TV Refresh Rate Explained | 60 Hz, 120 Hz & More | Marketing gimmick?

Any student of marketing will tell you that one of the well-kept secrets of marketing is

“If you cannot convince your audience, confuse them.”

Now, that is what most of the TV manufacturers do when they advertise the Refresh rates on their TVs.

If you go through the TV specifications, you will notice that every manufacturer announces the TV refresh rate as 60Hz, 120Hz, 240Hz, 480Hz, and so on. 

What exactly is the TV refresh rate? Which is the ideal rate to have on the TV? Why do TV manufacturers try to confuse users with this piece of information?

Read on to know everything about TV refresh rates and their significance.

Before we go into the details of the refresh rate concept, here is a common myth regarding the TV refresh rate.

The higher the refresh rate of a TV, the better it is

Technically, the statement is correct, isn’t it? 120Hz is better than 60Hz, 240Hz is better than 120Hz, and so on.

However, it is not entirely true. We shall explore the concept in detail.

What do you mean by Refresh Rate?

Now, you know that TV displays images in motion. Therefore, the TV screen keeps on refreshing.

The refresh rate determines the number of times per second the image is refreshed on the screen.

Thus, if the refresh rate is 60Hz, the image is refreshed 60 times per second, and so on.

Therefore, the logic is that the higher the refresh rate, the better it is.

Before we proceed with our discussion on the refresh rate, let us understand the difference between the refresh rate and the video frame rates.

Frames per Second Vs Refresh Rate

Gamers would be conversant with the term ‘FPS or frames per second.’ Many people confuse between fps and refresh rate and consider it to be the same.

However, it is not so. They are distinct, but they do influence each other.

Below is the 60 FPS Infinity war trailer.

A peek into the history

Let us go back a little and understand how a video is shot. Videos capture live-action by taking several still images, or what we refer to as frames.

When these frames come close together, we observe continuity in the motion. Generally, the frame rates of an analogue video are based on the frequency of the local electric supply.

Therefore, the frame rate should be different in the US when compared to Europe.

Have you ever noticed the words PAL/NTSC on the earlier day VCRs and VCPs?

  • PAL regions constitute the UK and a significant portion of Europe where the frame rate was 25 fps.
  • NTSC regions comprise the US, where the frequency is 30 fps.
  • Film content is recorded at 24 fps. 

The interlacing of analogue video is usually done to save bandwidth during transmission.

Interlacing entails dividing a single frame into two fields containing even number of lines and the odd number of lines. While displaying the content, the TV screen would do it in the correct order.

Therefore, the frequency of interlaced video in the PAL regions was 50Hz, and in the NTSC regions, it was 60Hz.

Thus, TVs in the PAL and NTSC regions had a refresh rate of 50Hz and 60Hz, respectively.

Though these frame rates were developed for the analogue TVs, they hold good for digital broadcasting systems, DVB in Europe, and ATSC in the US.

The modern video broadcasts support a couple of additional frame rates such as,

  • 24p – 24 progressive frames per second
  • 25p – 25 progressive frames per second
  • 30p – 30 progressive frames per second
  • 50i – 25 interlaced frames per second
  • 60i – 30 interlaced frames per second
  • 50p – 50 progressive frames per second
  • 60p – 60 progressive frames per second 

The higher the video frame rate, the smoother will be the motion.

Thus, we conclude that the fps determines how smooth the images appear on the TV, and not the TV refresh rate.

Therefore, it is established that the TV displays what has been captured initially on the video.

We trust that this clears the concept that the standard refresh rate for a TV is either 50Hz (usually in the UK and Europe) and 60Hz (in the US).

If this is true, why do we see TV manufacturers advertising refresh rates as high as 120Hz, 240Hz, 480Hz, and so on?

Let us now clear one aspect. The maximum native refresh rate of a flat TV screen today is 120Hz.

Therefore, every TV you buy will have a refresh rate of 120Hz or 60Hz, if you go by the older standard.

By European standards, it should be 100Hz or 50Hz. These TVs can support 120Hz/60Hz, respectively.

Therefore, we can say that the 240Hz and 480Hz that TV manufacturers mention is a marketing gimmick.

The higher the number, the better it looks, but in reality, it does not make any difference.

Anyway, there is not much 120Hz content today, as well. Remember that TV cannot improve on the quality of the source content in any way.

Let us now compare the different refresh rates by starting with the 60Hz and the 120Hz.

60Hz Vs. 120Hz

We have seen that the broadcast content is usually, a maximum of 60 fps. Therefore, this content looks perfect on a TV with a refresh rate of 60Hz.

