Updated Feb 17, 2014 By Cedric Demers

What is the Refresh Rate?

The refresh rate is the number of frames per second the television can display. Its unit is a Hertz, which is equal to 1/second. 120Hz means it can draw 120 images per second.

The refresh rate of televisions is misleading and is mixed with marketing lies. The increased refresh rate (120Hz and higher) was introduced by manufacturers as an indirect way to reduce the motion blur problem of LCDs and LEDs. However, the response time of 120Hz and 240Hz TVs is usually the same as 60Hz ones.

Do not look at the refresh rate of a TV. Not only is the advertised number false, but a 120Hz+ TV does not reduce the amount of motion blur in console games.
The response time is the best measure of motion blur in an LED TV. It is the time a pixel takes to transition from one color to another.

Additionally, manufacturers are inflating their advertised refresh rate number. For example, as explained in the next page of this article, Samsung uses a made-up number it calls the Clear Motion Rate .

To prove that a 120Hz TV does not reduce motion blur in movies, we filmed - in slow motion - a 60Hz TV next to a 120Hz TV, both displaying a 24p Blu-ray movie. As you can see, the amount of blur is exactly the same.

The only advantage of a 120Hz+ refresh rate TV are the soap opera effect and supporting 24p playback capabilities. In our video, the soap opera effect option was set to off because most people don't like that option.

The same is true for video games. Video game consoles (even the Xbox One and PS4) display a maximum of 60 frames per second. When displaying this on a 120Hz TV, the panel just draws each frame twice, so it doesn't reduce the blur.

For a gaming PC monitor, though, the 120Hz refresh rate does reduce the amount of motion blur, because computers can generate 120+ frames per second.

Does the refresh rate mean the same thing across LCD, LED, and Plasma TVs?

No. An LCD/LED panel retains the picture for the entire frame duration. This is called the sample and hold method. A plasma TV works differently. It uses very short pulses to draw the picture. For each frame, it emits a series of pulses, determined by the intensity of the colors.

When LCD TVs started advertising higher refresh rates meant to reduce motion blur, plasma TV manufacturers didn't want to appear obsolete, even though they display better motion by default. To keep up with their marketing, they started including a number in Hz. This number is not the amount of frames per second it can display, but the inverse of the duration of a small pulse. For example, a 600Hz plasma means its pulse length is 1/600 second, even though it only draws 60 frames per second.

Check out our article on the differences between plasma and led to learn more about this.

Displaying a 120fps signal on a 120Hz+ television

In 2014, very few televisions officially support a true 120 frames per second signal as an input. Even a real 120Hz or 240Hz television usually does not support a source of 120fps. At that speed, they can only display frames created by themselves using motion interpolation. For example, you can feed a television a 1080p @ 24Hz signal, which it will upconvert to 1080p @ 120Hz internally; but you cannot feed it a 1080p @ 120 signal directly.

Although not officially supported, some people were able to hack it either by faking the signal as being 3D or by overclocking it.

Despite the fact that HDMI version 1.4 added support for 1080p @ 120Hz, there is no content available to display on a TV at that frame rate. Only a computer can generate this high frame rate. This will not change anytime soon. Gaming consoles, including the PS4 and Xbox One, are limited to 60fps. Movies are shot at 24 fps. The first movie shot in 48fps is 'The Hobbit,' and it is only available at that speed in some specific theaters.


For TVs, the refresh rate means nothing, especially given that manufacturers inflate their numbers. A TV with a high refresh rate is not guaranteed to be free of motion blur. Even for console gaming, there is no advantage in using a 120Hz+ TV, because console video games are capped at 60 fps anyway.

For gaming on a PC though, a monitor with a higher refresh rate is definitely worth it if you have a strong enough graphics card.

The next pages of this article explains two features usually found on 120Hz+ TVs, but which are irrelevant to gaming.

For the money, the best 120Hz LED TV that we tested is the Samsung H6350 LED TV.

