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What is Response Time for Monitors?

Response time, frame rate, and refresh rate – what do they all mean? It can be difficult to know what to look for in a monitor. Response time is just one of the many features you should consider when looking into your unique monitor buying experience.

As part of our monitor features cheat sheet, ViewSonic hopes to make your search for a new monitor easy and perfectly catered for you. Or learn more about ViewSonic Elite gaming monitors here

Read on to learn about response time for monitors and how it can change your monitor viewing experience.

Response time can be one of the more complicated features to look for in a monitor. This is because it’s one of the most overlooked features as it does not provide much for the everyday user. Response time relates to the colors you see on your monitor and how long it takes them to shift between one another.

But if you are in the market for a gaming monitor or are in fields that rely heavily on video or other motion-dependent things, response time is highly important for you and can make a huge difference.

What Is Response Time for Monitors?

Response time for monitors is the time it takes to shift from one color to another. This is usually measured in the time it takes to go from black to white back again to black expressed in milliseconds (ms). However, there is also gray-to-gray (GtG) and sometimes even just black-to-white.

Usually, 10ms is the average for black to white to black. But to give you another reference point, LCD screens have response times under 10ms. But the fewer milliseconds response time takes, the better image and motion production. Certain panel types are more responsive than others, however, with TN panels traditionally having being much more responsive than IPS panels. But that is all changing, especially with nano IPS.

what is response time for monitors - what is response time

Black to White to Black

Black to white to black is the standard response time indicator. Black to white to black measures by determining the time for fully active (white) to inactive (black) back to active again. With this time measurement, you can determine how long it takes a pixel to change colors. In LCD, for example, how fast the liquid-crystal rises and then falls is the total time.

Black to white to black response times are usually higher, meaning they are slower to shift. These types of response times are better catered for everyday computer users who are more interested in monitor ergonomics.

Gray-to-Gray (GtG)

Gray-to-gray (GtG) functions on what is called a middle gradation, meaning these pixels do not become fully inactive. LCD GtGs have roughly 256 gradations of gray. Gray-to-gray response times are much faster and are great for those interested in better gaming experiences and videography.

It is also important to note how they are measured. While black to white to black is round trip total time, gray-to-gray is measured by taking several selected time sequences and then getting the average. This then is the total time in milliseconds it takes for a pixel to change color.

How Color is Made

With all this talk about black, white, and gray, you are probably wondering how in the world color is made. LCD displays usually have three subpixels per pixel. And monitors can have millions of pixels on a single display (a 4K screen contains about 8.3 million). Each of these three subpixels found within a single pixel has color filters of red, green, and blue light within them. By changing the active and inactive parts of these three subpixels, you can produce different colors.

So, response time is measuring how long it takes for these pixels to “turn off” or more scientifically, block out light. Gray-to-gray functions on a basis of color scheme and the switching between each shade of gray. But the color variations are produced in a similar way using the middle gradations.

what is response time for monitors - types of response measurement

What is Latency?

Latency is a term you may see pop up when researching response time. Some places may confuse the two terms since they both involve timing and use milliseconds but there is a difference. Latency refers to data awaiting a response, not color shift time. Response time can also be confused with terms like input lag, which is an error caused by a lack of response by the monitor itself.

Latency simply refers to the time in which a request is sent and how long it awaits a response. Once it is processed and received, you have the summary of round-trip latency and service time. However, better latency can improve your response time by a whole millisecond!

How is Response Time Different from Refresh Rate or Frame Rate?

Some other terms you may have seen are refresh rate and frame rate. It is important to note that these are quite different but easily confused.

Refresh rate is the number of times your monitor updates with a new image every second. This is measured in hertz (Hz). The higher the hertz, the smoother a picture. The refresh rate is related directly to the monitor or display hardware.

However, making sure you have both a good refresh rate and frame rate allows for optimal performance.

Frame rate is the speed at which those images are shown. This is measured in frames per second (fps). Each image shown represents a frame and how quick movement between them is thus creating what you see on the screen. So, if you see 30fps, that means there are 30 distinct still images that your display is switching between.

Frame rate is not dependent on your monitor, but rather the combination of software, graphics card, and central processing unit (CPU).


Response Time Test

When it comes to response time, the science and meaning of it is, admittedly, quite complicated. Even some engineers can find it challenging. But there are some cool resources to help you understand response time better.

Response time tests are useful but complicated tools where you can test your monitor’s response time. These are particularly useful for monitors that use gray-to-gray response times since they are better suited for video and motion. These tests will show you what is called moving picture response time (MPRT). Moving picture response time is different in that it is the amount of time that a pixel (that has already changed colors) is visible.

If you are in the field of videography and you would like to learn more about GtG and MPRT, check out this explanation.

Why Response Time Is Important

If you are a casual internet user, meaning you simply browse, shop, or read, response time is not really an important factor. In fact, even if you regularly use your PC for things like watching movies or videos, response time still may not be that big of a deal for you.

If you are a videographer, or even more so, a gamer, response time matters quite a lot. Having a lower response rate, such as one to five milliseconds can make all the difference for you. It also allows for more distinct motion and less of what is called “ghosting”.

But keep in mind, if you are someone who suffers from eye strain and headaches, lower response times could mean that the monitor excludes complex image processing such as boosted brightness or blue light filters that protect your eyes. A highly responsive monitor might not be for you.

what is response time for monitors quick facts

Should You Consider Better Response Time?

If you are a gamer or videographer, absolutely yes!

If you are in competitive esports, for example, then having a better response time is necessary to make sure you stay on top. But if you are an everyday user, for things like professional businesses, or just casual surfing, response time may not be the number one factor you should consider.

If you are looking for a great monitor for needs requiring response time, check out ViewSonic Elite’s XG2405 for gaming and even videography due to its low response time of 1ms (GtG) and a refresh rate of 144Hz! Or click here to explore ViewSonic Elite’s series of high-performing gaming monitors.