Why Do Pro Gamers Use 1080p When Gaming?


“1080p! Your joking!”, I said in disbelief to my friend.

“No, seriously. Most pro gamers play on 1080p monitors.” He retorted.

Scratching my chin, I asked, “Why would pro gamers use a resolution of 1080p when top-end graphics cards can pump out fabulous 4k with ease? It makes no sense!”

“Look, there are loads of reasons why, but you won’t believe me. Why don’t you go on the internet, type in ‘Why do pro gamers use 1080p’, and find out for yourself.” he said.

Confused and upset, I started my hunt for an answer.

And this is what I found…

Why do pro gamers use a resolution of 1080p when gaming? Pro gamers use 1080p because they like to play at high frame rates such as 144Hz and 240Hz. 1080p is the resolution of choice because higher resolutions would be unsustainable at such high frame rates. Also, 1080p is the resolution of choice at tournaments so Pro’s like to practice at that resolution. Also, 1080p screens tend to have faster pixel response times than higher resolution screens.

Ok. Now that you’ve got a basic answer to why pro gamers use 1080p, let’s explore each answer a little deeper. Oh, and there’s one extra bonus answer at the end…

Pro Gamers Use 1080p To Sustain High Frame Rates

The frame rate is the most important aspect of game performance, aside from seeing the action on screen, to a pro gamer. The higher the frame rate the quicker the pro can respond to the action on the screen.

The problem is high frame rates, such as 144Hz, take a lot of computing power to sustain 100% of the time.

Top-end graphics cards might be able to sustain 144Hz 99% of the time. But during the really busy moments, when there are rockets flying past your ears, explosions pounding the ground around you, and 10 characters are fighting for screen space, the graphic card can be stressed just enough to drop the frame rate below the target of 144Hz.

This momentary drop would introduce enough stutter to make the difference between winning and losing. The difference between hitting the target, missing completely.

So gamers reduce the resolution as much as possible, for example down to 1080p, in an effort to get a completely rock solid 144Hz frame rate.

To achieve this, gamers also drop the graphical setting down to the lowest settings.

But if pro gamers are in desperate need of high frame rates, why don’t they drop the resolution even more?

If all that matters is frame rate, why not drop down to a resolution of 720p?

Well, the simple reason is clarity.

1080p is a great resolution as it balances clarity with the workload it places on the graphics card.

Dropping down to 720p would offer even high frame rates, but clarity would be sacrificed over medium distances in-game.

On the opposite end of the scale, if you bump your resolution up to 4K, you have 4 times the number of pixels for the graphics card to calculate.

In most cases, even with the most powerful graphics cards on the market, 4k at high frame rates is simply unachievable.

So the sweet-spot between clarity and performance for pro gamers is a resolution of 1080p

Pro Gamers Use 1080p Because That’s What Tournaments Use

Another key reason why Pro gamers use a 1080p resolution is that most tournaments use standardized equipment. So every competitor will use the same 1080p 24-inch monitor running at 144Hz. Plus all the components inside the PC will be standardized. So all competitors will be rocking the same GPU, CPU, and RAM.

This is done to remove any and all forms of unfair advantage that players could get by using their own rigs.

For example, if most gamers showed up with 1080p monitors that ran at 60Hz, and one gamer showed up with a monster rig coupled with a 240hz 1440p monitor. The gamer with a better monitor and PC would have a massively unfair advantage.

To combat this, all gamers at tournaments are forced to use the same PCs.

The only things that competitors can use that are their own, are their mouse and keyboard. Similar to how soccer players can use their own boots.

In response to being forced to use a certain monitor and PC set up, pro gamers tend to build a PC to match the tournament PC so they can continuously practice on a similar rig with similar performance.

Not practicing on a rig that has similar specs to a tournament rig would be like a soccer team practicing with goals that are twice as wide as standard goals. Then, when it came to actually competitive matches, they wouldn’t play well as they are used to aiming for a significantly bigger target.

So they, like pro gamers, practice with the same equipment that is available to them in tournaments.

And that’s why they use 1080p monitors.

Pro Gamers Use 1080p Because 1080p Panels Offer Very Low Pixel Response Times

Pixel response time is the amount of time it takes for a pixel to change from one shade of color to another after it has received an electrical signal to do so.

A low pixel response time means that the information displayed on the screen actually slightly lags behind the information being fed into the monitor.

But how does this effect gameplay?

It means you are reacting to pixels on can be tens of milliseconds out of date. For example, you might make a reaction turn to bring your weapon site over an enemy, but because of high pixel response times, you actually overshoot the enemy.

This means that anything that is moving on screen is actually lagging behind the real action by as much as 60 milliseconds. This doesn’t sound like much. But many pro gamers actually have reaction times under this number.

Fortunately, these days most screens have vastly superior pixel response times compared to a few years ago. Many 1080p monitors offer response times of about 2 milliseconds or less which is imperceptible by the human eye.

Pro Gamers Use 1080p To Reduce Post Processing Lag

Another aspect that can play a part in why pro gamers make 1080p the resolution of choice is post-processing induced lag.

You see, since the introduction of modern smart TVs, manufactures have thought it necessary to differentiate themselves by “improving” the quality of the image shown on screen artificially using real-time post-processing techniques. They use old photo enhancement tricks such as sharpening and de-noising to increase the perceived resolution and clarity of images.

However, an unfortunate side effect of this post processing is the introduction of significant lag. For example, I game on a console on a Samsung 4K QLED TV. When it’s not in gaming mode, it has a huge post-process lag of 120 milliseconds. That’s over 1/10th of a second, and it makes every movement feel sluggish and heavy.

However, the TV comes with a “game mode” that lowers the post process lag. But this only decreases input lag to around 30 milliseconds, which can still be perceptible by many gamers.

Unfortunately, this need to post-process images has crept into PC gaming monitors. And you tend to find that the higher the resolution, the longer it takes the onboard processor to post-process the image.

Thus, a 4K image will take longer to process than a 1080p image.

Fortunately, most manufacturers try to avoid post-processing of any kind on gaming monitors. But it’s still yet another reason why pro gamers tend toward using 1080p screens to air on the side of caution.

Conclusion

Now you know why pro gamers use 1080p monitors when gaming. Here’s a quick summary of the main points…

Pro gamers use 1080p monitors because:

  • It’s easier to sustain super high frame rates such as 144Hz or 240Hz
  • Tournaments tend to use universal hardware and monitors which are normally 1080p. So pro-gamers train on the hardware they’ll use in tournaments.
  • 1080p panels offer very fast Pixel response times which can reduce ghosting and helps display visual information quicker and more clearly.
  • It helps to reduce the lag that’s caused by post-processing of the source image.

Ok. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do next now that you’ve finished reading this article.

What Next?

I’ve heard that pro gamers play on 24-inch monitors. Why is that? We have an in-depth article explaining why pro gamers use 24-inch monitors here.

Why do Pro gamers turn their keyboards when gaming? Ahh good question! Well, we have another great article that explains why pro gamers turn their keyboard here.

What’s the best 1080p monitor for pro gaming? Well, we don’t have an article on Career Gamers (yet!) to answer this. But the guys over on IGN have a cracking article that’ll help you out. Check it out here.

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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