In the last few years, 120Hz and 144Hzmonitors have been getting a lot of attention from PC gamers.
I’m going to cover some of the benefits of a 120/144Hz monitor and whether it’s suited for your Battlefield 3/4 experience on the PC.
How 60Hz and 120/144Hz monitors differ
Let’s say you’re playing Battlefield and watching your frame rate through the in-game command or a 3rd party program, and you average 90 FPS. If you have a 60Hz monitor, it will display no more than 60 frames each second. If you have a 120Hz monitor, it will display all the way up to 120 frames per second, so you will see 90 FPS. With the 60Hz monitor, some of your graphics processing power is wasted since you’re not seeing the extra frames.
Why frame rate is important in Battlefield 3/4
BF3 and BF4 are very fast-paced first person shooters. Milliseconds count whether on foot or in vehicles. Competitive gamers should be looking to make their game run as smoothly as possible. A lower frame rate can cause enemies to “jump” from one spot on your screen to another, making them much more difficult targets to hit. This is most noticeable when an enemy quickly passes from one side of your screen to the other while shooting you. It can be especially hard to get headshots when your target is jumping from one spot to another. A higher frame rate will fill in the missing gaps when an enemy moves quickly. The effect is more noticeable to some people’s eyes than others, but a higher frame rate never hurts.
Eliminate screen tearing with 120Hz and no VSync
VSync is a setting which allows you to “lock” your framerate in place. For instance, if your video card can render 70 FPS, it will lock it to 60 FPS. The main benefit is that it eliminates screen tearing – this is when graphics displayed on the top of the screen don’t exactly line up with what’s at the bottom. It’s most noticeable if you turn your view quickly, and can be especially distracting in jets or when moving a turret. Here is an example of this effect from Wikipedia.
However, I don’t recommend using VSync. If your video card renders 59 FPS, it will force your frame rate to lock at 30 FPS (unless using NVidia’s recent Adaptive VSync). A lower FPS is never a good thing, and this negative outweighs the benefit of removing screen tearing.
Enter 120/144Hz monitors. When running at a high frame rate on a 120/144Hz monitor, screen tearing is usually eliminated without the need to enable VSync.
Should I buy a 120/144Hz monitor?
A common misconception is that our eyes can only perceive up to 30 frames per second. This is a myth – many people can perceive differences in frame rate well above 60 FPS. Personally, I can tell the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz just by moving my mouse cursor across the screen. But not everyone notices the difference. For this reason you should try to use a 120Hz monitor in person before buying. Online videos won’t let you see the difference, because you’re still limited to the refresh rate of your own screen.
When you try a 120Hz or 144Hz monitor out, be sure that the monitor settings in Windows are set to 120 (or 144) Hz, and that the frame rate in the game is as close to 120/144 FPS as possible. This will allow you to see the effects in full.
If you’ve been PC gaming for a number of years, you may have played Counter-strike or a Quake game on a CRT monitor. Chances are, you used a refresh rate of 85Hz or 100Hz. If you remember it looking smoother than when you switched to a 60Hz LCD, chances are you can perceive frame rates above 60 FPS.
120/144Hz monitors can have some additional benefits over 60Hz monitors which you should look for. Most 120/144Hz models have a very low input lag (the effect of your mouse and keyboard inputs being delayed on-screen). Input lag is another effect which is very noticeable to some people, but not to others. While nearly all 120/144Hz monitors have reduced input lag, I bought a BenQ XL2410 120Hz monitor a couple years back to replace my 60Hz LCD because it has extra-low input lag. Today, the options are even better. My recommendations for the best 144Hz monitors for gaming are these two:
Is my PC powerful enough to take advantage of a 120Hz or 144Hz monitor?
If you’ve tried out a 120Hz monitor and you notice the improvement, don’t rush out to buy one unless your PC is equipped to put it to good use. Your gaming rig should be capable of running Battlefield 3 as close to 120 FPS as possible. This takes fairly high-end hardware and the right settings.
Dropping your BF3/BF4 video settings down from Ultra to High, or even Medium, will give you a big boost in FPS. Turning off anti-aliasing completely will also give you a large improvement, and isn’t too much of a compromise if your resolution is set at 1920×1080 (1080p) or higher.
I’ve found the following video cards are capable of running at 100+ FPS on average when paired with a good CPU. This is based on medium detail at 1080p. This will be updated with newer cards as more BF4 benchmarks become available.
If you already own a powerful PC and are ready to get a 120/144Hz monitor, first test your frame rate and make sure you’re getting an average of 100+ FPS. Be sure you’re okay with the reduced detail you may see due to any video setting tweaks needed to reach this frame rate. If you’ve gotten this far and are ready to buy, you won’t regret your purchase! If your eyes can tell the difference, a 120/144Hz monitor will make a big difference in the smoothness and responsiveness of Battlefield 3, along with any other fast-paced games you play.