When getting into PC gaming or updating from an older system, a great question to ask is, “how much FPS should I expect on my system?” before getting the necessary hardware. In the last 10 years, we have gone from 30 FPS being the standard on entry-level PCs and consoles to 60-100 FPS being the “average” experience. While not all hardware is equal, there are ways to get the best performance by managing your settings that control FPS.
FPS is short for "frames per second" and is the determining factor in genres like first-person shooters, rhythm games, and many others that rely on high refresh rates from the GPU to give updated visual information as fast as possible. While high refresh rate peripherals cost considerably more depending on factors like resolution, panel size, and Freesync or Gsync capabilities, there is nothing to stop someone with entry-level hardware from becoming extremely proficient in any single game.
This article goes over why FPS is so important and what you can do to ensure your monitor gets the most out of your system.
What Does FPS Mean?
FPS or “frame rate” is the number of frames your graphics processor can produce per second. Typically the human eye sees at 24 frames per second, which is what most conventional media like movies, TV shows, and other events are filmed at. Video games are an exception, as monitors have to account for rendering time, providing a smoother, more crisp experience to the eyes. This leaves most videos shared digitally to have a higher frame count.
Often, you'll see a frame rate for games described as a number and FPS like 30 FPS or 60 FPS. That said, you may see "Hz" in place of FPS like 30 Hz or 60 Hz. Hz is short for hertz and describes the refresh rate of a monitor whereas FPS describes the number of frames output from the GPU.
Essentially, your GPU's frame rate (FPS) needs to match or fall under to your monitor's refresh rate (Hz) for optimal game play.
How FPS Affects Your Game play Experience
While a smoother experience may seem like the only advertised benefit, multiple game settings and performance options factor into how much FPS you can generate. Settings like ray tracing, DLSS, and texture quality take a performance hit to the GPU, directly affecting how many frames per second can display to the monitor.
For example, tests when the RTX 4090 was released paired with an Intel i7 12700K, showed more GPU-bound processes before adding things like ray tracing and DLSS. Games like GTA V, Rainbow Six Siege, Final Fantasy 14, and others have an effective range of 185 FPS to over 600 FPS on 4K and 1440p resolution monitors on Ultra settings.
While this is good for playing a crisp and immersive experience, enabling DLSS (Or the manufacturer-dependent equivalent) and ray tracing on games like Cyberpunk 2077, Control, or F1 drops the FPS dramatically to 50-90 FPS on 4K displays and 140-180 FPS on 1440p and 1080p monitors. This makes some monitor panels not worth it for ray tracing simply due to their refresh rate balancing with what the hardware can provide.
What Are The Common FPS Rates?
Today's common FPS rates for games are 30, 60, 144, 165, and 240 to 280 FPS. Some exceptions exist, like models reaching as high as 360 Hz. Here is what you can expect from these FPS amounts and the minimums recommended for 2023.
*Please note that FPS is tied to game rendering vs. refresh rate, a physical attribute of monitor panels. If a monitor cannot support an FPS value, it is either capped at the display resolution or generates screen tearing if the monitor cannot keep up.
30 FPS: Minimum For Gaming
Getting into PC gaming can be quite a large ceiling for some people. This is why the 30 FPS market for gaming is still alive and well, with newer integrated graphics options or older hardware reaching ten years of service. This is for those looking less for a less competitive edge and more so an experience to get accustomed to PC gaming before putting anything more into it.
While most monitors on the market come with a 60hz minimum panel, creating a system on the cheap to produce 30 FPS has never been more affordable.
60 FPS: The Gold Standard Entry Level Gaming
60 FPS has become more in favor of entry-level gaming due to its versatility and hardware currently on the market to provide a suitable experience for people just getting into PC gaming with non-gaming-oriented monitors. Hardware dating back to 2015 can reliably run games at around 60 FPS on medium to high settings for entry-level equipment.
Most non-gaming or basic gaming monitors can be capped at 60hz by design, making 60 FPS ideal for those looking for a budgeted experience entirely possible on older connections like VGA or DVI.
