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I'm thirty-eight, and started gaming with a keyboard and mouse about two years ago. My reflexes will never be as sharp as the teenage whipper-snappers who pwn me, but would a 144 Hz gaming monitor with a 1 ms response time be likely to improve my game? Or am I too old to benefit from it, and better to just work on technique?

Currently, I have a 60 Hz monitor with 6 ms response time. I play BF4 and DayZ. I've been eyeing up a gaming monitor (144 Hz, 1 ms), but it's $400, and I'm not sure that it would really be worth it for an old codger like me.

Update, March 2014: I ended up buying a 144 Hz monitor, and cranked my video settings down to get 100+ frames per second. It hasn't made me a vastly better gamer, but I am getting higher scores. It has also made games perceptively more enjoyable, immersive, and easier to play, as games now react in real time, rather than behind a lag. I guess I didn't realise how just laggy my old monitor was until I tried a gaming monitor. For example, helicopter control is much easier, and I can maintain steadier flight paths and more accurate turns because I'm not constantly over-correcting for the visual lag. In driving simulators, the on-screen steering wheel moves in perfect synchronisation with the physical wheel in my hand, and I find myself having to re-learn corners. If you're wondering whether it is worth $400 to get this relatively slight improvement in gaming performance and experience, that would probably vary from person-to-person and from game-to-game. For me, the answer so far is yes.

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@close voters - He isn't asking what 'the best' monitor he should buy is, he's asking whether monitors with better response times will improve his gaming (at least enough to be worth spending the money). There's a subtle difference –  Robotnik Feb 11 at 6:40
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I think it's highly unlikely that your equipment is the bottleneck to your reaction time. –  TZHX Feb 11 at 9:30
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There is a cost-effective (free) way to find out. Display driver settings are by default such that 2-3 frames are rendered ahead. This gives a smoother overall appearance, but it also necessarily means that you have 1-2 additional frame times of latency before the last game state appears on your screen. Find that setting in the control panel, and turn it off (or set it to max prerendered frames = 1). If this doesn't change anything, and I'm quite sure it won't make a difference, there is no point in spending money on a faster monitor. –  Damon Feb 11 at 15:27
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I want to point out that the accepted answer has virtually no bearing on the real problem here: few to no current twitch-style games can sustain 144 frames per second. The target frame rate is still 60hz and the simulation is usually locked to 60hz and sometimes less. There will always be exceptions. The "difference in fluidity" people talk about has more to do with vsync which chops down the fps by half when the frame rate falls below the vertical sync of the monitor. You get plateaus from 60 to 30 to 15 etc. –  horatio Feb 11 at 17:32
    
It's unlikely, as stated in other answers. But ensuring that your PC can maintain the frame rate that your monitor can handle is very important. –  DLeh Feb 11 at 19:52

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It may not improve your reaction time, but I've heard from others in the Counter Strike 1.6 and Quake scenes that the animation is a lot smoother and more fluid. Apparently, this helps with scanning and aiming a lot. A lot of people even prefer CRT monitors because the refresh rate is higher on them.

Have you noticed the difference in fluiditiy between HDTV's and old-style TVs? I believe that that's the difference between a 60hz monitor and a 120hz one.

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I can't say that I've noticed any difference between CRT and LED/LCD displays, because it's been eight or nine years since I last used a CRT. But I do see a lot of image blur when panning around in BF4 while getting around 80 FPS, and surely being able to see better while moving would be a bonus. Thanks, NewWorld. –  Steve HHH Feb 11 at 20:58
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CRTs typically have refresh rates of 90-100 Hz, which actually isn't that great for gaming because most rigs can't achieve frame rates that high, and the vsync multiples sort of suck (100, 50, 33). Where they come in handy is where the rig can't keep up with a 60 Hz frame rate but can consistently manage 45 or 50 FPS. It's not uncommon, which is probably why the folklore around CRTs persists, despite the same "smoothness" being completely achievable on an LCD/LED. You could get a similar result by forcing vsync off, if you don't mind occasional graphical glitches. –  Aarobot Feb 12 at 2:07
    
