Does Refresh Rate Limit FPS?

Does Refresh Rate Limit FPS

Gamers constantly chase peak performance, striving for silky smooth visuals. Two key terms often thrown around are refresh rate and FPS (frames per second). But do they work together, or does your monitor’s refresh rate actually limit the FPS your PC can pump out?

So, does refresh rate limit FPS? Find out.


Imagine a flipbook – the faster you flip the pages, the smoother the animation appears. Similarly, FPS refers to the number of unique images (frames) your graphics card (GPU) generates per second. The higher the FPS, the smoother and more responsive the visuals. Think of it as the engine powering the visual experience.

Refresh Rate

Does Refresh Rate Limit FPS
Refresh rate determines how many frames your monitor can actually show you

Now, imagine the flipbook pages being displayed on a screen. The refresh rate, measured in Hertz (Hz), tells you how many times per second your monitor can refresh the image it displays. A 60Hz monitor refreshes the image 60 times a second, while a 144Hz monitor refreshes it 144 times – essentially redrawing the picture that many times.

The key takeaway: While FPS dictates how many frames are generated, the refresh rate determines how many of those frames your monitor can actually show you.

The Relationship Between FPS and Refresh Rate

Let’s look at the relationahip between FPS and refresh rate.

No Direct Limit

Here’s the surprising truth: the monitor’s refresh rate doesn’t directly limit the FPS your graphics card can generate. Think of it this way – your GPU is a tireless artist churning out pictures (frames) at its own pace. The monitor, on the other hand, is a gallery with a limited display schedule.

The Visibility Factor

Even though the GPU might be creating a masterpiece every millisecond (1000 FPS!), your 60Hz monitor can only display a new image 60 times a second. So, what happens to the extra frames? They get wasted, hidden from your view. It’s like having a stack of amazing artwork that the gallery can only showcase a limited number of pieces at a time.

Here’s an Analogy

Imagine a fast-paced tennis match. The players (GPU) are constantly hitting the ball (generating frames) at a rapid pace. The screen (monitor) is like the camera filming the match. A 60Hz camera can only capture 60 frames per second, even if the players are hitting the ball much faster.

When High FPS Matters

So, if the monitor can’t display all the frames, why chase high FPS? There’s actually a good reason!

Exceeding Refresh Rate: Benefits and Drawbacks

Even if your monitor can’t show all the frames, having a higher FPS than your refresh rate can offer a benefit: reduced input lag. Input lag refers to the delay between your action (e.g., moving the mouse) and the response on the screen. Higher FPS helps minimize this delay, making your actions feel more responsive, especially in fast-paced games like first-person shooters.

However, there’s a catch: When the FPS significantly exceeds the refresh rate, you might encounter a visual artifact called screen tearing. Imagine the tennis match footage – with a high frame rate, the camera might capture the players in mid-motion during one frame and then in a different position in the next. This mismatch between frames creates a tearing effect on the screen, disrupting the visual experience.

So, Does Refresh Rate Limit FPS?

So, does refresh rate limit FPS? Not directly. The GPU can churn out frames at its own pace. However, the refresh rate determines how many of those frames you actually see on screen. Ideally, you want to find a sweet spot where your FPS either matches your refresh rate or uses technologies like Vsync to ensure smooth visuals without tearing.