What is refresh rate for TVs, monitors, and projectors: 60Hz vs 120Hz and more
If you’ve shopped for a TV, computer monitor, or projector, you’ll have noticed one of the specs or features listed is refresh rate. Refresh rate refers to how a display handles motion or action. Depending on what you’re using your display for, it can be a very important feature. Here’s a look at what it is, how it works on TVs, monitors, and projectors, and how to choose a display with the right refresh rate for you.
Table of contents
- What is refresh rate
- Other factors impacting smooth motion
- TV refresh rate
- Monitor refresh rate
- Projector refresh rate
- How to choose your refresh rate
What is refresh rate?
If you’ve ever watched an old home movie on an 8mm projector, you know the film that feeds through the machine is made up of individual still images. As the film rolls through the projector at a set speed, it appears as though the still images are in motion.
8mm movie projectors can roll at a rate of 14 frames per second (fps). While that’s so slow any motion will appear jumpy or choppy, it’s a good way to illustrate refresh rate. The video or game you’re watching or playing on your TV is made up of a bunch of still images too, but they are shown so rapidly you’ll see them as seamless motion.
Refresh rate is the number of times per second a TV, projector, or monitor can reset and display an image. It’s measured in Hz, and a standard refresh rate for 4K TVs is 60Hz which means the image is refreshed sixty times every second. You can also find 120Hz and 240Hz. A display with 120Hz refresh rate can produce 120 fps, and a 240Hz TV can refresh at a rate of 240Hz. A TV with a higher rate offers a smoother watching experience because it can display more frames per second than a TV with lower rates.
Source of video matters for smooth motion
60 images per second seem pretty fast, and for most video it is. Just keep in mind that the refresh rate of a TV, computer monitor, or projector is just as much about the source of video as how it can perform.
Take our 8mm movie projector as an example. Since the beginning of film, movies have been shot at a rate of 24fps. Most cable TV shows play at a rate of 30fps. For this type of content a rate of 60Hz should be fine because your TV can replicate images at double the frame rate the film was shot in. But what if you’re watching a movie or TV show with a lot of action? The content within the frame has sped up, and to display it properly your TV has to speed it up too.
If your TV can’t refresh the image fast enough to keep up with action, scenes might look like they are blurring or dragging across the screen. That’s called motion blur. An example of motion blur is when you’re watching hockey and you see the puck blurring across the screen or you’re watching a car chase and you see the lights of a speeding car slow down and blur within the scene. To avoid it, your TV uses technology to increase speed in those scenes. The goal is to have your picture quality stay consistent no matter what you’re watching.
Response time and refresh rate
Response time is also important for how your display handles motion. Response time is the length of time it takes for your display’s pixels to change colour. Both refresh rate and response time will determine if the motion produced looks smooth and seamless or if it’s choppy and blurry. When your TV, projector, or monitor has a low response time, it will have better motion handling capacity than a display with a higher response time. Just as an example, the average response time of some of the latest 4K TVs with 120Hz refresh rate is 2 to 10 ms. That’s very low, and you’ll find some 4K TVs with a high response time of 50 ms.
Don’t forget about input lag
There’s also another factor that can affect your TV’s motion handling: input lag. Input lag is the delay between when you tap your controller or keyboard and when your display responds. It comes into play when gaming on TVs and monitors. The faster your display’s refresh rate, the lower your input lag will be because the image is updated faster and you can respond to the new image faster.
TV refresh rate
The latest TVs have the technology to increase refresh rate so it matches the action on screen. This is why you’ll see the terms ‘native refresh rate’ and ‘effective refresh rate’.
Native refresh rate vs effective refresh rate
Depending on the brand, there are different types of technology to enhance refresh rate and motion handling. Native refresh rate is the rate the TV can produce on its own, and it’s either 60Hz or 120Hz. Effective refresh rate is what the TV can produce using the brand’s motion handling technology, and you’ll see a TV’s effective rate listed as 240Hz up to 480Hz. Sony has XR Motion Clarity or Motionflow XR technology. LG has TruMotion, and Samsung has MotionRate. The names are different from brand to brand, but the tech behind the speed is the same.
