The Refresh Rate on a TV: All You Need To Know
Updated: June 24,2022
There are some confusing terms regarding TV technology, particularly regarding resolution and refresh rates. That's because the manufacturers don’t always benefit from leaving things clear and simple for the buyer. They’d prefer you to think that a larger number always means a better TV set.
Refresh rate is one of the terms that isn’t easy to figure out as several numbers keep getting tossed around. But, there’s no reason to stay baffled by the sales department jargon. So, what is a refresh rate on a TV? In this article, we’ll explain that and help you differentiate between TV marketing hype and the actual benefits higher refresh rates have to offer.
What Does Refresh Rate Mean?
You can think of the refresh rate as the number of images a TV screen can show in a second. It is expressed in Herz, which is a measurement for frequency. A refresh rate of 60Hz would mean the TV redraws the image or refreshes it 60 times a second.
Movies are shot at 24 frames per second. At that speed, your eye will patch the series of images shown into a perceived movement.
So why do we need more than that? Well, TV screens and monitors function differently than a movie camera does, and with fast-paced movement, there can be unwanted motion blur on the screen. This means that the picture will lose some of its sharpness in parts with fast movement.
Higher TV refresh rates reduce motion blur, make the action on the screen appear smoother and also mean less strain for your eyes.
What Refresh Rate Should You Get?
The main benefit of a high refresh rate is a smoother perceived motion on your TV screen. If you’re an avid gamer or like to watch sports, you will want a TV with a 120Hz refresh rate as it will make the action seem more natural. For most other things, 60Hz will do the job just fine.
What About Going Higher Than 120Hz?
Your TV’s refresh rate is likely going to be 60Hz or 120Hz. Everything else could be considered a selling point for the manufacturer; unlike gaming monitors, TVs don’t really push the envelope here.
There is no real refresh rate above 120Hz, even though the manufacturers advertise 144Hz, 240Hz, 480Hz, or even higher numbers, especially in the esports and enthusiast gaming world.
They use different image processing features such as “black frame insertion” and “motion interpolation.” If this sounds too technical, let’s break down the marketing jargon first.
What Is an “Effective” Refresh Rate?
This is a term marketing uses to try and present the refresh rate on their devices as higher than it actually is. The effective refresh rate is double what the TV panel can produce. The value it can actually deliver is called the native refresh rate.
A 240Hz effective refresh rate is equal to 120Hz, while a 120Hz effective refresh rate is really just 60Hz. You can never be too careful with this advertising gimmick.
Some effects improve the way the device handles fast movement, but this is often misused to obscure the info about the actual refresh rate of the TV that you want to buy. Let’s take a look at these effects:
Black Frame Insertion
Black frame insertion or backlight strobing is one way to improve the perceived refresh rate. Images flicker for only a short period, and a black frame is inserted between them. That reduces the color bleeding between two frames, making the transition between images look more natural for the viewer.
Apart from the reduced brightness, it is an effective way to alleviate motion blur, and it has been used to that effect on LCD and OLED displays. Even so, it doesn’t change the TV’s actual refresh rate.
Soap Opera Effect
The “soap opera effect” is another name used for the effect that comes from motion interpolation. The TV processor can make additional images based on existing frames and then insert those frames between the originals.
These additional images help motion smoothness as they increase the apparent refresh rate. But the final result is unappealing for some viewers as its look may seem unnatural and “too perfect” compared to the slight blur our brains are used to seeing in cinematic content.
Most displays have the option of shutting it off, allowing you to view the program at the display’s refresh rate without using motion interpolation.
Should You Upgrade to a Higher Refresh Rate?
A higher refresh rate does influence your viewing experience for the better. It can reduce motion blur and make the picture look clearer. But when it comes to HDTV performance, there are other essential aspects that you would want to check first, such as HDR support or higher screen resolution. Since most 4K HDTVs already have a refresh rate of 120Hz, paying more for a better “effective” refresh rate is not worth it.
Many manufacturers have their own branding when it comes to motion smoothing effects. It’s TruMotion for LG, Motion Rate for Hisense, and Clear Motion Rate for Samsung. Before you buy, be prepared to ask additional questions if you want to find out about their native refresh rates.
In this article, we tried to show you what a refresh rate on TV is and keep you informed about the nature of the current market. As more and more technology comes our way, the sales departments in big companies are going to try their best to convince us that we need every single upgrade on offer.
It is not always necessary going for higher refresh rates, nor will you always get what is advertised. Just be aware of that before you fall for the marketing hype.
Frequently Asked Questions
A refresh rate of 120Hz will look better if you’re playing games or watching sports or movies on your TV. But for most content, a 60Hz refresh rate is going to be enough. Before upgrading, you should consider other aspects of your television, such as the dynamic ratio or resolution, as they will have a more significant overall impact on the image quality.
A higher refresh rate will make the movements on the screen look less blurry and seem more natural. It is going to be especially useful if you use the TV to watch sports like racing or hockey or play video games that feature lots of fast-paced movements.
We get this question a lot, along with “What is a refresh rate on a TV?” Also called effective refresh rate, a TV motion rate represents double the value of the refresh rate the TV is actually able to produce. When motion interpolation or black frame insertion (BFI) effects are used they can reduce motion blur but the device’s refresh rate does not actually change. TV manufacturers often use this term as an advertising gimmick.
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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.