Part 1: LCD monitors for gamers
The response time of an LCD is specified in milliseconds (ms). It denotes the time needed to turn the liquid crystals in the interior of the panel in such a way that the user receives the desired picture.
If the liquid crystals are turned too slowly, ghosting occurs and the picture appears blurred and out of focus. Having the fastest possible response times is important for gamers in particular but also for any other application that requires quickly moving content to be depicted in a clear fashion.
Since from a PR perspective, low response times sell like hot cakes, many manufacturers tend to specify values that are misleading. This is due to the fact that, up to the present, no standardized norm on how to take measurements has been put into practice. In doing so, the response time declared may represent the time it takes to make a pixel shift from black to white and back to black (rise-fall) for example. But this doesn’t say anything about the time it would take to change i.e. from red to green.
A newer and more precise method of measurement is to establish the average response time between different shades of grey (grey-to-grey). But, as there is no accepted standard for this measurement method yet, manufacturers are basically free to measure as they see fit and respectively establish the result that appears best to them.
Thus, response time shouldn’t be the only criterion to look out for when purchasing an LCD monitor.
Generally, a response time of 16 ms should be more than enough for any application and most of the games out there. Displays currently available feature response times between 2 ms and 16 ms and are therefore fast enough for all common applications.
If you have to choose between a display with 8 ms and another one with 12 ms, you shouldn’t be blindly going for the faster one. You are probably going to notice barely any difference in terms of responsiveness – if at all. It is generally better to weigh which model best matches your personal needs in terms of ergonomics, features, design and price and then arrive at your decision.
The term Overdrive is used synonymously for different technologies that were developed for accelerating the response time of an LCD by actuating the liquid crystals with increased voltages for a short amount of time.
The actual name each manufacturer assigns to Overdrive can vary in parts; but since the technologies used are all based on the same principle, we are, in this article, going to stick to the term Overdrive in order to simplify matters.
Thanks to Overdrive, it was achieved to accelerate the previously slow VA (Vertical Alignment) panels. Hence, we can now safely recommend displays incorporating VA panels and Overdrive as true allrounders for gamers, too.
There can also be seen an increasing number of displays that sport the TN panel type - which are already fast by itself - being combined with Overdrive technology making them reach even lower response times down to 4 ms and less. These LCDs are solely interesting for users whose application profile favors gaming for the most part and who are in the need for the last bit of performance.