Nvidia and Asus announced at this year’s CES that they’ve created an esports-focused computer monitor capable of running at 360Hz in 1080p. You probably don’t need one, even if you’re getting better and better at CS:GO and feel like this is the year you’ll finally be able to step up your game and go big.
At the moment, 240Hz is the high bar that signifies a “professional grade” gaming monitor, so a monitor that can deliver 360Hz with G-Sync—as in, a display that lets your graphics card blast up to 360 frames per second without any graphical issues—is pretty impressive. Despite our automatic impulse to fawn over specs whenever the numbers make such a big leap, though, this is not really exciting news for regular to semi-serious gamers (especially not for the monitor’s rumoured $US1,000+ ($1,449)+ cost).
Aside from a display’s size and resolution, PC gamers care a lot about a monitor’s refresh rate, or the maximum number of times it can create and recreate an image on screen each second. While the actual framerate you get at any given time varies based on your PC and what game you’re playing, the display has a cap on how fast it can draw the screen.
Most people don’t game at 360 frames per second
This brings us to the first of two reasons why the jump from 240Hz to 360Hz doesn’t matter. Most games and most PCs are not capable of hitting 360 frames per second, period. With most AAA games, PC players who want the best performance often tweak their graphics settings so they can get the highest possible visual fidelity while keep their game running smoothly. Often, depending on how much you care about framerate, you wind up with somewhere around 60fps on PC (or less).
Case in point: I recently had the opportunity to use a very powerful gaming desktop and was delighted to play games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Control with the highest visual settings running at/around 90fps. That computer costs over $US5,000 ($7,243), so most of us simply aren’t going to see that kind of fidelity for a long, long time.
To be fair, esports changes the equation a bit. A number of older titles still popular in the sports community, like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Starcraft, don’t require much graphical power, so it’s possible to achieve incredibly high framerates. Other games, like DOTA or League of Legends, aren’t that graphically demanding. Also, most competitive players would much prefer to sacrifice visual fidelity to see more frames faster, which can give them a slight advantage over opponents—hitting 360 frames per second isn’t out of the question.
The jump from 240Hz to 360Hz isn’t as big as you think
I am not at CES so I cannot say for myself, but according to reports by multiple outlets who have used the ASUS ROG Swift 360Hz, the differences between playing 240Hz and 360Hz are minor, at best.
Engadget’s Jessica Conditt noticed that she could read animations more quickly in Counter-Strike, which led to a better response time. She also said, however, that the changes were subtle and that only pro gamers would likely notice the difference.
So, there you have it: If you are already playing games professionally and/or have the money to buy the best of the best possible gear without breaking a sweat, a 360Hz monitor isn’t snake oil—It does something. It is not, however, something to scrimp and save for if you spend most of your evenings playing Civilisation VI or Stardew Valley. Most of us won’t be able to take advantage of the tech if we tried.