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What is the refresh rate on a TV?

Buying a new TV used to be as simple as selecting a brand and a screen size. Nowadays, there’s a lot more to think about, such as different types of display technologies, HDR compatibility, and smart features. The refresh rate label is one that you’re bound to see on almost every TV box.

It is a hardware specification that outlines how motion is handled on a particular television. This spec is worth considering when purchasing your new TV, especially if you’re an avid gamer or sports enthusiast who watches a lot of fast-paced action.

The refresh rate of a television is the number of times the screen refreshes itself every second. It differs from frames per second (fps), which specifies how many frames are displayed by the video source every second. A greater refresh rate often leads in smoother motion, however this is not always the case. It’s also vital not to get mixed up with marketing jargon, which might exaggerate the refresh rate.

This article covers the differences between 60Hz and 120Hz refresh rates, how they affect the image, and how companies try to fool you into thinking the TV has a higher refresh rate than it actually does.

What exactly is the refresh rate?

To put it simply, the refresh rate of a display defines how many times per second the display resets the image, whether you’re looking for a TV or a computer monitor. The refresh rate is expressed in hertz (Hz).

Essentially, the higher the refresh rate of your monitor, the less time will pass between each individual video frame being presented on screen. Higher refresh rates mean that a TV or monitor can display more frames per second (fps), which might alter how smooth and appealing your video seems depending on the content delivered to it. We’ll go into more detail below about how this pertains to you and what you watch.

The refresh rate of a display defines how many times per second the display resets the image, whether you're looking for a TV or a computer monitor
The refresh rate of a display defines how many times per second the display resets the image, whether you’re looking for a TV or a computer monitor

What is a good TV refresh rate?

When it comes to modern TVs, there are essentially two sorts of typical refresh rates available: 60Hz and 120Hz. In general, 60Hz TVs are less expensive than 120Hz TVs because the 120Hz spec is typically found on TVs with premium hardware and software features, as well as higher-quality motion management.

TCL and Samsung have announced TVs with a 144Hz native refresh rate for sale this year in 2022, but more information, like model names, prices, and release dates, has yet to surface. This specification has been present in various computer monitors for years, and some monitors have native refresh rates of up to 360Hz.

However, when it comes to televisions, most consumers will end up picking between 60Hz and 120Hz right now.

In general, 60Hz TVs are less expensive than 120Hz TVs because the 120Hz spec is typically found on TVs with premium hardware and software features, as well as higher-quality motion management
In general, 60Hz TVs are less expensive than 120Hz TVs because the 120Hz spec is typically found on TVs with premium hardware and software features, as well as higher-quality motion management

What exactly is the distinction between refresh rate and frame rate?

While the refresh rate indicates the number of frames of video per second that a specific TV or monitor can display, the frame rate describes the pace (in seconds) at which a piece of video content may be played back. A video’s frame rate will be expressed in frames per second (fps) (frames per second). Let’s see how that relates to your experience.

For example, broadcast television in the United States runs at a conventional 30 frames per second (actually just below this at 29.97 frames per second), which fits neatly within a 60Hz TV’s refresh rate. Most movies, however, are shot at 24 frames per second (fps), a standard established in the early days of film. This is the frame rate you’ll most likely see when you insert a Blu-ray disc or watch a movie on a streaming service. If you sit down to watch a movie on Netflix, you’re presumably doing so at 24 frames per second.

If you sit down to watch a movie on Netflix, you’re presumably doing so at 24 frames per second.

The difficulty is that the average 60Hz TV can’t render native 24fps content without some assistance, because the TV loses sync every three seconds. To address this, many new 60Hz televisions employ a telecine technique known as 3:2 pulldown, in which frames are doubled in alternating sequences to “catch up” with the display’s 60Hz refresh rate. Unfortunately, 3:2 pulldown frequently causes in judder, a motion artifact in which some sequences during playback can stutter or skip.

While the refresh rate indicates the number of frames of video per second that a specific TV or monitor can display, the frame rate describes the pace (in seconds) at which a piece of video content may be played back
While the refresh rate indicates the number of frames of video per second that a specific TV or monitor can display, the frame rate describes the pace (in seconds) at which a piece of video content may be played back

While many new 60Hz TVs handle 3:2 pulldown so well that you won’t notice any judder in most situations, you can spare yourself some bother by choosing a 120Hz TV. This is due to the fact that 24fps divides equally (5 times) into a refresh rate of 120Hz.

Furthermore, if you’ve recently purchased a next-generation gaming console, you’ll most likely be displaying information at significantly greater frame rates than film or broadcast TV. This is when having a higher refresh rate TV comes in handy.

What are the benefits of a fast refresh rate?

One advantage of a 120Hz TV is related to the previously mentioned gaming perks. The 120Hz spec assures that you’ll be able to play console games that provide 120fps game modes to properly keep up with the ultra-fast motion and get the most out of your gaming experience, in addition to being intrinsically superior at handling fast-paced video games.

