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What is the Refresh Rate?

Updated Feb 17, 2014 By Cedric Demers

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 the advertised number is 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, Samsung is using the Clear Motion Rate as explained in the next page of this article.

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 one when displaying a 24p Blu-ray movie. As you can see, the amount of blur is exactly the same.

The only advantages of a 120Hz+ refresh rate TV are the soap opera effect and supporting 24p playback. 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 consoles games (even the Xbox One and PS4) displays at maximum 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 for an LCD, LED and Plasma?

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 pulse depending on the intensity of the colors.

When LCD TVs started advertising higher refresh rates meant to reduce motion blur, plasma TVs 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. They can only display at that speed frames created by themselves using motion interpolation. For example, you can feed a television a 1080p @ 24Hz signal, which it will up convert to 1080p @ 120Hz internally; but you cannot feed it directly a 1080p @ 120 signal.

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 the 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 are limited to only 60fps, even the PS4 and Xbox One. Movies are being 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.

Conclusion

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

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

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

The best 120Hz LED TV for the price that we tested is the Samsung H6350 LED TV.

Questions

Mar 12, 2013
I just recently purchased the Samsung 40EH5300, and while I love the TV per se, 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 to reduce it (like the LED Motion Plus setting).
23
Mar 30, 2014
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. So if you don't mind the price difference, it is worth the upgrade.

16
Dec 07, 2012
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 actual 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, that means you couldn't actually buy a 120Hz in your country. You can convert a 60Hz based refresh rate to a 50Hz by simply dividing by 1.2 and this applies also to the inflated marketing number like Samsung's Clear Motion Rate: 240 = 200, 480 = 400, 720 = 600, 840 = 700 and 960 = 800. We did not put both in the table above to keep it simple. There is one difference though, and it is how they handle playing video at 24 frames per second. In a 60Hz, 24 fps is fit by using the 3:2 pulldown technique as 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.
10
Apr 23, 2014
Is there a discernible difference between Samsung's 720, 840, 960 and 1200 Clear Motion Rate (all are 240hz)?
Usually, not in term of motion handling. The differences are more in the extra features.
8
Dec 10, 2012
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 120 worth it?
If you will not use the soap opera effect feature, get a 60Hz.
7
Jan 12, 2013
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 to much the input lag that it becomes 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. So do not look at the refresh rate, but you will have a better picture quality with higher end models.
6
Feb 08, 2013
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 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/low models don't.
6
Nov 28, 2012
Does all 120Hz+ televisions can support to display a source input at 120Hz? My concern is just that in 5 years or so, would I 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.
5
Apr 29, 2013
Why dont you recommend more than 120Hz? Can some sports, such as football, formula 1, be watched perfectly on 100Hz actual rate?
The difference is reduced after that. Yes they are better but for the majority of people, 120Hz is good enough. There is no such thing as perfect especially on an LED.
5
Feb 03, 2014
I live in Europe and want to play some 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 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.
5
Mar 20, 2014
What would you recommend for a 46" smart TV monitor that will be primarily be used gaming and sometimes for streaming?
Check out our article on 46 to 48" TVs for our recommendation.
2
Jul 04, 2014
I tested samsung h6400 with and without "clear motion rate" turned on and the difference playing videogames is just absolutely amazing. For example, the game split second velocity only runs at 30fps in a xbox 360 console, with "clear motion rate on" the game seems to be running at very lovely 60fps. For playing this is amazing. I also tested fifa 14, that runs (according to specifications) to 60 fps, but sometimes this game suffers frame drops due to the high amount of ram the game needs when it handle to many subjects on the screen, but again with clear motion rate on, the game runs so smooth that seems you are playing it on next gen consoles instead 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? 240hz would make games look better? (I couldn't did test on that one cause i do not own one 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).
2
Jul 31, 2014
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.
2
Jan 31, 2013
I am in doubt about 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 than the difference in picture quality of the jump from 120Hz to 240Hz (real refresh rate, not Motion Flow). The difference in picture quality is there, but unless you are very picky, the difference in size is bigger.
1
Dec 01, 2013
Does TV with 3D option take away from picture quality when on normal TV?
Not at all. It is a separate additional feature that doesn't affect 2D capabilities. If you want though, all 3D TVs contains a 2D to 3D converter (but it isn't as good as native 3D content).
1
Jan 21, 2014
What do you think about IKEAs Uppleva 46" TV?
Unfortunately, we haven't tested it so cannot comment.
1
Aug 28, 2014
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? The second one is a kitchen tv light and windows, I've only have for now the choice of an LG 42LB6300 (IPS, 1080p) is there anything else better? The third one is a bedroom and the choices are LG 32LB5800 or Samsung UN32H6350, and again is there anything else 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 a plasma picture quality in a dark room.
2) In a kitchen, you probably indeed need an IPS panel to benefit from its wide viewing angle. They reflect a bit more lights 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.
1
Oct 30, 2013
Are 120Hz televisions bad for gaming?
They are not bad, it 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.
0
Jun 17, 2014
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 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. But 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 as no impact on console gaming. Even on the Xbox One, games are maximum 60 fps (a lot of them are still only 30 fps). The native refresh rate is the real one, the other number is just turning on and off the backlight of the screen.
0
Jun 29, 2014
Hi rtings. You have helped me so much to decide what 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.
0
Aug 05, 2014
What makes the most difference in 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.
0
Sep 16, 2014
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.
0
Sep 27, 2014
I am not an expert but would an led tv with an 800hz processing rate and 1080p HD be ideal for xbox one games that run 60 frames per second to be presented on the tv as best 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.
0
Oct 22, 2014
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.
0
Nov 03, 2014
What about the Vizio 60" smart led hdtv?
You can see all our reviews of Vizio TVs here.
0
Nov 19, 2014
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 the Internet access would be nice. My husband watches football. We want excellent picture and at least 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 years of big screen TV? Do you think the Samsung UHD HU6900 will fit our objectives? 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" at a normal viewing distance.
0
Dec 03, 2014
I guess I am one one 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 for 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.
0
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