Getting right to the difference between refresh rates and frame rate…
60 Hz and 60 FPS (frames per second) are interrelated, but not the same thing. 60 Hz refers to the refresh rate of your display while 60 FPS is the number of frames per second rendered by your PC or console.
To put it another way, the frame rate determines how fluid any particular game is while the refresh rate of your monitor (or TV) will dictate how smooth a game will appear.
PC gaming has always been sort of in love with high FPS and lower latency, but the Xbox Series X|S and PS5 helped the appeal of smoother frame rate hit critical mass. How do FPS and refresh rate actually affect your gaming? Playing something like Halo Infinite at a solid 60 FPS on a 60 Hz monitor is always going to appear smoother than playing at 30 FPS on that same monitor, and playing will feel much more responsive as a result.
But in a scenario like the one above your monitor or TV is usually going to be the gatekeeper of how smooth and responsive a game will play. You’ll only ever see 60 FPS, 120 FPS, 144 FPS, or more if your monitor matches your target FPS in Hz. Hertz (Hz) is a measure of frequency and conveys how often your screen is visually updated per second.
That’s why monitors at 144 Hz and up are all the rage. Many popular competitive titles like Valorant and CS: GO are well optimized, and it’s easy to hit higher frame rates as a result. Even consoles like the Xbox Series X are able to push 120 FPS in Halo Infinite, Modern Warfare 2, Destiny 2, and many other games.
But even if your monitor can only output at 60 Hz, it can still be worth it to push past 60 frames per second. The short of it is that frame rates that exceed 60 FPS outputted to a 60 Hz monitor can effectively cut down on latency. You won’t see smoother gameplay, but you might feel it through responsiveness.
The downside of this is that exceeding 60 FPS on a 60 Hz display can introduce screen tearing. This will depend on your monitor or TV, but it’s something to look out for. I’ve noticed that my Sony X800D TV is really susceptible to tearing and I either limit my frame rate to 60 FPS or enable Nvidia Fast Sync if that doesn’t do the trick. Some games can be really stubborn with screen tearing too (Diablo 4 comes to mind).
You’ll have to experiment and see what works best for your setup – there’s going to be trade offs either way. Where pushing past 60 FPS reduces latency, Vsync decreases responsiveness. Certain games may also introduce more screen tearing than others. You know it when you see it and the increased latency from Vsync is worth it when tearing completely wrecks the experience.
To recap – 60 FPS and 60 Hz go hand in hand, but they refer to different things. Frame rate is the fluidity that comes from your gaming PC or console while refresh rate determines how smooth gameplay will appear. Going above your monitors refresh rate (120 FPS on a 60 Hz display) can reduce latency, but also increases the risk of screen tearing.
I personally find screen tearing to be insufferable, but as with most things in PC gaming, the dance between refresh and frame rates is a bit of give and take.
Lover of games, tech, nature, and strange electronic music. Shaped by Sega, PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox – platform agnostic ever since. Currently overwhelmed by choice on my Xbox Series X thanks to Game Pass.