It's been a topic of debate ever since the arrival of the first TFT monitor: is a 60 Hz refresh rate fast enough? For a long time it was nothing more than a theoretical discussion as LCD screens weren't capable of displaying more than 60 whole frames per second. A few years ago 120 Hz and even 144 Hz monitors began appearing, which reignited the discussion. These types of monitors tend to cost quite a bit more, so we set out to find out what the added value is in practice. Some people claim that gaming on a 120 Hz screen, which can display 120 frames per second, is a much nicer experience than on a 60 Hz screen.
We set up a controlled hands-on gaming session, where participants got to play on a 60 Hz monitor, and then on a 120 Hz monitor, or vice versa. The gamers were not told which one they were playing on.
With the assistance of AOC, ASUS and Tones.be, Hardware.Info organized an event on 29 June in which 50 gamers participated. Afterwards, each of them was asked to describe their gaming experience, without being told what refresh rate they had been gaming with.
It became clear pretty fast during the event that most people were able to see the difference between 60 Hz and 120 Hz monitors. In the course of the afternoon there were enough participants that came to the conclusion on their own that it was high time to invest in a 120 Hz display. More than a few only needed a few seconds to say whether they preferred this or the previous monitor.
In the end, 43 out of the 50 participants (86%) indicated in the questionnaire that they preferred gaming on a 120 Hz monitor. Several of the seven gamers that said otherwise used the justification that they had achieved a higher kill-ratio on the 60 Hz screen. The people who did prefer 120 Hz, tended to call the experience smoother and more fluid. Many also noticed fewer instances of tearing, described in a number of different ways.
Then we asked everyone if 120 Hz monitors improved actual gaming results. You can't draw objective conclusions based on just a single session on each type of monitor, but to get an impression we subtracted the number of deaths of each player from the amount of kills. We have the stats for 43 players, the others were lacking one thing or another. Out of the 43, 22 had a better result on 60 Hz, and 21 gamed better on 120 Hz. It would appear it makes no difference based on our test subjects, but a much larger study would be needed to draw real conclusions here.
When 86 percent of 50 gamers indicate they prefer gaming on a 120 Hz monitor, and 88 percent also correctly identified which refresh rate their monitor had, there's no doubt about it. Gaming on a 120 Hz really does provide a superior experience. During the event we more than once heard participants exclaiming they had to get one of those 120 Hz monitors soon. One gamer really didn't look forward to going back to their own 60 Hz screen.
The added value of a 120 Hz monitor does come at a price, literally. 120 Hz monitors are definitely more expensive than 60 Hz ones, and on top of that, to get the most out of your expensive new 120 HZ monitor, you need a very powerful graphics card. You don't really want to have one without the other.