“120 frames per second” sounds like a lot, and it is!
But is it noticeable in a game? It depends on what you mean by noticeable, and the science isn’t totally complete as to whether or not you’ll be able to see a difference.
For example, human eyes (and brains) are only capable of processing so much information at a time, and your eyes may be simply unable to process information when it’s moving faster than a certain speed.
What Is the Average Frame Rate for Gaming?
45–60 FPS is generally the range most gamers try to hit regarding frame rate.
With this speed, the images will move smoothly from one frame to the next with minimal latency. However, many professionals prefer higher frame rates than the 45–60 mark.
Typically, most people consider anything above 30 FPS to be at least passable, although not necessarily perfect. However, the typical 45–60 FPS isn’t going to be enough for optimal play on specific game genres.
What Frame Rate Should I Aim for?
What kind of frame rate you need to experience smooth and easy gameplay is determined by the type of game you’re playing.
Fighting games and other real-time competitive games benefit most from the increased frame rate.
For games that don’t require extensive twitch reflexes and fast reaction time, a low frame rate is much less impactful in your game experience. But a low framerate will significantly impact your gameplay for fighting games, real-time strategy games, multiplayer online battle arenas, and shooters.
When playing games that require reflexes and reactions, you’ll want to aim for the highest frame rate you can muster with your current system. In these games, the frame data will be revealing to veteran players.
For instance, if your character has a one-second animation that typically takes ten frames to complete, and your game runs at 60 frames per second, you’ll have six times the frames in the animation than you would typically have. This means you’ll see the animation’s beginning sooner than if you were running at ten frames per second.
Since you can see the animation starting faster than players playing at lower frame rates, you’ll react to them more quickly, more accurately, and, naturally, be able to play better. For this reason, many professional players gravitate to higher frame rates. These higher frame rates allow them to perform better in the professional sphere.
However, for games that don’t require twitch reflexes and fast reaction times, you won’t need as much power to play the game efficiently. However, adding extra frames will make the animations smoother. Still, since you don’t have to react to them, there’s no additional benefit from the extra frames.
If you’re looking to get your game to be “smooth, ” 45–60 frames will be your goal. If you’re looking for “melted butter and creamy chocolate” smooth, you’ll want to aim higher.
But most players will not experience unnatural “downsides” to sitting between 45–60 frames. Your game will run smoothly, and you won’t experience much graphical latency at this frame rate.
How Do I Boost My Frame Rate?
Upgrading your components is the easiest way to boost your frame rate. Unfortunately, poor-quality and low-cost components are typically the sources of frame rate issues. Let’s discuss each component and how it will impact your frame rate overall.
Upgrade Your Monitor
The first step you’ll need is to ensure your monitor’s refresh rate is high enough to support your new framerate. Monitor refresh rates are the speed with which your monitor can draw images onto the screen for you to view. The refresh rate is measured in hertz.
A 60 Hz monitor can draw 60 images per second. Thus, if your monitor’s refresh rate is only 60 Hz and you increase your FPS to 120 Hz, you won’t see the difference because the monitor cannot draw images that quickly.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
Adding or upgrading your computer’s GPU is another excellent way to get extra frames in-game. The GPU is the most impactful component in your computer regarding frame rate, as it processes the graphics for your computer.
Suppose you don’t have a dedicated graphics chipset. In that case, your CPU will pull double-duty processing of your computer’s data and graphics. This additional load on the CPU can lower frame rates and impact performance in-game.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
This component is one of the most critical to achieving high frame rates in video games. The CPU processes all of the computer’s data; it’s the computer’s “brain.” It’s the part of the computer doing all the calculations and processing the game’s code to output that information onto the screen.
One easy way to improve your computer’s in-game performance is to upgrade your CPU. Upgrading your CPU to one with a higher clock speed and more cores will increase your computer’s operating capacity.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
Your RAM is another crucial component of your computer’s speed in-game. The computer will write information about the game to your RAM as you play; improving your RAM’s speed will increase performance in-game.
If your computer was prebuilt, your computer might have proprietary RAM made by the company that built the computer. These units are typically not as sturdy as non-proprietary options and may have unusual features like strange clock rates.
Swapping out your RAM for sturdier, faster RAM is one way to get your frame rate up a little bit. When upgrading your RAM, you can check to see if your PC has options for dual-channel RAM that aren’t being used. Typically prebuilt computers don’t have unused RAM slots. Still, there’s no way to tell unless you open the computer yourself.
Solid-State Drive (SSD)
Another way to up your frame rate is to upgrade your hard disk storage to an SSD.
SSDs are becoming more common, and they’re the standard for many industries. However, people who haven’t upgraded their computer in a while or who have an older prebuilt computer may still have a standard HDD.
SSDs are more reliable and have a faster data transfer rate. This means your computer can pull assets from storage faster, reducing the time you spend loading each screen.
The primary upgrade from an SSD is in the loading screens. Speed increases from the SSD will not be to your FPS directly but may improve loading times on open-world games, which often load assets while you play.
Can Human Eyes See Images Moving at 120 FPS?
There is also some debate as to whether the human eye can even process images fast enough to notice 120 frames per second.
It’s not entirely agreed upon how fast human eyes can see. Like many other things in the human experience, there is a lot of variance between individuals regarding the speed they’re able to see images.
However, some emergent study data shows that humans can fully process images seen for just 13 milliseconds. Most scientists agree that humans can see between 30–60 frames per second on average, while some people can see less and others can see more.
So, it’s safe to say that most people will likely see some improvement when going above 60 frames per second. Of course, the jury is still out on whether the human eye can see 120 frames per second, but it certainly can’t hurt you to have more information!
It can be tempting to see those big, fat numbers on your screen (they are incredibly satisfying). But there’s no evidence that you’ll actually benefit from such high frame rates.
If you’re building a computer on a budget, you can safely pass on trying to go above 60 frames per second; at this frame rate, your graphics will be smooth, and all the components, including the monitor, will be affordable to you.
But, if you have the disposable cash and enjoy those buttery-smooth graphics, there’s no reason not to indulge!
As technology gets better, these components will become cheaper and more accessible. Who knows? 120 frames per second might be the new standard in a few years!