@Aarobot Anyone who is commited enough to gaining an advantage to sacrifice the benifts of an LCD for a CRT is commited enough to drastically reduce the graphics and get 100FPS. So I don't know why you dismiss it as folklore. 100FPS on CS1.6, CS:S, CS:GO, QuakeLive... this is normal and common. Combined with a 100hz refresh-rate of the CRT, I can't see how this is not an improvement over a 60hz LCD. –  NewWorld Feb 12 at 9:15
    
That's nice, but 100 FPS won't appear any smoother to the human eye than 60 FPS, and won't improve your response time because we are talking about an order of magnitude lower interval than human reflexes are capable of. If you're prepared to "drastically reduce the graphics" then you could just as easily stay with the LCD in order to stay at a consistent 60 FPS. –  Aarobot Feb 13 at 1:28
    
@Aarobot If it's true that motion at 100fps on a 100hz monitor doesn't look smoother or more fluid than at 60fps on a 60hz, could you please provide a citation for this? Why would they make and sell these high-refresh rate monitors if there's no discernible difference, as you claim. –  NewWorld Feb 13 at 8:11

A 144 Hz monitor would have a refresh period of 7 ms, and a response time of...whatever, doesn't matter. Typical human reaction time is in the range of a few hundred milliseconds, depending on the task, so reducing frame updates from 16 ms (60 Hz monitor) to 7 ms is not that great, a 5% savings assuming best-case.

Here's a colorful plot from the paper Increasing Speed of Processing with Action Video Games by Dye. One thing to note is that when people say "reaction time", it's really this vague, catch-all bin of things. It can include spatial cueing, the most basic see-and-respond test (maybe if you were staring at a corner waiting for a bad guy to come around) which takes 200-300 ms, or harder things like visual searching which involve scanning a scene to detect some feature (maybe a bad guy hiding in a corner), which takes in excess of a second.

Anyways, the graph shows different types of tests (colors/legend) under different conditions (each individual point), given to two groups (the two axes). Video game players (VGPs) perform about 10% faster than novice video game players (NVGPs) with no loss of accuracy.

Graph of reaction times in video gamers and non-video gamers

Ultimately, being better at any video game comes down to training through repetition, where you eliminate mental steps like "grenades...so hit G..." to just thinking and doing, as well gaining a better understanding of the world and its myriad interactions. People can attain "millisecond reaction times", but only through prediction, gained through experience.

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What does VGP and NVGP mean? The graph is pretty but it is unclear how it is related to the question. –  Andris Feb 11 at 12:48
    
@Andris VGP stands for Video game players and nvgp stands for non video game players. You can find it in the link –  Lyrion Feb 11 at 13:22
    
@Lyrion actually novice video game players (of which non VGPs might be a subset). I added to the text to describe it better. –  Nick T Feb 11 at 16:10
    
@NickT A Brinley plot showing the reaction time (RT) of non-video-game players (NVGPs) on the X-axis versus that of expert video-game players (VGPs) on the Y-axis, for 89 different experimental conditions from nine different types of tasks. It sais so on the link you gave? :p –  Lyrion Feb 12 at 7:27
    
@Lyrion huh--they actually define it twice, once at the top of the "ACTION VIDEO GAMES AND SPEEDED-CHOICE RT TASKS" section, then again in the plot. Blame the reviewer :P –  Nick T Feb 12 at 17:17

There are four main components to this question:

  • Fluidity of motion: Try turning in any first person shooter. The difference between 60hz and 144hz is easily perceptible. So getting a 144hz vs 60hz monitor will definitely improve this. Having a more fluid image definitely helps with aiming.

  • Clarity of motion: This has two components, depending on what content you are watching. In games without motion blur, a higher frame rate and an impulse driven display (impulse vs sample and hold) mean that while you are turning/moving, each succinct frame will be perfectly sharp. A 144hz LCD monitor is an improvement upon 60hz, however even a 60hz monitor that is impulse driven will have sharper images than the 144hz, since there are no sample and hold artifacts.