Some brands also use TV technology to reduce the appearance of motion artifacts, a distortion in the video feed, that can happen in action scenes or during gaming. BFI (black frame rate), for example, is a process that involves inserting black motion frames between the original frames. Frame interpolation or the ‘Soap Opera Effect’, on the other hand, involves inserting fake frames that are copies of the previous and next frame in the video. Keep in mind that all of this happens too fast for the naked eye to process, so while you’ll enjoy faster action sequences with no motion blur, you’ll likely never see it happen. You can also choose to turn off any motion enhancement technology if you don’t want to your TV to use it.
VRR and gaming TVs
Every TV has two or more HDMI ports, and the latest TVs also offer HDMI 2. 1 support for the gaming consoles. A TV with HDMI 2.1 should support 4K gaming at 120Hz, and it may also support a variable refresh rate.
Variable refresh rate means your TV can automatically adjust or speed up its refresh to match the frame rate from your gaming console or your computer. VRR is important for gaming because games don’t always stick to a standard frame rate. The frame rate for gaming is also dependent on your console or, if you’re hooked up to your computer, the graphics card, so the number of frames produced can change from second to second. If your TV can only refresh a standard frame rate while your console is demanding more, you could see screen tearing or fragmentation during your game.
That’s one of the reasons why gaming TVs offer game mode. Game mode adjusts the settings of the TV to maximize the content coming in from your console. Some TVs will auto adjust based on the console you’re gaming on, while others have a game mode you can turn on yourself. Depending on which brand of TV you have your game mode will turn on VRR, reduce image processing to speed up frame rate, and optimize your input lag for maximum responsiveness.
Refresh rate on computer monitors
If you’re choosing a new display for gaming and you’re wondering if you should choose between a computer monitor or TV, you’ll find quite a few differences between the two. Take a look at this article on smart monitors vs smart TVs for more information on both. In terms of refresh rate differences, you’ll find computer monitors can produce a faster refresh than a TV.
A computer monitor’s performance is dependent on the PC or console it’s connected to and the graphic engine the PC or console has, so the listed refresh rate on a monitor is the maximum refresh achievable with the optimal hardware connected to it. The average monitor will have a refresh rate of 120Hz, but there are also monitors with 144Hz and up. Gaming monitors can produce a rate of up to 390Hz right now and may increase up to 540Hz in the near future. With a rate this fast, your monitor will be able to produce blistering fast gameplay for your PC and the latest consoles.
Computer monitors can also support technology to speed up game play and improve refresh rate. Some offer VRR while others have adaptive-sync technology. If you have a graphics card that supports adaptive sync like G-Sync or FreeSync, your graphics card will auto-adapt to whatever you’re playing and remove potential screen issues like tearing or blur.
Refresh rate on projectors
One of the best parts of a projector is that you’re able to enjoy movies, TV shows, and gaming on the biggest screen size possible. Projectors have also evolved to match the rate on the latest TVs and computer monitors. Older projectors had a refresh of 30Hz, but the standard projector refresh rate now is 60Hz. You’ll also find the latest gaming projectors can produce up to 120Hz.
A projector’s refresh rate is dependent on built-in technology, what the projector is connected to, and if you’re gaming, input lag. With the newest gaming consoles and graphics cards supporting 4K 120Hz gaming, some projectors can also offer that via an HDMI 2.1 port. There are also gaming projectors that have 4K 60Hz or 1080p at 120Hz. Lag times are low for the latest projectors, with some offering 16ms input lag while gaming at 4K 60Hz too.
Choose your refresh rate
Refresh rates matter most while watching action movies, sports, and fast-paced gaming. For most users, a TV, projector, or monitor that can produce 60Hz or 120Hz refresh rate is more than enough, but for anyone who watches a lot of action or is a gamer, 120Hz is the minimum you should choose. As rates increase, the price point of the display will increase too, so your budget will also be a consideration.
Take a look at the different TVs, monitors, and projectors available at Best Buy right now and choose the best refresh rate for you.
TV refresh rates: How to see through the TV industry’s biggest lie
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(Image credit: LG)
TV manufacturers love jargon. Whether it’s adopting new technical features like HDR or adaptive brightness, or just slapping a branded name onto a standard feature, trying to parse what’s what on a given TV can be a pain, even for the best TVs.
But there’s one area where details aren’t just cloudy, they’re sometimes downright dishonest, and that’s refresh rates. This simple specification should be an easily understood number, but for several reasons it’s not. It’s not even information that’s easily found, in many cases.
