Gadgets Technology

HDTV’s Super-Fast Refresh Rates:

Written by Sean Holmes

No doubt that it will be good for a number of games. When flat-panel HDTVs were in their infancy, they suffered from motion blur. LCDs in particular, tended to display distinct blurriness during very fast movements because of “ghosting,” or the afterimage left after the image on the screen has changed. LCD technology has progressed a great deal over the past several years, and now ghosting and motion blur have been all but eliminated. Even without blur, you might notice choppiness or “tearing” (the effect of part of the image seeming to hang behind what’s on the rest of the screen for a moment). This is especially noticeable in sports and video games, or any content that has a lot of fast, horizontal panning of the camera. For this, higher refresh rate modes can help.

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Situation about 4K: Ultra high-definition television (UHD or 4 K) is still in its early stages and while you can purchase a 4K HDTV, you’ll still have some problems getting any appreciable amount of media for it. The HDMI 2.0 standard has only just made 60 fps 4K video a consistent possibility for certain devices, and so much processing is already being used on simply displaying the much higher 3,840-by-2,160 resolution that interpolation and adding frames to make the action smoother hasn’t been a major priority for HDTV manufacturers yet. All in all basically, if you want a 4K screen, you should not expect it to break 60Hz for a while.

However, enhanced refresh rates can go too far. While 120Hz refresh rates seen on most midrange HDTVs can work well, don’t expect to see any real performance improvement from 240Hz refresh rates or, for many plasmas, 600Hz. More importantly, you should know when to turn these enhanced refresh rates off, and watch with the “default” 60Hz or 24Hz film mode. Refresh rates and motion-enhancing modes higher than 60Hz can produce a surreal effect when watching movies and television shows. The additional frames and “smoother” animation looks different from what we’re used to with TV and movies, making the footage appear strangely fast. For any sort of content where you watch people interact naturally, like comedies or dramas, this can be unsettling and you should consider turning off the motion enhancing mode and force the screen to display the picture at 60Hz. However, for sports and video games, those added frames can help reduce stuttering and blur, and the action will be easier to track.

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Remember these modes don’t add any actual detail to the video, and you might want to disable them when watching every-day, non-action content. A 120Hz refresh rate can be beneficial for certain situations, but a higher refresh rate should not be considered good reasons to spend more on an HDTV. For most television and movie watching, you’ll probably want to keep the refresh rate set to 60Hz, anyway. Just keep the benefits in mind for sports and games, and don’t feel the need to push past 120Hz anything higher really is more of a gimmick than a truly useful feature.

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Sean Holmes

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