Is a Higher Refresh Rate Better for Your Eyes?
Published3 months ago
If you’re shopping for a new phone, TV, or monitor, you’ve probably heard the term refresh rate. There are smartphones that come with 120 Hz while monitors can go as high as 360 Hz.
Companies claim that a higher refresh rate is better for eye health. Is this the truth or just a gimmick?
What Is Refresh Rate on a Device?
To put it simply, a refresh rate refers to the number of times your screen refreshes the display per second. Measured in hertz (Hz), it’s sometimes referred to as the flickering frequency.
For example, if the display refreshes 70 times in a second, its refresh rate is 70 Hz.
Refresh Rate vs Frame Rate
Frame rate is the frequency in which videos and games can display frames. Basically, when you’re watching a video, you’re looking at hundreds of still frames, flashing one after another to make it look like it’s moving.
Measured in frames per second (fps), video games are usually at 30 to 60 fps while YouTube caps out at 60 fps.
If your GPU is capable of displaying 120 fps, a 60 Hz monitor can only show half of those frames. On the other hand, a 120 Hz monitor will be wasted on a GPU that can only show 60 fps.
How Many FPS Can the Human Eye Detect?
Despite earlier research supporting the widely accepted 60 fps standard, 2014 research found that the human eye and brain can actually detect images faster than 100 milliseconds. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, some people can process an image that the eyes see for just 13 milliseconds.
Thirteen milliseconds is roughly 75 fps.
Is a Higher Refresh Rate Easier on Your Eyes?
Yes, a higher refresh rate is easier on the eyes because there’s minimal flickering. Here’s a video comparing different frame rates.
As you can see, lower frame rates look choppy while higher ones look smoother and more lifelike. Hence, higher refresh rates, which can handle higher frame rates, lead to less eye strain.
When it comes to eye fatigue, 75Hz or higher is a good number to aim for. Beyond that, other factors relating to monitor ergonomics such as the placement of the monitor will have a bigger impact on your eyes’ health.
Should You Get a New Monitor with a 360 Hz Refresh Rate?
Most people won’t consciously discern the difference between a 60 Hz and 120Hz refresh rate. So, a 360 Hz monitor is just overkill unless you’re a competitive gamer (more on this in a bit).
What’s more, films usually have just 24 fps and even Youtube is maxed out at 60 fps. The same goes for most apps. A standard monitor can handle 60 Hz with ease.
And again, your GPU should be just as powerful as your monitor. If the frame rate that your graphics card is sending isn’t in sync with your monitor’s refresh rate, screen tearing can happen. Screen tearing is when multiple frames are shown on your screen at the same time without being aligned properly.
To keep it short, a 120 Hz refresh rate is a happy medium if your GPU can handle it.
Can Refresh Rate Affect Your Gaming Performance?
If you often play first-person shooter games like Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, then a higher refresh rate can really make a difference.
For starters, the more frames that a monitor is showing, the more information the player has. When you have more data in your hands, the better you are at making split second decisions which are crucial for fast-paced action.
A higher refresh rate also reduces input lag. This is the time that passes between you making a move and your monitor showing that action.
We’re talking about millisecond changes here. If you’re a competitive gamer, you want everything to be at its peak performance so you have every advantage that you can get. But, if you’re just a casual player, you won’t likely need a 144 Hz refresh rate.
For most people, a 60 Hz to 120 Hz refresh rate is enough. If you still want to upgrade your monitor, it’s better to just spend it on a larger display with a higher resolution or better image quality. You should also consider getting a curved monitor which can minimize distortion , give you a wider field of view, and improve viewing angles.
On the other hand, if your computer can’t even push 60 frames per second, focus instead on upgrading your graphics card and other CPU components.
Remember, there are a lot of things that contribute to a smooth PC experience, and refresh rate is just one of them.
Dan Western is the founder of Gaming Gorilla, as well as several other infotainment blogs. When he's not working on his business, he's likely in the gym or playing video games. Dan's current setup is a PS5/Nintendo Switch living room setup, and a custom RTX 3090, I9-10850K inside the Lian Li 011D Mini for his office setup.
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