What Is a Monitor’s Response Time, and Why Does It Matter?

Gaming monitors come with the fastest refresh rates.
Alienware

When you’re shopping for a new monitor, you’ll be inundated with a lot of technical specs. And while things like the screen size and resolution are fairly obvious, there’s another important factor that isn’t: response time. Here’s how it works.

Response time is the time it takes your monitor to shift from one color to another. Usually, this is measured in terms of going from black to white to black again, in terms of milliseconds. A typical LCD response time is under ten milliseconds (10 ms), with some being as fast as one millisecond.

The exact method of measuring this statistic isn’t agreed upon: some manufacturers express it in terms of an LCD’s panel going black to white, or black to white to black, or more commonly “gray to gray.” That means going through the same full spectrum, but starting and ending on finer, more difficult gray values. In all cases, lower refresh rates are better, because they cut down on image issues like blurring or “ghosting.”

The spec sheet for a Dell monitor. Note the difference between refresh rate and response time.
The spec sheet for a Dell monitor. Note the difference between refresh rate and response time. Dell

Response time shouldn’t be confused with a monitor’s refresh rate. They sound similar, but the refresh rate is the number of times a screen displays a new image every second, expressed in Hertz. Most monitors use a 60 Hertz refresh rate, though some go higher—and higher is better. In contrast, for response time lower is better.

Why Do You Want a Low Response Time?

Most computer users won’t even be aware of the response time for their monitor or screen, because most of the time it doesn’t matter. For web surfing, writing an email or Word document, or editing photos, the delay between your screen shifting colors is so fast that you won’t even notice it. Even video, on modern computer monitors and televisions, usually doesn’t have a delay significant enough for the viewer to notice.

Fast-paced multiplayer games like Street Fighter benefit from low response times.
Fast-paced multiplayer games like Street Fighter benefit from low response times. Steam

The exception is gaming. For gamers, every single millisecond counts—the difference between winning and losing a fighting match, landing a long-range sniper shot, or even getting that perfect line in a racing game can indeed be a single millisecond. So for gamers who are looking for every possible competitive edge, a low refresh rate between 1 and 5 milliseconds is worth the expense of a more pricey, gaming-focused monitor.

What Kinds of Monitors Are the Fastest?

For your laptop or phone, you typically don’t have a choice for a low response time on the screen, though there are exceptions. But if you’re buying a new monitor for your gaming desktop, you’ll want the fastest panel you can afford.

At the time of writing, there are three different kinds of LCD panel that cover 99% of the monitors sold today.

  • TN (Twisted Nematic) screen panels: Inexpensive, but generally have a poor color range. These are among the fastest on the market in terms of response time, and gaming monitors often choose less colorful TN panels to be faster.
  • IPS (In-Plane Switching) screen panels: More expensive and with more accurate colors, IPS monitors are valued by graphic designers, photographers, video editors, and anyone for whom accurate colors are important. They have higher response times than TN panels, so are rarely marketed as “gaming” monitors.
  • VA (Vertical Alignment) screen panels: A newer design that attempts to pair the fast response time of TN and the more accurate, vivid color of IPS. It’s something of a middle ground, but many gaming monitors are now made with VA panels that have refresh rates as low as one millisecond.

If you want a monitor that can keep up with even the fastest of games, get one with a TN or VA screen panel. IPS gaming monitors exist, but they’re rare and expensive, and still not as fast as the alternatives. You can usually find the panel type in the monitor’s specifications on the online listing, or on the box at a retail store.

What Are the Downsides of a Fast Response Time?

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Razer Phone 2 Drops to $500 on March 1st, Android Pie Comes Along for the Ride

Razer's flagship phone gets a steep discount and some new software.
Razer

If some of the $1000+ prices on new flagship phones is giving you sticker shock, you might want to swing by Razer’s online store tomorrow. The Razer Phone 2, upgraded and competitive with most new phones as of late 2018, will be just $499.

That’s for the unlocked, carrier-agnostic version you buy from Razer itself, naturally. AT&T also sells the phone as do several retailers like Amazon. They should reflect this change tomorrow or shortly thereafter—it’s a $200 discount off the Razer Phone 2’s current retail price. There’s no word on how long this promotional price will last (if it’s promotional at all), so grab one quickly if you’re ready to buy.

But wait, there’s more! Razer also announced that its phone is getting the upgrade to Android 9.0 Pie starting today. Razer’s phone software is already pretty close to stock, with a few gaming-friendly add-ons to take advantage of that 120 Hz screen and light-up rear logo. Razer’s consistent updates were a highlight of the original.

