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Last Updated: January 20, 2023
Frame rate, also referred to as Frames Per Second (FPS for short), is a measurement of the number of times your computer renders an updated image to the display. Just keep in mind that FPS can mean an entirely other thing when it comes to gaming (First-Person Shooter, which is a genre of gaming), so be aware of that in order to not get confused.
So, as an example, let's say you're playing a game and your PC is capable of 50 FPS at a particular moment in time for that particular game (FPS constantly fluctuates based on the exact scene in the game). In that moment, your display is showing 50 different "images" (or snapshots) per second onto your computer monitor. If your frame rate dips to say 30FPS - perhaps because more enemies suddenly appeared on-screen which requires more from your hardware to calculate and display - then you're only seeing 30 different images per second.
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The more powerful your gaming PC, the higher your frame rate, which means you'll be seeing a higher amount of different snapshots/images on the screen every second - up to a certain extent. The maximum amount of images you can see per second is capped by the refresh rate of your monitor.
So, on a standard 60Hz display, you can see up to a maximum of 60 FPS. This doesn’t mean you can’t get higher than 60FPS, as your PC may be capable of say 100FPS, but to be able to physically see those extra frames over 60, you would need a higher refresh rate monitor such as a 144Hz display.
When your PC struggles in a certain game, and cannot produce a FPS number that is within the realm of "smooth" for the human eye (we'll get to what numbers those are in a bit), depending on how low the FPS goes you may notice a lack of fluidity in the image since the image isn't being updated as often as it needs to be (in order to be smooth). To know your FPS, there are many easy ways to show an in-game FPS counter on your screen.
The stutter or choppiness caused by poor performance (ie low frame rates) can get in the way of the enjoyment of a game, and can also make you less accurate in games of skill such as shooters or Battle Royale games. But how much of a negative effect it has on your experience varies from game to game and person to person.
It's a somewhat subjective thing, and some gamers don’t mind the occasional stutter here or there, assuming the frame rate doesn’t go too low. Other gamers, especially in a competitive multiplayer context, do everything they can to avoid lower than optimal frame rates. Here's what different frame rates "feel" like, generally speaking.
Since 60FPS is regarded as silky smooth, you may wonder why some people aim for what seems like ridiculously high frame rates like 144FPS or even higher. Monitors with 144Hz refresh rates are super popular these days when it comes to fast-paced genres like shooters or racing, and they allow you to see up to 144FPS on screen if your PC can handle such high frame rates.
But is 144FPS even noticeable? Is it worth the extra money? Depends who you ask. Some people swear by 144Hz monitors, and many professional gamers use even faster-updating displays than that (240Hz monitors, where you can theoretically see up to 240FPS). But the truth is that some people won't notice much difference between 60FPS and 144FPS if you put them through a blind test, because 60FPS is already quite fast.
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That said, there certainly are some people who can notice, myself included, and going back to a 60Hz screen after getting used to 144Hz doesn't feel right and you definitely notice the slower updating of the screen. Whether 144Hz is worth it or not completely depends on the individual, and the games you play, but I would personally say it is definitely worth looking into for shooters or racing games. For slower paced games/genres though, 60FPS is absolutely more than enough, and provides such a smooth experience that 144Hz would not be worth it.
As for whether or not 240FPS is worth it on 240Hz monitors, the only strong use-case for such fast monitors is within the eSports scene. In other words, if you're a competitive gamer wanting every little extra edge possible, a blazing-fast 240Hz display can be a worthwhile investment. Most pro gamers do in fact use 240Hz monitors. For everyone else - more casual gamers who aren't playing to win at all costs - a 240Hz monitor is typically overkill and many gamers will not even notice the difference between 144FPS and 240FPS. Besides, to reach 240FPS performance, you need fairly strong specs, so your PC may not even be capable of using a 240Hz to near its full potential anyway.
Related: CSGO PC Builds for 144FPS and 240FPS
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Indie game dev currently working on my first public release after years of hobby projects, a story-driven VR FPS built with Unreal Engine (to be announced soon here for anyone into VR FPS's). Also likes writing about tech, which also helps fund development of the game.
My favs of all time are OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, THPS3, HL1, and HL2, with the most recent addition to my list of immortals being the VR masterpiece Alyx. If you want help with a new build feel free to ask on the main PC builds guide. If you found the site extra helpful and wish to support the work I do here, sharing an article with a friend helps a lot and is much appreciated. - Jules