How to overclock your monitor
Overclocking your monitor is very simple and causes no harm to it. Often companies reduce the clock speed (overall refresh rate) of a monitor, in order for it to run smoothly and without any problems on certain computers. It’s only recently where companies have started shipping out monitor which run slightly faster than the normal 60Hz refresh rate.
This is why you will see budget monitors being shipped out with a refresh rate of 75Hz.There are gaming-specific monitors which cost more and come with an impressive 120Hz, 144Hz, 160Hz, 165Hz and even at the ridiculously high 200Hz refresh rate. A full list of capable monitors can be found here.
In this guide we’ll explain how you can overclock your monitor, specifically for Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.
Read our: display reviews.
How to overclock your monitor: Disclaimer
First and foremost we should state that overclocking your monitor will probably void your monitor’s warranty. The likelihood of something going wrong is so small that it isn’t worth worrying about, but it’s important that you know this before following this tutorial. You have been warned.
Each each monitor, even of the same brand and model, will handle an overclock in a different way. For example, our BenQ RL2460H-1 only managed 75Hz (its default is 60Hz) whereas a single-DVI-input QNIX QX2710 (rated at 60Hz) can hit 110Hz refresh rate – if you’re lucky. Therefore, this guide will let you determine what your monitor is capable of, but will not be a guarantee of a good overclock for all monitors. Some specific monitors can achieve higher refresh rates by tweaking very specific monitor timings. As this is on a case-by-case basis, we won’t go into these details.
Read next: Best monitors 2016 UK.
How to overclock your monitor: What’s the benefit?
A higher refresh rate (the number of images – or frames a monitor can display per second) will lead to a smoother gaming experience. This is because you will see a reduction of screen tearing. This occurs when your graphics card is outputting a higher refresh rate than your monitor is capable of. For example, whilst playing Battlefield 4, your graphics card might be outputting 100 frames-per-second (fps) which is 100Hz. Your monitor is probably limited to 60Hz (60fps). This results in 40 frames going missing and creates a ‘tear’ within the image that’s being displayed. The image below (courtesy of Wikipedia) shows what screen tearing looks like.
To eliminate tearing or just reduce it, you want to try to get the highest refresh rate possible and this is why you would want to overclock.
But what about V-Sync, we hear you ask? Vertical synchronisation locks your graphics card’s output with your monitor’s refresh rate. This sounds great in principle, but you have to deal with added input lag. Input lag is the delay between your input device (such as a mouse) and the actual representation of your movement or click on-screen. This is why avid gamers will disable V-Sync.
Adaptive V-Sync is a variant of V-Sync, and does do a better job than the traditional V-Sync, but still has the same fundamental problem of adding input lag.
This explains why monitors are appearing with Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync branding. These have higher refresh rates and are specifically designed for smooth gaming. G-Sync adds a considerable markup on a monitor’s price and FreeSync isn’t compatible on an Nvidia card. And, quite obviously you have to buy a new monitor. So, it’s worth having a crack at overclocking your currenty monitor.
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How to overclock your monitor: Colours, gamma and post-overclock testing
Before getting into each individual overclocking guide, we thought to mention that it’s important to fine-tune your monitor’s settings, after you’ve applied your overclock. As this applies to both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards and on any monitor, it’s important we mention the post-overclocking steps.
First, after you overclock your monitor you’ll want to test if it’s actually displaying all the frames. Frame-skipping happens when a monitor is unable to handle the overclock, but somehow displays it as working. In other words, imagine you’re in a game; you might get a split-second black screen, because of a skipped frame.
Testing your monitor’s overclock is very simple: Launch TestUFO within your browser and maximise your browser. You’ll then see white boxes going across a black background. You’ll then see your monitor’s resolution displayed at the bottom with the target frame rate. If the two synchronise, you’ll see a green VALID sign.
This only confirms your overclock, not frame skipping. To test frame skipping you’ll need to get your camera out – be it a smartphone or a DSLR – and set it to the lowest ISO setting. Most cameras, including the ones found in a smartphone have their ISO set to Auto. You’ll want to set this to the lowest setting (often around ISO 100) and then take a picture of your screen while the white box is travelling around the middle of your screen.
Once you take a picture, go to your picture library or your camera’s display and check to see if there is a black box between the white boxes. If there is a black box between the two white boxes, then your monitor is skipping frames. This isn’t a valid overclock and you’ll have to dial down your overclock until you aren’t skipping frames.
If you see essentially see a white line of boxes, then your overclock is good-to-go!
Your next post-overclock step is to adjust your monitor’s gamma and colour. You don’t have to do this, but often an overclock, especially a large one, will shift the gamma space of your monitor. This will result in slightly washed out colours and an overall worse image than your monitor’s standard refresh rate.
