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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: 500Hz monitors are a pointless luxury

During Computex 2022 this week, Asus and Nvidia partnered up to announce the world’s very first 500Hz gaming monitor. 

For those unfamiliar with refresh rates, this means the upcoming Asus ROG Swift monitor is capable of producing 500 images per second, resulting in fantastically smooth motion.

Think of it like a flipbook – if you’re turning the pages slowly to see an animation of a man walking, it will look robotic and static. Flick through the pages at a greater speed, and you’ll get more fluid motion, which looks substantially more natural.

Of course, animations look pretty smooth to the naked eye on 60Hz screens, which is the lowest refresh rate you’ll likely find on any monitor or TV these days. But bumping up the refresh rate can actually have a major impact on your gaming performance, making it easier for you to hit the target in a first-person shooter or even enable you to perfectly time a roll during an Elden Ring boss battle. 

For this reason, gaming monitor manufacturers have been trying to push the refresh up as high as possible in recent years, as there’s a big market in the eSports space, as well as those willing to invest money into improving their kill/death ratio on the likes of Fortnite and Apex Legends. 

Before this week, the fastest gaming monitor you could find had a 360Hz refresh rate. Such monitors have niche appeal, because they have bank-depleting prices and also are only viable to those who had high-end graphics cards capable of producing enough frames per second to actually take advantage of the monitor’s speeds. But even so, there was still a market for 360Hz monitors in the eSports space. 

But 500Hz monitors? I personally think that’s a step too far. I can understand that Asus and Nvidia want to push innovation to its limit, and the PC gaming crowd is always clamouring for faster speeds and higher figures, but we’re getting to the point that there isn’t really any GPU out there that’s powerful enough to make a 500hz monitor worthwhile. 

We reviewed the Nvidia RTX 3080 back in 2020, which is one of the fastest graphics cards you can currently buy. But despite flaunting some impressive benchmark results, it rarely managed to surpass the 250fps mark for any of the games we had on test at a 1080p resolution. 

The only exception was Doom Eternal, which makes sense since it’s wonderfully optimsed and not very intensive on PC hardware. But even that game only saw an average performance of 385fps in 1080p, which is far from the required number of frames to make the most out of a 500Hz monitor. 

Of course, the big elephant in the room here is that AMD and Nvidia are both looking to launch their next generation of graphics cards (Nvidia 4000 Series and AMD RDNA 3) before the end of the year. We currently have no idea what kind of performance upgrades these GPUs will offer, so it’s certainly possible that they’ll be able to push the frame rate closer to 500fps for eSports-grade games such as Fortnite, Rainbow Six Siege and Valorant

But even then, would jumping up from 360Hz to 500Hz really make that much of a difference? The more frames you add, the less noticeable the difference is – it would be very difficult to tell the difference with just the naked eye. 

Nvidia argues that boosting the refresh rate up to 500Hz does make a big difference, and you can see their video below which argues the case. But I do find it interesting that Nvidia chose to use a 144Hz display for comparison, rather than a 360Hz monitor. 

It’s important for me to acknowledge that I have not seen a 500Hz monitor in person just yet, so I may well be proved wrong when I finally get one in for testing. But my instincts tell me that 500Hz monitors won’t be the game-changing upgrade that Nvidia insists it to be. This seems to be merely a marketing ploy to impress gamers with new world records. 

There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but if you’re looking for a top-end gaming monitor, I seriously recommend avoiding a 500Hz refresh rate – you’ll likely get just as good of a performance out of a 360Hz monitor, but at a fraction of the cost.

Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon. 

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