Refresh Rate vs Response Time on a Computer Monitor

Updated: Feb 13, 2024 4:05 PM
refresh rate vs response time guide

If you’ re shopping for a brand new display, you may be looking to compare refresh rate vs response time. The best computer monitors, after all, tend to list a number of crucial specifications, refresh rate and response time among them. Let’s explore the differences between the two, and why you might need to keep an eye on each while shopping.

Key Takeaways_

  • Although they are related in some ways, refresh rate and response time cannot be directly compared, as they are two separate specs.
  • A monitor’s rate of refresh refers to the number of times it completely refreshes the display each second.
  • A monitor’s response time refers to how long it takes for a pixel to change from one color to another.

Differences Between Refresh Rate and Response Time

First of all, it’s important to note this is not an either/or scenario. A modern display should have both a high refresh rate and a low response time. Each serves its own purpose in providing a sharp, responsive image.

What is Refresh Rate?

Refresh rate refers to how many times your monitor can display a brand new image per second. In most cases, the higher the better. Refresh rate is measured in a format called Hz. When a monitor is said to feature a 60Hz refresh rate, that means it completely refreshes the screen 60 times per second. Modern displays typically feature a 120Hz or 144Hz rate, with a new gaming monitor leaning on the higher side. 

Why is Refresh Rate Important?

In most cases, you would not even notice the rate of a refresh. If you are working on a document, surfing the web, or even watching a movie, even a slower rate will get the job done. Ultra-fast refresh rates are of paramount importance, however, when looking for a premium gaming experience or when accessing a high-grade game mode, which is why G-Sync and FreeSync are important to consider if you’re an avid gamer. This is especially true with playing cutting-edge competitive games, though may not be that important to casual gamers. If you are looking to compare HDMI vs DVI cables, you may notice that the latter cannot handle certain high rates.

insider tip

Higher refresh rates can also come with a greater performance overhead, especially when gaming. Make sure your video card is up to task before making an upgrade.

What is Response Time?

Response time is a measurement of the time it takes for a pixel to change from one color to another. It’s measured in milliseconds, the lower the better. For instance, a 2ms response time is preferable to an 8ms response time—and yes, even that tiny span of time can make all the difference in the best gaming monitors on the market.

Why is Response Time Important?

Low response time is essential in combatting motion blur, screen tearing, and ghosting artifacts when objects move quickly on screen. Again, response time won’t be too important while surfing the web, so you could probably tolerate a lower end spec in those cases. However, it’s something to pay attention to while playing fast-paced games . It can also matter while watching fast-paced videos or sports.

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