You may have heard of GPU overclocking and CPU overclocking. These are easy ways to get a little extra performance out of your components without too much risk. But did you know that you can also overclock your monitor using the CRU tool? What does it do, why is it important, and how do you do it?
For a long time, LCD screens have been arbitrarily fixed at a refresh rate of 60 Hz. This means the screen refreshes sixty times per second. 60 Hz is generally liquid. However, as the iPad Pro Motion and OnePlus 7 Pro screens have shown us, it can always get better. In the enthusiast PC space, high refresh rate monitors have long been available for purchase. They go up to 240 Hz blistering.
While higher frame rates are always smooth, the law of diminishing returns applies. You will notice the biggest difference in the 60-120 Hz region. Fortunately, most commonly monitors are capable of running at refresh rates higher than 60 Hz. You just need to know how to adjust them.
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We’ll show you how in this tutorial, but another question first: why do you want to do this? For gamers, the answer is simple. At higher refresh rates, games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and PUBG are simply a lot smoother. This makes it easy to target and respond to other players. You can get a real competitive edge when gaming at high refresh rates.
But the high-refresh display is also useful for non-gamers. I run my monitor at 85 Hz around the clock. It just makes using the Windows interface so much smoother. Everything from mouse movements to scrolling through text feels better. And in graphic design suites like Illustrator, you get an extra level of control.
The best part is that nearly all monitors are overclockable to some degree. While you probably won’t go above 90 Hz most of the time, anything in the 75-85 Hz range should provide a meaningful gain above 60 Hz all over. And achieving this is a surprisingly easy process. We will look at it now.
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Step 1: Download CRU
This is a bit more complicated than it seems. CRU is only officially available on a Monitortests forum thread created by the developer ToastyX. You will probably need to access the topic and scroll to the bottom where there are links to CRU versions. Click on the latest version to download the zip file.
Step 2: Extract the CRU files. You’ll end up with a folder containing four files: the CRU executable, the reset and reboot apps, and the 64 restart apps.
Step 3: Open the CRU app
Step 4: Click the More tab in the top right corner of the CRU app.
Step 5: Go to the Refresh Rate field and enter 85 Hz. Then click OK.
Step 6: Click OK on the main CRU interface. This will get you out of the app.
Step 7: Double-click restart64. Your screen will flicker and go black for a few seconds. This is normal, don’t worry.
Step 8: If your monitor supports the 85 Hz refresh rate, you’ll notice a smoother experience right away. If it doesn’t support this refresh rate, one of the few things will happen. Don’t worry as these simply indicate that you will need to get back to overclocking a bit. Follow the next few instructions if you experience any of the following problems.
You may see some sparkling pixels. Even when the image is stable, individual pixels can sparkle when you are near the maximum display overclock. If you experience this, you should dial back overclocking to 1 Hz at a time. To do this, repeat the process from Step 5 onwards. The refresh rate at which you no longer experience the sparkle is your sweet spot refresh rate.
If you exceed the stable point, you may experience some color errors. Technically, the monitor will operate at a higher refresh rate, but colors can be significantly altered on the screen. Reduce back to about 5 Hz and see if broken colors or sparkles persist. Continue decreasing in 5 Hz increments until they stop.
If you’ve completely surpassed your monitor’s refresh rate capabilities, you’ll only experience a blank screen for about 15 seconds. Don’t worry about this. Your computer will restore the last stable refresh rate. If this happens, you’ll want to lower your refresh rate to 5-10 Hz, then try again.
With a little experimentation, you should be able to achieve your hot spot refresh rate. This varies by monitor. My old 22.5in TN panel display topped out at 83 Hz, while my Korean VA panel managed 85 Hz. You may get better or worse results, it totally depends on the capabilities of your monitor.
You can overclock it to a high, however, your monitor will deliver a significantly better experience than your stock refresh rate. This is one of those things that can feel a little subtle after a while. But go back to 60 Hz and you’ll feel like choking again.
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