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What does monitor response time mean?

By April 12, 2016 3 Comments

response time monitor

Short Answer

Response time is a measure of quickly a pixel can display a change from either black to white or from one shade of gray to another. Lower response times are better. Normal response time right now is 1ms for TN panels and 4ms for IPS panels.

A term that is often misunderstood by people is monitor response time. It is not the same as input lag, which is a specification that display manufacturers do not advertise. Input lag is the delay between a keystroke or mouse click and the result happening on the screen. This is also an important thing to take into consideration since too much input lag can leave you frustrated because you were unable to react swiftly enough to an opponent. On the other hand, the display manufacturers specify the response time for the monitor. You might hear all about screen size, resolution and color reproduction, but response time is discussed less among people.

Response time can make a huge visual difference when there is some fast action happening on the screen. This spec is less about how your¬†monitor will eventually display inputs from your peripherals after a delay and more about the individual pixels themselves. It is a measure of how quickly a pixel can display a change from black to white or from one shade of gray to another. Different shades of gray represent how intense any given color will appear on your monitor through a filter. The darker the gray, the less light will pass through the said color filter and hit your eyes, which is exactly why you don’t hear people talking about blue to red response times or things like that.

Response times are often given in milliseconds since one frame on a standard 60Hz monitor stays on your screen for just under seventeen milliseconds. The pixels themselves need to transition more quickly than that so that they can display the next frame in time. But just because a monitor has a response time below 17 milliseconds, it doesn’t mean that it is just as good as anything else. A longer response time often results in a phenomenon called “ghosting”. This is when you can see the remains of trails from a moving object on a screen because pixels took too long to switch between shades of gray. This is really not a huge deal if you just use your computer for everyday browsing and social networking, but if you are a gamer or like to watch movies with fast action, then poor response times can cause really distracting visual artifacts.

Acer XF240H

So how do you know what’s actually good when looking to buy a monitor, checking other specs and whatnot. People have different opinions on what the maximum response time should be if you are gaming. While some people claim that they can’t notice any ghosting on anything below¬†8 milliseconds, there are other people like competitive gamers who needs just around 1 or 2 milliseconds response times. As a general rule of thumb, TN panels have quicker response times than IPS panels. TN panels can get response times as low as 4 ms, while the IPS panels being produced today can get down to only 4ms, which is a great improvement over the last couple of years. TN panels, however, suffer from bad color accuracy and viewing angles when compared to IPS panels.

Also note that you should take what the manufacturer puts on the spec sheet for a certain monitor with a grain of salt. This is due to the fact that there is not a standardized way for these companies to measure response times. Therefore, you might be seeing a cherry-picked measurement of how long it takes for a pixel to change from one shade of gray to another and then end up being disappointed by the actual performance once you hook it up. If you have the opportunity, then you should test out the monitor for yourself at a hardware store before purchasing it, if you are sensitive about such matters. So all in all, when choosing the best gaming monitor, you shouldn’t focus too much on response time. Refresh rate is much more important in terms of gaming experience and competitive advantage.

This article was made in partnership with Techquickie.

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  • dweeper1020

    You’ve explained what response time is by telling us what the normal response time is for TN and IPS panels. Now, what is an IPS and a TN panel? Less acronyms please!

  • Lerenka

    IPS = In-Plane Switching, TN = Twisted Nematic
    “TN panels, however, suffer from bad color accuracy and viewing angles when compared to IPS panels.” These acronyms are basically types of Panel Technology for LCD.

  • A Tree Full of Owls

    Learn how to look things up yourself. People these days want everything spoon fed to them. Want to know what TN and IPS mean, research it.