Monitor Overdrive – The Short Answer
Response time overdrive allows you to manually toggle the monitor’s response time to decrease the ghosting (trailing) artefacts behind fast moving objects.
In theory changing the overdrive settings should allow your monitor to keep up with a fast paced game or movie, however the risk of fiddling with the overdrive feature is pushing your on screen display to far causing inverse ghosting or pixel overshoot.
The overdrive settings can be found in your monitors display settings.
Monitor’s response time – taking a step back
To understand what the overdrive settings are and how they can impact your response time we should take a step back and cover what response time is.
Back to basics, your monitor is a lot of pixels that change color rapidly and frequently to alter your display. If you are staring at a blank word doc for example the pixels don’t have to change that often, but if you have a gaming monitor or have a moving picture, response time becomes more important.
The response time is the time it takes for a pixel on your screen to change color, the lower the response time, the smoother the change in frames on your monitor.
For example, the monitor refreshes every 2ms, this means that the pixels have 2ms to respond to the change, any slower and this will lead to a ghosting effect on your screen.
When you play around with the overdrive settings you are often reducing ghosting, pushing the pixels to change at a faster rate than the default response time settings (this is also known as response time compensation).
What is Monitor Overdrive – The Long Answer
Response overdrive is when the user forces the pixels to change color at a faster rate (decreasing the response time) in order to keep up with the monitor refresh rate and produce a smoother image.
If you are using your monitor for work or just streaming netflix you probably don’t have to worry about the overdrive settings but the overdrive feature becomes very useful when you are viewing fast paced content, for example a game that requires fast paced input and output.
Not all monitors need this separate feature, and well built high speed gaming monitors should have this ready to go for you but for most monitors this can reduce the motion blur appearance you might find when playing a game.
You’d be surprised how much of a difference a slow response time vs response overdrive will make on your display screen even if you don’t notice it. Essentially, it just creates a more fluid visual experience for the user.
As mentioned earlier though, increasing the overdrive on a monitor and reducing the response time too much will lead to an inverse ghosting visual on your display screen, making it appear some pixels of a moving target and faster than others.
That’s why balancing a monitor’s refresh rate with the overdrive setting is crucial to create the perfect gaming or viewing experience. What you are after is a medium overdrive, not to fast that it leads to inverse ghosting but not too slow that it leads to ghosting, this would be the optimal performance to reduce motion blur for fast paced games.
Response Time Overdrive: IPS vs TN vs VA
Each Panel type, IPS, TN and VA will have a different response time and thus need different setting changes to the response time overdrive.
Monitor brands typically just quote the GtG response time, which is the fastest speed a monitor can change pixel color from one gray to another under test conditions. As you can imagine, this response time is not that helpful for us in everyday use.
TN panels quote the best GtG response time of 1ms with VA and IPS monitors between the 1ms to 5ms range.
However, using the TN panel as an example, the average response time in real use is closer to 5ms meaning you won’t even be able to apply low overdrive settings to get it down to 1ms, you’ll need the best overdrive setting the monitor offers just to get it to the on the box number.
Similarly the average VA panels have a response time speed in daily use of approx. 12ms while the response time speed for IPS panels is closer to 9ms. Still a way off from the TN monitors.
Which Panel Gamers choose?
As you might imagine, thanks to the quick response time offered by TN panels they are often favoured by competitive gamers. However, when you get to the high level, milliseconds matter when it comes to response time and refresh rate.
For the rest of us the TN panels do have some disadvantages like a slimmer viewing angle and worse color quality.
That’s why an IPS display monitor, with a slower response time but better display quality in other areas would be advisable for casual gamers.
VA panels are fine for most gamers and other day to day use but if you care about these overdrive features and are after a monitor brand that can help with the pixel transition time, it would be easier to go with the IPS display monitor (from a reputable monitor manufacturer of course).
GtG vs MPRT Response Time
GtG as we mentioned measures the response time it takes a pixel to change from one shade of gray to another, really not super helpful if we are actually looking to decrease motion blur, and something only monitor manufacturers seem to care about.
MPRT – What is it really?
MPRT indicated motion blur reduction technology, while not directly impacting the response time, can appear to decrease a ghosting artifact of a moving object due to a backlight strobing effect.
While this sounds great a backlight can introduce screen flickering and reduce the maximum brightness a monitor can reach, impacting your ability to game and use the monitor in general.
Thus it is good to combine the two response time measures to figure out what the actual response time would be and whether you need overdrive on a monitor.
When should you change the overdrive settings?
How Refresh rate comes into play?
The response time overdrive option is heavily dependent on the refresh rate, if you alter he overdrive option to a response time to quick for your monitors refresh rate you end up with an effect called inverse ghosting and experience excessive smearing.
Thus, you need to find the balance between the response time and refresh rate to get the best pixel quality and reduce pixel overshooting.
As with any visual input the monitor experience is dependent upon the person, so playing around with the overdrive menu is your best bet here.
What about variable refresh rate?
Some monitors, such as those that use G-sync, synchronize the display refresh rate with the GPU’s frames per second to eliminate screen tearing, helping you out automatically.
These monitors have variable overdrive which allow them to adjust overdrive on the display monitors which means you don’t have to touch the overdrive option for the best gaming experience.
Does Overdrive cause input lag?
As we’ve pointed out refresh rate and response time are linked. So you might be wondering if this causes an input lag when using a strong overdrive?
Rest assured this is not the case and no overdrive levels will cause an input lag in your gaming experience.
So should I leave overdrive off or turn it on?
Look at the end of the day it is completely dependent on what you are using your monitor for. If, like most gamers you are playing multiple games it might make sense to alter the overdrive feature depending what you are playing.
If you are playing fast paced games and you are noticing smearing, then you should turn the overdrive setting on to reduce ghosting and provide a smoother gaming experience.
When you are playing slower paced games, maybe turn it off to reduce pixel overshooting and inverse ghosting.
Wrapping up – your overdrive options
So now as you know the feature called overdrive can help force your monitor to reduce time closer to a sweet spot for your refresh rate. At the same time a high overdrive can lead to pixel blur in real life for moving objects.
It can also impact the monitor type you buy and while we recommend an ips panel is you care about the feature and getting it closer to the refresh rates it is easily adjustable on other monitors as well.
At the end of the day we recommend adjusting the overdrive setting on your monitor when you are playing fast paced games but otherwise leaving it off.