High Resolution
Full shot of a young man playing a first person shooter video game

High Resolution vs High Refresh Rate: Which One is Better for Gaming?

With the world coming to a standstill since 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, people have been stuck at home with very little to do. Because of this, the focus has been more on gaming than ever before. There are different genres of games, such as shooter, sports, action, adventure, simulation, etc. To play these games, there are different monitor requirements, such as a high resolution, a high refresh rate, etc.

Source: LawInSport

We hear terms like 2K, 4K, 8K, 60Hz, 144Hz, etc. when we’re looking to purchase monitors for our setups. But what exactly are these? And why exactly are they relevant to gaming? To know more, people need to be familiar with what resolutions & refresh rates are.

What is Resolution?

Resolution is defined as the number of pixels contained in a display monitor. The sharpness of the relevant image on display depends on the resolution as well as the size of the monitors. Higher resolutions mean that there are more pixels (tiny dots on the screen) per inch or PPI. This results in more pixel information and creating a high-quality, crisp image. For example, a “1080p” monitor has 1920 pixels horizontally across the screen, & 1080 vertically. Different types of popular display resolutions include:

  • 2K:
  1. 1080p (1920×1080) or Full HD (FHD)
  2. 1440p (2560×1440) or Quad HD (QHD)
  • 4K (UHD):
  1. 2160p (3840×2160)
  2. 2160p (4096×2160)
  • 8K (UHD):
  1. 4320p (7680×4320)

Another popular but older resolution would be 720p (1280×720) which is rarely considered anymore due to poorer quality.

Source: Screenrant

Monitors have a certain fixed maximum resolution. For example, a 1080p monitor will not be able to run a 1440p video, which will have to be downscaled. This means deleting some of the data from the video, resulting in worse quality. Higher resolutions are obtained with the help of relatively powerful graphics processing units, or GPUs.

What is Refresh Rate?

Refresh rate is defined as the number of times the new images on a monitor are updated each second. A monitor with a 60Hz refresh rate means the display updates 60 times per second. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the image looks. This can rise to as high as 240 times per second on a 240Hz monitor. This is imperceptible to a casual viewer but is extremely important when it comes to gaming. High frame rates are obtained by more powerful central processing units, or CPUs, rather than GPUs.

Nowadays, there are monitors with refresh rates of 60Hz, 144Hz, 240Hz, 360Hz, etc. Modern gaming platforms are such that games are animated at 100 FPS (frames per second) or higher. A high refresh rate helps the screen to keep pace with high inputs of gamers & translate them into very smooth actions. A mismatch between frame rates & refresh rates of monitors results in something called screen tearing. To put it simply, high action visuals are made to run slower than intended, resulting in a compromised viewing & playing experience. Response rates also play a huge role in refresh rates. This is the time a pixel takes to change colors. A lower response time results in faster changes & better performance.

Games that Benefit from High Resolution:

The most demanding games in recent years require the exploitation of the most advanced new graphic technologies. These games include The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Crysis 3, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption 2, etc. High graphics helps to improve one’s overall gaming experience. This becomes evident when one plays older video games. While realistic graphics is not as important as excellent gameplay, it is pleasing to the eye, & makes the game attractive to play. A game with aesthetically pleasing graphics automatically becomes interesting to play. 

Take Red Dead Redemption 2 for example. The game won 4 awards, & with the right settings, is one of the most immersive & realistic games to come out in recent times. In the game, every town is meticulously detailed with realistic-looking alleys, roads, bars, horse stables & so much more. The world is alive & & beautiful, & poses all the dangers that real life has in store for people.

At high graphics, textures are detailed to levels that beg belief for a game. One can clearly make out separate blades of grass while lying down. Details on lightning, landscape, clothes, character faces, weapons, & possibly everything is mind-blowing. There’s just so much content in the game that it’s impossible to come up with a summary of the story. It engages players in a way that encourages them to spend more time playing the game than just finishing it & moving on. I believe this is the hallmark of a great game.

Source: Reddit
Source: Reddit

Games that Benefit from High Refresh Rates:

The people who benefit from a high refresh rate monitor are those who play eSports games. Players of first person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valorant, Overwatch, etc. need them the most. A higher refresh rate means a smoother picture, & this makes it easier to track fast-paced action. Several players say that high refresh rates make it easier to aim since targets move more smoothly. If more information is sent to the brain in the form of more frequent frames, the movement looks sharper. High refresh rates also reduce input lag. For competitive gamers, every tiny advantage matters. If money isn’t an issue, then games can benefit from this small edge that high refresh rate monitors provide.

Source: Tech4Gamers
Source: EsportsResults

Which Option is Better?

For people who generally enjoy the in-game details & high-quality visuals, they would be better off gaming on 2K or 4K monitors. They could even go for 8K ones, but GPUs these days are not powerful enough to allow for it. However, 4K gaming is expensive & is recommended for those who can afford to spend on it. For players who are more into shooting games & prefer smoother gameplay, they should go for higher refresh rates. Going above 1440p would mean that gamers would have to compromise on higher frame rates. This is due to the fact that most of those monitors are capped at 75Hz. Similarly, going for 240Hz monitors results in a maximum resolution of 1080p.

Hence, for people who are into casual gaming, they would be better off getting a 1080p 60Hz monitor. These are highly affordable & widely available. However, there are people who take gaming seriously & are willing to spend extra money on better monitors. For them, the best options would be to either go for a 1440p 144Hz monitor, or a 1440p 165Hz one. These allow them the best of both worlds & ensure an excellent gaming experience. They cost $250 or above but are definitely worth it for the most passionate of gamers.

Nijhum Ghosh
An avid follower of cricket & football, I like to keep track of the eSports scene as well. I'm also a cinephile & consider myself to be tech-savvy.