Questions & Answers

I just recently purchased the Samsung 40EH5300, and while I love the TV, I'm noticing a blue hue or halo around moving people and objects. What is this? How can it be fixed?
This is most likely motion blur. The panel cannot draw the images fast enough, so they end up superposing themselves. This is common for TVs in this price range. While it cannot be fixed, you can try playing with the settings (like the LED Motion Plus setting) to reduce it.
Is there a discernible difference between Samsung's 720, 840, 960, and 1200 Clear Motion Rate (all are 240hz)?
Usually not, in terms of motion handling. The differences are more in the extra features.
How noticeable is the difference between 120hz and 240hz, like in Samsung h6400 vs h7150?

Not very noticeable in term of motion. Here are the pictures that we took in our reviews of the H7150 and the H6400:

Samsung H6400

Samsung h6400

Samsung H7150

Samsung h7150

As you can see, the length of the motion blur trail is the same. The difference is the backlight. The H7150 flickers twice as fast, which we perceived as more superposition of the logo. Which method is better is a personal preference. Keep in mind that we are nitpicking here. Most people won't even see the difference when watching normal content.

That said, the H7150 is a better TV than the H6400, even if the motion is relatively the same. It has a better uniformity and screen finish. It is worth the upgrade, provided you don't mind the price difference.

