The consumer electronics industry is notorious for their confusing acronyms and shifty tech-spec standards. Numbers printed on the sticker, such as contrast ratio, promise outstanding performance with little follow-through. One number to pay attention to, however, is the advertised refresh rate. LCD televisions with 120Hz refresh are more expensive than their 60Hz counterparts. So, what is refresh rate, can the average consumer spot the difference between 60 and 120 Hertz, and is it worth the money?
The refresh rate is how many times per second the screen redraws (refreshes) the image on the screen. For example; a television that redraws the image at a rate of 60 times per second is a 60Hz (Hertz) television. During normal usage, the refresh rate itself is difficult to discern with the naked eye.
Problems with 60Hz
LCD televisions that are 60Hz are generally easy on the eyes with no noticeable imperfections until there is fast action or camera panning. A 60Hz television will begin to look jumpy, an effect known as “Judder”.
Judder is most evident while watching movies filmed in 24 frames per second. The reason for this is that 24 is indivisible with 60. A technique known as 3:2 pulldown is used to fit 24 frames per second evenly with the 60 times per second refresh rate, which causes shaky transitions.
The 120Hz Solution
Manufacturers began to build 120Hz televisions to address the judder dilemma specifically. The jump from 60 to 120Hz allows content filmed in 24 frames per second to match the refresh rate while keeping compatibility with content filmed in 30 frames per second, reducing both motion blur and judder considerably.
Problems with 120Hz
Though 120hz LCD televisions do solve the judder issue, they are not without faults of their own. A new effect begins to emerge while watching movies on a 120Hz LCD which can be described as “watching a soap opera.” Background images, especially movie sets and CG animation, tend to look like cardboard cut-outs. Motion also appears unnaturally smooth. To reduce this effect, the 120Hz can be turned down or turned off easily.
Is it Worth the Price?
Before deciding upon what style of LCD TV to buy, consider a few things first. Most people will not notice the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz right away. Sometimes it just takes watching a lot of television, and other times it takes pointing out.
Also, television shoppers typically buy a new one every five to 10 years. Thinking in the long-term may save you from needing to buy a new television in less time. It’s cheaper to spend the extra money on a product that is going to be kept for a long time. The bottom line is judder is a noticeable characteristic that is remedied by purchasing a television with 120Hz.