You can adjust the gamma and colour settings through your monitor’s on-screen-display (OSD) settings or through software, such as Windows, Nvidia and AMD’s control panel. If you want something even more advanced go ahead and download yasamoka’s Color Sustainer for free, which will allow you to load custom colour profiles!
With the post-overclocking guidelines out the way, let’s show you how to overclock your own monitor!
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How to overclock your monitor: Nvidia overclocking guide
We used an Nvidia MSI GeForce GTX 960 Gaming graphics card and a single-DVI-input QNIX QX2710 (2560×1440) PLS monitor.
Nvidia makes it extremely simple to overclock your monitor’s refresh rate and it’s all done through the Nvidia Control Panel.
Once you’re in the Nvidia Control Panel, expand the Display section and click on the Change resolution option. This will present you with your PC’s resolution and graphics card’s resolution capabilities (which might be out-of-reach on your current monitor). Ensure you know the native resolution of your monitor, in our case it’s 2560×1440 and hit the Customise button. This will open a new window with your Custom Resolutions. You might see various random Custom Resolutions in here, which are created by default or an empty list.
Hit Create Custom Resolution and you’ll be presented with yet another window. In this window you’ll see your resolution and its refresh rate.
Assuming you’re on a progressive screen (i.e. 1080p and not 1080i) you’ll want to keep the Scan Type on Progressive. Ensure the Timing is on Automatic and then adjust the refresh rate. By default your monitor will probably be on 60Hz. Go up by 10Hz and hit Test. This will then turn the screen off for a split-second and should hopefully display another pop-up asking you if you want to Apply Changes.
If for any reason you don’t see anything, do no panic. Just wait around 15-30 seconds and Windows will automatically detect that the refresh rate is incompatible. You might also see your monitor display a Signal Error.
You can then fine-tune the refresh rate by going up and down by 5Hz increments. In our case, our monitor is able to output 96Hz. We chose 96hz because it is able to display four times the native cinema resolution of 24p, meaning a great cinematic experience (this is why you see 48 HFR in certain 3D films nowadays, as it’s double the 24p refresh rate!).
Once you’ve established the highest refresh rate, hit OK and find your custom resolution and refresh rate in the dropdown menu under Refresh rate.
Hit apply and voila, you’ve successfully overlocked your monitor on an Nvidia graphics card!
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How to overclock your monitor: AMD overclocking guide
For this part of the AMD guide, we used an AMD MSI R7 370 Gaming graphics card and a BenQ RL2460H-1 (1920×1080) TN monitor.
To commence overclocking you’ll need a utility called Custom Resolution Utility (CRU), created by ToastyX which you can find for free here.
Once you’ve downloaded the program, run it and delete all non-active monitors in the drop-down list. If you’ve got multiple monitors you might see several Active monitors.
Next, you’ll want to click Add under the Detailed Resolutions (maximum of 4 slots) and you’ll be presented with another window.
Within this Detailed Resolution window, you’ll want to select Automatic – LCD standard and then ensure your resolution is set to your monitor’s native resolution, in this case it’s 1920×1080. You’ll then see at the bottom the option to have it interlaced (which you should only select if you’ve got an interlaced monitor, such as 1080i and not a 1080p monitor) and separately you’ll see the Refresh Rate.
In this section, you’ll want to add a slight overclock, such as 70hz and hit OK. Once you’ve done that you’ll see your new overclock under the Detailed Resolution section. You’ll want to then add two more, such as 75Hz and 80Hz to the list by redoing the same process.
Once you’ve completed this, you’ll see four Detailed Resolutions in your top menu. You’ll now want to restart your computer, in order for your PC to be able to pick up these new custom resolutions.
After you’ve restarted your PC, right-click on your desktop and go into Display setting> Advanced display settings > Monitor. You’ll now see your custom resolutions under the Screen Refresh Rate. Now it’s a simple principle of choosing the closest one to your monitor’s refresh rate and hit apply (in our case it’s 70Hz).
This will then turn the screen off for a split-second and should hopefully display another pop-up asking you if you want to Apply Changes. If for any reason you don’t see anything, do no panic. Just wait around 15-30 seconds and Windows will automatically detect that the refresh rate is incompatible. You might also see your monitor display a Signal Error.
Then keep going upwards in refresh rates by going up by 5-10Hz increments till you hit a black wall. Our BenQ RL2460H-1 monitor is able to output 75Hz, but was unable to do 80Hz.
Once you’ve applied the changes, you’ll need to go back into CRU and delete all the other Detailed Resolutions, expect for the one that worked, such as 75Hz for our monitor.
You’ve now successfully overclocked your monitor on an AMD graphics card!
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