120hz gaming monitor - exploring the benefits

Posted by Sagalla (218 posts) -

I recently purchased a 120hz monitor, and thought it would be a good idea to blog about my experience as it has changed my experience of PC gaming once you tweak things a bit. The monitor in question is a Benq XL2720T 27 inch panel, known for its fast refresh rate and esports pedigree.Once you fix the gamma and tone down the brightness, this is a fine looking matte display, so its not as though this monitor isn’t great for normal desktop use, which many commentators seem to suggest. When you get used to the 120hz mode even on the desktop it can be hard to go back. One of the exciting things about this monitor and a few other 3d enabled 120hz models is that by enabling a lightboost hack, it is finally possible to elimate motion blur, making the LED panel finally equal to that of the venerable old CRT displays.I won’t go into why this hack makes the difference, but I can confirm that it does.

Setting it up means going here: www.blurbusters.com/zero-motion-blur/lightboost/

I installed the ToastyX Custom Resolution Utility on that page, and that gives me 2 modes on the Nvidia control panel, 120hz with lightboost enabled, and 121hz without.This fixed a few other problems as well, as some games will default and switch to the lower 60hz mode when they have the option. So on the desktop I run things in 121hz but switch to 120hz when I run a game. Having done all this, I can talk about the games I’ve run on my i5 2500k and GTX 570 rig so far, and talk about the obvious changes.

Shooters – So far I’ve tried Unreal Tournament 2004, and this was an incredible difference, likewise for Counterstrike: GO, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and COD: Black Ops. Aiming in all these games feels much more precise and all ran smoothly and consistently at 120 fps without any fuss.Playing Mirror’s Edge was fantastic as well. When I tried Black Ops 2 though, this did not run as well, ranging between about 110 to 70 fps. I’m not really a Battlefield 3 guy but I know that if you want to run that at 120fps you will need some more hardware or be ready to seriously gimp the settings. I couldn’t get Borderlands to run higher than 60 fps, there might be a way but I gave up on that.

RPGs and RTS – When I tried Warcraft 3 my jaw just about hit the floor, this was as good as this old game can look and run. Diablo 3 also sees big improvements, seeing all the spell effects and animations at a solid 120 fps really adds to the experience. I was surprised that it ran better than Torchlight 2 as well, which would slow down to 60 fps whenever you were in combat. Starcraft Brood War looked great as well.

I just ran Street Fighter Alpha 3 on MAME and this really made it obvious how a flatscreen panel has reached parity with CRT, this is a great monitor for retro gaming, especially because you can rotate it vertically for old school shoot em ups. Last game I’ll mention is Dead Space, I played it on PS3 before but got rid of my copy before finishing it, resolving to play it again when I got my gaming PC. When I started again on PC I got frustrated and quit though, after dying 3 or 4 times on the asteroids minigame. Tried it again with the new monitor and it was almost ridiculously easy, so that’s the kind of difference it can make.All this has meant that I’m not as interested in the new consoles as I might be otherwise, if a GTX 780 can let me run games like Watch Dogs at 120 fps then that’s what I’ll be doing instead! Anyway hopefully someone finds this helpful, I thought about getting a 120hz panel for a while before doing it, never really seeing a good summary of what kind of changes to expect.

#1 Edited by VACkillers (1063 posts) -

Good read and interesting, I have never used a 120htz before so I dont really know what the actual difference is, and I'm guessing its pretty hard to explain exactly what is so good about it until you actually use one yourself to see and feel the difference. The motion blur thing was interesting, so if it makes it like a CRT monitor, does that mean you dont have to be sitting right infront of the monitor at a certain viewing angle to see the picture fully? that was the one drawback from early LCD screens, much better these days but you still cannot sit at an angle without loosing some of the picture, I used to have friends that would hang out at my house back in the day, and if we all couldn't jam around the same screen that would have sucked balls lol... so im interested to know if it enhanced the viewing angle any? Also does this affect games that have motion blur on? like crysis or far cry?

#2 Edited by BBAlpert (1475 posts) -

Is it actually running stuff at 120 fps, or is it doing what it does for TV stuff (interpolating between frames)?

