Smart TVs And Refresh Rates (17 Things You Should Know)
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When you’re looking to buy a new Smart TV, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the technical jargon and what it all means.
A TV’s ‘refresh rate’ is one such term that people have a lot of questions around and it can get quite confusing.
So, Smart TVs and their refresh rates are what this post is all about. Hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding by the end of it.
Let’s get to it.
The difference between refresh rate and frame rate (FPS)
The Refresh rate (measured in Hertz or Hz) is the number of times per second a TV can ‘draw’ or render a single image (or ‘frame’) on the screen.
The TV displays frames in sequence and our brain perceives it as motion.
That’s how video works regardless of whether it is a digital video or an old-school film.
The ‘frame-rate’ or the number of Frames Per Second (FPS) refers to the number of individual still images delivered to the screen every second from a video source.
In general, the greater the refresh rate of the TV, the smoother the motion will be to the human eye and there will be less ‘flicker’.
But the benefit of high refresh rate TV is limited by the frame rate of the content that you’re streaming.
Is 120Hz the same as 120fps?
120Hz is the physical refresh rate of the TV, whilst 120fps is the frame rate of the source content being sent on the TV.
Consider this example.
Say we have a TV with a 120Hz refresh rate. This means that it is capable of rendering 120 images per second.
A TV with a 60Hz refresh rate on the other hand is only capable of rendering 60 images per second.
Now let’s say we have a games console, such as the PS5. This is capable of producing 120 frames per second.
But if the TV doesn’t have a 120 Hz refresh rate, then you won’t get the benefit of the higher frame rate that games consoles like the PS5 have to offer.
In other words, the TV won’t be able to draw all the images that are sent by the PS5. So you’ll just see 60fps, which is the TV’s hard limit.
What is the best refresh rate for a Smart TV?
Unless you’re gaming on a Smart TV, a refresh rate of 60Hz is the best refresh rate for a Smart TV.
The source footage of a movie or TV show is never more than 60fps.
In fact, most movies are captured at 24fps, then upconverted to 30 frames and finally interlaced to 60 fps so that it matches the refresh rate of most TVs that you can buy today.
Blu-ray movies are also 60Hz.
So even if you own a 120Hz TV, if the content is only 60fps, it won’t look any smoother. Simply because each frame has to be repeated twice.
Motion only looks smoother if there is a change in movement between two frames.
If you are a gamer and own one of the latest consoles capable of producing 120 frames per second it’s a different story.
A 120Hz TV with a 120fps capable console will mean a smoother and more responsive game playing experience.
It can even give you a comparative advantage.
Aiming can feel more precise, feedback from your inputs can be more immediate and you can react faster because there’s reduced latency and less blur.
Faster refresh rates means the time between frames is lower, so you’ll see action on the screen quicker.
The image will also be a bit clearer and you’ll due to less ‘ghosting’, where objects leave behind a blurry trace of where they were moments ago in the previous frame.
Ghosting can also be reduced further by getting a TV with a Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) Technology. It can also reduce screen tearing and stutter.
Of course, the actual frame rate that you’ll see is dependent on the game itself and your graphics settings.
Can you change the refresh rate on a Smart TV?
A TV has a native refresh rate. But the refresh rate that the TV uses is determined by the frame rate of the source. It can’t be changed directly.
TVs receive the video frames from the source and process them accordingly so that it can display the content correctly.
For example, if you input a 60fps video, a 120Hz TV will likely switch to 60Hz refresh rate.
Changing the refresh rate with motion interpolation
Although you can’t specify a particular refresh rate that you want the TV to run at, some TVs have what is known as motion interpolation.
Motion interpolation is an algorithm used by the TV to add extra frames to a video source before displaying them. These are frames that never actually existed in the original video.
So, for instance, it will take two frames that are next to each other and insert an additional frame in between them. It also guesses the movement between the two frames.
This makes the video appear smoother because there is less of a jump in animation between one frame and the next.
This feature can be turned on and off in the settings of the TV.
Although it appears that you are controlling the refresh rate of the TV by doing this, you’re not actually changing the native refresh rate of the panel.
You’re simply turning a video processing algorithm on and off.
How to check your TVs refresh rate
The best way to check your TVs refresh rate is by consulting the manual or looking up the specs for your TV model.
You’re looking for the ‘native’ refresh rate or ‘actual’ refresh rate and it should be stated in Hertz or Hz.
If you see an ‘effective’ refresh rate or a refresh rate without the ‘Hz’, then this is not the native refresh rate of the panel.
If you’re still not sure, chances are it is 60Hz. If you have quite a high-end TV, then it may have a 120Hz native refresh rate.
Are TVs 30Hz or 60Hz?
Most TVs that you can buy today have a refresh rate of 60Hz. Some higher-end TVs have a 120Hz refresh rate.
However, older TVs that only supported HDMI 1.4 capped the refresh rate to 30Hz when displaying 4K resolutions.
TVs with HDMI 2.0 ports are required to display 4K video at 60Hz.
