Framerate vs Resolution wasn’t something that I was overly bothered about in my younger years of gaming, but now with the release of the Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles, everyone seems to care more than ever about frames and pixel counts.
Framerate vs Resolution; Consoles
This was mostly led by the increase in conversation last gen due to the power differences between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. As the PS4 had a slight advantage in power it was pretty much always able to produce a slightly better resolution on any multiplatform games. Later on in the generation, however, the narrative would change with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro consoles.
Although both were more powerful than those that came before, the One X now had the advantage and was even able to make the jump to native 4K for a handful of games. Disappointingly both consoles were unable to provide the lovely smooth target of 60 frames per second (fps) in AAA games that most gamers crave due to the relatively underpowered nature of the CPUs in both machines.
PC gamers on the other hand have been able to either mod or just brute strength break these same limits with the often higher-end nature of parts they have access to. This was part of my journey into PC gaming and the ability to tweak and edit game settings to suit what experience I want to have remains the biggest difference between the platforms.
Now though with the release of both the Playstation 5 and Series X (not so much the Series S), more players are getting the ability to choose their experience with more and more games featuring either performance modes (higher framerates) or fidelity modes (higher resolution).
Framerate vs Resolution; Example
The first game I really noticed this with is a strange one and probably not a great example. Step up the Saints Row 3 remaster. Playing on Xbox One X the ability to unlock the framerate gave me a glimpse of what 60fps gameplay on a game you’re used to playing at 30fps could be. Although the framerate was all over the place, when it hit 60fps it felt incredibly good.
This led me down the rabbit hole and wondering what games like Fifa or GTA 5 could feel like at 60fps or even higher and gave me a thirst for high refresh rate gaming.
Players having more choice in how they play is always a good thing, and it’s made me wonder what’s the best way to experience a game. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer as all players will have different tendencies that tend to vary quite a bit.
Starting with framerates, I was never really able to tell the difference between a PS4 or Xbox One version of a game looking back now I can tell why with the most common difference between titles being them running at about 900p (on Xbox) to 1080p (PS4). On the best TVs and monitors, you might notice the difference but it won’t be easy to spot.
Even now when looking at the new generation of consoles, Series X tends to have slightly higher pixel counts or resolution but not very many gamers will be able to tell the difference. That’s not to say that’s always the case though. The jump from 1080p to 1440p (or 2K) is huge and really helps to create a much smoother sharper image on a screen. The difference isn’t quite as big going from 2K to 4K, but it does help to make small details and highlights look better.
Framerate vs Resolution; PC Gaming
Over on PC running the biggest and badest hardware possible, like an RTX 3080 or above, can even open the gates to 8K gaming. Although the cost into this level of hardware and tech is still above the wages of us mear mortals, I remember when 4K looked just as far off. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to game at this level natively yet (however emulation running at 8K has looked clean as hell) but I really don’t think it’ll be quite like the move past HD resolutions.
The biggest issue with pushing resolutions to the max is that it’s a massive resource hog and part of the reason the Series X and PS5 are two of the cheapest entry points to 4K gaming even at £450 (at retail value, if you can find one).
Moving to the argument in favour of a better framerate, this one might be even more difficult to decide on. Most people all experience framerate a little differently, and although the majority should be able to tell the difference up to about 60fps, testing has shown that some can see all the way up to 240fps, but a refresh rate goes further than what you can actually see.
As refresh rates increase, you’ll experience a more responsive gaming experience, such as lower latency from the moment you press a button. This should translate to make your actions or button presses happen quickly onscreen, thus giving a much more immersive experience.
As an example, while playing Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox One X last year (Running 4K and 30fps) it felt terrible after first starting the game on PC (Running 3K or 3440 by 1440 at around 90 to 100fps), with cars spinning out due to the slow reaction time to my button presses.
Although not everyone is, I’m quite sensitive to framerate. Although this depends on the game and the player, some might now find it hard to enjoy a game if it’s locked to 30fps. Some others find it hard to tell the difference moving past 30 fps. It’s all totally subject to the user’s own experience.
Framerate vs Resolution; Players Choice?
That brings me back around to my earlier point. Player choice is key and should be embraced by developers and console makers. One of the key marking points of the newest batch of consoles was 120fps support, which is really only supported by a handful of current titles or older backwards compatible games. Could games be offered at say 1440p and even 100fps?
60fps will remain the aiming point for most games for a while yet, but in my experience, even being able to take this just slightly further say 75 to 100fps can really make a game feel a lot better to play purely due to the responsiveness. This could become a viable option due to increases in displays that feature VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) technology (the ability for the display to match the frames being outputted by the source device).
Console gaming might soon become more like PC gaming. Moving forward, I could see players able to change loads of settings in the hope of the perfect balance of great graphics and high refresh rates, as they are closer to that now than they were 5 years ago. Whatever the future holds there’ll be more conversation to be had about what the best play to play is, I just hope my wallet can keep up with the next advancement.