Here’s the low down on what refresh rates are and why they’re important, why TV makers bend the truth, and how you can spot the lie and get the straight info to make a more informed TV purchase.
Refresh rates explained
Expressed in Hertz (Hz), a TV’s actual refresh rate tells you how many times per second a new frame or image can be put up on screen. The human eye starts stitching these images together to create the illusion of smooth motion at rates as low as 24 frames per second, the frame rate traditionally used in film and movies.
Most TVs today offer one of two refresh rates: 60 Hz, which refreshes the display image 60 times per second, and 120 Hz, which refreshes 120 times per second. That 120Hz is actually the better of the two, since fast moving objects, like a slap shot in hockey, or a pass thrown in football, may look a little blurry or choppy, depending upon how the TV handles motion smoothing.
(Image credit: Sony)
But there’s a difference between the display’s refresh rate (measured in Hz) and the source content frame rate (measured in frames per second or fps). When the refresh rate and the signal rate match, it’s perfect, and you’ll be seeing exactly what the creator intended. If there’s a mismatch, however, the TV will need to apply some video processing techniques to display content properly.
For a very long time, 30fps was the standard, and it’s still a common refresh rate for broadcast TV and older media like DVD and 1080p Blu-ray. But newer media often takes advantage of the newer capabilities to offer higher frame rates better suited to your TV. Gaming in particular has adopted higher frame rates, with the latest consoles offering 60Hz and 120Hz gameplay.
The higher frame rate is also one of the few TV specs that can easily communicate that one TV is better than another, at least for this one feature. It’s easy to look at the frame rate and understand that 60 is good, 120 is better, and leave it at that.
(Image credit: LG)
TV refresh rates: How the truth gets blurry
That’s great if you’re selling 120Hz TVs, but less so if you want to compete against those models with a 60Hz display. However, with the processing the TVs already have to do to match source frame rates to display refresh rates, TV manufacturers saw an opportunity to muddy the waters.
There are some very sophisticated approaches to this, but here’s the simple version: TV makers have figured out that they can mimic higher frame rates by adding an extra flicker. By pulsing the backlight on and off in between those 60 refreshes, the alternating pattern of new frames and blinked light provides the illusion of a higher frame rate… sort of.
As a result, you’ll often see TV specs list something called the “effective” refresh rate, which is double what the TV’s panel can actually do. Some brands will use different terminology, but the underlying reality is the same – there’s a difference between the actual refresh rate of the TV display panel and what you’re told in the product specs and marketing materials.
What that really means is that manufacturers can use that light pulsing trick to claim a higher number than the TV actually supports. If you play 120Hz content on a 60Hz display, but bump the effective rate up by flickering the backlight, it won’t magically display all 120 frames of content each second. Instead it will display 60, dropping half of the frames to match the actual refresh rate that the display can handle.
TVs will also use heavy handed motion smoothing techniques to give the illusion of smoothness that a higher frame rate would impart. It is also sometimes called the Soap Opera Effect, because it makes everything look a little blurry or smeared. (Learn how to turn it off in our guide to the 5 TV settings you should change now.)
How to spot the refresh rate lie
(Image credit: Samsung)
As with seemingly every other feature on modern TVs, different brands use different terms for this artificially boosted frame rate claim.
The first red flag to watch for is “effective rate” when discussing frame rates. As a rule, the effective rate will be double what the panel can physically display, so the actual refresh rate is half that number: an effective rate of 240Hz is really 120Hz, and effective rate of 120Hz is really 60Hz, and so on.
Sometimes it’s even higher, as companies will double down on the trickery to claim a 240Hz refresh rate on a 60Hz panel.
Here are what the different TV makers call their own “effective refresh rate” technologies.
- LG – TruMotion
- Hisense – Motion Rate
- Samsung – Clear Motion Rate
- Sony – Motion Flow XR, X-Motion Clarity
- TCL – Clear Motion Index (CMI)
- Vizio – Clear Action
The easy way to spot the real number is to look for the words “native” or “actual”. These terms have legal definitions, and fudging these numbers can land TV makers in legal trouble.
(Image credit: Vizio)
Unfortunately, that particular spec may not always be easy to find. In addition to hiding behind the terms listed above, many times a TV’s refresh won’t even be listed on the manufacturer’s product page. Some will omit that specification altogether, while others will simply leave it blank.