I bought a Samsung UA46ES5600 LED TV. It has 100Hz refresh rate. Is there a noticable difference in picture quality compared to a 120Hz tv? Should I trade it in for a 120Hz tv instead?
They are actually the same thing. The number depends on your country and the frequency of the AC electricity that goes into your home - 50Hz or 60Hz. A 100Hz refresh rate in a 50Hz country is the equivalent of a 120Hz refresh rate in a 60Hz country. They both are twice the base frequency. So if you bought a 100Hz TV, that means you couldn't actually buy a 120Hz TV in your country. You can convert a 60Hz based refresh rate to a 50Hz by simply dividing by 1.2 and this also applies to the inflated marketing number, like Samsung's Clear Motion Rate: 240 = 200, 480 = 400, 720 = 600, 840 = 700 and 960 = 800. For simplicity's sake, we did not put both in the table above. There is one difference though, and it is how they handle playing video at 24 frames per second. With a 60Hz TV, 24 fps is fit by using the 3:2 pulldown technique described above. In a 50Hz TV though, the movie is actually speed up by 4.2%, so a 1h40 min movie will actually be played in 1h36. This isn't very noticeable.
I currently have a Sharp Aquos 40" smart TV. I am considering buying a larger one and moving this one to a smaller room. Should I be looking at a 60Hz, or is the extra money for 120hz worth it?
Get a 60 Hz TV if you don't plan on using the soap opera effect feature.
Can you please explain how plasma 600hz sub field motion fits into all this? Does it use image interpolation? How does this fit with 24p? 600/24 = 25? Will plasma with its 600hz perform on par with or better than a true 240hz LCD/LED panel?
A Plasma 600Hz is not the same thing as refresh rate. When LCD TVs started to advertised refresh rates, customers wanted to compare them to Plasmas, so manufacturers came up with a number in Hz. It correspond to the number of times per second a plasma cell is charged to emit light. Note that Plasmas never suffered from motion blur like LCDs, so they only advertise this to make that clear. Most Plasma TVs now also support image interpolation and 24p playback, but some older/lower-end models don't.
Does 60hz vs 120hz matter for gaming on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, or PS4; especially for 1st person shooters?
There is no console that outputs at 120Hz. Also, motion interpolation increases input lag, making it unusable for games - especially FPS. Therefore, no, a 120Hz TV is useless for games. However, the best TVs are at least 120Hz these days, so good TVs with minimal motion blur and good picture quality are at least 120Hz. Do not look at the refresh rate, but you will have a better picture quality with higher end models.
Do all 120Hz+ televisions support display of source input at 120Hz? My concern is that in five years or so I would need a TV to support this.
No, very few HDTVs available officially support playing 1080p @ 120Hz - not even the high end 240Hz televisions. Most can only display at that speed with their own motion interpolated frames. Unless you plan on using your TV as a PC monitor for gaming, don't worry about this. Movies/TV shows/sports/console gaming won't need that feature for at least 5-10 years.
Why dont you recommend more than 120Hz? Can some sports, such as football or formula 1, be watched perfectly on a 100Hz TV?
The difference is reduced after that. Yes, higher is better, but for the majority of people, 120Hz is good enough. There is no such thing as perfect, especially with LED.
I live in Europe and want to play console games that, even though they are PAL games, say "60 Hz only" on the cover. If I understand this article correctly, I should get a TV with a real refresh rate of 100 Hz, since if I get one with a real refresh rate of 50 Hz, it would be too low for the 60 Hz content. Is this correct, or would a 50 Hz TV actually work with 60 Hz games? What about motion blur and input lag? Would I get worse picture quality and lag when playing games on a 100 Hz TV as compared to a 50 Hz TV?
No, even 50Hz TVs can display 60Hz. In Europe, all Full HD TVs must support at least 1080p @ 60Hz and 1080p @ 50Hz. The inverse is not true. In North America, not all 60Hz TVs can display 50Hz.
I considering two different TVs: one is a Sony 60" with motion flow 240hz, and the other is a Sony 55" with motion flow 480hz. My preference is a bigger TV, but I'm in doubt about the refresh rate. Is the difference too big?
If you are in doubt, get the bigger one (the 60" with Motion Flow 240Hz, so a panel of 120Hz). The majority of people will prefer the difference in size over the difference in picture quality that the jump from 120Hz to 240Hz (real refresh rate, not Motion Flow) would offer. The difference in picture quality is there, but unless you are very picky, the difference in size is bigger.
What would you recommend for a 46" smart TV monitor that will primarily be used for gaming and sometimes for streaming?
Check out our article on 46 to 48" TVs for our recommendation.
I tested samsung h6400 with and without "clear motion rate" turned on and the difference while playing videogames is just absolutely amazing. For example, the game Split Second: Velocity only runs at 30fps on an Xbox 360 console, but with "clear motion rate on" the game seems to be running at lovely 60fps. For playing, this is amazing. I also tested Fifa 14, which runs (according to specifications) at 60 fps. Sometimes this game suffers frame drops due to the high amount of ram the game needs when it handles too many subjects on the screen, but again with clear motion rate on, the game runs so smooth that it seems as though you are playing it on next gen consoles instead of the actual one. I did the same test on an old LG with true motion 120 (obviously real refresh rate was 60hz) and even when you can feel there was some true motion improvement, the trumotion fails dropping frames and makes true motion disappears at times, which is so annoying when you are playing fast games. So after this brief intro, my question: Which is the best LED for getting the best cmr, motion flow, or motion index available? Would 240hz make games look better? (I couldn't test that myself because I do not own a TV with that refresh rate)
