refresh rate of your monitor in frames per second. A setup with a 240Hz monitor hooked up to a system producing 350 frames per second is still better than a system with a 240Hz monitor that produces just over 240 frames per second.
Advantages of high FPS and refresh rates
If you’re not quite convinced how a low framerate might hamper your ability to track whatever is going on around you we can point you to an excellent video by NVIDIA. We’ve linked it to the right, but feel free to full screen it as well so that you can really see what a huge difference a higher refresh rate can make.
Moving images (such as games) are essentially created by displaying a series of still images in rapid succession, and the lower the framerate the ‘choppier’ the moving image appears.
A 144Hz gaming monitor (that’s hooked up to a graphics card and system that can produce 144+ frames per second) refreshes the image on your screen more than twice as fast as what a regular 60Hz display would be capable of, so it should come as no surprise that these higher refresh rate monitors make it a lot easier to accurately track whatever is going on inside the game. So in essence, a 144Hz monitor will make the game world appear a lot smoother and more ‘lifelike’ when it comes to motion.
The advantages don’t end there, however. A regular 60 FPS setup has an end to end latency in the range of 55 to 75ms (if you’re playing in fullscreen) while a 144 FPS setup ranges from 30 to 45ms. A setup that’s running at 240 frames per second has an end to end latency between 20 and 35 milliseconds, which means that a high frames per second setup gives you advantages that go beyond only the visual aspect. A high framerate setup translates your inputs much faster, which can give you an advantage in those close fights. That’s why you’ll see (for example) CS:GO professionals with framerates that are well above 240. You might think that that’s overkill, as their monitors can’t display more than 240 frames per second, but the advantages of a rig that can push a lot of frames go beyond what you can see on your monitor.
In addition to that, higher refresh rates also reduce the amount of visible screen tearing (see: ‘What is V-Sync’) and motion blur (see: ‘What is Motion Blur (Reduction)?‘) which is another big advantage when it comes to image clarity.
Summing up we can say that a 144Hz (or higher) setup gives you a much smoother and responsive image, as well as a more direct and responsive connection to the game. This is an invaluable advantage if you’re playing competitive games.
240+ Hz as the competitive minimum
Looking at the graph to the right it’s quite clear that 240 Hz really is the current competitive standard. In fact, less than 1% (0.1%, to be precise) of our analyzed professional gamers are playing on a standard refresh rate 60Hz monitor.
240Hz is the most popular refresh rate at this point in time, as you can see. Higher refresh rate monitors have been out for a while now, but these don’t get adopted as widely and as quickly as what we saw with the 240Hz monitors back when they came out. This could have something to do with the fact that there are diminishing returns when going for higher framerates, and also with the fact that a lot of games simply can’t reliably run at 360 frames per second or higher.
You can run most older generations of games (like CS:GO, for example) at 240HZ with a mid-tier CPU and GPU combo. However, for modern games (like Fortnite, Apex Legends, etc.) you’ll need a top tier setup.
Most used refresh rates
Image refresh rates (in ms)
240Hz vs 144Hz vs 60Hz
A lot of gamers say that the jump from 144Hz to 240Hz isn’t as massive as the jump from 60 to 144, and we tend to agree. Looking at the image refresh times (to the right) you can see that the jump from 60 to 144 Hertz is larger than the jump from 144 to 240 Hertz.
However, that does not mean that the difference isn’t worth it.
Going from 144Hz to 240Hz still means that you’re (roughly speaking) going from a frame every 6.95 ms to a frame every 4.17 ms, and opting for a 360Hz panel cuts that down to a mere 2.8ms, which does mean that there’s definitely a benefit when it comes to the clarity and fluidity of the image on the screen.
If you’ve got the machine to handle it (and the money to spend) we always recommend going for a 240 or 360 frames per second setup as that’s simply better in every way, but if you’re on a bit of a budget or your PC cannot push enough frames for a 240Hz display you can opt for a lower refresh rate monitor (i.e. 180, 165, or 144 Hz) in a pinch.
