It was about a year ago I realized the importance of response time after learning it was the cause of ghosting on a gaming monitor. But since there are varying levels of response time which is the best?
What response time is good for gaming? 1 millisecond response time is the best for gaming, however, you can use up to 5 milliseconds and have a good experience gaming.
Although it is ideal to get the lowest response time possible for a clear fast-moving image, not everyone will need it.
What Response Time Is Good For Gaming?
Anything in the range of 1 – 5 milliseconds response time is typically going to be good for gaming. However, if you want the fastest image you should go for 1ms response time or monitors that can go sub 1ms.
The people that see the most benefit from 1ms monitors are going to be people that play competitive games.
The sharper image that can show moving objects with little-to-no blur makes it easier to see and flick to your targets accurately.
Plus, 1ms isn’t all that expensive to get these days. Features like refresh rate, panel type, and resolution are all much more expensive features to upgrade whereas 1ms can be found on all price ranges of monitors.
Moving to a lower response time is noticeable, however, not as noticeable as moving from 60 to 144hz which could explain why all 1ms aren’t always expensive.
If you generally play single-player games you can also notice and possibly appreciate the sharper image, but you don’t need it.
If you do find a monitor that fits almost every need, but it has 3ms or 5ms response time that isn’t the worst feature for a monitor to lack in terms of performance or visual quality.
The majority of people that can truly see the difference between a 1ms and 5ms monitor are people who have been using a 1ms and go back to a 5ms. Otherwise, even at a glance, both will look very similar.
What Is Response Time?
Response time is the measurement of how quickly your monitor can change from one color to another, oftentimes measured in terms of black to white to black or gray to gray.
Typically, the faster your monitor can change colors, the better the moving objects will look when moving across the screen because the monitor can change colors quicker and prevent smearing or ghosting.
When a character has a trail of color following them, often a black trail, it is referred to as ghosting. Ghosting is very disruptive visually and can appear for various reasons but high response time is a primary cause.
That is the worst-case scenario for a monitor although the response times have to be quite high to experience it.
The Truth Behind Response Time
Response time isn’t something you should get tripped up on and here’s why. If you’re looking for smoothness in-game the best way to find that is by getting a higher refresh rate monitor.
30 FPS is going to look and feel choppy with or without a low response time. But if you had a 144-hertz monitor running at 144 FPS even with a 5ms response time it can feel smooth and look good.
Lower response time is great for helping reduce some motion blur on the screen that is caused by higher response times.
It can make the visuals look better but at some point between 5ms and 1ms, you won’t notice a difference.
Ghosting, smearing and motion blur is also heavily dependent on your exact monitor. Although blanket statements are fun, I cannot guarantee that all or no monitors will experience zero ghosting at 1ms.
Even then it is possible for ghosting to occur, and the settings the monitor is running can be a cause of that as well.
If I use the fastest response time setting on my monitor it causes HUGE amounts of ghosting.
Not to mention that monitors may not always run at their advertised response time. Sometimes the response time when in actual use can be a lot different from what is advertised.
We will talk more about this in the next section.
To be clear, response time is not Input Lag. Many people confuse the two, but they could not be more different.
Response time is how quickly your monitor can change from one color to another.
Response time is not how quickly your input/movements are reflected on your monitor.
I would never opt for a slower response time monitor at the expense of a lower quality panel or a lower refresh rate.
Ultimately, response time is something you don’t want to go over 5ms, but anything less than 5ms is acceptable and not all that different.
Finding Better Sources Of Information On Both Latency And Response Time
The unfortunate spot of where response time is at now is there isn’t a standardized way to test the response time on a monitor.
This leads to the monitors being using in perfect environments where they might be able to achieve 1ms, but the experience may be very different for you.
In order to get the real numbers on response time, you should go to an in-depth benchmarking reviewer that knows how to find the true response time of monitors by testing.
The actual response time you experience through regular use could be much higher than the advertised 1ms!
The best website I have seen do this testing so far is rtings.com. Here is a link to their response time testing page where they have a table full of data for you to see the real response time of many monitors.
How Is Response Time Different From Refresh Rate?
Refresh rate is how many frames your monitor can show in a single second. Response time is how quickly your monitor can switch from one color to another.
You’ll get a much smoother image by improving the refresh rate rather than lowering your response time.
With refresh rate the more you have the better your image will appear. Not only will your image look smoother but you can also see more of your enemy per second.
If you were playing a competitive game you might see an enemy rounding a corner sooner than someone on a much lower refresh rate monitor.
Here is a great video by NVIDIA breaking down higher refresh rates and FPS in games and how it can affect your gameplay.
The one thing response time has over refresh rate is that you don’t need to have super high frames to see the benefit of response time.
Response time is something built into the monitor and at any frame rate it will perform its job at the level it was intended to. To see the difference it is ideal to at least be playing at 60 FPS.
Whereas with refresh rate, you have to have a system capable of reaching 144 FPS in-game in order to see the full benefit and smoothness of a 144-hertz refresh rate monitor.
