You want your in-game experience to be faster and smoother, so you love the results from overclocking your CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit)…but have you overclocked your PC monitor yet?
Overclocking a monitor for gaming isn't the same as overclocking other aspects of your PC setup because it doesn't have its own processing unit. It will require additional software and the steps can vary depending on whether you have an AMD® or NVIDIA® graphics card.
Yet even though an overclocked (OC) monitor takes some time and comes with slight risk, if it’s done correctly, you could improve your gaming performance while saving a lot of money. With that said, increasing your refresh rate doesn’t always improve the performance on the screen.
Your computer’s performance can vary depending on your graphics card and processing system - a consideration to note before you begin the process of overclocking. An OC monitor is not always ideal unless your particular device has an “Overclock” menu option in the monitor settings. Pushing your refresh rate beyond the shipped specifications may create system instability resulting in image artifacts .
Before you go out and invest in a new display panel, read up on overclocking a monitor to see whether it might be a viable option for you. Also, keep in mind that overclocking can void your manufacturer's warranty, so doing some research before you get started is a good idea.
You could improve your gaming experience by optimizing your current monitor without having to shell out big bucks.
What does overclocking mean in the first place?
If you’ve only heard the buzz about overclocking and aren’t exactly sure what it means, let's take a second to clarify. It all boils down to clock rate: the speed at which a microprocessor can execute each instruction or task in a given cycle.
Clock rates are typically measured in hertz (Hz). One Hz is equal to one tick per second, 10 Hz equals 10 ticks per second, one GHz equals one billion ticks per second, and so on. A “tick” refers to the switch of a signal that turns on and off each time an action, task, or instruction is completed by the processor and the next one can safely take place.
The faster your clock rate, the higher the frequency of ticks, and the quicker your device can execute an instruction. When you overclock your system, you tweak the clock to run or “tick” at a higher rate than it was initially built to run by the certified manufacturer in order to speed up processing times.
When we're talking about overclocking a monitor, we're specifically talking about increasing the refresh rate, which we'll get into more below.
Note: As with any overclocking procedure, going beyond a product's specification may put strain on the component and may void the manufacturer's warranty, so proceed carefully .
Why do you overclock a monitor?
Overclocking a monitor, in particular, means changing the stock refresh rate so you can draw a higher number of frames per second (fps). Refresh rate refers to the amount times per second the screen can refresh the image or “frame” displayed on the monitor. The faster the refresh rate, the smoother your graphics transition.
An overclocked (OC) monitor with a higher refresh rate can display graphics faster and more smoothly as long as the overall PC system can handle the change. For example, overclocking a monitor with a refresh rate of 60 Hz to 120 Hz means that twice as many distinct images can appear within one second.
Monitor overclocking is usually done when motion appears jarred or choppy, or when a viewer wants to optimize their experience by making their display sharper and quicker. You also might overclock a monitor to resolve screen tearing issues, an effect in which your device displays multiple frames in a single screen draw. It happens whenever the video feed is not in sync with panel’s refresh rate, leaving a visual artifact behind, but might be solved by overclocking the monitor to boost its performance.
Note: If you are putting a lot of pressure on the graphics card at a higher refresh rate, you may experience a bandwidth problem which leads to issues like lag and frame skipping. Again, this depends on your particular setup. Not all monitors are compatible with overclocking.
How does overclocking a monitor affect gaming?
If you’re gaming on a slow monitor, chances are you’ve experienced this screen tearing phenomenon at least once or twice, especially if you’re playing on a PS3™ or Xbox™. It’s not only annoying, but if the visual artifact left behind is robust enough, it can seriously impact your gaming performance by hindering your ability to see.
Even if you haven’t had problems with screen tearing in the past, overclocking a monitor for gaming may improve your experience by making your graphics run more smoothly and with fewer glitches.
Monitor overclocking yields higher refresh rates, which is crucial for gaming because it allows the screen to keep up with the rapid movements of a player.
The competitive edge might seem negligible, but slow refresh rates can seriously hold you back on your quest to climb the gamer leaderboards.
Plus, drawing a higher number of frames per second gives you those seamlessly smooth transitions for a more immersive experience that you can enjoy whether you're winning or losing.
