Refresh rates matter, but only up till a certain point.
In recent months, we’ve seen a growing number of 1080p displays with blistering native 240Hz refresh rates. These monitors feature TN panels with very ordinary FHD resolutions, and picture quality and viewing angles are quite frankly unimpressive, especially if you’ve gotten used to an IPS panel.
Why would anyone want them?
Because of the butter-smooth experience you get from being able to display 240 frames per second. Is someone strafing in a panic across your screen? Gun him down with zero motion blur and pixel-precise tracking!
If you own a 60Hz monitor, moving to a 144Hz screen is probably one of the most significant upgrades you can make. The difference is apparent even at the desktop, where regular mouse movements and repositioning of windows appear a lot more fluid.
The smoother experience also makes tracking targets and responding to fast-paced action ingame a lot easier and more natural.
It’s almost as if an invisible barrier between your actions and how they translate on screen has been lifted, and once you’ve been spoiled by 144Hz, it’s almost impossible to go back.
So a 240Hz monitor should be another huge step up, right?
Unfortunately, no. When I first heard about the opportunity to try out a 240Hz monitor, I jumped at it. After all, the upgrade from a 60Hz monitor to a 144Hz gaming display did send me into paroxysms of ecstasy.
All of the claims about 240Hz screens are true – ultra-smooth and fluid gameplay with minimal motion blur – but the problem is that they are true for 144Hz displays as well.
On paper, a 240Hz panel sounds like it should be a lot more fluid than a 144Hz equivalent, but that’s just not the case. The law of diminishing returns kicks in in a big way, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a 144Hz and 240Hz screen without special testing programs.
If you own a 60Hz monitor, upgrading to 240Hz will give you a vastly improved experience. But you could get a very similar experience and better picture quality with a 144Hz IPS display, and if you already have a 144Hz monitor, it’s hardly worth the upgrade to 240Hz.
240Hz monitors aren’t mere gimmicks. They just don’t make enough of a difference to be attractive at their current price points and feature sets. I’ll embrace them with open arms when they catch up with 144Hz monitors in variety, features, and price, but a monitor needs more than just a 240Hz refresh rate to be compelling.