Refresh rate has become all the rage these days in gaming and for some, it might even be a more important monitor or TV spec compared to resolution. Because how fast or responsive you can see information on the screen can affect gameplay in a better way that a sharper image can. But really, how high is too high for a refresh rate? Do you really need 480Hz?
This important question is brought to you by the fact that anything higher than 240Hz as a monitor refresh rate will cost you an arm and a leg, or maybe one kidney, depending on the brand. Moreover, there’s also the question of whether the human eye can perceive a slideshow or a moving image that fast.
The prospect of you needing something like 480Hz might depend on what game you’re playing.
If you’re an e-sports professional, then you might find mileage out of that 480Hz monitor or screen since e-sports games tend to be light on the graphics, allowing GPUs to push to higher triple-digit frame rate numbers that might even boost all the way to 480 FPS (frames per second). Would that be the case, then you can safely say that you need 480Hz.
Barring that use case, you likely don’t even need 480Hz since newer games or even the older ones (at least five years old) might not let you push their frame rate that high.
It Depends on the Game and the Media You’re Viewing.
Video games are the important metric here since movies and TV shows are capped at a rather slow 24-30 FPS with certain exceptions pushing to 60 FPS though even that feels unnatural for a moving image that isn’t a video game.
So already, your use for a 480Hz screen is limited.
And let’s be real here, if there’s no big-budget eye-candy video game in the past three years that will let you play at a constant and smooth 480 FPS without you sacrificing its visuals, thereby nullifying the benefits of higher refresh rates.
You get a hundred or two FPS at most for the most demanding games these days and that’s if you have a top-of-the-line flagship GPU (RTX 4090, etc.).
Even the RTX 4090 struggles to maintain a solid 300+ FPS on some of the old games of the past decade in a 4K resolution. You could make a point for older titles like League of Legends or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, perhaps even Valorant (which barely breaks 400 FPS at 4K maxed out).
Then again, those games were made with much simpler graphics to make them e-sports viable and available to a wider demographic since they’re a sport.
Furthermore, some video games tie their animation to their framerate (looking at you Bethesda), so anything too high will be wasted since the game’s frame rate will either be capped or might glitch out as it struggles to sync animations to the frame rate.
At times, this cap for video games could also be an attempt to cater to the weaker console hardware which struggles to output 60 FPS sometimes. So even if you have a bleeding edge PC and a 480Hz monitor, your frame rate would still be at the mercy of the lowest denominator for graphics, which would be consoles.
Can the Human Eye Even Discern 480HZ?
One of the biggest compromises when humanity shifted from those bulky CRT screens to the more space-efficient LCD flatscreen was the motion blurring that it introduced; LCDs have a lower refresh rate. Less information or frames being displayed resulted in motion blurring which can cause headaches and are generally considered as an eyesore.
LCDs are starting to catch up with the triple-digit refresh rates we now enjoy, but it took decades to reach this point.
So the question is, were human beings able to perceive or see 480 FPS or even more? The answer is a resolute yes.
It was the case back when we were using old CRT monitors when motion blur was nearly nonexistent. And a website like Blur Busters has made a good explaination about this.
Motion is simply a lot smoother and more natural in high refresh rates even if the frame rate is not maxing out the refresh rate. However, the difference is more pronounced if the frame rate can max out or come close to the refresh rate numbers, of course.
As a result, companies like Asus have made it their goal to standardize 1000Hz sometime in the future in order to bring us back to the motion clarity that CRT monitors achieved decades prior.
High Refresh Rate Is Still Expensive
Then again, this kind of pursuit for high refresh rates introduces another problem; it’s expensive. Heck, even 480Hz displays are out of reach of most gamers these days. And even if you somehow managed to buy that kind of screen, you’d need equally powerful hardware (CPU + GPU) to take full advantage of it.
So you can imagine just how demanding a 1000Hz monitor or screen can be in the future, what with consoles and the big chunk of the gaming market still struggling to maintain 60 FPS and push past maxing out 60Hz at 4K. It would most likely become a niche luxury market for PC gamers.
Even now, 480Hz is a niche luxury market for PC gamers. The hardware you need for this kind of refresh rate has to be top-of-the-line if you want to see a substantial difference compared to 144Hz or even 240Hz monitors.
What’s the Sweet Spot?
For now, you don’t really need to worry that you’re missing out on crisp and clear motion or smoother delivery of video game information. It’s highly unlikely that the person you’re competing with in a casual multiplayer game is rocking a 480Hz or even a 360Hz display for you to worry about their advantage.
You can stick with the current standard of 144Hz or 165Hz, which is common for mid-range gaming devices.
Something like 240Hz is even considered a high refresh rate these days, especially above a resolution of 1080p but that’s also becoming more and more affordable.
Ultimately, whether you need or want a 480Hz display depends on how you can afford it not just with your money but with your current hardware’s power, which also requires money.