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How does monitor refresh rate affect frame rate?

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AOC C27G2ZU (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

How does monitor refresh rate affect frame rate?

Best answer: The refresh rate of your monitor won't affect your game's frame rate, but it will affect how many of those frames you see.

Refresh rate and frame rate are linked in one crucial way

The only thing that will dictate your game's frame rate is your PC, not your monitor. The overall power of your PC combined with how well the game is optimized will result in the playable frame rate you get when you consider it in its simplest form.

However, just because your PC can output those frames per second, doesn't mean that you're going to use them all. And that's where the refresh rate of your monitor comes in.

Without a high enough refresh rate on your monitor, you might well be wasting resources pushing high frame rates. That's because your monitor won't be able to draw all the frames you're getting from the PC.

The simplest explanation of refresh rate is as follows. If you have a 60Hz monitor, it will refresh the image on the display 60 times. If you have a 240Hz monitor, it will refresh the image 240 times. As a general rule, the higher the frame rate you're playing at, the higher the refresh rate you'll need to have on your monitor.

Refresh rate won't hamper frame rate

Of course, how you play your games is entirely up to you, and there are situations, for example on a gaming laptop, where you may have a low refresh rate display some of the time and a high refresh rate display at others. Changing your game settings to cater for different displays isn't a great use of time, but you don't have to either.

A lower refresh rate won't stop your PC pushing out high frame rates, your monitor just won't be able to redraw enough times every second to display them all.

Different priorities for console vs. PC

If you want to play console games on a monitor, which is a fantastic way to do things, you'll have different priorities. Even if you're an Xbox Series X or PS5 owner with access to 120Hz supported games, right now, if you have a 60Hz monitor you're still going to be OK. A monitor offers a number of benefits over a TV, like reduced input lag and response time which makes them a better overall choice on which to play games.

But if you're in the market to buy a new monitor for console or PC right now, a 144Hz refresh rate would be the marker to shoot for. You can now get 144Hz refresh rates on even budget monitors, and it'll mean crispy, high frame rate games on either hardware.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.