It’s taken about six months for Razer to get the upgrade in the hands of users, which is pretty good—my Oreo-packing Galaxy Note 8 is looking envious of both the new software and the low price.

The Shadow Ghost is a Curvy Little Box That Streams PC Games in 4K

The Shadow Ghost is a new streaming box tied to the game service.
Shadow

Streaming games, as in streaming them to play and not just to watch, look like they’ll be the next big thing in the gaming market. Shadow offers a unique take on this service, and today they’ve announced an improved hardware component, the Shadow Ghost.

A little context: the Shadow service is similar to game streaming setups like PlayStation Now or GeForce Now. But instead of charging for a large library of games, Shadow lets you “rent” a remote, virtualized gaming PC with a GTX 1080 card equivalent, and fill it up with the PC games you already own. For $35 a month, you can access your remote PC and play your games on Windows, macOS, or Android.

But there’s no easy way to get any of those platforms to play nice with a TV. The Shadow Ghost is the solution. An evolution of the previous Shadow Box device and vaguely reminiscent of the Steam Link, the Ghost is designed to remove all of the compromises of streaming games that are possible at the moment. Its low-power, fanless hardware can nonetheless pump out 4K games at 60 frames per second, or 1080p at 144Hz for those fast-paced shooters and fighting games.

The back side and ports of the Shadow Ghost.
Shadow

It has a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection (up to 400 megabits per second) but you’ll want to take advantage of the gigabit Ethernet port for the best connection. (Shadow recommends an internet connection with a minimum of 25 Mbps and a low ping.) In addition to the Ethernet port it’s also rocking USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 2.0, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as Bluetooth 4.1, which should cover most controller and mouse/keyboard inputs.

The device itself is much smaller than a conventional game console, only 7.2 inches wide—about the size of an old CD player. Its curvaceous case looks neat, but might be a little tricky to fit in your entertainment center if you’re used to black boxes. The Shadow Ghost is on sale today from Shadow’s website for $140.

Deal Alert: The SteelSeries Stratus XL Controller for Android is Just $30 Today

This controller works with Android and Windows.
SteelSeries

If you prefer to play your mobile games with a console advantage, let your fingers do the walking to Amazon. The site has the SteelSeries Stratus XL, one of the best controllers mobile around, available for just $30 today.

The Stratus XL offers all of the same primary buttons as the standard controller design for the Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, plus hard-bound home and back buttons to make getting around the Android interface easier. Two full-sized thumbsticks and a classic D-pad are must-haves for console-style games like Fortnite. The controller supports Bluetooth connections, so it will also work with Windows laptops and desktops with the requisite adapter.

Today’s discount brings the price down from $40. A few things to note: the Stratus XL runs on AA batteries, so it’s not rechargeable (unless you’ve already invested in rechargeable batteries, of course). It’s “full size,” so it’s not going to fit in the pocket of even the largest jeans. And it’s not designed for Apple devices, so if you want a controller for your iPhone or iPad, you’ll have to go with the similar Nimbus design.

Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 USB-C Monitor Looks Like a Great Work Trip Companion

The ThinkVision M14 packs USB-C video ports on both sides.
Lenovo

We’re big fans of portable, USB-driven monitors here at Review Geek: they make it easy to bring the productivity-boosting power of a multi-screen setup on the road. At Mobile World Congress, Lenovo has introduced a new one that’s worth a look.

The ThinkVision M14—“ThinkVision” being the brand attached to the more button-down ThinkPad line—is a USB-C powered, 14-inch, 1080p design that will come with a price of €229 (about $260). It’s equipped with a USB-C port on both sides, allowing the user to easily plug it into a laptop or tablet to the left or right, the better to make use of small workspaces.

There’s another neat trick if you’re all-in on USB-C: while the screen can run entirely off the battery in your laptop or tablet, it can also deliver power. So if your laptop uses a USB-C power port, you can pack just the screen’s power adapter and it will deliver power to the laptop while receiving video over the same USB-C cable. It’s not clear whether the open USB-C port can be used as a pass-through hub, but that would be nice.

The ThinkVision M14 kickstand folds down flat for travel.
Lenovo

This thing is built to travel. At just 600 grams (1.3 pounds) and less than a centimeter thick when folded up with its protective cover, it should be able to squeeze into most laptop bags without weighing you down on long treks through the airport or conference hall. The 300-nit matte screen is also made with the idea of using it in a variety of challenging lighting conditions, and the unique kickstand base can easily shift from 10 to 90 degrees to match the tilt of your primary screen.

The ThinkVisionM14 will arrive in June for at least some markets. The $260 package includes a cover/case, the aforementioned power adapter, and a riser for the base if you want a little extra height.

Source: Lenovo