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144Hz vs. 165Hz: Which Refresh Rate Should I Choose?

When shopping for a new gaming monitor, one specification stands out on every manufacturer’s page or review site: Hz, or refresh rate.

Hz dictates how quickly your monitor can adapt to changing visuals, and as such, a higher Hz will allow you to get the most out of dynamic environments.

165Hz is better than 144Hz for gaming, as the higher refresh rate provides a smoother gaming experience. With 165Hz, you get a potential 165 frames per second, whereas at 144Hz, you get a potential 144 frames per second. A 165Hz monitor typically costs around $50-100 more than comparably sized 144Hz monitor, and is the better option for gamers.

In the end, the decision typically comes down to whether or not your GPU can match the refresh rate of your monitor, and which type of monitor falls into your budget. There are so many options on the market these days that it’s not terribly challenging to find something that works for your circumstances.

In this article, I’ll discuss what Hz is and how it affects gaming. Let’s get into it.

What Does Hz Mean?

Hz, named after its discoverer Heinrich Hertz, is broadly defined as the frequency with which a periodic event occurs. In terms of gaming monitors, Hz has been ascribed to the refresh rate of a gaming monitor screen.

To put it bluntly, each Hz is used to represent one cycle of a specific function. Hz is used not just to measure refresh rate in gaming monitors, but for a variety of electronic applications as well.

The refresh rate in gaming monitors represents the number of different images that can be displayed on the screen each second. To put it simply, the higher the refresh rate, the deeper and more complex the image displayed on the screen becomes.

Hz, or refresh rate, can be expressed as FPS as well, or “frames per second”. They all effectively mean the same thing in terms of gaming monitors and only take on different meanings in regards to measurements of other devices.

For the purposes of this article, I will refer to Hz and FPS universally as “refresh rate”.

How Does Refresh Rate Affect Gaming?

If you’re in the market for gaming monitors, you’re likely accustomed to seeing the same specification categories for each monitor: Hz, resolution, and different sync types (the main ones being adaptive sync, G-sync, or Freesync).

The quality of visuals in each game you play is dictated by two things: your GPU capabilities, and the refresh rate of your monitor.

You can have an ultra-powerful GPU capable of playing games in 4k with seamless visual relay, but if your monitor doesn’t have a refresh rate (or resolution, for that matter) to support it, you’re not going to get the full experience that your GPU could provide.

On that note, you can also have a giant monitor screen with an average refresh rate, and that won’t pull the full effect out of your GPU or the game you’re playing either.

With different types of sync technologies, like the ones listed above, you can adjust your monitor’s refresh rate to match that of your GPU, but only to an extent.

There is no way to fully utilize a GPU capable of 250Hz with a 144Hz monitor; with sync software, however, you could mitigate the choppiness of the visuals, which helps enough for many.

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Let’s take a look at how gaming is affected by using monitors with 144Hz and 165Hz refresh rates.

Gaming at 144Hz

For most games online multiplayer games, 144Hz is a high enough refresh rate to handle displaying the environment of the game without sacrificing much. This is because online multiplayer games typically have lighter graphics development than solo RPGs with rich, dynamic environments.

144Hz would still work with AAA titles like The Witcher 3 or one of the new Fallouts, and you’ll certainly notice a difference playing with 144Hz compared to a 60Hz monitor. The main issue you’d come across is trying to pan your view of the world and noticing slight delays in rendering the borders of your screen as you turn.

Most gamers would be content with just 144Hz and, as such, seize the opportunity to purchase an affordable 144Hz monitor over a 165Hz alternative. This does not mean, however, that 165Hz monitors are not worth the investment.

Gaming at 165Hz

Monitors running 165Hz refresh rates are a notable improvement over 144Hz monitors. You get 21 more frames per second, which makes rendering rich, complex 3D environments is no challenge.