The good news is that we’re watching out for you. We include the real refresh rate in the specs of every TV we review – whether it’s dug up from less accessible material, confirmed by a customer service tech or PR rep, or tested ourselves – so that you have the correct information for any TV we recommend.
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Brian Westover is currently Lead Analyst, PCs and Hardware at PCMag. Until recently, however, he was Senior Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he led the site’s TV coverage for several years, reviewing scores of sets and writing about everything from 8K to HDR to HDMI 2.1. He also put his computing knowledge to good use by reviewing many PCs and Mac devices, and also led our router and home networking coverage. Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.
What is the screen refresh rate?
This is one of the indicators that characterizes the quality of the dynamic image on the TV screen. It shows how fast the frames on the TV screen change, and is measured in hertz (Hz). If the refresh rate is insufficient, then the TV user observes flickering of the image, which is very tiring for the eyes. This disadvantage is well known to owners of outdated cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions.
With the widespread adoption of liquid crystal models, 50 frames per second, or 50 Hz, has become the standard. However, in modern models this is considered insufficient.
The problem is that the LCD pixels do not switch instantly. No matter how small the inertia of switching, in scenes saturated with fast movements, it becomes noticeable – the image is “smeared”, gaps and comet trails appear. To get rid of these unwanted effects, you should increase the frame rate. Manufacturers achieve this with the help of special software solutions. The most popular is to insert an intermediate frame between the two main ones.
A powerful processor analyzes and compares two adjacent frames and, based on this analysis, creates a transition between them. Due to such an insert, the frame refresh rate is doubled – from 50 to 100 Hz. And if you insert several intermediate pictures, the frequency will increase even more. Thus, it is possible to raise the refresh rate up to 200 Hz. Other technological innovations are also used, for example, local dimming, flickering backlight, various anti-aliasing algorithms. All these measures can reduce the fuzziness of images of fast moving objects.
It should be added that drawing additional frames in its pure form is not currently used. The fact is that while it suits games and sports broadcasts well, then films processed using this technology have an undesirable effect of unnaturalness, called the “soap opera effect”.
Therefore, in order to avoid annoying viewers watching TV, manufacturers use complex sets of algorithms that each large company develops independently and keeps secret from competitors.
Today, manufacturers are announcing absolutely incredible refresh rates of 1000 or more hertz. But this is not the real rate of staff turnover, but a marketing parameter invented to evaluate the effectiveness of the technologies used.
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TV refresh rate 50(60)Hz and 100(120)Hz and 200(240)Hz difference explanation
Refresh rate refers to the number of frames a TV displays per second (fps), also known as frequency. However, you can find different frame rates: 50Hz/60Hz or 100Hz/120Hz. In short, there is no difference between 50Hz and 60Hz or 100Hz and 120Hz, they are the same and are only used for the convenience of users.
There’s a lot of confusion about TV specifications, and many of them are synthetic and don’t tell you much as a user. The only metric that really matters is the refresh rate, which measures the frame rate of a display.
What is the refresh rate
Refresh rate – This parameter shows the frame rate per second. This setting shows the actual frame rate and this setting depends on the display quality being used.
Until 2017, there were only TVs that supported video up to 60 Hz, because the standards that existed at that time supported no more than 60 Hz. Including HDMI ports supported video up to 60 Hz.
The difference between 50 Hz and 60 Hz TVs is explained
However, there are TVs whose specifications state that they support 50 Hz. How does 60Hz video playback work in this case? It’s very simple, there is no problem with this, because all TVs are designed to display video at 60 Hz.
The difference between 50 Hz and 60 Hz television: the history of different frequency standards
Previously the AC frequency standard in Europe was 50 Hz and in the USA it was 60 Hz. Thus, the first analog CRT televisions used the network frequency to synchronize the picture, since it was stable and maintained in a strictly limited range.
Televisions today have long ceased to use the mains frequency for picture synchronization, but the concept of 50 Hz in Europe and 60 Hz in the US is so ingrained in the minds of consumers that manufacturers continue to use these parameters to refer to the frame rate of a TV.
In practice these are only technical differences, any 50Hz TV will support 60Hz. Therefore, you just need to understand that they are one and the same.
Difference between TV 100Hz and 120Hz
100/120Hz is a reserve for the future Since 2017, the new HDMI 2.1 port standard has been adopted, which implements video support wIn 2017, the new HDMI port standard (HDMI 2.