The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are currently capable of displaying 4K games at 120fps, and while there aren’t many titles that meet this standard yet, you can expect to see more of them in the future years. If you’re a PC gamer who wants to play on the large screen, a 120Hz TV will also benefit you because high frame-rate games have been accessible in that ecosystem for quite some time.

If you own one of these consoles but do not own a TV with a native 120Hz refresh rate, you will not have the finest gaming experience available to you. Not to mention the other gaming benefits that come with premium TVs, such as Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM).

Higher refresh rates, regardless of frame rate, tend to remove blur from quick motion, which isn’t simply useful for gaming: It is also important in high-action content like as sports. Because 120Hz TVs check for new information twice as frequently as 60Hz TVs, they can sometimes depict specific sports scenes with greater clarity.

One advantage of a 120Hz TV is related to the previously mentioned gaming perks
One advantage of a 120Hz TV is related to the previously mentioned gaming perks

When It Counts

Motion handling is affected by the refresh rate; the more times the display can create a new image, the better it is for fast-moving material. The refresh rate of modern televisions is either 60Hz or 120Hz. Most high-end TVs have a refresh rate of 120Hz, but that doesn’t guarantee they’re better at handling motion. The response time of a television impacts how nice motion looks; a quick response time means that motion appears crisp, whereas a slow response time results in motion blur.

Response time and refresh rate are related in an indirect way because a 120Hz panel is intended to have a faster response time than a 60Hz panel, although this is not guaranteed. Because not all video has the same frame rate as your TV’s refresh rate, there are techniques for a TV to boost the frame rate to match the refresh rate, increasing the look of motion.

WHILE VIEWING 30 OR 60 FPS CONTENT

A 60 fps video on a 120Hz TV should look very identical to the same content on a 60Hz TV. In this situation, the TV either adapts to match the refresh rate of the source, effectively converting it to a 60Hz TV, or it simply doubles every frame.

60 fps content played on 60Hz TV (TCL 4 Series/S425 2019)
60 fps content played on 60Hz TV (TCL 4 Series/S425 2019)
60 fps content played on 120Hz TV (Samsung Q8FN)
60 fps content played on 120Hz TV (Samsung Q8FN)

As the image above shows, a greater refresh rate TV does not produce less motion blur. Because both of these TVs have a relatively comparable response time, 60 fps content produces nearly identical results. To highlight these discrepancies, we evaluated two TVs with similar response times: a 60Hz model and a 120Hz model. We shot these TVs in slow motion so that we could readily compare each individual frame.

WHEN VIEWING 24FPS CONTENT

While a 120Hz TV does not provide superior motion by default, it does have a few advantages over ordinary 60Hz TVs. One of the most significant advantages is the ability to play back content designed to be presented at 24 frames per second, which is common in movies.

Most TVs can simply decrease their own refresh rate to 24Hz when the content is 24 frames per second, however some sources, such as Chromecast, output video at 60 frames per second even when the content is 24 frames per second. This implies that the TV’s refresh rate remains at 60Hz, and motion will not appear smooth, a phenomenon known as judder. Because 60 is not a multiple of 24, a 60Hz TV has difficulty removing 24 fps judder.

A technique called as a “3:2 pulldown” is used to display this type of content. Essentially, 12 of the 24 frames repeat three times, while the remaining 12 repeat twice, for a total of 60 frames. Although not everyone perceives it, it causes some situations, particularly panning shots, to appear juddery. However, because 120 is a multiple of 24, 120Hz TVs have an advantage here because they can simply display each frame five times.

One of the most significant advantages is the ability to play back content designed to be presented at 24 frames per second, which is common in movies
One of the most significant advantages is the ability to play back content designed to be presented at 24 frames per second, which is common in movies

WHEN VIEWING 120FPS CONTENT

There are a few sources that display 120 frames per second, such as the Xbox Series X or the PlayStation 5, and having a 120Hz TV helps display this content at its maximum frame rate. While 120 frames per second is uncommon in anything other than games, it has a substantial impact on perceived motion. On a 120Hz TV, video seems more smoother at 120 fps than at 60 fps, as shown in the image below.

With the arrival of HDMI 2.1, more 120 fps sources may become available in the coming years. This new HDMI standard allows TVs to display 4K images at up to 120 frames per second, whereas HDMI 2.0 only allows for 60 frames per second. This suggests that 120Hz televisions may gradually become the standard.

WHEN USING THE FEATURE OF MOTION INTERPOLATION

If you like the motion interpolation capability found on televisions, 120Hz is also handy (also known as the Soap Opera Effect). It enables the television to generate frames in between existing ones, raising the frame rate to meet the refresh rate. A 60Hz TV can interpolate 30 fps content, while a 120Hz TV can interpolate both 30 and 60 fps content. This is why a 120Hz TV has an advantage over a 60Hz TV in that it can interpolate a wider range of content.

Insertion of a Black Frame

There are several methods for producing a comparably clear image as a 120Hz refresh rate. Many modern televisions include a feature known as Black Frame Insertion. The TV essentially displays a black screen between each frame, which most people cannot see, but it can also make the screen darker. Most LED TVs achieve this by altering the flicker frequency of the backlight, resulting in the backlight being turned off for half the frame. This is accomplished on OLED TVs, which lack a backlight, by injecting a black frame in-between each frame.

