Here’s why 30 FPS looks better on consoles than on PCs:
It boils down to optimization.
Whether you use a console or a PC, 30 FPS means the same thing, but consoles are optimized to play games at this rate, while PC games are often optimized to play at higher frame rates.
Because of that, consoles often look better at lower rates.
So if you want to learn all about why those 30 FPS looks better on your console than your PC, then this article is for you.
Let’s jump right in!
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First, What Is Frame Rate?
In order to really understand why 30 FPS looks different on PC and console, we have to get into the mechanics of what is happening.
Frame rate is a term that references a video feed.
It is usually measured in FPS (frames per second), and it denotes how many static images are strung together each second in order to create a video.
The important thing to understand is that frame rate is determined by the device that generates the video, not the device that plays the video.
In other words, a console or a PC will determine the frame rate, not the TV or monitor.
So, video processing devices generate a frame rate, and a higher frame rate has more information, but what does that have to do with how the video looks?
The easiest way to understand this is with claymation.
If you have ever seen an old claymation video, it isn’t entirely smooth.
That’s because the method used to create that video is to stage the clay figures and take a picture.
Then, the figures are staged a little differently, and another picture is taken.
Those pictures are then strung together in a video, and the clay appears to move.
If you make this type of video, you want to have as little change between pictures as possible.
If your clay Santa Clause is lying in bed in one picture and on his sleigh in the sky in the next picture, that’s a huge jump that won’t make visual sense.
Instead, you need pictures that show him getting out of bed and going to the sleigh.
This is the same concept for how video is created by PCs and consoles.
If you have a low frame rate, the amount of change in the image from one frame to the next is too much, and the motion feels impossible.
Your eyes recognize that things changed in a way that doesn’t make sense, and the video feels choppy.
So, in general, a higher frame rate leads to smoother video.
But, in this instance, we’re comparing the same frame rate with two different devices and still noticing that one looks better.
The reason for that gets into how these setups actually render and play video.
Why Does 30 FPS Look Different on PC and Console?
There are a few reasons that the videos look different in the first place, and one of those has to do with variable frame rates.
By default, consoles usually lock game video at 30 FPS.
Meanwhile, PC games usually default to variable frame rates.
Let’s talk about variable frame rates for a minute.
What this means is that the number of frames produced per second will be different each second while you play the game. This has to do with resource availability for the computer.
To put it simply, the computer will constantly produce as many frames as it can, but how many frames that is will depend on how hard the computer is working.
Even within a single video game, different operations require different amounts of effort from the computer.
So, when the computer doesn’t have to work as hard, the frame rate will go up.
When the computer has to work harder, the frame rate goes down because there isn’t enough processing power to render that much data.
Meanwhile, the default for most console games is to always produce 30 FPS and only produce 30 FPS.
Typically speaking, consoles and computers have an easy time keeping up with 30 FPS, so you’re not usually worried about the frame rate ever dropping below that point (although exceptions certainly exist).
When it comes to video quality, here’s what all of that means.
The console is always producing video at the same level, so it looks consistent.
Meanwhile, the variable frame rate on the PC can cause image stuttering and other choppiness because you’re getting different amounts of information at different moments.
Here’s another way to think about it.
A 30 FPS game will pretty much always look choppy when put side-by-side with a 60 FPS game.
If a PC is showing you 60 FPS one second and 30 FPS the other second, you’ll notice the difference right away, and the overall experience is uneven.
How Do TVs and Monitors Affect Video Quality?
There’s another major issue at play, and this has to do with the screens that display the game.
TVs and monitors don’t work quite the same way.
Technically, a TV can be used as a monitor, but to keep things simple, we can ignore that for a moment.
In general, TVs have more software and processing capability than monitors.
Monitors are designed to display information fed to them by a computer.
While TVs can display video feeds, modern devices also generate their own display for a lot of functions.
You can do things with your TV even when it isn’t connected to the internet or another device. That shows that TVs have the ability to produce video on their own.
Monitors don’t have that ability.
What this means is that TVs have the ability to perform post-processing.
This is a term that refers to anything a TV might do that changes the video fed to it by a device (or the internet).
