60Hz vs 120Hz TV: Do the Numbers Make a Difference?

60Hz vs 120Hz TV

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The debate on 60Hz vs 120Hz TV sets comes up in reviews and product descriptions that mention a screen’s refresh rate.

Some shoppers weigh the refresh rate of a TV against its price tag. Others spend extra on displays that can handle competitive gaming or content creation that requires top-tier graphics. A third category of buyers is more interested in value and affordability. All of these consumers will benefit from learning if a screen’s refresh rate

60Hz vs 120Hz TV: Refresh rate, frame rate, and how they work together

Refresh rate describes the number of images a screen displays in one second. This means that a 120Hz TV will refresh itself 120 times per second. By ‘refresh’ we mean that it will display the next image in a series of frames transmitted from a content source.

Frame rate describes the number of frames (or images) that a media player, gaming console, or PC can render in one second. The frame rate of a device mostly depends on the power of its processing hardware, especially its CPU and GPU.

60Hz vs 120Hz TV

Matching a screen’s refresh rate and the frame rate of your content

Now we look at how frame rate and refresh rate interact as content moves from source to screen. Let’s say you want to play a 60fps game on a 60Hz screen. With every second, the screen will display all 60 frames that your gaming device produces. This makes the 60Hz screen a perfect match for the 60fps source.

How a 60Hz screen handles 120fps content

What happens when you play your 120fps game on your PS5 and a 60Hz screen? The screen can only refresh itself 60 times per second, so it will only display half the frames that your gaming console produces. In practice, the 60Hz screen will display one frame and skip the next.

How a 120Hz screen handles 60fps content

Lastly, we look at what happens when a 120Hz screen renders 60fps content. Some 120Hz screens can adjust their refresh rates downwards, which is where terms like VRR (variable refresh rate) and FreeSync come in. A 120Hz screen with VRR capability will cater to 60fps content by lowering its refresh rate to 60Hz. It’s worth remembering that TVs with VRR capability will easily keep up with a variable frame rate.

In the absence of VRR, a 120Hz screen will render 60fps content in one of the following ways:

  • The TV can display each frame twice
  • Most 120Hz panels can generate an extra frame and insert it between two consecutive frames from an input source. In TV speak, this feature is known as motion interpolation
  • A 120Hz panel can also add a black screen after each frame, which increases the frame rate to 120fps. The technical, TV-speak term for this feature is black frame insertion

All three interventions result in lower lag and smoother motion but with a few tradeoffs. For starters, motion interpolation often creates a soap opera effect that many viewers dislike. Secondly, black frame insertion can make your content dimmer than it should be.

60Hz vs 120Hz TV: Handling 30fps and 24fps content

So far, 120Hz panels are proving to be better at executing smooth motion; both for 60fps and 120fps content. The winning streak of 120Hz screens continues to content with lower frame rates.

A 120Hz panel executes even, blur-free motion with 24p video from Blu-ray movies and streamed content. The panel will render each frame in a 24fps video five times, which will raise the effective frame rate to 120fps.

In contrast, a 60Hz panel that renders 24p content will often show choppy motion. This comes down to the basic fact that 60 is not a multiple of 24. As such, the 60Hz panel is forced to repeat the 24 frames in a ratio of 3:2. This means that half of the frames will repeat three times while the other half will only repeat twice. The uneven pattern may cause uneven movement in fast-moving objects that zoom across your screen.

What about 30fps content?

Both panels will produce even motion with 30fps content, but the 120Hz screen has a slight advantage. A 120Hz screen will render video with less blurring and lower input lag.

Knowing the frame rate of your favorite content

How do you tell if a 120Hz TV will make a difference in your viewing experience? A quick way is to review the kind of content that you consume regularly. Here’s a short list of different kinds of content and their frame rates:

Type of contentFrame rate
YouTube videos60fps
Social media content (Tik-Tok, Instagram)60fps
Blu-ray movies24fps
TV shows on cable or broadcast (NTSC)30fps, 60fps
TV shows on cable or broadcast (PAL)25fps, 50fps
Series and movies on streaming appsBetween 24fps and 60fps
Sports contentBetween 30fps and 60fps
GamesBetween 30fps and 120fps

It’s worth noting that it’s possible (but rare) to find movies and TV shows with a frame rate of 120fps.

By combining this table and the information from previous sections, you can already figure out if a 120Hz screen will impact your viewing experience. At a glance, you can already see that a 60fps screen works just fine for most content.

60Hz vs 120Hz TV: Here is how refresh rate makes a difference to the average person

Picture quality is arguably to be the most important aspect of a TV, no matter the panel’s frame rate. We measure picture quality by visible metrics like detail, motion handling, and image sharpness. Let’s see how the refresh rate of a TV affects these metrics.

Refresh rate, screen resolution, detail, and sharpness

A higher frame rate delivers better graphics with more detail and sharper images. This means that objects that would be blurry and indistinct in 60fps would be more visible and noticeable in 120fps. Now combine a high frame rate with a 120Hz panel and you have a gamer’s dream experience.

Avid and competitive gamers have an edge when they play on a reliable 120Hz screen. Such gamers can see cues and clues that would otherwise look like blurry, uninteresting background objects.

Refresh rate, input lag, and responsiveness

A 120Hz screen will have lower input lag and a faster response time than a 60Hz screen. More frames per second mean that:

  • The TV will minimize motion blur, ghosting, and trailing
  • A responsive screen that is quick to display split-second user input
  • Overall smooth motion that is free of choppy movement

Again, these are the qualities that deliver a competitive edge to a serious gamer. A responsive screen will show your opponent’s moves in time for you to react. This is important for gamers who compete, especially with opponents that are on the other side of an internet connection.

120Hz TVs, compatible content, and compatible devices

You will only experience the full, roaring power of a 120Hz TV with the right content and the right hardware. A 120Hz TV is most impressive with hardware that can render high-resolution 120fps content. Also, the TV must have multiple HDMI ports that can transmit and receive 4K/120 content. Now all you need to do is connect a new-generation Blu-ray player gaming console or gaming PC.

60Hz vs 120Hz TV: The verdict

From TV sets to PC monitors, 120Hz displays have an important role in the future of consumer electronics. At the same time, 60Hz panels work great with most content, and they will be with us for years to come.

Today’s 60Hz vs 120Hz TV showdown ends in a near-draw, with the 120Hz panel holding on to a slight lead.

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