Because if it's the latter, it could actually not be great for gaming. It takes some amount of time for the screen to get 2 frames and decide what should go between them, so that could add a potentially significant input delay.

Although if the game is running at 120 fps and the monitor is simply keeping up and showing each one, then that sounds pretty awesome.

#3 Posted by Slaegar (710 posts) -

@bbalpert: 120 hertz monitors for computers are often made for 60fps 3D gaming. They are actual 120.

Its making my next monitor purchase super confusing. Choosing between 2560x1440 or 1920x1080@120.

#4 Posted by Guns_N_Roses_Child (12 posts) -

@bbalpert: @vackillers: 120 Hz monitors use twisted nematic (TN) to display the image, instead of in-plane switching (IPS) that's more common on 60 Hz monitors. TN monitors have really poor viewing angles, even if you're a little bit off-center, you'll get some color distortion. Any further off and the colors will become inverted.

Because TN monitors can only display a limited number of color shades compared to IPS monitors, it uses interpolation to mix adjacent pixels together to approximate the correct color. Most TN monitors have a Gray to Gray (how long it takes for a pixel to switch from one shade of gray to another) of only 1-2 milliseconds, compared to IPS monitors that have a GTG time of 8-10 ms. This makes input lag on high-end (or gaming focused) TN monitors indiscernible.

If anyone's buying a TN monitor, I suggest getting one with a GTG time of 1 ms, and look for one that's LED lit. The vibrancy of LEDs help to eliminate the washed out look of TN monitors.

#5 Posted by Devildoll (881 posts) -

@guns_n_roses_child: also try to look up a review of the monitor at digitalversus or a similar site.

pretty much every slightly gaming related monitor has had 2 ms listed in the spec list since 2008, even though the actual performance varies tremendously.
therefore you cant actually just pick up a monitor that says 1 ms, and think it'll be top notch for twitch gaming.

#6 Edited by Szlifier (494 posts) -

It's all about that backlight hack. This thing is fucking amazing.

#7 Edited by Guns_N_Roses_Child (12 posts) -

@devildoll: I have faith that most people do some research before investing in anything expensive ;)

1 ms GTG is just an initial spec to look for when narrowing down your search for a gaming monitor. It's also the fastest color switch a monitor can do, more opposing colors will take slightly longer to switch. Gray to Gray is something that the manufacturers touted themselves, so take it with a hint of salt.

#8 Posted by Nivash (241 posts) -

@sagalla said:

The monitor in question is a Benq XL2720T 27 inch panel, known for its fast refresh rate and esports pedigree.Once you fix the gamma and tone down the brightness, this is a fine looking matte display

Chuckled a bit at this, that's the model that's somewhat infamous for having its brightness setting being "floodlight" as a default, right?

Anyway, good read. I've been intrigued by 120 hz displays for some time even if that's more from a techie standpoint than as a prospective buyer, seeing as how I can't really justify the cost at the moment. It's nice to see a more dispassionate write up too, 120 hz vs 60 hz threads can get surprisingly... heated, for some reason.

I'm not sure what the issue with BL2 is, but it could very well be an engine that doesn't deal very well running above 60 FPS and has a cap because of it. A lot of engines are surprisingly picky about FPS - one well known example being Skyrim, where the physics break down more and more the higher you go.

#9 Posted by RollingZeppelin (1975 posts) -

Just wondering:

Why is it that I can buy a LED TV that has the same resolution, twice the frame rate, nearly twice the size, and presumably a much better viewing angle for the same price?

http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16889272021

Is it the motion blur issue that you mentioned, or maybe that GTG time?

#10 Posted by AlexW00d (6275 posts) -

Just wondering:

Why is it that I can buy a LED TV that has the same resolution, twice the frame rate, nearly twice the size, and presumably a much better viewing angle for the same price?

http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16889272021

Is it the motion blur issue that you mentioned, or maybe that GTG time?

That's a refurbished no-name TV that isn't actually running 240hz. Bigger panels are easier and cheaper to manufacture than smaller ones of the same resolution, and I really doubt it looks anywhere near as good as the BenQ. Just 'cause the page says numbers doesn't mean it's decent.

