Hertz – The importance of the refresh rate

Among many other terms, the refresh rate and a hertz number keep popping up in connection with 4K TVs and monitors. But what does that actually mean and why are there 60Hz, 120Hz and even 144Hz? We have summarized the most important information here.


What does Hertz mean anyway? – Definition and explanation

First of all, the hertz with the unit sign Hz denotes the physical quantity for frequency. Frequency is understood as a repetitive process per second. The term goes back to the physicist Heinrich Hertz. The refresh rate is again a term from the film and television technology and also with computers the unit appears. Here, the unit indicates the number of single frames per second that a screen can display. Thus, a 120Hz TV can display 120 frames per second, which leads to extremely smooth motion.

60Hz or 120Hz?

When it comes to televisions, you often wonder how many hertz you need. The answer is actually quite simple, since today’s TVs only differentiate between 60Hz and 120Hz. However, consumers are often confused by other designations, because Samsung states 100Hz for the refresh rate in its TVs when 120Hz is actually meant. LG, on the other hand, likes to state the old and new refresh rates as 100/120Hz. The same is true for 50Hz, although the new 60Hz is actually meant. Where does that come from?

Old television standards for refresh rate

To find the answer, you have to look at the old television standards that were set for analog television. There was the PAL standard, which can be found in Germany and many other countries around the world, and the NTSC standard, which was mainly used in the USA. In addition, there is also the SECAM standard, which can be found in countries like France or Russia, but is technically the same as the PAL standard.

If you take another look at the frequency, you will find that the PAL standard is 50Hz and the NTSC standard is 60Hz. This is due to the respective alternating current of the corresponding countries and if you take it exactly, it is even only 25Hz and 30Hz, respectively, because the picture consisted of fields at the times. You might know the method under the term “interlaced”. This is because the picture displayed on the TV consisted of two individual images, with the even lines being displayed first and then the odd lines.

This is where the old 1080i for “interlaced” comes from, which has now been replaced by 1080p for “progressive”, i.e. continuous. Here, the image is built up continuously, which makes flickering a thing of the past. This is why the old television standards no longer exist, as digital television standards have taken their place. Manufacturers therefore often still quote the old familiar Hertz numbers, but this further confuses the consumer.

What about 50Hz and 100Hz TVs?

Manufacturers often still specify the old familiar Hertz numbers, which further confuses consumers. However, all TVs whose technical specifications state 50Hz are also designed for 60Hz content. The same applies to 100Hz TVs and 120Hz content. So, if you own a 60Hz TV, the TV signal with 50Hz is reproduced just as well as the 60Hz signal of a connected console.

The whole thing is quite easy to remember: 50Hz corresponds to the new 60Hz and 100Hz corresponds to 120Hz. This is always the native refresh rate, which is the only value that matters in the end. Here, the native refresh rate is simply doubled, for example, because intermediate frames are calculated.

All modern 4K TVs, regardless of whether they are LCD or OLED, come with a 60Hz or 120Hz display today, whereas the tendency is more towards 120Hz. The situation is a bit different for monitors, but we’ll get to that later.

Up to 1200Hz? – Additional hertz specifications

Other hertz specifications like Motionflow 800Hz, Clear Motion Rate (CMR) 600Hz or 600Hz Intelligent Frame Creation Pro are pure marketing terms of the manufacturers and do not add any value. These values have nothing to do with the actual refresh rate, which, as mentioned, is only available in 60Hz or 120Hz. However, you can usually assume that the TV has some kind of intermediate frame calculation here.

Here you may be familiar with the term motion interpolation. It is a form of video processing in which intermediate images are calculated to be inserted between the existing images. This subsequently increases the frame rate, making movements appear smoother.

Why is the Hertz number so important?

A moving picture consists of 24 individual images – just like a flip book – so that the human eye recognizes it as fluid movement. The more frames are added, the smoother the motion becomes. Especially in fast-moving broadcasts like sports or video games, it is important that nothing stutters and that you can follow the ball as well as possible in soccer, for example. Therefore, an intermediate picture calculation is extremely important for TVs so that the moving picture can be displayed absolutely smoothly.

Besides a high Hertz rate, a low response time also plays an important role because only then can content be displayed without motion blur. For OLED TVs, this is less than one millisecond. Stutters can eventually occur here, but they can be corrected by the intermediate image calculation.

One disadvantage here is the so-called soap opera effect. If the intermediate images are not calculated correctly or motion-oriented, then backgrounds in movies and series often look very static and the whole thing doesn’t look properly rounded because the characters feel like they are moving too fast. This is also the case with poorly produced soap operas.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was the first film to be shown in theaters with the additional designation HFR. HFR stands for high frame rate and while films are usually shown in 24fps, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was shown at twice that frame rate, or 48fps. While this improved the overall picture quality, the film looks rather artificial and just like a soap opera. The HFR format is hardly used today, even though James Cameron wants to use it again for his sequel to Avatar.

Hertz and gaming

If you like to play video games, then both the hertz number of the TV or monitor and the fps or frame rate have a high significance. Many users also use the terms interchangeably, but there are subtle differences even though they mean the same thing at the core.