No TV interpolation is perfect. Frame drops will happens on all of them as soon as something big moves too fast. Artifacts are also common, even on 240Hz TVs. Have you had a look at our motion test pictures? You might find the pictures of the motion interpolation settings interesting. The G letter of our logo is not complete on almost all of them. Honestly, there isn't a visual difference between the interpolation on a 120Hz vs 240Hz. The difference is more visible without interpolation due to the backlight strobbing (check out, for example, the H6400 vs H7150 with no interpolation to see what I mean by this). At that point, it is the response time of the pixels that is the bottleneck (unless using an aggressive backlight setting).
Why does my 50 inch LG LB6300 display 1080i 60hz PCM if it is labeled a 120hz TV?
This is normal. TVs only display the input signal.
I guess I am one of the weird people who actually enjoy the soap opera effect. I have a Samsung 60 inch F8000. Could you possibly help me with the custom setting that would give me the smoothest possible picture. For example, on the "judder reduction" setting, would I want that at 0, or would 10 be better? Same for "Blur reduction." Thanks for your help.
"Blur reduction" is the one that creates the soap opera effect, so bring that to the max.
Does a TV with 3D option take away from picture quality when displaying normal TV?
Not at all. It is a separate additional feature that doesn't affect 2D capabilities. If you want, though, all 3D TVs contain a 2D to 3D converter (but not as good as native 3D content).
What do you think about IKEAs Uppleva 46" TV?
Unfortunately, we haven't tested it, so we cannot comment.
I'm in the market of purchasing 3 TVs. I have to say that money is not a consideration. The first one is for a total black cinema room and my choices are Panasonic AX-800 (4K) 3200$ or either VT60 3500$ or ZT60 4300$ (plasma) 65 inches. Which should I choose? The second one is a kitchen TV, meaning it will be around light and windows. I present I only have the choice of an LG 42LB6300 (IPS, 1080p) is there anything else better? The third one is for a bedroom and the choices are LG 32LB5800 or Samsung UN32H6350. Again, is there anything better out there?
1) Get the ZT60. Arguably, the VT60 is almost as good for less, but if money is not a concern, get the ZT60. The Panasonic LED 4k is simply no match for plasma's picture quality in a dark room.
2) In a kitchen, you probably do need an IPS panel to benefit from its wide viewing angle. They reflect a bit more light, though. The LG 42LB6300 should be more than enough here.
3) For the bedroom, get the Samsung UN32H6350 (assuming you don't care about viewing angle here), because you can just rotate the TV towards your bed). It has better blacks than the LG.
What about the Vizio 60" smart LED HDTV?
You can see all our reviews of Vizio TVs here.
I just purchased a Samsung Series 6 6300 LED 60" TV. I assumed the CMR 240 was 240 Hz. I realized later it was not. My question is, is there a noticeable difference between a 120Hz and a 240Hz TV? Is it worth the upgrade to go for a 240Hz? Thank you in advance for your response.
No. Refresh rates tend to be pretty unimportant when it comes to buying TVs. Both 120 hz and 240 hz TVs have the motion interpolation feature, and that's about all that sets them apart from 60 hz TVs. No need to get a different TV.
I am looking to buy a 65" Samsung TV. I am comparing the UN65HU7250, 8700, and 9000. Main difference is CMR, i.e. 960, 1320, and 1440. I am not into high-speed gaming or car racing. Just looking for something nice for a family room. Reading this forum makes it seem like CMR in that range should all be good. The prices are $7k/8k/9k. Price is not the main concern if there is value. Which TV would you suggest between these three?
Unfortunately, we did not review any of those TVs, so direct comparisons won't be possible. That said, we expect all of them to have similar picture quality to the HU8550. The differences are mostly aesthetic, and the CMR is meaningless. The HU9000 does come with the One Connect box, which accounts for a lot of the price difference, but that is available separately anyway.
Overall, you won't be getting much more value from the more expensive ones, so just go for the cheapest, or whichever you like the look of more.
Are 120Hz televisions bad for gaming?
They are not bad. zit is just that the 120Hz is not useful for console gaming. Motion interpolation needs to be turned off during games because it adds too much input lag. Also, console games are only 30 or 60 frames per second.
I am thinking of purchasing a Panasonic TH32A400A for console Gaming with an Xbox One. It states that it has 100 Hz Back Light Blinking and then it says 50 Hz Native. I was told by friends and merchants that the higher the refresh rate for gaming, the better. But I've read some of the comments above and apparently refresh rate has no impact on console gaming. That was before the new consoles were released. How does native and max refresh rate work, and will it have an impact on an Xbox One?
