The Great Debate: 1ms vs. 4ms Monitor Response Times

Last Updated: May 26, 2023By
Monitor on wooden desk

Monitors are an essential part of our digital experiences, from the casual user browsing the internet and streaming videos, to the avid gamer seeking the thrill of immersive gameplay, and professionals creating masterpieces in graphic design or video editing.

As diverse as these users might be, they all share a common interest: the quality of the image their monitor provides. A crucial factor that contributes to this quality is the monitor’s response time.

In the world of monitors, two popular categories based on response times often discussed are the 1ms and 4ms monitors. Though they might seem closely matched, the difference can be critical depending on the user’s specific needs and preferences. 

Understanding Monitor Response Time

Monitor response time, in essence, refers to the speed at which a pixel on the screen can change its color from one shade to another. It is typically measured in milliseconds (ms), which indicates the time taken for a pixel to transition from one grayscale tone to another.

The lower this number is, the quicker a pixel can change, providing a smoother visual experience, particularly in fast-paced scenes where quick image transitions are common.

Why is Response Time Measured in Milliseconds?

Milliseconds are used as the unit of measurement because the changes we are considering happen extremely quickly. Milliseconds, being a thousandth of a second, offer a more meaningful and understandable metric to measure these rapid changes. 

Lower millisecond numbers represent faster transitions, which translate to better monitor performance in specific use cases, such as gaming or high-definition video viewing.

Impact of Response Time on Image Quality

Response time is critical because it affects the overall image quality that a monitor can display. Faster response times lead to smoother transitions between frames, reducing artifacts like ghosting or motion blur.

Ghosting happens when the previous image displayed on the screen can still be faintly seen even after the new image has appeared, while motion blur is a perceived streaking effect on moving objects, often making fast-paced scenes look smeared or blurry.

Response Time and the Phenomena of Ghosting and Motion Blur

With lower response times, the occurrences of ghosting and motion blur reduce significantly. This is of particular importance to gamers who engage with fast-paced, action-packed games, where every millisecond counts.

Faster response times ensure that every frame is rendered clearly and quickly, reducing the possibility of these artifacts and providing a smoother, more immersive gaming experience.

Comparing 1ms and 4ms Response Times

Now that we have a better understanding of what monitor response time is, let’s dive into a more specific comparison between 1ms and 4ms response times. This comparison will highlight the key differences and the performance of each in various scenarios.

Performance with 1ms Response Time

Monitors with a 1ms response time are at the pinnacle of performance when it comes to fast-paced scenes and transitions. Pixels can change their color almost instantaneously, leading to a significant reduction in image artifacts such as ghosting and motion blur.

This provides a smoother and clearer visual experience, which is highly advantageous in fast-paced gaming scenarios, where every frame, every detail counts.

Performance with 4ms Response Time

Monitors featuring a 4ms response time, while not as instantaneous as their 1ms counterparts, still offer highly respectable performance. Such monitors effectively handle most of the tasks thrown at them, providing clear and crisp visuals.

Although minor ghosting or motion blur might occur in very fast-paced scenarios, for most users, particularly those engaged in general computing, office work, graphic design, and slower-paced gaming, the performance is more than satisfactory.

Side by Side Comparison: 1ms vs. 4ms

In a side-by-side comparison, the difference between 1ms and 4ms may not be immediately apparent to the untrained eye. However, in scenarios demanding quick image transitions, like in competitive gaming or high-definition video playback, the 1ms monitor pulls ahead with a smoother and clearer output.

In contrast, the 4ms monitor holds its ground for most other tasks, offering an excellent balance between performance and cost. For casual computing and less frenetic gaming, the 4ms response time suffices, delivering an excellent visual experience without the added expense of a 1ms monitor.

Scenario-Based Analysis

Different usage scenarios may necessitate different monitor response times. In this section, we will examine how 1ms and 4ms monitors perform under various common scenarios, from casual usage and gaming to professional applications and VR experiences.

Casual Use – Browsing, Office Work, and Streaming

For activities such as browsing the web, working on office applications, or streaming videos, a 4ms response time monitor is generally sufficient. The difference between 1ms and 4ms in these scenarios is barely noticeable, and the slightly slower response time rarely impacts the overall experience.

Moreover, the cost-effectiveness of 4ms monitors makes them an attractive option for casual users.

Gaming – Fast-Paced vs. Slow-Paced Games

The gaming scenario presents a different picture. For fast-paced, action-packed games, where every millisecond can make a difference between victory and defeat, 1ms monitors shine. Their quick pixel color change ensures smoother transitions, reducing ghosting and motion blur, offering an edge in competitive gaming.

However, in slow-paced or strategy games where quick image transitions are less frequent, a 4ms monitor performs admirably. Casual gamers or those who play games that don’t rely on split-second reactions will find a 4ms monitor to be more than satisfactory.

Professional Use – Video Editing, Graphic Design, and 3D Modeling

In professional scenarios, the choice between 1ms and 4ms might depend more on the specific nature of the work. For video editing, especially in high definition or fast-paced sequences, a 1ms monitor could be more advantageous, providing a smoother preview of the footage.