#11 Posted by GaspoweR (3041 posts) -

Also if you guys need to check up a database for input and display lag in monitors/TV's you should go to this one: http://www.displaylag.com/

Online
#12 Posted by Corvak (1077 posts) -

I believe 120hz screens can do 120fps, you just need to put down the money for video hardware that can get new releases to run that high without dropping below 120.

I am curious if there is a feeling of improved quality between a smooth 60 and a smooth 120, though, since i'd really love a bigger screen instead.

#13 Posted by Sagalla (218 posts) -

@bbalpert said:

Is it actually running stuff at 120 fps, or is it doing what it does for TV stuff (interpolating between frames)?

Because if it's the latter, it could actually not be great for gaming. It takes some amount of time for the screen to get 2 frames and decide what should go between them, so that could add a potentially significant input delay.

Although if the game is running at 120 fps and the monitor is simply keeping up and showing each one, then that sounds pretty awesome.

It certainly can display stuff at 120 frames per second, it just becomes something that can change from game to game, and you are asking your hardware to do more. Some games give you an option of refreshing at 120hz, and thus giving a max of 120 fps right in the settings (like Black Ops). Some games have a maximum refresh that is baked right into the game and it's animation (like Street Fighter IV, the animations are based around 60 frames all the time, even though particles and effects will render at 120 frames).

#14 Posted by Sagalla (218 posts) -

Good read and interesting, I have never used a 120htz before so I dont really know what the actual difference is, and I'm guessing its pretty hard to explain exactly what is so good about it until you actually use one yourself to see and feel the difference. The motion blur thing was interesting, so if it makes it like a CRT monitor, does that mean you dont have to be sitting right infront of the monitor at a certain viewing angle to see the picture fully? that was the one drawback from early LCD screens, much better these days but you still cannot sit at an angle without loosing some of the picture, I used to have friends that would hang out at my house back in the day, and if we all couldn't jam around the same screen that would have sucked balls lol... so im interested to know if it enhanced the viewing angle any? Also does this affect games that have motion blur on? like crysis or far cry?

This isn't the best monitor for different viewing angles, it's really meant to be set up for one person in ideal conditions. I'm a keen Tekken player and I noticed that when I played on CRT screens I would be able to hit certain combos I couldn't on a LCD panel, because there is almost no display lag on a CRT. So this is more what I mean about catching up to CRT screens. If you get motion sick with some games you might not with a display like this, because there is a more immediate sense of control on a 120hz display with a lightboost hack. I don't play games with motion blur on except I did try Portal 2 and it looked amazing :)

#15 Posted by BBAlpert (1475 posts) -

@sagalla said:

@bbalpert said:

Is it actually running stuff at 120 fps, or is it doing what it does for TV stuff (interpolating between frames)?

Because if it's the latter, it could actually not be great for gaming. It takes some amount of time for the screen to get 2 frames and decide what should go between them, so that could add a potentially significant input delay.

Although if the game is running at 120 fps and the monitor is simply keeping up and showing each one, then that sounds pretty awesome.

It certainly can display stuff at 120 frames per second, it just becomes something that can change from game to game, and you are asking your hardware to do more. Some games give you an option of refreshing at 120hz, and thus giving a max of 120 fps right in the settings (like Black Ops). Some games have a maximum refresh that is baked right into the game and it's animation (like Street Fighter IV, the animations are based around 60 frames all the time, even though particles and effects will render at 120 frames).

Alright, I think that makes sense. So the screen doesn't attempt to take on the responsibility of interpolating frames for games that run under 120 fps, the way that 120/240 hz TVs do? It says "well SF4 is giving me 60 frames, but I can show 120, so I'll just show each frame twice" as opposed to "hang on a second, I need to fill all 120 of these slots with a unique image, so let me figure out what's going on between each of these frames"?

#16 Posted by Sagalla (218 posts) -

@bbalpert said:

@sagalla said:

@bbalpert said:

Is it actually running stuff at 120 fps, or is it doing what it does for TV stuff (interpolating between frames)?

Because if it's the latter, it could actually not be great for gaming. It takes some amount of time for the screen to get 2 frames and decide what should go between them, so that could add a potentially significant input delay.

