How to change the refresh rate on your monitor for smoother-looking videos and gameplay

gaming on computer
A high refresh rate on a monitor is especially important for gaming, which requires an on-screen image to rapidly refresh.

  • A monitor’s refresh rate measures how frequently the on-screen image is updated.
  • You can change the refresh rate on your monitor through your display settings, though it may be limited by the monitor, graphics card, and screen resolution.
  • A typical refresh rate is 60Hz; slower refresh rates can look jittery, while higher refresh rates are desirable for gaming.
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Your display’s refresh rate is a measure of how frequently the on-screen image is updated. Refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz), which indicates the number of times per second something occurs. So a 60Hz display is one that has a refresh rate of 60 times per second.

Understanding monitor refresh rates

Most people don’t need to worry much about refresh rate, especially when using a computer for ordinary productivity applications. That’s because computer displays typically have a refresh rate of 60Hz – that’s the default for many monitors – and that value is perfectly adequate almost all the time. It’s fast enough that there’s no obvious blurring or “image tearing” when there’s on-screen motion. Below this value – 30 Hz, for example – you might see some stuttering or jitteriness when things are moving on the screen.

Higher refresh rates are of interest to gamers, though. Because many video games rely on fast-moving visuals, many computer displays are optimized for gaming with very high refresh rates – 144Hz, 240Hz, and even 360Hz. For gaming, the higher the refresh rate the better.

There’s also a relationship between screen resolution and refresh rate. Because a computer only has so much bandwidth for the display, you might find that at higher resolutions, your display can’t run at its maximum refresh rate. If you are adjusting these settings, you might need to make a choice between, for example, an HD (1920×1080) display at 144Hz or a 4K (3840×2160) resolution at 60Hz.

Depending on your monitor or laptop display, you might be able to adjust the refresh rate. Some displays aren’t running at their highest refresh rate by default, for example, and it’s adjustable in the system settings. If you try to increase the refresh rate but it won’t go as high as you think the monitor is designed to go, you might need to lower the resolution to make a higher value become available.

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