How to overclock a monitor for gaming, step-by-step
Warning: Before we get started with instructions on how to overclock a monitor for gaming, you should be aware that tweaking your system to run at settings other than it was built to at stock may void your warranty.
An OC monitor usually performs much better, but there’s also a risk that overclocking may impact performance negatively. For example, if the refresh rate is higher than your monitor can handle, it may lead to issues like frame skipping or a completely blank screen because you’re forcing the graphics card to go beyond its specifications.
That said, if you think it’s worth overclocking your monitor before investing in a new one and decide to proceed at your own risk, here are the steps to get started:
1. Download the Custom Resolution Utility (CRU) software developed by ToastyX. This program allows you to create custom resolutions and change monitor refresh rates for both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.
2. Launch the CRU; a window will open, and on the right side you’ll see a box labeled “detailed resolutions.”
3. Select the monitor to overclock and hit “Edit.” The next window that opens will have a menu with an option for “Refresh Rate” under the tab labeled “Frequency.”
4. Overclock the monitor’s refresh rate (within its operating range) and the CRU will automatically change the rest of your display settings to match. Hit “OK” and “OK” once more to close the window and return to the main screen.
5. Run the restart.exe that corresponds to your operating system (OS); if you’re running a 32-bit OS, select “restart,” or for a 64 bit, select “restart64."
6. If the display does not return within 10 seconds, you can press F8 to undo the changes you made. You should familiarize yourself with your OS Safety Mode and recovery options before overclocking your monitor to safeguard any potential risks.
If you’re playing with an NVIDIA GeForce™ driver, you also have the option to overclock your monitor for gaming using the EVGA® PrecisionX 16™ software. This program allows you to not only OC your refresh rate, but also lets you set custom resolutions, adjust fan curve settings, power target control, and more.
To get started:
1. Download the software off the website using an EVGA login or directly off the Steam platform.
2. To access the pixel clock, click on the dash button twice then slide the arrow over to your desired settings and press “OK.”
3. Continue to overclock your monitor and increase the refresh rate until you notice signs of synchronization errors such as blinking lines, skipped frames, or other odd behaviors.
4. Once you reach this point, dial your refresh rate back down 5 to 10 Hz and you should have a stable OC monitor.
5. As with all overclocking, make sure to run some tests and try playing your favorite games on settings you know worked before adjusting your settings. If there are no problems, you can lock your overclock in place.
Best refresh rate and overclocking tips for gamers
Now that you know how to overclock a monitor, keep these general pointers in mind before attempting to optimize your gaming display:
Check how many Hz your monitor is. You can either research your panel’s specs online, or right click on your desktop, go to the “Display” menu, select “Advanced” then “Monitor” to read the information. Knowing your current Hz is important because it will inform you as to how far you can overclock your monitor while still remaining compatible with your video feed.
Use NVIDIA G-Sync or AMD FreeSync. These are adaptive technologies that allow the monitor to update only when a frame is received from the graphics card, keeping the two in sync no matter what, by generating a seamless display of frames below your monitor’s refresh rate.
Don’t forget a trial run. Before logging online for tournament play, make sure you test your new settings in advance. Although your OC monitor may appear stable, it could introduce frame skipping that could turn your near-win into an instant loss. Use motion tests prior to your next battle to make sure you don’t encounter any unexpected problems.
Overclocking isn’t always the best option. Look for an “Overclock” menu option within the monitor’s setting before forcing taxing your system with settings it’s not equipped to handle
Overclocking a monitor comes with some risk and may void your warranty, but when done properly, you could achieve refresh rates that are much faster than what came shipped out of the box. An OC monitor can eliminate screen tearing while minimizing input lag and display stutter. As a result, scenes will appear instantly, objects will look sharper, and ingame play will feel super smooth.
If you’re looking for a stunning visual experience and a competitive edge to take your gaming to the next level, it could be worthwhile to learn how to overclock your monitor before buying an entirely new display.
You need a gaming monitor as agile as your gaming performance. Don’t let it be the one piece of hardware that holds you back. If you can’t get an OC monitor, it might be time to upgrade to a new gaming monitor that can bring your triple-A (AAA) titles to life and take you to the top of the leaderboards.
About the Author: Kaelee Nelson is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Kaelee is an experienced writer based in Southern California and specializes in creating informative content related to technology and digital culture.
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