However, for graphic design, photo editing, or 3D modeling, where color accuracy often matters more than response time, a 4ms monitor with superior color reproduction might be a better choice.

It’s important to note that not all 1ms monitors may sacrifice color accuracy; it ultimately depends on the specific model and its features.

Impact on VR Experiences

When it comes to Virtual Reality (VR), lower response times can be crucial to prevent motion sickness, a common issue caused by a discrepancy between perceived motion and actual movement. As such, a 1ms monitor might offer a more comfortable and immersive VR experience.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Monitor on wooden desk 2

Every product has its pros and cons, and monitors are no exception. This section will examine the benefits and drawbacks of both 1ms and 4ms monitors. By understanding these aspects, you can make a more informed choice.

Advantages of a 1ms Response Time

Superior Performance: The primary advantage of a 1ms monitor is its superior performance in fast-paced scenarios. Its ultra-fast response time offers smooth transitions, reducing ghosting and motion blur, thereby providing a competitive edge in gaming and a more immersive viewing experience in high-definition video playback.

VR Experiences: A 1ms response time can be highly beneficial for Virtual Reality experiences. The quick pixel transitions minimize discrepancies between actual and perceived movement, thus reducing motion sickness.

Disadvantages of a 1ms Response Time

Cost: Monitors with 1ms response time tend to be more expensive than their 4ms counterparts. The additional cost might not be justifiable for users who don’t engage in fast-paced gaming or high-definition video editing.

Potential Compromise on Color Accuracy: Some 1ms monitors may not have as good color reproduction as certain 4ms monitors. This can be a downside for graphic designers and photo editors, where color accuracy is paramount.

Advantages of a 4ms Response Time

Cost-Effective: Monitors with a 4ms response time often provide a good balance between cost and performance. They are suitable for a range of activities from casual browsing, office work to slow-paced gaming, and certain professional applications.

Adequate for Most Scenarios: For most users, a 4ms response time is more than sufficient. The difference between 1ms and 4ms is barely noticeable in regular use-cases, making these monitors a viable option for a majority of users.

Disadvantages of a 4ms Response Time

Not Ideal for Fast-Paced Games: While a 4ms response time is adequate for most scenarios, it falls short in fast-paced gaming. The slight delay can lead to ghosting or motion blur, which can be a disadvantage in competitive gaming.

Potential VR Issues: With VR, a slower response time may lead to an increased risk of motion sickness due to the difference between perceived and actual movement.

Making the Right Choice

Finally, after understanding monitor response times, comparing 1ms and 4ms, and considering their benefits and drawbacks in different scenarios, it’s time to make a choice.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between 1ms and 4ms Monitors

Use Case: The primary determinant should be your intended use of the monitor. If you’re into competitive gaming, high-definition video editing, or VR, a 1ms monitor would be ideal. However, for casual computing, office work, or slower-paced games, a 4ms monitor would be more than sufficient.

Budget: Consider your budget. If performance is your priority and you’re willing to spend more, a 1ms monitor could be worth the investment. However, if you’re seeking a balance between cost and performance, a 4ms monitor would be a good pick.

Color Accuracy: For tasks where color accuracy is critical, like graphic design or photo editing, ensure to check the color performance of the monitor model. While response time is important, it shouldn’t come at the expense of color accuracy.

Decision Based on Personal Needs and Preferences

Every user’s needs and preferences are different. A professional gamer might prioritize a lower response time, while a graphic designer might focus more on color accuracy. A casual user might seek a balance between cost and performance.

Consider your specific needs and preferences, understand the differences and implications of 1ms and 4ms response times, and make a choice that fits your requirements.

Also, remember that the response time is just one of the many factors to consider when buying a monitor. Other aspects like screen size, resolution, panel type, refresh rate, and color accuracy are equally important to ensure an optimal viewing experience.

Choosing a monitor is an investment, and it’s crucial to make an informed decision that ensures a balance between your needs, preferences, and budget. By understanding the role of response time and how it impacts your activities, you’re one step closer to making the right choice.


Navigating the world of monitor specifications can be complex, but understanding key aspects such as response time can significantly simplify the process. As we’ve discussed in this comprehensive guide, the response time of a monitor, measured in milliseconds, plays a critical role in determining the quality of the visual experience it provides.

While 1ms monitors offer superior performance in fast-paced scenarios like competitive gaming, high-definition video editing, and VR experiences, they may come with a higher price tag.

Conversely, 4ms monitors, although falling slightly short in ultra-fast-paced situations, provide a well-rounded and cost-effective solution for most common use cases.

The choice between a 1ms and 4ms monitor ultimately hinges on your specific needs, preferences, and budget.

Whether you’re a professional gamer seeking the smoothest visuals, a graphic designer requiring accurate color reproduction, or a casual user searching for an all-round performer, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each option will enable you to make an informed decision.

However, it’s essential to remember that response time is just one of many factors to consider when buying a monitor. Other aspects like screen size, resolution, panel type, refresh rate, and color accuracy should also factor into your decision-making process.

Choosing the right monitor is about striking a balance between performance, cost, and your specific needs. By understanding the role and impact of response time, you’re now better equipped to make a decision that best suits your requirements.