165Hz will play all games well enough to be enjoyed. With the increased refresh rate, you don’t run the risk of experiencing blurry images or slow rendering in virtually every game on the market today. Your CPU and build in general do have some effect on the visual output but, by and large, it depends on your GPU and refresh rate.

If you intend to purchase a 165Hz monitor, I recommend that you make sure your GPU can handle the games you hope to play first. If your GPU can’t put out the frames per second you’re looking to utilize with the monitor, then the point is moot.

165Hz is generally as high as mainstream, avid gamers go, with primarily PC enthusiasts and professional gamers option for higher refresh rates for competitive or aesthetic advantages.

Which is Best for Gaming?

This is a tricky question to answer, mostly due to the fact that everyone has different preferences for their gaming setups. Some require maximum refresh rates of pinnacle performance, while others can get along just fine with a less expensive alternative that still gets the job done.

Keep in mind the average minimum recommended refresh rate for most games is a mere 60Hz. You’ll notice when playing dynamic games at 60Hz that the world doesn’t render very quickly on your screen and some items or images in the game might be blurry. This gets better as the refresh rate increases from monitor to monitor.

That being said, 165Hz is categorically better for gaming because it has an undisputably higher refresh rate, regardless of the cost. Pair that with a good syncing software and you’ve got a high-end monitor capable of handling anything.

165Hz allows you to play more demanding, visually enthralling games than 144Hz would; that’s not to say you can’t play such games on 144Hz, but you won’t get the full effect the developers had in mind when designing it.

165Hz is also better for games that require a close attention to detail, like horror games or immersive RPGs. With the higher refresh rate, you detect changes in the environment far quicker and can distinguish minute details much easier.

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Is 165Hz Good Enough for Competitive Gaming?

While it certainly isn’t at the peak of competitive gaming peripheral options, 165Hz is a plenty quick refresh rate to handle competitive gaming standards.

This refresh rate is primarily geared towards hyper-fast online multiplayer gaming environments, which makes it a great choice for competitive gamers. You’ll typically find monitors with 165Hz or higher in competitive gaming environments; most professional gamers will keep a 165Hz for their home setup and use higher monitors with higher refresh rates in competitions.

Is 165Hz Better Than 240Hz?

As refresh rates rise, it becomes more and more difficult to tell the difference between two different stages of high-level refresh rates. This does not mean the difference is negligible, though.

Categorically speaking, 240Hz is better than 165Hz because it refreshes faster. At 240Hz, you eliminate every potential disadvantage that stems from poor visuals and rendering delays. This is the primary reason that competitive gamers use 240Hz monitors in competitions.

For most, 165Hz is the highest refresh rate necessary for any games you play. You get better performance with a 240Hz monitor, but the difference in price and frames per second isn’t enough to sway some people towards the high-end gaming monitor market.

Can You Overclock a Gaming Monitor?

Oddly enough, you can. It depends on the capabilities of your PC and monitor, but you can as much as double the stock refresh rate on almost any gaming monitor.

It’s important to note, however, that overclocking the refresh rate does not change the monitor’s resolution. Resolution relates exclusively to the monitor’s screen, while refresh rate is determined by your GPU and the games you’re running.

You should also remember that overclocking anything is potentially hazardous to the electronic components each device utilizes. Recent CPUs have been designed with overclocking in mind and are thus better equipped to handle the increased heat output and avoid damaging the component.

With gaming monitors, however, there aren’t fans or cooling systems quite like the ones you’d find in your PC case. As such, overclocking a gaming monitor can be more dangerous than overclocking a CPU if you don’t take care to avoid overclocking it too much.

In Conclusion

Between 144Hz and 165Hz gaming monitors, you’ll notice a moderate increase in 3D rendering in all games, but it will be most apparent when playing games with rich environments. 144Hz is often a good enough option for most casual gamers, but for those with an eye for detail and a need for speed, 165Hz is likely your next best option. In the end, it all depends on your preferences!

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