Controller Xbox Series X Gaming Hertz
  • Hertz: This is the refresh rate, i.e. the number of images displayed per second by the TV or monitor.
  • FPS: The abbreviation for frames per second is mainly used in gaming. FPS is the speed at which a graphics card can produce images. If the graphics card only outputs 120 FPS, but you have a 60 Hz monitor, then the other 60 FPS are lost.

TVs and monitors with high hertz numbers

If you like to play a lot of games, you should get a TV or monitor with a high Hertz rate, i.e. at least 120 Hz. Smooth movements are the be-all and end-all, especially in shooters, and you can even get a monitor with 144Hz or even 240Hz if the graphics card has the corresponding performance. Are you more comfortable on the go and prefer to play role games like The Witcher 3? In that case, much lower Hertz is sufficient, since the immersion would otherwise be lost and a fast response is not important in such games.

Because gaming is all about avoiding so-called tearing, which comes from the word “to tear”. This image error occurs when the graphics card delivers more FPS than the monitor can display. As a result, it can happen that two images are to be displayed at the same time and finally appear offset on the screen. The same applies to the TV. The TV has to reproduce the images that the console spits out in the same way so that the game runs smoothly. In addition, the TV must have an HDMI 2.1 port, otherwise [email protected] is not possible.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X users also need a TV with 120Hz if they want to fully utilize their consoles. Until now, 60Hz was the maximum and also the standard, but more and more games now support the double hertz number. However, the Xbox Series X is clearly ahead here, even though many games only benefit from an FPS boost that Microsoft introduced in February 2021. Thus, selected backward compatible games can be played with a significantly higher frame rate than the original. Even with Xbox Cloud Gaming via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, 120Hz is possible, but only with a FullHD resolution.

The benefits of 120fps

The most obvious advantage is probably that games run butter-smooth and are displayed even more clearly due to a higher frame rate. This is because a higher frame rate ensures less image blurring. However, it is unlikely that large open-world adventures will be supported with 120fps throughout, since that is enormously at the expense of the graphics.

Multiplayer games will probably get a special 120 FPS mode because they benefit the most from fast reactions. After all, shooters or racing and sports games need a low input lag to recognize opponents faster and to be able to act directly.

How much hertz does my 4K TV need?

How many hertz you have to have in your living room depends on what you want to do with the TV. If you only watch regular TV and use the common streaming services, then 60Hz TVs are quite sufficient. If you want to play a lot of video games with the new consoles or mainly watch sports shows, you should go for a 120Hz panel. However, you should make sure that the latter also has an HDMI 2.1 port, otherwise [email protected] is not possible.

LG C1 OLED

The LG C1 OLED is not only the flagship of the 2021 lineup, but comes with a 120Hz panel with a response time of less than one second. This means that motion blur is no longer an issue.

Gamers can be doubly pleased as the C1 not only has four HDMI 2.1 ports, all of which are 120fps capable, but even offers Dolby Vision gaming at [email protected]

Samsung Neo QLED QN90A

The Samsung Neo QLED QN90A with the Mini LED backlight is also an excellent choice, as it also has a 120Hz panel and hardly any motion blur.

The TV is also well suited for gaming, as it also has four HDMI 2.1 ports that can be fully utilized by the current consoles.

LG A1 OLED

The LG A1 OLED only has a 60Hz panel and still has all the advantages of an OLED display. The slower panel can cause very slight motion blur, but it is still great for watching series and movies.

However, you should rely on the older consoles for gaming since there is no HDMI 2.1 port. If you do not want to play any video games but want an excellent OLED TV, you can get a good bargain with LG’s A1.

Hisense U6G

The Hisense U6G is especially interesting for anyone on a tight budget who is most likely to stick to regular TV and streaming services. The 60Hz panel is definitely sufficient for that.

Playing video games is certainly possible on the TV, but since it does not have any HDMI 2.1 ports, you should reach for the older consoles or the Nintendo Switch here as well.

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about Hertz and refresh rate

What does Hertz mean?

Hertz is the physical unit for frequency and is abbreviated Hz. It indicates one repetitive process per second. The refresh rate refers to the number of frames per second that a TV or monitor can display.

What does native refresh rate mean?

The native refresh rate for current TVs is either 60Hz or 120Hz. The value is ultimately what matters when buying. All other values are mostly marketing terms of the manufacturers. 50Hz or 100Hz refer to the old standards that still applied to analog TV.

Where is the difference between Hertz and FPS?

While the Hertz number indicates how many images a TV or monitor can display per second, the FPS refers to the speed a graphics card needs to produce images. These are then displayed by the connected monitor. Both values should be about the same, otherwise tearing can occur. This means that you also need a 120Hz TV or monitor for 120fps.

How many hertz should my 4K TV have?

For the usual TV program and for watching movies and series, 60Hz is usually sufficient. However, if you want to watch sports events and regularly gamble with the latest consoles, you should go for a 120Hz panel to keep motion blur as low as possible.

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