Display essentials: do monitors affect fps?

3 minute read

Despite TV manufacturers catering to gamers, monitors largely remain a much better option in terms of faster response times. New TVs offer features like Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate, but monitors have offered much better latency for over a decade.

While not important to all players, lower latency and higher fps means more fluid gameplay and a greater level of control. For those playing first-person shooters and fighting games, a better response time can mean a competitive advantage over those playing on laggy displays or lower specced machines.

Just how do monitors affect fps?

Technically, monitors only affect fps indirectly. They’re responsible for the visible frame rate that a player will see, and it’s the reason why those with powerful machines opt for 144Hz displays.

No matter the in game fps, a 60Hz display will only ever output 60 fps.

How monitors affect FPS

Monitors do not directly affect FPS, but they do cap potential fps in terms of what is visible to the player.

Components like the CPU and GPU dictate how well the game looks and how well it performs, and as a result, what kind of frame rate the monitor will display.

Even if a gaming PC is capable of playing a game like Call of Duty: Warzone at a frame rate like 90 fps, a monitor will only ever display 60 fps to the player if it is a 60Hz monitor. High refresh rate monitors coupled with a capable PC means that gamers can experience frame rates as high as 144 FPS.

A higher frame rate, even if exceeding a monitors output, will still reduce latency (input lag).

This is where monitors shine over TVs. The majority of TVs are not capable of displaying as high of a frame rate as monitors. HDMI 2.1 TVs will change this, but televisions that are able to output 120Hz are few and far between at the moment.

Top performing high refresh rate monitors

High refresh monitors have taken a strong standing in the market over the last 5 years, and have trickled down to even more budget friendly models over time.

Some of the most highly rated models include:

  • ASUS ROG Strix XG27AQ
  • Acer Nitro XF243Y Pbmiiprx
  • ViewSonic Elite XG270QG

One thing to take note of is that while 144Hz refresh rates have become increasingly common on gaming monitors, many displays use IPS panels. What you’ll find is that although these excel at viewing angles, the contrast can tend to suffer.

If you’re looking for monitors with better contrast, VA panels are almost always the way to go.

What about using a TV as a monitor?

Using a TV as a monitor is no different in terms of the affect it brings to performance and fps. The only difference is that most TVs are limited to an effective refresh rate of 60Hz.
I use a 43 inch Sony X800D as a monitor paired with an Acer Nitro 5 and so my fps will never go above 60 fps. The game may exceed that but I’ll never be able to tell the difference visually.

Some of the newest TV models are supporting 120Hz natively, but this will take time to trickle down.

TVs also lag behind conventional monitors when it comes to latency. My TV has an input lag of 33.3 ms but it’s not uncommon for gaming monitors to fall below 10 ms. While not crucial to many narrative based games, action oriented genres like first person shooters, fighters, and ARPGs benefit greatly from better responsiveness.

Both of these limitations are being addressed as more HDMI 2.1 TVs hit the market, but many monitors have been catering to performance and latency for years.

Witnessing my brother play No Mans Sky on a 144Hz monitor is a sight to behold.

Even better with G-Sync and FreeSync

Another area where monitors have the edge over TVs in terms of gaming performance is when it comes to adaptive refresh rates. Technologies like G-Sync (NVIDIA) and FreeSync (AMD) effectively remove stutter as games suffer fps drops.

Variable refresh rate (VRR) is, again, something that will be arriving to more and more TVs, but it’s been available to countless monitors for years now.

VRR won’t exactly improve FPS, but it does make fluctuations much more tolerable.

In summary

What you see is what you get in the case of monitors affecting frame rate. You’re always going to be capped (in terms of visible fps) by your monitor or TV.

Many monitors are available with refresh rates exceeding 144Hz. TVs are getting there with native 120Hz support, but most models only output 60Hz.

Even with this limitation, playing games at a frame rate that exceeds your monitors refresh rate is still worth it for the reduction in input lag.

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