If this image has to be displayed on a 120Hz TV, each frame will need to be repeated twice (60 fps x 2 = 120 fps).

If you have a 30p video content, the TV has to repeat the content four times (30 fps x 4 = 120 fps).

The modern-day TVs can switch from a 120Hz refresh rate to 60Hz if the video input is 60 fps. Thus, it is more or less equal to a 60Hz TV.

Does it now entail that it is not worthwhile to purchase a TV with a refresh rate of 120Hz? No, it is not so because video content is now available with higher frame rates. 

Here are the benefits of a 120Hz TV.

Today, video content and games are available with 120 fps. This content should be exceptional for a 120Hz TV.

However, users should note a significant aspect here. The HDMI inputs are usually locked at 60Hz, as it is the current limit of HDMI 2.0 specification.

If your TV has an HDMI 2.1 connectivity port, it should support 4K and 8K video at 120 Hz.

We have stated earlier that movies are shot at 24 fps. Therefore, it should not be a problem to view movies on a 120Hz TV. Repeating each frame five times should be enough.

Videos look smoother on a TV with a 120Hz refresh rate as compared to 60Hz.

A 60Hz TV uses the 3:2 pulldown method to display movies. It is not possible to show movie content shot at 24 fps directly on a TV with a refresh rate of 60Hz.

There has to be a repetition of the frames but not in an even manner. Therefore, a slow, panning scene can appear to jump. It is also known as the ‘judder effect.’

Some of the latest TVs automatically adjust the refresh rate to 24Hz to overcome this issue.

Another advantage of the 120Hz TV is that it can add motion interpolation to a 60Hz video source.

As the TV has a higher refresh rate, it can display the additional interpolated frames.

The 60Hz TV cannot interpolate a 60Hz video source because the TV cannot show more than 60 frames per second.

Yes, such a TV can interpolate a video source with a lower frame rate. It is also known as the soap opera effect. We shall look at motion interpolation and the soap opera effect later on in this article.

A 120Hz TV proves handy in dealing with motion blur. Motion blur can occur when you encounter fast-moving scenes like action movies and intense sporting action.

A higher refresh rate helps in handling this issue better. However, motion blur can occur due to various reasons, and the refresh rate cannot address all of these. We shall discuss motion blur at a later stage.

A TV with a faster refresh rate can help deal with other issues like flickering.

The present-day 4K TVs usually come with a 120Hz refresh rate. Some TV manufacturers advertise higher refresh rates. However, it is not always true. The inexpensive models come with a 60Hz refresh rate.

How to explain refresh rates of 240Hz and 480Hz?

A TV with a refresh rate of 240Hz or 480Hz sounds incredible, but the actual refresh rates available today are 60Hz and 120Hz.

These are the native refresh rates. The TVs available today cannot refresh more than these rates.

Therefore, we can infer that the higher numbers that TV manufacturers advertise are inflated ones.

TV manufacturers have their individual names for the processing technology they use for enhancing the refresh rates.

LG – TruMotion

LG nowadays advertises its refresh rate in the following manner, TruMotion 240 (Refresh Rate 120Hz) and TruMotion 120 (Refresh Rate 60Hz).

Samsung – Motion Rate

Samsung uses the term Motion Rate for its 4K and 8K Televisions. It is generally, twice the native refresh rate. Therefore, a Motion Rate 240 indicates a native refresh rate of 120Hz. In the lower-priced TVs, Samsung advertises a Motion Rate of 60 to indicate a refresh rate of 60Hz.

Sony – Motion Flow XR

Sony does not indicate any number along with the term, Motion Flow XR in its latest TVs. In the older TVs, you could find Motion Flow XR 240 (showing a native refresh rate of 60Hz) and Motion Flow XR 1440 (a native refresh rate of 120Hz)

Toshiba – Clear Frame

Toshiba TVs exhibit a refresh rate of 60Hz. The high-end TVs come with a 120Hz refresh rate.

Sharp – AquoMotion

Sharp uses the term AquoMotion to indicate the refresh rate. Usually, it is not more than 60Hz.

TCL – Clear Motion Index 

Almost all TCL TVs have a refresh rate of 60Hz except for its most expensive model, the 75-inches 6-Series that comes with a 120Hz refresh rate.

TV manufacturers use these names to confuse people, especially those who do not understand the concept of refresh rate.

They claim a refresh rate higher than the actual figure.

For example, Samsung advertises a motion rate of 120 for a 4K TV. However, these TVs have a native refresh rate of 60Hz. Similarly, a TV with a motion rate of 240 is actually a TV with a refresh rate of 120Hz.