Post-processing can include upscaling the video definition and a number of functions that are designed to make frame rates appear smoother.
That last thing is what we’re focused on right now.
Modern TVs can add frames to a video feed to prevent stability problems and lead to a smoother appearance overall.
The cost of this is that the post-processing can create input delay while you play on a console, but it can certainly make 30 FPS look smoother than it might on a PC setup.
Can You Make Video Look Smoother on PC? (3 Ways)
Yes. There are a few things you can try to clean up the video, and when you do, 30 FPS on a PC can look just as good as 30 FPS on a console.
#1 Change the Frame Rate
Most video games have video settings that you can adjust as you see fit. This is true for both PC and console games.
Most of the time, console games have default settings that cap the frame rate at 30 FPS. Meanwhile, PC game defaults are all over the place.
If your video isn’t smooth on the game, start with the settings.
You can try a few different frame rate options to get the best video quality.
Start by uncapping the frame rate. This will entice the computer to produce as many frames as possible.
If you can, also have the game display the frame rate while you play. Play the game a little.
Pay attention to the frame rate and the choppiness of the video. As a rule, a frame rate at 60 FPS or above usually will not look choppy.
Frame rates below 60 FPS will look choppy.
If you’re getting uneven video with an uncapped frame rate, it means that your computer is struggling to keep up with the demands of the game.
If the video looked good while uncapped, leave it uncapped. Otherwise, try capping the frame rate.
You will usually have a few options available.
Start with the highest cap on the menu and test the video quality.
Move down incrementally until you find a cap that looks consistent and good. In most cases, the ideal cap is either 60 or 30 FPS.
#2 Try Frame Pacing
Frame pacing is where you use a third-party app to help stabilize your frame rate. There are different developers that make this kind of software.
Its purpose is to figure out what frame rate your computer can stably produce for a game and then try to set that as the perfect frame cap.
This reduces variability in the frame rate, which makes the video playback smoother.
Most of the time, frame pacing will lower the maximum frame rate produced while gaming.
At the same time, it will raise the minimum frame rate. With lower variability comes a better gaming experience.
#3 Change the Refresh Rate
There’s another variable at play in all of this.
Your monitor has its own refresh rate, and it is distinct from the frame rate produced by the game.
The refresh rate on a monitor is measured in Hertz (Hz). It defines how many times per second your monitor can change the image on the screen.
The average refresh rate for a monitor is 60 Hz, but plenty of monitors can get well above that, peaking in the 200s.
So, here’s how refresh rates and frame rates mix.
If the refresh rate is higher than the frame rate, the monitor will want to display a new frame, but there won’t be new information from the computer (or console).
So, it has to leave the same image up there.
Later, a new frame comes in, but the monitor has already refreshed. These unmatched speeds can cause the monitor to hold on to some still frames longer and ditch others faster. This creates uneven video that will look choppy.
In general, you want your frame rate to be higher than your refresh rate. That’s why uncapping the frame rate often helps with video quality.
If you can’t get the frame right high enough, then you want to try to synchronize both rates.
If you cap the frame rate, then you want the refresh rate to be a clean multiple of that number.
Here’s an example.
You can cap the frame rate for a game at 30 FPS.
If you do, then you can consider running the monitor at 30 Hz, 60 Hz, or some other number.
If you run the monitor at 30 Hz, then every time you have a new frame, the monitor can refresh, and the video should be smooth.
If you run the monitor at 60 Hz, then every two refreshes get a new frame, and it’s still consistent and smooth.
A problem arises if the frame rate does not evenly fit into the refresh rate.
If you run at 50 FPS on a 60 Hz monitor, things get clunky because you’re getting frames in between refreshes and unevenly spaced.
Matching the refresh rate and frame rate can dramatically improve video quality.
What Happens if You Run Games in Real-Time Priority?
Ever wondered what this real-time priority setting means?
It is safe to run games in real-time priority, in that you won’t break your computer or ruin anything in the process.
With modern computers, you’re unlikely to even have unintended negative side effects.
But, with older machines and specific modern setups, this could cause the computer to run slowly or crash.
Learn all about what happens if you run your games in real-time priority with this in-depth article.