Do TVs have a 120Hz refresh rate?
Yes, some TVs have a 120Hz refresh rate.
This means they are capable of rendering 120 images every second.
Is 120fps really necessary?
A frame rate of 120fps isn’t necessary and 60fps is more than good enough for movies and TV shows.
But if you’re a gamer and you have a TV that has a 120Hz refresh rate, then 120 fps can give you a competitive advantage.
- Gameplay will appear smoother because the size of the animation steps are smaller between each frame.
- You’re likely to have a competitive advantage over someone that might be running the game at 60 fps because you will see things happen in the game ever so slightly sooner.
- Screen tearing (when the screen gets fed incompletely rendered images during a screen refresh) is less noticeable.
- Ghosting (when moving objects leave behind a smear) is less noticeable.
Do 1080p TVs have 120Hz?
Full-HD TVs that have a 120Hz refresh rate do exist. But 4K TVs with a 120Hz refresh rate are more common.
What does native 120Hz mean?
Native 120Hz simply means that the TV panel is capable of refreshing the screen at a rate of 120Hz or 120 times per second.
Any other specification, other than a ‘native’ refresh rate specification, is a marketing tactic used to give the impression that a TV has a higher refresh rate than it actually has.
What is a 120 effective refresh rate?
A 120 ‘effective’ refresh rate is a 60 Hz refresh rate that has been increased artificially to make it seem like the TV has a 120 Hz refresh rate.
This is not the actual refresh rate of the TV, rather it’s more of a simulation. And this number is double the refresh rate of what the actual TV is capable of.
This figure is achieved using a technique known as ‘backlight strobing’. which pulses the TVs backlight on and off in between the actual screen refreshes.
What you get is an alternating pattern of frames and blinked light which tricks the human eye and gives the ‘illusion’ that the TV has a higher frame rate.
Whilst some manufacturers use the term ‘effective refresh rate’. Others use different terms. But they all refer to similar techniques:
- LG – TruMotion
- Hisense – Motion Rate
- Samsung – Clear Motion Rate
- Sony – Motion Flow XR, X-Motion Clarity
- TCL – Clear Motion Index (CMI)
- Vizio – Clear Action
Other than this ‘backlight strobing’ technique,there are other techniques manufacturers use to give the illusion of higher frame rates. These include:
- Black frame insertion – Rather than turning off the backlight, the display shows a black frame.
- Motion interpolation – A processor inside the TV generates intermediate frames that are inserted in between the actual frames from the source content.
When looking through the specs of a new TV, it’s important that you overlook this trickery and instead look for a ‘native refresh rate’ or ‘actual refresh rate’.
Although these clever ways of bumping up the refresh rate may seem like a bit of a gimmick, it can make a difference.
Things do actually look clearer and smoother compared with a TV that doesn’t use these techniques.
Are TVs 144Hz?
Most TVs are 60Hz and high-end TVs usually have a refresh rate of 120 Hz.
But 144Hz monitors are commonplace and used heavily by gamers.
Do Vizio TVs support 120Hz?
Yes, some Vizio TVs support 120Hz refresh rates and here are some examples:
- VIZIO – 65″ Class P-Series Premium Quantum LED 4K UHD Smart TV.
- VIZIO – 55” Class OLED 4K UHD SmartCast TV.
Do Sony TVs support 120Hz?
Yes, some Sony TVs have 120Hz refresh rates. Here are some examples:
- Sony – 65″ Class BRAVIA XR A80J Series OLED 4K UHD Smart Google TV.
- Sony – 65″ Class A8H Series OLED 4K UHD Smart Android TV.
Do Roku TVs support 120Hz?
Some Roku TVs support 120Hz refresh rates. Examples include:
- TCL – 75” Class 6-Series 4K UHD Mini-LED QLED Dolby Vision HDR Roku Smart TV.
- Hisense – 75″ Class U800GR 8K ULED Roku TV.
Is 60Hz TV good for gaming?
Yes, a 60Hz TV can be good for most casual gamers. Most games and games consoles also top out at 60fps.
But serious gamers may want to consider a TV with 120Hz refresh rates.
A 120Hz TV coupled with a games console and game capable of outputting 120 fps frame rates can give you a competitive average.
Gameplay will also be smoother and screen tearing and ghosting will be less prominent at higher frame rates.
Is 60Hz good for sports?
Although a 60Hz TV will be fine for most video content, it’s not always enough to cleanly display fast moving content such as sports, especially on larger TVs.
A 120Hz TV doubles the number of frames that you see and dramatically reduces motion blur. Rapid action at these frame rates is smooth and clear.
Although most sports are captured and broadcasted at 60Hz, a 120Hz TV with motion interpolation turned on can help reduce stuttering and blur and make it easier to track motion when watching sports.
Robert Anderson, the founder of Tech Parasol, had a keen interest in tech from a very young age. He studied Electronic Engineering at University and then went on to become a Software Developer. He launched Tech Parasol in 2021 to share his knowledge with the aim of making tech easier to understand for everyone.