TV manufacturers use innovative methods to make the pictures appear smoother than they are.

Apart from using these fancy names, they also use techniques like motion interpolation, black frame insertion, and so on to enhance the picture quality. You should be aware of these factors before you purchase your TV.

Motion Interpolation

Interpolation, the name suggests that you add frames to the video source before displaying the images.

Thus, it infers that you add frames that do not exist at the time of the original recording.

The technique involves creating additional frames by guessing the movement between two frames. It is like taking two frames and creating an intermediary frame to enhance the motion effect.

When done efficiently, it can make the motion look smoother. Motion interpolation works beautifully for fast-moving sports and action scenes.

However, it can create an unnatural image at times, primarily if you use this technique with movies. Such an effect is also known as the soap opera effect.

Motion interpolation can be useful for watching TV, but it can make gaming difficult because it introduces a lag. The images can stutter and look awkward at times.

Black Frame Insertion

TV manufacturers use other techniques to improve motion, such as Black Frame Insertion and Backlight Scanning.

Though the name appears distinct, the method involved is the same.

The trick is in turning the screen black between each video frame, thereby fooling the eye into watching smoother motion.

This technique works because of a phenomenon called motion blur. The pixels of a TV, especially the LCD ones, do not switch colours quickly enough.

Thus, the colour remains for a split second more than it should, thereby causing a blurring of images, especially in fast-moving action scenes.

One way of handling this issue is to insert a black frame between two successive frames to make the colour transition sharper and cleaner.

What is the concept of TV Motion Blur?

TV Motion Blur is a significant aspect that can affect your TV viewing experience.

Many people confuse between refresh rates and motion blur, as they assume that a higher refresh rate eliminates motion blur.

In fact, motion blur has nothing to do with refresh rates.

Motion blur occurs whenever there is rapid movement on the screen, especially in sports content. The images can appear blurred.

Various factors are responsible for motion blur.

The TV panel can at times be responsible for the motion blur. Some TVs can switch between panels at incredibly quick rates.

OLED Technology is outstanding under such circumstances. Motion blur is usually observed in the LCD and LED TVs.

Another reason for motion blur is the sample and hold technique used in some TVs.

This technique involves the TV screen to hold the pixels for a moment too long. As the pictures move quickly, the viewer experiences motion blur.

Motion blur can also occur when you shoot video using low shutter speeds. It can even happen if you compress the video, especially during online streaming services.

Motion blur can be irritating to watch. Techniques like motion interpolation and Black Screen Insertion can eliminate motion blur. Having a higher refresh rate can also help but to a specific extent.

What is the ideal refresh rate?

Our discussion shows that 120Hz is the best refresh rate available today.

However, it becomes better if the original content is shot at 120 fps. Unfortunately, you do not have much content available at 120 fps.

Shall we sum up what we have discussed above in a few lines?

The refresh rate denotes the number of times your TV refreshes the image per second. It is expressed in Hertz. Usually, it is 60Hz or 120Hz.

The available content today is usually 60Hz. You can find some content with 120Hz. Movies are generally filmed at 24 fps. Live TV shows are usually at 30 fps or 60 fps.

A higher refresh rate improves the quality of viewing, but it depends on the quality of the source content.

A higher refresh rate can reduce motion blur that is present in almost all TV technologies.

TV manufacturers advertise higher refresh rates by terming them as effective refresh rates, but the native refresh rates are 60Hz and 120Hz. 

This table will make things clear.

ContentFrame Rate
Cable TV Broadcasts – PAL25 fps or 50 fps
Cable TV Broadcasts – NTSC30 fps or 60 fps
Netflix24 fps to 60 fps
Amazon Prime Video24 fps to 60 fps
YouTube30 fps or 60 fps
Blu-ray Movies24 fps
SourceRefresh Rate
Chromecast24Hz to 60Hz
Apple TV24Hz to 60Hz
Blu-ray Players24Hz to 60Hz
PS4 or PS4 Pro24Hz to 60Hz
Xbox One S/X24Hz to 120Hz
PCUp to 240Hz

Final Words

Now, you have an idea of the term ‘refresh rate.’ No TV manufacturer or marketer should confuse you by quoting higher refresh rates. Any number above 120Hz is an inflated one.

Remember that the high-priced TVs have a refresh rate of 120Hz. Otherwise, the maximum refresh rate is 60Hz, irrespective of what the TV manufacturer advertises.

Do not be overawed by figures like 240Hz, 480Hz, and so on because there is no content available at such a high fps today. The marketing technique is to confuse customers, but this post ensures that you do not get confused in any way.

Source: CNET, Rtings, Rtings, TomsGuide

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