What refresh rate should you use with an LCD monitor? The answer might surprise you.
If you’ve ever used a CRT monitor, you know that fine-tuning your refresh rate is essential. The refresh rate of a display is measured in Hertz (abbreviated Hz) and specifies the number of times per second that a display is illuminated. Setting the refresh rate to 60 Hz – a common default value – tells the monitor to redraw itself 60 times per second. For most people, that setting on a CRT monitor is too slow, resulting in an annoying flicker that can cause headaches, eyestrain, and fatigue. Bumping the refresh rate to a higher number can reduce that flicker, as long as the monitor itself can handle the faster rate.
So, what if you have an LCD monitor? You can safely ignore the refresh rate setting. Changing this number in Control Panel has no effect on an LCD.
Why? This snippet from the NEC Monitor Technology Guide explains it well:
Flicker is a result of phosphor decay; that is, after the energy from the electron gun is transferred to the phosphor material, the energy and the resulting light begin to decay very slowly until the electron beam hits the phosphor again. …
Since LCD monitors do not employ phosphors, refresh rate is not a concern. Basically, the transistors in the LCD remain open or closed as needed until the image changes. This can be a point of confusion for some consumers, however, since most graphics cards still “ask for” a refresh rate setting. This is due to the analog nature of existing graphic cards (see “Inputs” section) and their support for CRT displays. While refresh rates do not apply to LCD monitors, most LCDs are set up to accept any settings from 60Hz and above.
If you still use a CRT monitor, check its specifications and then experiment to find the refresh rate that works best for you – it’s not a one-size fits all setting.
But if you use an LCD monitor, you can take this item off your list of tweaks.
Update: Although the refresh rate setting will not affect your comfort (LCDs don’t flicker), you might find that a change in refresh rate setting affects the LCD’s performance. This article at Apple’s web site, for instance, reports on possible playback problems when using Final Cut to play back video clips on a monitor set for a 60 Hz refresh rate. If the LCD manufacturer specifically recommends a different refresh rate, go ahead and use that setting. In most LCD monitors I’ve seen, the default setting of 60 Hz is ideal for everyday use.