Trying to decide whether to go with a 144hz high-refresh-rate monitor or a 4K monitor with stunning visuals?
Generally, 144Hz monitors are better for eSports games and competitive shooters that benefit from faster, smoother frame rates, while 4K monitors are the clear choice for RPGs and other single player games that call for a more cinematic experience. Monitors that are both 144Hz and 4K are very expensive, but can be great options.
That’s the way-too-short answer. Realistically, there’s a lot more to consider.
This guide will tell you everything you know about 144hz vs 4K monitors, from performance and requirements to pure visuals and pricing.
What is 4k & What is 144 Hz?
4K refers to a 4196×2160 resolution. The 4196 refers to the to the number of horizontal pixels that are animated on screen. The 2160 refers to width of the pixels on screen. In reference to the movie industry, the TV industry and now YouTube, 4K is considered the gold standard by which they operate.
144Hz refers to the unit of frequency that a monitor refreshes. This means that 144Hz monitors refresh 144 times per second to show a new image, more than twice that of a common 60hz monitor.
144hz vs 4K Gaming
144Hz allows you to be very responsive within the context of a game. This means that there are a greater number of frames flashing before your eyes every second, giving you a faster, more accurate perception of what’s happening in real time.
For competitive gamers, 144Hz (and higher) is an elite option because that slight lag that might appear on other monitors, will not appear here and regardless of whether the image is the best, the gameplay experience is what is premium to these kinds of gamers.
60 frames per second is perfectly fine for most single-player games, regardless of pure visual quality. With 144 Hz monitors, you’re cramming even more information into every second you’re looking at a screen.
144hz may require beefier hardware or lowered graphical settings, but it will make up for it in overall visual smoothness.
Check out this slow motion side-by-side comparison to see exactly how different speeds affect real-world frames per second output:
We would always recommend 144Hz+ for games like CS:GO, Overwatch, League of Legends, Valorant, Fortnite, Apex Legends and Call of Duty: Warzone. Despite these games all having their individual game style, they all require instant input to be reflected as fast as possible on screen and if you’re competing in tournaments, a high refresh rate monitor is generally what you’d find in front of you.
Despite often compromising on pure visuals compared to some options, 144Hz monitors are usually going to be a bit pricier than a standard 60hz monitor, so consider this when going this route.
4K monitors are generally what most gamers start with and usually, they are plenty for what most gamers need. 4K gives you a gorgeous image with some caveats. While most can handle 60 frames per second (144Hz can be turned down to do 60hz as well), there are sometimes a few issues.
First off, you might get some screen tearing and for those unfamiliar with this ugly problem, it is exactly as it sounds. The image on your screen may seem as if it is tearing, creating a jarring and sometimes nauseating effect that simply doesn’t let you play the way you want, because every time you turn or look up in a game, the screen won’t be able to handle the number of frames it needs to load at that speed and the tearing will result because of it.
However, the image depicted at 30 to 60 frames per second option in most games give you a slower, but far more cinematic look at most games. The best way to describe this is the difference between soap opera mode on a TV vs. the non-smoothing option. The slight delay gives shows that dramatic effect and the 30 to 60 frames per second option in gaming gives that same effect. Combined with the gorgeous visuals that a 4K monitor will provide, this should be more than enough for most gamers.
As an enjoyer of RPG’s, the best way to experience them would almost always be a 4K monitor. The visual wonder that these games create doesn’t necessarily require those twitch reflexes you’d be using in a competitive shooter that calls for long play sessions against other players.
Occasionally, 4K monitors will have some issues with different glitches and artifacts appearing on screen, simply because of graphical fidelity needed to animate certain games. For example, games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, despite coming out in 2015, still demands a fair amount of horsepower to run properly. A 4K monitor is arguably the preferred way to play, if only because it’s best way to get the paramount visual experience.
Games that require less graphic ability to work properly don’t get as much out of 4K monitors.
144 Hz monitors give you the faster, smoother gameplay experience while 4K monitors give you the better color, graphics and cinematic experience.
Definitely check out our standalone guide to all of the Pros & Cons of 144Hz Monitors to get more examples and comparisons.
Can a Monitor Support Both 4K and 144 Hz?
What of the ability to combine forces to create the perfect gaming monitor? Why can’t I have the best of both worlds and have a monitor that runs both a 4K image with a 144Hz refresh rate? The answer is that yes, you actually can find monitors like this and aforementioned 4K monitor above actually does support this.