This can be achieved for as little as $700 if you search for an entry-level custom gaming PC from a marketplace or system integrator.
144FPS: The “No Compromise” Gaming Experience
144 FPS holds a special place among mid-level gaming in the current marketplace. Due to the versatility of connection types, mid to high-tier GPUs of the last five years are reliable candidates to produce that many frames at 1080p resolutions. More modern GPUs will produce slightly more FPS depending on the game and resolution.
165 FPS: The 1440p to 4K Standard
In recent years, 165 Hz displays have become a comparable purchase for those looking for a good deal on a 1440p or 4K monitor. Typically with 165 Hz monitors, you get the best of both worlds, with higher GPU functions like DLSS or Ray tracing still viable, except on lower resolutions like 1080p.
My current 1440p monitor from gigabyte supports 165 Hz and maxes out my RTX 3080 paired with my Ryzen 5800x as the CPU when playing conventional FPS games like Overwatch, Warhammer 40K: Darktide, and others. Where a significant performance hit occurs is more demanding DLSS / ray tracing games like Cyberpunk 2077, where frame rate dips between 70-90 FPS.
240/280 FPS: The Pinnacle of Affordable Refresh Rates
Depending on what game you play, getting a 280 Hz monitor has a competitive advantage to those looking to enter the professional scene. Due to needing to be on top of reaction time, high refresh rate monitors on lower resolutions are sought after by competitive players in CSGO, Rainbow Six Siege, and DOTA 2. To get the best performance and visual quality, these often 1080p 240/280 Hz monitors often have extensive customization and adaptation to stretch smaller resolutions like 900p to 1080p and change aspect ratios for the best competitive settings.
Is Higher FPS Better?
Generally, a higher FPS makes a game more cohesive in terms of immersion. While this is good, getting FPS at the cost of texture quality or lower settings may be challenging to people. The demand for more rendered textures vs. refresh rate is a choice dependent on the person playing and the hardware available.
Do you like competitive games and don't care much about textures, only the best competitive load out? High refresh and frame rate it is. Want the best textures and decent panel quality at a higher resolution? 165 Hz 1440p monitors are an excellent place to start. Want the best image quality and panel view at the cost of under 150 FPS with most ultra settings turned on? 4K is the way to go.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider if you want textures and graphical features over refresh rate.
What is the Optimum Refresh Rate?
To those still unsure, the market's most affordable and popular refresh rate monitors are 144 Hz or 165 Hz for both used and new monitors in 2023. Since 2015, 144 Hz has seen the most comprehensive adoption from DVI connections to DisplayPort and has been seen in both 1080p to 1440p monitors.
165 Hz is also an excellent middle-ground for those wanting a little more overhead if their hardware can run games at max settings at higher refresh rates at either 1080p or, more commonly for this refresh rate, 1440p.
How to Perform a Frame Rate Test
Need help to determine how your current monitor is performing or the display settings currently in use? Use the following test to show you what you should upgrade or change!
- UFO Test- Capable of breaking down how a panel updates within a monitor, the UFO test has been an excellent method to test the responsiveness of monitors based on multiple hertz frequencies.
- Refresh Rate Checker- From the same people of the UFO test, this confirms that your display is running at its max settings. If you see that application reporting 60 Hz on your 144 Hz or greater monitor, you should right-click your desktop and go to display settings to change it.
Conclusion On What FPS Means For Gaming
There are a lot of different directions to think about when considering the right FPS target for your gaming experience. If FPS is important to you, focusing on the GPU and monitor may be the most important for your system. Having a balanced experience in gaming and doing productive work warrants considering a more performant CPU and GPU combo for the best workloads.
At Apex, we are committed to your pursuit of performance on higher refresh rate monitors or larger resolutions with products like our Apex Custom Build. We also sell 50% PCs hosting refurbished GPUs from AMD to Nvidia, perfect for hitting that 60 to 144 Hz range. Whatever your FPS needs, we hope to be of service at Apex!
Written By William Wilson
Photo Credits: Pavan Bhakta