The relationship between a monitor’s refresh rate and the frames per second (FPS) produced by a game or video source is central to delivering a smooth visual experience. With gaming monitors increasingly offering refresh rates upwards of 144Hz, a common question is whether these higher refresh rate monitors can properly support games running at 120 FPS.
Monitor Refresh Rates and FPS
Monitor Refresh Rates
A monitor’s refresh rate, measured in Hertz (Hz), specifies how many times per second the display updates with a new image. Standard monitors have a 60Hz refresh rate, while fast gaming monitors can have refresh rates of 120Hz, 144Hz or even 240Hz.
For example, a 144Hz monitor refreshes the display 144 times per second. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother and more responsive games and videos will appear.
FPS (Frames Per Second)
FPS refers to how many frames per second a game or video source outputs. The higher the FPS, the smoother and more fluid motion will seem. For the best experience, the FPS should match the monitor’s refresh rate – i.e. 120 FPS for a 120Hz monitor.
If FPS is lower than the refresh rate, the display will duplicate frames. For instance, at 100 FPS on a 144Hz monitor, some frames will be displayed twice. If FPS is higher than the refresh rate, visual tearing can occur as the next frame starts before the previous one has finished.
144Hz Monitors and 120 FPS
144Hz monitors are inherently capable of running at 120Hz to support 120 FPS sources. However, some monitors may be limited over HDMI and only support their full 144Hz refresh rates when connected via DisplayPort to a PC.
This is because the two connection types have different bandwidths. So while 144Hz monitors can technically handle 120 FPS from a gaming console over HDMI, monitor specifications and cable limitations could prevent reaching the full 120Hz refresh rate needed for tear-free 120 FPS gameplay.
For example, some Xbox users report their 144Hz monitor would only do 1440p at 60Hz over HDMI. But when connected to a PC via DisplayPort, it could handle 1440p at 144Hz. So console gamers need to research monitors carefully to ensure they can actually reach 120Hz over HDMI.
Gaming Performance at 120 FPS on 144Hz
When a 144Hz monitor runs at 120Hz to correctly match a game’s 120 FPS output, the experience is smooth and seamless. Frame pacing remains consistent with a new frame displayed every 8.33ms. There are no duplicated frames causing stuttering, or visual tearing from mismatched FPS and Hz.
Gameplay maintains excellent motion clarity and responsiveness at 120 FPS on a 144Hz monitor. For competitive gaming, this high frame rate offers a key visual advantage over standard 60Hz displays. The ultra-smooth visuals allow players to easily track moving targets and react quicker to threats. Esports professionals overwhelmingly favor 144Hz+ monitors paired with frameworks above 100 FPS for maximizing gaming performance.
In summary, 144Hz monitors are inherently capable of running games at 120 FPS smoothly. But technical quirks can prevent them from doing so over HDMI on some gaming consoles. Careful research is needed to find monitors that demonstrably support 120Hz on the desired platform.
The Gaming Experience
G-Sync and FreeSync
Variable refresh rate (VRR) technologies like Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync are important for ensuring smooth frame pacing and an optimal gaming experience on high refresh rate monitors. By dynamically syncing the monitor’s refresh rate to the GPU’s frame rate output, VRR eliminates screen tearing and stuttering that could otherwise occur with mismatched refresh rates and FPS.
Screen Tearing and Microstutter
Enabling VSync is recommended to prevent screen tearing in games where frame rates exceed the monitor’s maximum refresh rate. Microstutter can also occur when frame rates do not align evenly with refresh rates, especially in slower paced games where the effect is more noticeable. Using a monitor’s native resolution and refresh rate provides the smoothest results.
For Console Gamers
Xbox X and PS5 with 144Hz Monitors
The Xbox Series X fully supports 1440p at 120Hz for compatible monitors, providing silky smooth gameplay. The PS5 requires a monitor’s HDMI 2.1 port to output 1440p at 120Hz, with some reports of HDMI 2.0 ports limiting frames rates. Console gamers need to research monitor specs carefully to ensure HDMI ports can support the desired resolutions and high refresh rates.
Monitor Connectors and Cables
A monitor’s connector types like HDMI 2.0, HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort determine what resolutions and refresh rates are supported. Monitor specs may only list the peak capabilities like 144Hz, when in reality HDMI ports are often limited to lower refresh rates. Using the proper cables is essential.
Motion Clarity and High Refresh Rates
High refresh rate monitors drastically improve motion clarity in games through smoother rendering and lower input lag. This advantage is clearly visible when upgrading from a standard 60Hz display to a 144Hz or 240Hz monitor. Competitive multiplayer gamers favor 120Hz+ monitors to react faster.
Thinking of an Upgrade?
Moving from a 60Hz to a high refresh rate 120Hz or 144Hz monitor provides a transformative gaming experience. The fluid smooth visuals and responsive controls are a night and day difference. With the right monitor and compatible hardware, 120 FPS on a 144Hz display takes gaming to the next level.
In summary, 120 FPS gaming on a 144Hz monitor works extremely well. The monitor refreshes seamlessly in sync with the high frame rate output. Features like G-Sync or FreeSync eliminate artifacts through variable refresh rates. With the right monitor specifications and proper setup, a buttery smooth 120 FPS experience can be achieved on both PC and next-gen consoles.