When your eyes move past a static image, such as each static frame that makes up moving video, persistence blur occurs. Because the static frame is present for a shorter period of time with Black Frame Insertion, the length of the persistence blur is reduced. Unfortunately, not everyone can tolerate the flickering, and some people may become irritated after a time.

There are several methods for producing a comparably clear image as a 120Hz refresh rate
There are several methods for producing a comparably clear image as a 120Hz refresh rate

Further Information

REFRESH RATE VARIABLE

The frame rate of a source is not always consistent, notably in games. It may drop, which might cause screen tearing since the frame rate of the game and the refresh rate of your TV do not match. Variable refresh rate (VRR) is a function that seeks to match the refresh and frame rate on-the-fly, so if the frame rate of the game dips, the TV automatically lowers its refresh rate as well. Only if both the TV and the source support VRR is this possible.

VRR comes in a variety of formats, the most common of which are AMD’s FreeSync, NVIDIA’s G-SYNC, and HDMI Forum VRR. G-SYNC is typically reserved for monitors, but some TVs support it. FreeSync is available on higher-end Samsung and LG TVs, and HDMI Forum VRR compatibility is expanding on HDMI 2.1 TVs. In terms of compatible devices, the Xbox Series X supports FreeSync and HDMI Forum VRR, while the PS5 will be updated in 2021 to support HDMI Forum VRR.

FAKE RATE OF REFRESHMENT

TV companies frequently sell their refresh rates in ways that make them appear higher than they are. A business like Samsung uses the phrase ‘Motion Rate;’ the Motion Rate on a 60Hz TV is 120, while a 120Hz model has a Motion Rate of 240; they practically double the refresh rate to come up with this number, and there’s no real explanation for why it’s promoted that way.

LG use the word ‘TruMotion,’ Vizio employs ‘Effective Refresh Rate,’ while Sony employs two terms: ‘MotionFlow XR’ and ‘X-Motion Clarity.’ These marketing statistics are meaningless, and you must consult the TV’s specifications to determine the true refresh rate.

FREQUENCY OF FLICKERING

LED lights illuminate LCD televisions, and most TVs employ Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to lower the backlight. This means that the backlight turns itself off every few seconds to prevent it from being excessively bright. Because of the high frequency, it is not visible to the naked eye. Flicker frequency is measured in Hz, just as refresh rate, because we want to know how many times it flickers each second.

Image duplication can occur if the flicker frequency does not match the refresh or frame rates. The motion on the LG UN8500 has image duplication, as seen in the photographs below, since its backlight flickers at 120Hz, which is double the 60 fps source. The Sony X800H, on the other hand, features a flicker-free backlight, thus there is no image duplication; motion blur is generated by a slower response time.

LED lights illuminate LCD televisions, and most TVs employ Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to lower the backlight
LED lights illuminate LCD televisions, and most TVs employ Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to lower the backlight

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get a 120Hz (or greater) television?

Finally, you could be more concerned with getting a good bargain on a cheap TV than with having the best gaming or movie experience. If you’re a casual viewer and sports broadcasts aren’t that vital to you and your family, there are lots of low-cost 60Hz TVs that will match your needs nicely. If you’re a big gamer, we recommend getting a 120Hz TV.

That being said, if you’re a hardcore gamer, a die-hard sports fan, or simply want your movies and shows to look as good as possible, we highly recommend investing in a 120Hz TV. Motion handling can have a significant impact on image quality, particularly for those forms of content.

All of the selections in our roundup of the best gaming TVs, as well as several of the picks in our roundup of the best TVs, have a native refresh rate of 120Hz.

How to check refresh rate on monitor

It is simple to check or change the refresh rate of your display. To enter the Settings menu in Windows 10 or 11, use the Windows + I buttons (you can also open it from the Start menu). From there, select Display Settings and then Advanced Display Settings.

This is where you’ll discover the model number of the monitor, as well as the current refresh rate and various supported refresh rates. When you choose Choose a Refresh Rate, a drop-down menu with supported refresh rates appears. To discover your desired refresh rate, experiment with several parameters.

When you choose Choose a Refresh Rate, a drop-down menu with supported refresh rates appears
When you choose Choose a Refresh Rate, a drop-down menu with supported refresh rates appears

Final Words

A refresh rate specifies how frequently the screen is refreshed per second. The TV draws a new image from the source every few milliseconds, even if we can’t see it. In general, a higher refresh rate TV results in better motion management, however this is not always the case because motion is affected by other factors. It’s critical that the frame rate of your source and the refresh rate of your TV coincide in order to achieve smooth, stutter-free motion.

Most consumers will be satisfied with a TV with a refresh rate of 60Hz because there isn’t much 4k material that goes beyond 60 frames per second. However, 120Hz TVs with HDMI 2.1 capability are advantageous to gamers because they offer higher frame rates.

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