  • Input delay: This is the most underrated and un-specified feature of monitors. Response time is how long it takes for a pixel to turn from say white to black to white again. However, the time from when you click a button to when the result is displayed on your screen is called Input delay. Most monitors do not state their input delay. Even a monitor with 120hz + Impulse driven is UNPLAYABLE with 200-300ms of input delay. CRTs have no input delay (or at least negligible for the sake of this argument), whereas LCDs/LEDs take a digital signal and have to process the signal - adding about 20-100ms of delay on consumer grade monitors.

  • Reaction time - While you can change your reaction/prediction time (the only way to get sub 100ms reaction time is to predict things instead of reacting), a reaction time of 100ms (EXTREMELY FAST) with a total input delay (input delay + pixel switching time + gpu+cpu time + input polling) of 200ms will make you lose to someone without those delays and a slower 200ms reaction time.

So buying a 144hz Lightboost for example, will help you on Fluidity, Clarity and probably input delay - which will improve 3 of the 4 criteria for a faster gaming experience. Will it actually make you physically react faster? No. But (assuming a lower input delay) it will definitely increase your chances of getting frags.

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While I can't speak for FPS-type games, having a high refresh rate on your monitor is basically mandatory for fighting games like Street Fighter.

Fighting games often have incredibly strict input requirements. For example, you may only have 1/60th of a second to input a particular command. The time that the screen takes to refresh is basically like time added to your reaction speed, and if you only have a single frame to input a command (or even 2 or 3 frames), that can really hurt your execution. While comparing 7ms to 1ms may not be that much of a gain compared to "what the human eye can appreciate", in certain situations the difference can throw you off by enough that you eat that super move instead of countering it.

The effect is so profound in fighting games that many tournaments still prefer to use CRT monitors.

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An answer like this is screaming for a citation. The latency is so minuscule compared to normal human processing and response times that the suggestion of it making such a major difference really strains credulity and sounds a bit like the "audiophiles" claiming that freezing their Monster cables makes a huge difference in sound quality. I'm sure the people who say these things believe them, but it doesn't make them true, especially not to the tune of $400 or more. –  Aarobot Feb 12 at 1:49
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Here is a video clip displaying the exact property in question: link The gameplay is being put through both monitors simultaneously. Watching the normal-speed portions it doesn't seem that bad, but when it is slowed down you can clearly see the discrepancy. The LCD monitor is 3 or 4 frames behind the CRT. If you only have 1 or 2 frames to enter a command, and the image you see is already 3 frames behind where the game actually is, how can you possibly hope to ever execute anything? –  Dave Feb 12 at 17:16
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@Dave They accomplish such moves through prediction/timing learned through many hours of gameplay. It's not a case of seeing and reacting; if it were, then gamers new to a fighting game should be able to pull off the hard moves pretty quickly after picking the game. Maybe a better monitor helps, but I'm with Aarobot in being skeptical as to it being significant enough to matter. –  Muhd Feb 12 at 19:54
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This is more or less true but reaction is still important. The golden rule tends to be as long as you always play on the same type of system, you'll be fine. If you always play on an LCD, then you will learn to recognize that you need to hit A when Guile's knee starts to bend instead of when his foot leaves the ground, or whatever the case may be. You will probably never even notice anything is off until you try to play on someone else's system who uses a CRT. It can increase learning difficulty though as every guide online is going to tell you to look for when Guile's foot leaves the ground. –  Dave Feb 12 at 20:11
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Agreed with Dave, more or less. Comparisons between display latency and human reaction time are red herrings, because this isn't a case of "I saw this happening, and I reacted within one frame"; this is a case of "I saw this happening, and I reacted within 30 frames. But since four frames had already passed since I saw that thing happening, I was too late by a couple of frames." It's not possible to react to something within the span of a few frames, but a few added frames can easily mean the difference between making a reaction in time, and being too late. –  cloudymusic Feb 14 at 20:45

Ask anyone, who is playing fast reaction first person shooters a lot and tried this upgrade.
Upgrading from 60Hz to 120Hz improved my Quake abilities a lot, because, when you run fast and move your mouse, sometimes you have only 2-3 frames to see the enemy around the corner or between some pillars. While with 120Hz you get 4-6 frames, that give you much more information about his movement, look direction, weapon, etc.
Also having ~8ms more for thinking each time you face the opponent is a decent bonus for such game as Quake.

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