Refresh rate indeed has no impact on console gaming. Even on the Xbox One, games are displayed at a maximum of 60 fps (a lot of them are still only 30 fps). The native refresh rate is the real one. The other number is just the screen's backlight turning on and off.
Hi rtings. You have helped me so much in deciding which TV I will buy, and I want to thank the whole staff for helping me. Back to the point: I am comparing two TVs One (LG) has a dual-core processor with 2GB RAM, the other one (Samsung) has a quadcore processor. I want the highest Soap opera feeling when I watch TV. My question is, does the processor contribute anything to increased Soap opera effect and the Hz on the TV, or, does it even improve picture quality? Thank you so much for helping me!
No, it doesn't. TVs have a separate dedicated chip that does the interpolation. The processor speed only affects the smart TV features and apps, not the picture quality.
What makes the biggest difference in terms of picture quality: the screen or panel or the guts of the TV?
In order: the panel, the backlight (for LED TVs), and then the software processing. The panel is really 90% of the picture quality. If two TVs have the same panel, once they are calibrated properly you won't really see a difference between them.
I just purchased the 32" Samsung H4500 Smart TV LED. What's your opinion on this TV?
Unfortunately, we haven't tested that TV yet.
I am not an expert, but would an LED TV with an 800hz processing rate and 1080p HD present Xbox One games running at 60 frames per second as well as possible?
Don't look at the number of Hz; it means nothing. Whether a TV is good or not depends on the model number and brand.
What is the refresh rate of Samsung 55HU7000? Would you recommend this TV?
50Hz/60Hz. We haven't tested it, so we can't comment on it.
We are remodeling our living room and I want to upgrade to a bigger and better television before paying for our TV to be mounted. We do not play video games, but we do use Netflix, etc, so Internet access would be nice. My husband watches football. We want excellent picture and at least a 50 inch screen, with a goal of spending less than $900 total with tax. I can get a Samsung UHD HU6900 series television for under $800 (before tax), but I'm worried about this motion effect people keep talking about. I've heard there are some settings you can modify to try to reduce the motion effect. How bad is it for regular television watching compared to the 2007 model year of big screen TVs? Do you think the Samsung UHD HU6900 will suit our needs? Greatly appreciate your thoughts!
You can always turn off the soap opera effect on every TV, so don't worry about that. Instead of buying a 4k TV, though, you will be happier with a 1080p one, because you can get a bigger size for the same price. 4k is not worth it for a 50" screen at a normal viewing distance.
Your site seems thorough and accurate overall. I get the impression that it under-weights the value of backlight strobing vs interpolation, especially for gaming (or 60 fps material). In PC gaming circles it is quite popular and has special site dedicated to its use (along with other innovations like variable framerate sync (which is named otherwise). Of course for gaming, input-output time matters too, but not really for TV's. Anyway I thought it would be nice if your site went into strobing a bit more, as many of us feel it is the only way to go and interpolation is a no-go. Of course it reduces brightness but different backlights will be impacted more or less, hence a need to reveiw such things. I think perhaps if brighter LEDs were used so the strobing was an always on feature that would perhaps improve TVs in general. But that is a subject worthy of knowing more about.
Thanks for the feedback. Backlight strobing is indeed very effective, especially for gaming. We talk a little bit about it on this page. We even took pictures of it in action on the Sony and Vizio TVs. Samsung TVs also have that feature, but you can't use it under game mode, so it comes with very high input lag, unfortunately.
I just bought a Samsung UN50H6203 TV. I have it hooked up to a Yamaha RX-V377 receiver. I had a tech come out to hook everything up, including my Blu-ray player and my Panasonic PV-8451 VCR+. The VCR sound works, but I receive no picture. I have recorded quite a few TV specials, and shows over the years, and would like it to work. I know you can transfer from tape to DVD, but I feel it would be easier to fix the no picture issue. The tech was only there to set up my cable box. He plugged the composite cables (red, yellow, and white) from my VCR into the number four inputs in the back of the receiver. Do I need to hook up an HD converter box in order to get a picture? Thank you. Dale
You should be able to connect your receiver to your television without getting an HD converter box. You'll need another set of yellow/red/white cables. Plug one end of those into the "AV Out" outputs of the receiver, and then plug the other end into the "Component/AV-In" inputs on the back of your TV. You could also try just unplugging the cables from the receiver and plugging them from the VCR directly to the TV, just to make sure it works.
Hi. I have a question, and I will be eternally grateful if you guys could please answer. I have an LG Plasma from late 2011 and I love it. It's still going strong today. I have a setting called black levels: low and high. Low is darker, and high is brighter. Which one would be the better option for picture quality and input lag?
This setting shouldn't have an effect on input lag. As for picture quality, it will depend on the rest of your calibration and on what you think looks best. Experiment with both and then pick the one that you like.
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