How Much Does Response Time Matter For Gaming?
Response time matters enough to look for a monitor with less than 5ms, which isn’t too hard to do. From there, I would recommend looking for better visuals unless you are a competitive gamer.
Monitors with the fastest response times and best performance are going to have TN panels which often result in washed out colors and a sub-par visual experience.
Whereas with IPS monitors, they may be a bit slower in terms of performance and for the most part use slower response times, but the visual quality and color quality is outstanding.
You reach a point with response time where what you lose outweighs what you could gain. You might get a couple of milliseconds faster, but you lose on a much more superior visual experience.
It’s up to you of course what you value, and if you have the money in the budget you could have almost everything you want wrapped up into one monitor.
What Type Of Monitor Do You Need To Get The Best Response Time?
Typically this will come down to the type of monitor panel. There are three common panels for gaming monitors which are TN, VA and IPS.
The TN panel is known to be the cheapest, and the fastest on average but it has lackluster color quality and viewing angles. Some monitors with this panel can even go below 1ms response time.
Upgrading to either VA or IPS you can still get 1ms response time but it will come at a higher cost since you will be getting a monitor with better picture quality.
With IPS especially it can start to get very expensive as those monitors are much more focused on producing good colors. To also include good response times and refresh rate will cost you a premium.
Generally though, for the fastest display, you should go with the TN panel monitor. That is if you are okay with a lower quality picture and prefer the best performance.
Personally, the balance you can get in price, performance, and picture quality in a VA panel monitor is perfect to me. But if you have the money a fully maxed out IPS monitor can provide the best gaming.
If you are interested in learning more about monitors and how to find the right one for you, we have an article all about are gaming monitors worth it.
Do You Need Less Than 1ms Response Times?
At some point, the difference between response times will become unnoticeable and the extra money spent won’t be worth it.
In the case of 1ms vs > 1ms, that statement is especially important. Coming down from 5ms to 1ms there will be a difference because you are talking about 4ms which is large enough to notice with a watchful eye.
However, if you went from 1ms to 0.5ms the competitive advantage you have doesn’t grow all that much and you will be hard-pressed to notice the difference.
Instead, if you spent that extra money getting a monitor with a better panel like IPS or VA or maybe even get a higher refresh rate the difference in upgrading any of those would be much more beneficial.
Is 5ms Response Time Good Enough For Gaming?
5ms is a fine response time for gaming, although not as fast as 1ms the difference between the two won’t be dramatic.
In terms of gaming, 5ms is plenty fast to provide great visuals in many forms of games from single-player stories to competitive games.
The only people that should truly go for 1ms is highly competitive gamers that are already looking for a monitor with the fastest speeds.
If you already are committing to higher speeds and lower visual quality, it makes sense at that point to max out every speed-related feature you can for your monitor.
The difference between 5ms and 1ms isn’t huge, but if you want to get the fastest monitor it will be easy to find a multitude of options with 1ms to max out the performance.
What’s The Difference Between Input Lag And Response Time?
Input lag is the time it takes for your command to reach your monitor through a much longer process.
Response time is the measure of how quickly it takes your monitor to change from one color to another.
Input lag starts with your input device which is most likely keyboard and mouse on PC, then goes to your CPU, then to your GPU, then to your display to reflect the change in the environment.
This process is far different from response time, however, if you look at any forum you will see many people debating this topic not knowing they are talking about the wrong thing.
It is good to get monitors with lower input lag time, although it isn’t something that you are likely to see on the sales page.
To get information on the input delay of a monitor I would recommend looking at really in-depth monitor reviews that benchmark the monitor.
One general rule for input lag is, the higher your refresh rate is, the lower the input lag is going to be! Keep that in mind, as you will always want the lowest input lag on your monitor.
Is 10ms Response Time Good For Gaming?
10ms isn’t recommended for gaming because you are going to experience much higher levels of blur and ghosting than 1ms or even 5ms.
Going for a 1ms response time monitor instead could provide much clearer visuals especially in fast-moving multiplayer games.
Even in single-player games, the overall visual quality skyrockets by using a 1ms response time instead of a 10ms.
Chances are if you are playing on a TV right now, you could be north of 10ms maybe even closer to 20ms response times.
Upgrading to a faster monitor, 1ms or even 3ms may provide a huge visual upgrade that might even improve your performance. At the very least, it makes the game more enjoyable.
Final Thoughts: What Response Time Is Good For Gaming?
When it comes to it you only really need 5ms or less of response time to have a good experience while gaming.
If you want the best experience overall, with the most competitive speed then go for the 1ms response time or >1ms which some monitors can achieve.
But if you aren’t a competitive gamer you can find a happy balance somewhere in between.
You will reach a point where the lower response time is unnoticeable but the considerably worse color accuracy on your TN panel is very noticeable.
Getting a slightly higher response time than 1ms and getting a higher refresh rate or an IPS panel instead could provide a superior experience for non-competitive gamers.