If you so much as stick a little toe in the world of video games, you’re bound to hear people discussing FPS. Many gamers will recommend a specific FPS for faster performance while others will talk about how you’re not doing justice to the game’s graphics if you’re not on high FPS.
If you’re confused about whose advice to follow, we’ve written a comprehensive guide to what FPS is, how it affects your game, and how to effectively tinker with it to get the results that you want.
What is FPS?
FPS stands for frames per second. This is how fast your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is displaying an image. 60 frames per second quite literally means that there are 60 images being displayed in one second. As you go higher in FPS, there are more frames being rendered and displayed in one second. A 240 FPS shows 240 frames in one second.
Who does the hard work of displaying the frames, fast or slow? That’s your Graphics Processing Unit. If your computer has a powerful graphics processing card, it will be capable of a very high FPS. On the other hand, a dated computer with a weak GPU may not be able to go above a certain FPS.
What is Hz?
You’ve probably seen 120Hz, 240Hz written in the technical specifications of mobiles and computers. What does it stand for? This frequency number tells you how fast your screen is refreshing images. That’s how we see moving images, or videos when we’re watching a movie or playing a video game. If the monitor didn’t refresh the screen, we’d be stuck on the same image; no matter how fast the frames per second are. Because the refresh rate is so fast, we don’t see the screen actually refreshing. That’s how movement looks smooth.
Frame rate vs Refresh rate
Make sure you don’t confuse the two. FPS is what the Graphics Unit is sending the monitor, while refresh rate is how fast the monitor is refreshing itself to show any changes.
We’ll give you a rough example. Let’s suppose that you’ve opened Instagram on your phone. You’re on the home page on your feed. The accounts you follow are constantly posting new content. Instagram always shows the latest post on your feed.
Here, the accounts posting new content is the GPU. That’s new information being sent to you.
Instagram refreshing your feed to show you the latest posts is the Refresh Rate.
So no matter how fast accounts keep posting pictures, you’re not going to see them if Instagram doesn’t update your feed. You’ll be stuck on an old post at the top.
This is exactly how video games work. The FPU needs to be high, but so does the Refresh rate in order for it to actually display on your monitor.
Problems with Low Frame Rate and Refresh Rates
Here are a few of the reasons why people clamour for high frame rates and refresh rates:
The main difference between a 60FPS and a 240FPS is how smooth the animation is. With the 240FPS, the frame updates are happening about four times faster. So in a one second animation of a man running, a 60FPS will only give the video game a chance to show 60 images in one second. With the 240 FPS, you get 240 images of the man running in one second.
Needless to say, 240 images in a second will have a much more seamless animation effect than the 60 images in a second which can look a little choppy.
Have you ever seen Stop Motion? This is a technique in filmmaking where images are put together instead of taking a video. The result is intentionally choppy, and having low FPS on your video game can look a lot like that.
You’ve probably experienced ghosting. When you’re playing a video game, an object in motion will have a very faint blurred outline of where it previously used to. It’s called ghosting because of the ghost like effect of your character.
With a low refresh rate, the monitor takes time to update the screen, so you can noticeably see the previous position of the objects that are moving.
This can be quite distracting when you’re playing a video game, and really cuts down on the realistic and immersive quotient of the game.
When your graphics card is sending out data that isn’t in sync with the refresh rate, you can experience screen tearing. This means that half of the screen will be a previous image, while the other half has updated into a new image. Your character in motion, could be cut in half with his upper half reaching the left side of the screen before his lower half does. It doesn’t necessarily have to be half, it could be any proportion of an incomplete frame.
When your refresh rate is higher than your FPS, it refreshes the screen whether the frame is ready or not. That’s why you see incomplete frames.
To combat this problem, you use VSync. Vsync will slow down your refresh rate and tie it down to the GPU, to ensure that the screen doesn’t tear.
So a lower FPS will drag down your Hz when Vsync is on. Some gamers don’t really care about screen tearing, and would prefer to have the faster, incomplete refresh rate for fast-paced gaming.
Frame Rate Options
Here’s what playing on different frame rates will feel like:
- 30 FPS: 30 FPS is probably the lowest you should ever go. It will be a very choppy display, with animations that lag significantly. You might be alright with this if you game is not animation centric (like a 2D game) but with any action or first-person shooter games, there will be a delay between your action and actually seeing it happen. That can get in the way of the game.
- 60 FPS: 60 FPS is a good standard. It’s not too smooth, but it’s definitely playable. Of course you’re not taking advantage of your game’s graphics with 60 FPS, but you’re still getting to enjoy the game. You’ll experience somewhat choppiness and a good deal of ghosting, but if it’s all your system can offer: there’s no problem.
It’s the most common FPS and also what we recommend for a basic mid-range computer.
- 144 FPS: This is an above average frame rate. If your computer has an exceptionally good graphics card, then you should opt for this frame rate. You won’t notice any input delay, and your animation will feel quite smooth and immersive.
- 240 FPS: Your system needs to be top-notch and high-end to hit 240FPS. If you’re going to be running your game on this frame rate, consider if the game’s graphics are really worth it, since it does take a toll on the system. We recommend this FPS for games like CS GO and Overwatch.
Your takeaway should be to play your game at the highest frame rate that your computer can offer you! Don’t worry about VSync unless you’re playing a game that has very precise movements involved.
If frame rates matter a lot to you, but your system can only go so far — consider lowering the graphics quality in settings to increase the frame rates. Your animations won’t be pretty, but at least they’ll be quick!