Do you need a high refresh rate monitor for office work?
High refresh rate monitors have traditionally been aimed at gamers, but they have a broader appeal. Device manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung have started incorporating high refresh rate displays into their tablets and phones. So, should you get one for your office computer too?
What is a high refresh rate monitor?
A monitor’s refresh rate is the number of times the screen is updated per second and is measured in hertz (Hz). Most standard screens stick to 60 Hz, meaning the maximum frame rate you can observe on these screens is 60 frames per second (FPS).
If you play a lot of games and have invested in a powerful computer for that, it can reach frame rates in excess of 60 FPS. Some competitive gamers drop the resolution and detail settings to maximize frame rates. This reduces input lag and provides a smoother overall experience.
Doing this on a 60Hz monitor might give you a slight reduction in input lag, but you won’t see the benefit of those extra frames because the monitor can’t keep up. This may result in blurry movements on the screen. Monitors with high refresh rates are designed to solve this problem.
In general, anything above 144 Hz is considered a high refresh rate monitor. However, most screens beyond 60 Hz count, including the 90 Hz screens in VR headsets and the 120 Hz screen in the iPad Pro.
If you’re looking for a monitor with a high refresh rate, you’ll probably want to look at 144 Hz or higher. For a gamer who has to have everything, 240 Hz monitors exist. They are especially favored by competitive multiplayer gamers because overall graphical fidelity is not as important as latency and response times.
One issue you may experience with a high refresh rate monitor is screen tearing. This happens when the frame and refresh rates don’t match. It creates ugly horizontal lines (or “tears”) as the monitor tries to process the image.
Variable refresh rate (VRR) monitors try to solve this problem with technologies such as NVIDIA’s proprietary G-Sync and the open-source AMD-supported FreeSync. VRR monitors lower the refresh rate in real time to match the frame rate of the game you’re playing to avoid screen tearing.
You don’t need one, but it’s still great
So, how does a high refresh rate monitor perform on more pedestrian tasks? Basic computing tasks, such as browsing the web or managing files, don’t require a lot of power. This is why you can get the most out of a high refresh rate monitor on a desktop.
First, your computer will respond faster. Everything from moving the cursor and dragging windows to launching applications just feels better. It’s something you may have to experience for yourself to measure the benefits. You will definitely notice the difference if you ever return to a 60 Hz monitor.
One of the best references for a monitor with a higher refresh rate is Apple’s iPad Pro. In 2015, Apple introduced the first 120 Hz displays in a consumer tablet. Both reviewers and customers noticed the difference right away. We’ve had our hands on several iPad Pro models since these displays were introduced, and they feel noticeably better.
Apple has added 120 Hz displays to the iPhone 13 Pro as part of the “ProMotion” feature. Samsung also went to 120 Hz with the Galaxy S20. OnePlus, ASUS, OPPO and Razer all sell Android smartphones with 120 Hz display modes. On a mobile device, doubling the refresh rate can affect battery life, but you don’t have to worry about that on a desktop monitor. (That’s why the iPhone’s ProMotion uses variable refresh rates, allowing it to go below 120 Hz when there’s no movement on the screen.)
No one needs a high refresh rate monitor for simple computing tasks. A monitor at 60 Hz does the job just fine. In the office or study areas, a high refresh rate monitor is something like: a comfortable chair or pricey mechanical keyboard – you don’t need it, but it’s nice to have.
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High refresh rate monitors are now cheaper
Monitors with a high refresh rate and variable refresh rates were once the industry leader. 144 Hz is starting to look a bit stale, however, as 240 Hz monitors are arriving en masse. This also means that monitors with the more modest 144 Hz refresh rate have come down in price.
The panel type also makes a big difference in price. TN panels are the oldest type of LCD on the market. They have been greatly improved since they were first introduced. However, they still suffer from less than favorable color accuracy, disappointing viewing angles and faded blacks.
They are also the cheapest of all panel types. Since LG broke the one-millisecond barrier UltraGear IPS monitor in 2019, TN panels are no longer the only choice for competitive gamers. You can now get better blacks, color accuracy and viewing angles in an IPS panel, complete with low latency and high refresh rates.
With this new kid around, TN panels are no longer in demand. So you should be able to buy a high refresh rate monitor with a TN panel for a modest price. You can find off-brand monitors with high refresh rates for around $250; add an extra $50-$100 if you want something brand name.
High refresh rate monitors are available in all panel types. VA panels provide the best image quality at the expense of input lag. IPS panels offer a good trade-off between responsiveness and image quality. However, TN panels are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to overall image reproduction.
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Try a high refresh rate monitor in person
There is no one-size-fits-all monitor out there. There are just too many things to consider when buying one.
Are you going to play games or edit photos and video in addition to standard office work? A TN panel is probably sufficient for basic office work. But if you want color accuracy for video or photo editing, a VA panel is ideal.
The size and resolution of the screen are also important. If you want to make the jump to 4K, a monitor with a high refresh rate is going to be expensive. Would you trade pixel density for smoothness and ease of use?
Price is also an important consideration for most people. If you’re looking for a better-than-average monitor, you’ll find that it also has a higher refresh rate, even though it may only be 75 or 120 Hz. You can definitely save money by opting for a more modest display that sticks to 60Hz.
The best way to decide if a high refresh rate monitor is for you is to use one. Drag around a few windows, type by speed, use your favorite apps, or play a few games.
For some people the difference will open the eyes, while others would rather invest the extra money in another function. Try a high refresh monitor and find out which camp you fall into!
High refresh rate monitors aren’t the only products aimed at gamers that have broader appeal. To boost productivity, you can also consider upgrading to a gaming mouse, mechanical keyboard, or SSD.
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