Monitors are possibly the most important part of any computer setup. No matter what components are inside of your computer, your monitor is what will be displaying their power. Many computer enthusiasts have realized this, and are spending thousands of dollars for multi-monitor setups, faster displays, and 3D technology. With this expanding market, display companies are scrambling to make new features to make consumers purchase their product. With all of these new features, some will be quite “gimmicky”, and useless, and others will be very useful and advance the technology. Recently, there’s been a push in 120Hz monitors. Is this another gimmick, or is this the killer feature to be looking for?
What are Hz? Why is more better?
Hz is an abbreviation for Hertz, which is the rate your monitor refreshes the image in refreshes divided by seconds. 60Hz, the usual refresh rate for monitors, is 60 refreshes per second, or 60 frames per second. This is the most commonly used refresh rate for many reasons, most largely because the human eye is thought to only see 60 distinct instances per second. If this is true, then why would having higher refresh rates matter? An eye doesn’t go at exactly 60 frames per second like your monitor will, and every eye is different, so a higher refresh rate could theoretically help balance out these differences.
60Hz is the normal amount, so why would the display manufacturers jump up to double that amount? Why wouldn’t they release displays with amounts around 80-100Hz first? Display companies chose to double the refresh rates largely for 3D support. With 120hz, you have two 60Hz bands running at the same time. To get a 3D experience from this, you would simply have the separate images for each eye on different bands, and glasses to separate the two. When not being used for 3D, both bands work together to form a true 120fps experience, which refreshes much faster than the human eye.
How noticeable is the difference?
As the “framebuff” that I am (lame pun intended), I can’t play anything under 50 fps. I assumed that 120Hz and it’s ability to allow over 60fps would be nice, but I didn’t think it would be too big a difference. After truly experiencing gaming at 120Hz, I can confirm that the difference is amazing. Even just playing around on the desktop, the fluidity of the display is shockingly smoother. The first difference I noticed is the movement of the cursor, which appeared to be much less rigid (not that it was rigid before.) Moving a window around was much smoother as well, as was opening and closing animations. Once brought into the gaming realm, these differences carried over. When the frame rate went over 60 fps, the difference was much easier to notice. VSync was no longer necessary, as no tearing would occur, and the higher frame rates actually could be displayed. It’s a hard to describe experience, but it is drastically different.
What is the price difference? Is it worth it?
The difference in price is a bit drastic, to say the least. The cheapest 120Hz monitor I was able to find was $300, and included very few features compared to a $150 60Hz display. If you’re as obsessed with frame rates as I am, and commonly see your PC getting frames over 60fps, then the price jump of $200-300 may be worth it for you. If you’re looking for a 3D setup, it’s definitely worth it. Otherwise, 60Hz is the way to go.
120Hz displays will likely become much more common as the tech world evolves. With computers more easily getting over the 60 fps bar, displays will have to follow. For now, definitely try a 120Hz monitor before making the jump.