There has been a lot of movement in the monitor market over the past few years, especially with the push for 4K Ultra HD visuals and, more recently, high dynamic range (HDR) support. You can throw organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology into the mix as well. One spec that has somewhat lagged behind, however, is the all-important refresh rate. That might be changing soon, as a prototype for what is considered the world's first full-color 480Hz monitor just made an appearance on the web.
If you pay attention to these things, then you have probably seen monitors and televisions advertised with high refresh rates, even as high as 480Hz. Take this 55-inch 1080p TV from Vizio on Amazon. It is advertised as having a 480Hz refresh rate, but that is not the true refresh rate. Vizio qualifies the specification by saying it uses the company's SPS (Scenes Per Second) Smooth Motion technology. This essentially fakes a higher refresh rate by flashing the backlight to reduce motion blur and create additional frames, with motion interpolation sprinkled in.
This is not specific to Vizio—different manufactures use different names for similar technologies in order to advertise a higher effective refresh rate versus the true one. LG, for example, calls this "Trumotion" (PDF) and it works in much the same way. That is what makes this prototype monitor so exciting. Presumably it is working with a true 480Hz refresh rate that is capable of delivering 480 frames per second, at least at 1080p. At 4K, the refresh drops down to a still delectable 120Hz.
According to Blur Busters, which has it hands on the prototype, the difference between 240Hz and 480Hz is definitely noticeable to the human eye. It is also a limiting factor with today's mice.
"Doubling the refresh rate, halves the distance between image copies in the stroboscopic effect. This also applies to things like FPS games (e.g. flick-turns while staring at crosshairs—and then seeing the 'stepping effect' of the turn," Blur Busters explains. "In fact, even the 1000Hz report-rate of a gaming mouse is becoming a limiting factor—mouse manufacturers such as Razer, Logitech, SteelSeries, ASUS ROG, Zowie, and others, now need to release true-2000 Hz position report rates."
This is potentially neat development, though most would argue that a 480Hz refresh rate is overkill at the moment. Even today's fastest graphics cards are not able to push most modern titles at 480 fps, and certainly not at that speed when cranking up the visual quality settings. Technologies such as NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync have lessened the dependence on super high refresh rates as well.
Nevertheless we are all for pushing the monitor market forward. How much a 480Hz monitor will cost, however, is something we probably do not want to know.