Although if the game is running at 120 fps and the monitor is simply keeping up and showing each one, then that sounds pretty awesome.

It certainly can display stuff at 120 frames per second, it just becomes something that can change from game to game, and you are asking your hardware to do more. Some games give you an option of refreshing at 120hz, and thus giving a max of 120 fps right in the settings (like Black Ops). Some games have a maximum refresh that is baked right into the game and it's animation (like Street Fighter IV, the animations are based around 60 frames all the time, even though particles and effects will render at 120 frames).

Alright, I think that makes sense. So the screen doesn't attempt to take on the responsibility of interpolating frames for games that run under 120 fps, the way that 120/240 hz TVs do? It says "well SF4 is giving me 60 frames, but I can show 120, so I'll just show each frame twice" as opposed to "hang on a second, I need to fill all 120 of these slots with a unique image, so let me figure out what's going on between each of these frames"?

That's exactly it. When I played SF4 I got a real sense that it was displaying the animation frames twice, but dynamically generated effects were rendering at 120. It's always an improvement but you start noticing a few limitations of games that you might not otherwise :)

#17 Edited by Sagalla (218 posts) -

@nivash said:

@sagalla said:

The monitor in question is a Benq XL2720T 27 inch panel, known for its fast refresh rate and esports pedigree.Once you fix the gamma and tone down the brightness, this is a fine looking matte display

Chuckled a bit at this, that's the model that's somewhat infamous for having its brightness setting being "floodlight" as a default, right?

Anyway, good read. I've been intrigued by 120 hz displays for some time even if that's more from a techie standpoint than as a prospective buyer, seeing as how I can't really justify the cost at the moment. It's nice to see a more dispassionate write up too, 120 hz vs 60 hz threads can get surprisingly... heated, for some reason.

I'm not sure what the issue with BL2 is, but it could very well be an engine that doesn't deal very well running above 60 FPS and has a cap because of it. A lot of engines are surprisingly picky about FPS - one well known example being Skyrim, where the physics break down more and more the higher you go.

Yeah the brightness was set to max right out of the box, and the presets weren't very good at all. But you get 3 user settings that you can switch between on the fly via a dongle which is handy. One reason I wrote this blog is because of crap information you can find out there like this video here... I'm not sure this chick knows the difference between a glossy and matte display lol. I was referring to Borderlands 1 but since I posted this blog I've got Nvidia 3D vision and that works well with it. I'll have to check out Skyrim again and see if I get that crazy stuff as well

#18 Edited by RollingZeppelin (1975 posts) -

@sagalla said:

@nivash said:

@sagalla said:

The monitor in question is a Benq XL2720T 27 inch panel, known for its fast refresh rate and esports pedigree.Once you fix the gamma and tone down the brightness, this is a fine looking matte display

Chuckled a bit at this, that's the model that's somewhat infamous for having its brightness setting being "floodlight" as a default, right?

Anyway, good read. I've been intrigued by 120 hz displays for some time even if that's more from a techie standpoint than as a prospective buyer, seeing as how I can't really justify the cost at the moment. It's nice to see a more dispassionate write up too, 120 hz vs 60 hz threads can get surprisingly... heated, for some reason.

I'm not sure what the issue with BL2 is, but it could very well be an engine that doesn't deal very well running above 60 FPS and has a cap because of it. A lot of engines are surprisingly picky about FPS - one well known example being Skyrim, where the physics break down more and more the higher you go.

Yeah the brightness was set to max right out of the box, and the presets weren't very good at all. But you get 3 user settings that you can switch between on the fly via a dongle which is handy. One reason I wrote this blog is because of crap information you can find out there like this video here... I'm not sure this chick knows the difference between a glossy and matte display lol. I was referring to Borderlands 1 but since I posted this blog I've got Nvidia 3D vision and that works well with it. I'll have to check out Skyrim again and see if I get that crazy stuff as well

Wow that video is pathetic, I don't need to stare at a a pair of tits to get what I need out of a hardware review. Gaming gets a bad enough misogynistic rep without girls whoring themselves out for fucking youtube views.

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