Pe­riph­eral Edge

Up­grades from the fringe.

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents -

NATHAN LAWRENCE is an old-man gamer who’s found that the right pe­riph­eral com­bi­na­tion can help mit­i­gate his age­ing re­ac­tion speed for games, both on­line and off­line.

Twenty-

wenty-four four years old. That’s roughly the age that esports pro­fes­sion­als re­tire be­cause of cog­ni­tive de­cline. That’s a fancy way of say­ing their re­flexes have slowed down. It’s a sober­ing reality for this gamer who fan­cies his skills in the on­line foray, es­pe­cially when you throw a decade on top of that re­tire­ment age. At risk of sound­ing even older, back in my day, when Coun­ter­Strike was a mod and the arena shooter still ruled supreme, there weren’t read­ily avail­able new­fan­gled PC pe­riph­er­als that of­fered a com­pet­i­tive edge.

Hell, tech­no­log­i­cal leaps were shunned by the com­pet­i­tive com­mu­nity. CRT mon­i­tors re­mained the stan­dard thanks to higher re­fresh rates than the newer, slim­mer LCD screens. Clean­ing lint out of the base of your favourite ball mouse was prefer­able to the un­re­li­able track­ing of early laser mice. On top of this, a key­board was the same as any other key­board, and head­phones re­ally only of­fered stereo sound (not to men­tion the games), so it didn’t re­ally mat­ter what you had on your ears.

Fast-for­ward to to­day, and it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent game. While a lot of at­ten­tion is, un­der­stand­ably, put on what’s be­neath the hood when it comes to PC gam­ing, the se­ri­ous on­line gamer should also take a look at what’s out­side the in­nards to gain an edge. Be­fore you young whip­per­snap­pers flip to the next ar­ti­cle, this stuff will help im­prove your game, too, but it’s also a chance for the older gamer to com­pen­sate for our dulled re­flexes.

MON­I­TOR­ING FRAMES

What’s in­side your PC does mat­ter for these pe­riph­er­als to be ef­fec­tive. If your rig is strug­gling to run a game at 60fps, you’re better off in­vest­ing in a core up­grade first, be­fore sink­ing ex­tra funds into sup­ple­men­tary equip­ment. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant be­cause the first pe­riph­eral sug­ges­tion is a gam­ing mon­i­tor.

There’s a lot of in­ter­net mis­in­for­ma­tion about frame rates. Some peo­ple are con­vinced we can’t re­ally see more than 30 frames per sec­ond. Any PC gamer who’s played a con­sole game capped at 30fps, then played the same thing at 60fps on a PC will know there’s a dif­fer­ence in terms of smooth­ness. Even if it’s only psy­cho­log­i­cal (and it’s not), this greater feel­ing of re­spon­sive­ness makes for a better game­play ex­pe­ri­ence.

But even some PC gamers ar­gue that we can’t see more than 60fps, using this logic to jus­tify shun­ning 120Hz (and above) gam­ing mon­i­tors. With­out go­ing too far into this ar­gu­ment, ex­perts main­tain the eye can see hun­dreds of frames per sec­ond, and while the brain may be the lim­it­ing fac­tor in pro­cess­ing all of these frames, faster frame rates dis­played on high re­fresh-rate mon­i­tors cer­tainly help with the flu­id­ity of on­screen mo­tion. This ties more into a better feel­ing of re­spon­sive­ness, and also helps with notic­ing details amid on-screen move­ments.

If you use a 60Hz mon­i­tor for gam­ing – and the chances are good you do, be­cause they’re still very, very com­mon – the screen is only ca­pa­ble of dis­play­ing up to 60 frames at a time, which means any fram­er­ate ad­van­tage be­yond that won’t be dis­played. Ef­fec­tively, the screen’s re­fresh rate is the bot­tle­neck.

This is why shooter fans, in par­tic­u­lar, should con­sider in­vest­ing in a mon­i­tor with a high re­fresh rate. The stan­dard is cur­rently 144Hz, but I’ve been test­ing the Asus PG258Q 1080p G-sync mon­i­tor, which has a 240Hz re­fresh rate. The trick is you have to be able to con­sis­tently hit more than 144Hz to see the ben­e­fit on this type of screen (but no more than 240Hz), but the smoother and clearer im­age makes it eas­ier to track en­e­mies com­pared to both my 60Hz and 120Hz test screens.

Ob­vi­ously, you need a pow­er­ful Nvidia GPU to play at or near 240fps, and you’ll likely need to drop graph­i­cal set­tings to pri­ori­tise frames over fi­delity, but the re­sults are gor­geous in prac­ti­cal­ity if not in eye candy. In math­e­mat­i­cal terms, this Asus mon­i­tor can dis­play a new im­age ev­ery 4.16 mil­lisec­ond. Com­pare that to a 60Hz mon­i­tor, which dis­plays a new im­age ev­ery 16.66 mil­lisec­onds and, as­sum­ing you can hit 240fps, you can have up to a 12.5 mil­lisec­ond edge over a 60Hz op­po­nent.

Yes, we’re deal­ing in ad­van­tages graded in mil­lisec­onds, but I’ve had mea­sur­able im­prove­ments in KDR and over­all con­fi­dence since using higher re­fresh-rate mon­i­tors. As­sum­ing your in­ter­net is up to snuff and you’re play­ing a game with a de­cent tick rate, you have a better chance of see­ing en­e­mies with 60Hz screens (ever-so-slightly) be­fore they see you. Ad­di­tion­ally, for on­line shoot­ers that link frames to your PC’s up­date rate, achiev­ing higher frame rates that you can see on a mon­i­tor with a faster re­fresh rate means you’re send­ing in­for­ma­tion to the server more fre­quently than a 60fps op­po­nent.

If you play shoot­ers you should re­ally think about up­grad­ing to at least a 144Hz mon­i­tor

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