240 frames per second is the target though, so we do recommend you to start steering your hardware in that direction if you want to be serious about competitive gaming.
High refresh rate gaming requirements
Before you invest in a shiny new high refresh rate setup you should make sure that your PC is up for the task. It’s no secret that games get more and more demanding with each passing year, as new technologies and rendering techniques help developers push boundaries when it comes to visual fidelity. This all means that you’ll need a pretty beefy PC to get the most out of a high refresh rate monitor.
At ProSettings.net we believe that framerate takes precedence over visual fidelity (feel free to check out or recommended settings and options guides under ‘guides’) so we always recommend people to turn down (a few) ingame video settings in order to achieve the best balance between having enough frames to get that silky smooth and responsive 144+ Hz experience while still maintaining a game that doesn’t look like a pixelated and confusing mess.
Still, there is a minimum amount of graphical processing power required if you want to feed enough frames per second to your monitor, so you will need a powerful GPU (Graphical Processing Unit) if you want to game at higher framerates.
As mentioned, the GPU that you decide on will depend on your game of choice. Some games require a lot more horsepower to run at high framerates than others, which is why we make GPU guides for all of our analyzed games. Feel free to check those out under ‘guides’.
You don’t need any special software to play games at higher refresh rates, but it’s important that you make sure that the higher refresh rate is enabled in Windows. To do this, go to settings -> system -> display -> advanced display settings -> display adaptor properties -> monitor and select the native refresh rate of your monitor (make sure to click ‘Apply’) under monitor settings – screen refresh rate.
Aside from that, you should also run your game of choice in full screen. This is always recommend in our settings guides, but we thought we’d mention it here again. Running a game in full screen gives you the least amount of latency, which is what you want if you want to get the most out of a high refresh rate.
You should also make sure to enable your game to run at higher refresh rates. This setting is normally found under the video settings tab of your favorite game.
It can be a good idea to set your Pre-rendered frames to 1, either in the control panel of your graphics card or in the ingame settings (some games have this setting in the form of, for example ‘future frame rendering’, others don’t) though it’s been reported that his can give issues with some games, so it’s best to test this out before heading into a ranked game.
G-Sync and FreeSync
G-Sync and FreeSync often get mentioned when people are talking about high fps and refresh rates, and many ask themselves the question ‘do I need it?’ The answer is twofold; when you’re gaming at, for example, 240 frames per second on a 240Hz monitor there will probably be instances where you drop below that 240 mark, which can cause screen tearing. Technologies such as G-Sync eliminate that entirely, which results in a smoother experience, even when the action gets tough.
Rumor has it these technologies can introduce a bit of input lag. Interestingly, the higher the frame rates the lower the input lag and at 240 FPS the input lag is close to impossible to notice. Tearing, however, is still noticeable even at 240 FPS and can distract you in critical moments, which can lead to lost fights and matches and the latency that’s introduced by G-Sync in particular is almost negligible so it’s definitely something to consider in case you’re struggling with tearing.
Either way, both technologies can be turned off, so it doesn’t hurt to get yourself a setup that with the most recent sync technology.
60 vs 144 vs 240 Hz conclusion
There’s a particularly stubborn myth/meme on the internet that says that ‘humans can’t see more than 30/60 fps‘ but that is categorically false. A high refresh rate setup (we consider 144Hz to be the absolute minimum) greatly improves the smoothness and fluidity of the image on your screen, as well as the overall responsiveness, and it reduces latency. On top of that it also greatly reduces screen tearing and ghosting issues, so it’s not hard to see how a high refresh rate monitor can improve your gameplay.
In fact we are seeing 99.9% of our analyzed professionals across all of our games using a setup that’s capable of displaying at least 144 frames per second.
In summary: If your main focus is competing in multiplayer games, a GPU that can hit 144+ frames (and a monitor that can display them) should be on or near the top of your ‘must buy’ list. You won’t want to go back to 60Hz for competitive gaming ever again.