What is Frame Rate? FPS Explained
An important thing to know about when it comes to planning the desired performance you want from your PC is your frame rate. Technically called Frames Per Second (or FPS for short), your frame rate is a measurement of the number of images your computer can produce every second. So, if your PC hardware produces a frame rate of 50FPS at a particular time during a game, that means you will see 50 images per second.
More powerful hardware means you’ll get a higher frame rate, which means your screen will show more images every second. The maximum amount of images per second you can see is determined by the refresh rate of your monitor, so on a standard 60Hz screen you can see upto a maximum of 60FPS. This doesn’t mean you can’t get higher than 60FPS, it simply means you’ll only see 60. Same thing for a 144Hz screen where you’re able to see upto 144FPS.
When your PC struggles in the particular game you’re running (and at the particular gaming resolution and in-game graphical settings that you’re running) and you get a lower than optimal frame rate, the image will stutter/lag a bit. In other words, the graphics won’t be smooth and it’ll seem blurry and jittery. How noticeable this is will depend on how low your frame rate gets, which we’ll explain a second.
How Important is FPS for Enjoyment & Winning?
The lag/stutter caused by low frame rates can get in the way of your experience and enjoyment of your game, and can also make you less accurate and in-control of the game which is why pro players avoid lag at all costs to ensure they play at their best in all situations.
If you play to win at all costs, and wish to become as good as possible in your arena of choice (and/or to potentially become a pro one day) then planning the expected FPS of your new build is important to ensure you get the smooth or flawless performance you’re after to maximize winning and grinning.
If you’re just a casual gamer though, how much this stutter or lag gets in the way of your fun will depend on how picky of a gamer you are, and again, how low your frame rate gets: getting 40FPS can be a little laggy yet it’s whole lot more playable and fun than getting say 20-30FPS and below.
Some gamers don’t mind the occasional stutter here or there during hectic scenes, assuming the frame rate doesn’t go toooo low too often, and they just continue gaming happy as larry as if nothing happened. Other gamers hate any sort of stutter or choppiness and find that any incident of low FPS hinders their enjoyment by a fair amount - even if they only experience visual lag during chaotic gaming scenes (ie situations where there’s lot of enemies on screen or explosions etc).
Lastly, keep in mind the type of game you’re playing matters too. Frame rate matters most in fast-paced games like shooters, racing, sports and action games, and matters less in slower paced games. A super competitive, every-millisecond-matters game like Counter Strike Global Offensive is the perfect example where a flawless frame-rate can be the difference between winning and losing.
20FPS vs 30FPS vs 40FPS vs 50FPS vs 60FPS: How They Feel
If you’re new to all this FPS talk, below we’ll list generally what to expect from different frame rates under 60FPS. We don’t mention anything over 60FPS because once you get past that park it’s all smooth.
Yes, as mentioned before, higher frame rates than 60 can absolutely be seen by the human eye despite some disbelieving it, and it makes for even more flawlessly-smooth visuals than 60FPS, but it’s a nice-to-have luxury and you’re not going to experience stutter/lag if you don’t reach 144FPS on a 144Hz screen (100FPS will still be noticeable and smoother than 60FPS).
Predicting the FPS of a New PC Build (during the planning stage)
It would suck to build your PC and then end up with a frame rate that you’re unhappy with and that gets in the way of your enjoyment and/or you playing at your best. Therefore, one the most important things to do when planning your build is check what sort of FPS you will get in the specific games you’ll play with the parts you’re thinking of getting.
Not all games are created equal in terms of how demanding they are on your PC hardware: with a certain hardware setup you might get super smooth performance in one title, whilst horribly slow stutter in another.
Don’t buy your parts unless you have a good indication of the FPS you’ll get, making sure to take into account the resolution you’re playing at (and your desired settings which we’ll explain next). You can do this by reading and comparing benchmarks of your games online for the hardware you’re planning to get.
Sites like Techspot have useful game benchmarks, and here at BGC we produce game-specific guides to choosing the right parts for either 60FPS or 144FPS (and sometimes 240FPS of crazy-high refresh rates of 240Hz) based on our own research and analysis of various online benchmarks for popular games. We also include FPS estimations in all our always-updated best gaming PC builds.
Remember, the ideal is to get the maximum FPS possible for your monitor for the smoothest lag-free experience, and in a perfect world to achieve an even higher frame rate than this to take into account any dips during the game if you can afford the hardware to do that. For example, with a standard 60Hz screen you’ll want to aim for 60FPS, and ideally a little higher such as 70-100FPS if you're a picky gamer and don't want to ever dip below 60FPS.
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Indie game dev currently working on my dream game, an atmospheric VR FPS adventure powered by Unreal Engine, who also likes writing about hardware and gaming in general. Favs of all time are OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, THPS3, WC3, HL1, HL2, with the most recent addition to my list of immortals being the VR masterpiece that is Half Life Alyx. To keep in touch check back to the blog for my latest articles or see BGC on FB, and for anyone also into the VR FPS scene I'll be sharing the first screenshots of my upcoming VR game on Twitter soon. - Julz