60Hz vs 120Hz – Do you need a 120Hz refresh rate TV?

When you’re looking for a new display for your home, then the refresh rate is going to be one of the first things that you should look for. This is more important when you’re looking for a new monitor, but it’s also worth considering when you’re looking at televisions too.

With all the new different terms out there used with the variations of screens we use, things can get pretty confusing very quickly. The different types of display panels and the different types of cable you use are also important. However, your refresh rate is also a very important factor in some circumstances too.

So today, we’re going to look at 60Hz and 120Hz, which are two common refresh rates you’ll find with televisions and monitors. We’ll explore what the main difference between them is, and which one of them you should opt for.

60Hz vs 120Hz – The Difference in Refresh Rate Explained

The difference between a 60Hz screen and a 120Hz is their capabilities in terms of fps, or frames per second. A 60Hz TV can update to show 60 different frames per second, whereas a 120Hz display can refresh 120 times per second – so it can refresh double the amount of times a 60Hz screen can.

In short, only a gamer is really going to need a television with a faster refresh rate. Having more frames per second can be an advantage, as it allows for a smoother gaming experience and minimize input lag. Whereas with TV shows and films, it’s not necessary – though some people may want to try it out, which I’ll get to in a minute.

To some people, this will make perfect sense. And to others, it won’t make any sense at all. However, the truth is that understanding your refresh rate is actually pretty simple. So, let’s start at the begin by explaining it in full, and then we can look at how they’d impact your experience.

Refresh Rate (Hz)

The definition of Hertz is quite simply the amount of times or cycles something happens within one second.

This is what we use to measure the refresh rate – with speakers we use kilohertz – kHZ, which is x1000 per second) – and our computer processors are measured in gigahertz (gHz), which is a billion times per second.

But back to Hertz – if a TV was 24Hz, it would refresh 24 times within that second, and actually show 24 very slightly different images.

Back in the olden days, less frames were used – some as slow as only 16fps, or 16 different images per second. This is why sometimes when you watch old film, it might seem to jerk or flicker along, because the refresh rate wasn’t very high on the film, yet it was still projected at 24fps.

Refresh Rate vs Frame Rate

fps

Something that’s commonly mistaken for each other is the fps, frames per second or frame rate, and the refresh rate. The refresh rate dictates the maximum frame rate that can be accomplished by your monitor. So if you have a 120Hz television, then it can refresh 120 times per second.

But, your can never exceed your refresh rate in terms of fps. So, you’ll never be able to get 90 frames per second on a 60Hz television – it’s just not possible. The refresh rate is its overall capacity.

That doesn’t mean to say that your frames per second is going to run at the maximum rate it can. Sometimes, you might have a 120Hz display, but depending on what you’re doing (gaming etc), it may only run at 90 frames per second.

Or if you have a TV capable of 60Hz, it will still try to run films at their original frames per second, which is typically 24fps. It’s been this way for many years, as you don’t really need higher frame rates if you’re simply watching the TV.

Watching films on a 120Hz TV

Now, when watching TV on a television with a higher refresh rate than the standard 24fps, you may end up with something called motion interpolation, or motion smoothing.

Basically, what this does is add additional frames in-between the current frame rate that the TV show or film was filmed in. As most films are made in 24fps, if you were to watch this on a 120Hz television, it would add an additional 4 frames in-between the ones that were filmed.

This can lead to something that’s been dubbed as the “Soap opera effect”. Whilst the process is meant to help smooth the picture and minimize any motion blur, it can end up making things look realistic.

And we already know that most people don’t like watching films in anything faster than 24fps, which most movies are filmed in. One exception was The Hobbit, which was actually filmed in a faster 48fps.

It ended up being widely viewed in 24fps, as it was decided that it was a better viewing experience (after some initial testing).

Sticking with 60Hz, 50Hz explained

In most cases, a 60Hz television is going to be absolutely fine for your purpose. Many of the smart TVs being released today are going to be 60Hz refresh rate.

You won’t need more than this if you’re going to be watching films and television shows. Though it might be tempting to upgrade to a higher refresh rate, you’re better off improving the resolution of your television if you’re only watching your television.

You may also see if you’re in Europe that your television has 50Hz refresh rate. This is just because television networks broadcast at a 50Hz limit in Europe. Your TV will still run at 60Hz when you’re gaming, even if you’ve got a ’50Hz’ television.

This is the same case for higher refresh rates too – in the UK, you might see a TV advertised as 100Hz, but this can play video games at a higher 120Hz refresh rate just fine.

Where 120Hz is better

The only circumstance that you’ll want to opt for a 120Hz television or monitor is if you’re going to be gaming.

It can be a massive advantage to have a faster refresh rate if you’re playing a competitive game when you’re online, like Call of Duty or CS:GO. It’s best for shooter games, but it can improve many other games too.

But even then, just because your TV or monitor is capable of 120Hz, that doesn’t mean to say that it’s always going to run at 120 frames per second. For example, if you’re playing a game like Grand Theft Auto, with a high resolution, it may only play at 90fps on a 120Hz monitor.

Most televisions that are 120Hz will have the option for you to reduce the rate back down to 30 or 60Hz if you want to. This can come in handy, and you can switch between the two modes for when you’re watching television and playing games.

Phone Refresh Rates

Something else that’s often discussed in terms of refresh rate is phones. Usually we’re talking about televisions and monitors when we discuss refresh rate, but phone displays have a refresh rate as well.

Most of the new smartphones being released will have a 60Hz display. This is true for the new iPhone, which was rumoured to have a 120Hz display, but in the end, all the different variations were released with a 60Hz standard display.

There are some models of premium Android phone that will come with a higher refresh rate. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S20 range have a 120Hz refresh rate.

What will this mean for the phone itself? Well, it’s likely to have a smoother interface when you’re using it. However, this could come at the cost of battery life. We’ll have to wait and see how higher refresh rate phones perform over the next few years before making a final verdict.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are people who would definitely benefit from using a TV or monitor with a faster refresh rate. Competitive gamers and those that spend a lot of time on their PC or console will probably want to get a television with a faster refresh rate.

However, for the majority of people, a 60Hz television will likely be absolutely fine. You won’t need more than 60 frames per second. You can invest in one with a faster rate if you want, but unless you’re gaming, you won’t need it.

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve. I've worked for the past 8 years in a major furniture retailer in the UK, so I know my way around a desk or two. On the weekends, I spend time with my kids or I'm probably outside in the garden doing something or other!

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