The main drawback is that often you will spend probably double on that 4k, 144hz monitor than what you spent on your PC itself. Only the most demanding users will find that it’s worth it and those users are probably already pursuing other expensive things within the gaming world (like ray tracing). Additionally, the GPU that you’ll need to support a beast like this will be quite the expensive investment too, which brings us to our next point of contention.
System Requirements for 144hz & 4K
Right out of the box, using a normal-to-high-quality PC with a solid graphics card, a 144Hz monitor is going to be the easiest to get running. The reason is because the most common max resolution that most 144hz monitors can handle is 1440p. Most decent graphics cards are capable of doing that.
The resulting image is generally pretty great, even if they’re not reaching the breathtaking visuals of a 4K monitor.
With 4K monitors though, you need to have a graphics card that can support running 4K in games (and usually that’s going to be a fair bit more expensive). To get the respective cards to their most effective and enjoyable forms, the 4K monitor will cost you more just about every time.
As with most gaming specs go, this ultimately comes down to compromise. If you’re going to be doing marathon eSports gaming sessions until the break of dawn with your friends, you’ll want a monitor that has 144Hz refresh rate. If you’re more casual and like to sit back and explore amazing vistas in RPGs and adventure games, the 4K experience is for you.
If your system is overly dated or quite slow, it may be worth it to explore 1080p (or even 900p) options.
Panel Type & Response Time
It’s also important to understand what type of LCD panel is inside a monitor and what kind of response time that panel can achieve. The three important panel types to understand are IPS, TN, and VA.
The quick and dirty of response time is that it’s how long it takes for your monitor to respond to your input and that 99% of monitors will fall somewhere between 1ms on the fast end and 5ms on the slow end. There are some nuances, but what you really need to know is that 1ms is what you want for eSports, twitch shooters, etc. 5ms is fine for RPGs, most single player games, and general computing.
In the past, monitors capable of running 144hz were almost always TN panels. These panels often have lower-grade visuals and poor viewing angles, but are capable of faster speeds and less input lag without breaking the bank.
IPS panels are much more common in the modern monitor industry, especially for work/multimedia use. A quality IPS panel will have fantastic visuals with strong contrast and wide viewing angles. The problem is that most IPS panels are max out at 60Hz with up to 5ms response time.
Nowadays, IPS monitors with high refresh rates are becoming more and more common. Prices on these monitors are also more competitive than ever. The “best of all worlds” would generally be an IPS monitor of at least 144Hz with a 1ms response time and this is exactly what we’d recommend for the vast majority of gamers.
Note: We see a lot of people wondering if a 4ms response time is good enough for gaming and we have a guide specifically dedicated to answering that question.
VA panels are often strong competitors in terms of viewing angles and light bleed. They also have good colors, even if those colors can’t quite match top-tier IPS quality. The predominant issue with VA panels come in the form of pixel blurring during on-screen motion. This can be an instant deal breaker for competitive gamers, but there are some newer VA panels that mostly solve this problem.
Low End vs High End Monitors
Although we’ve named them to two separate categories, there is still plenty of difference when it comes to quality of each monitor. For example, a low priced, lower tech specs 144Hz monitor is not necessarily the better option over a 4K monitor. You’re going to find expensive 4K monitors that vastly outperform 144Hz options because quality of tech is ultimately very important for each.
However, when faced with two high-quality monitors, your gaming preference becomes the deciding factor when choosing between the two. If you’re someone who is running a top-of-the-line graphics card and buys all the new games the day the come out, then 4K monitors will likely be perfect for you and you won’t even wonder what the other side might be.
If you’re someone who prefers having lightning-fast response time and don’t really care whether that tree in the distance is sharp as can be and full of detail, then 144Hz monitors will be the way you’ll go and you can probably save a few bucks by sacrificing a little on visuals.
144hz vs 4K Pricing
The pricing difference between the two different kinds of monitors varies, but when it comes to the top of line of each type of monitor, the prices really are quite similar. Generally, they will vary a few hundred dollars or so between top models, though some of the bigger monitors will go even higher than that.
An Asus Rog Strix XG27UQ is about as good as it gets for an 144Hz monitor. Conversely, one of the best 4K monitors is the ASUS ROG Swift PG45UQ 43” 4K HDR DSC Gaming Monitor. There’s a decent price jump between those two, but plenty of great models are available for prices in between that range as well and the size of your monitor will greatly increase the price regardless of whether it is 144Hz or 4k.
We tend to believe that monitors 32″ and above are too big for competitive eSports gaming, but they can be great options for cinematic gaming, work, or streaming.