60Hz vs. 120Hz TVs and Monitors: Does It Really Matter?

Whether you’re a gamer or streamer, you’ve probably wondered if you should upgrade your older 60Hz TV to a newer 120Hz TV or gaming monitor.

What’s the difference, and is it really worth the extra money to get a 120Hz TV or monitor?

We’re going to talk about the differences between 60Hz vs. 120Hz, and if you should upgrade in this article.

What’s the Difference Between a 60Hz and 120Hz Display?

Hz is an abbreviation for Hertz, which is a frequency unit. When used to describe TVs or monitors, Hz tells you how many times the display refreshes per second.

In short, a 60Hz TV will refresh, or re-draw the image on the screen 60 times every second. A 120Hz display will re-draw the image 120 times, and so on.

What’s the Benefit of a Higher Refresh Rate?

OK, so obviously more is better, right?

Well, yes…to a point.

Higher refresh rates help reduce motion blur.

Have you ever been watching a movie and noticed blurriness or a softer-looking image during a sequence with a lot of action?

That’s motion blur, and it’s an issue for most LCD and OLED model screens.

Some people don’t even notice motion blur, but it can be seriously irritating for others.

So if you are someone who’s bothered by motion blur, or watch a lot of sports or movies with action, then upgrading to a 120Hz display could be worth it.

Beware Deceptive Marketing Terms When TV Shopping

These days, the TV market is flooded with products with names like Samsung Motion Rate 120 and LG TruMotion 240.

Many shoppers may initially think that the numbers in these model names refer to the TV’s refresh rate, but that’s not the case.

These types of models use other features to essentially dress up the TV’s true or “native” refresh rate.

For example, the Samsung Motion Rate 120’s native refresh rate is 60Hz. However, the TV uses frame rate interpolation and black frame insertion to simulate a 120Hz experience.

For more on the difference between a TV’s natural refresh rate and motion rate, TruMotion or MotionFlow, check out my article here.

What is Frame Rate Interpolation?

Also known as motion interpolation or motion-compensated frame interpolation (MCFI), frame rate interpolation helps create a smoother picture and reduces motion blur.

When used with TVs, frame rate interpolation can help create the illusion of a higher frame rate.

What Does Black Frame Insertion Do?

Black frame insertion is another method designed to reduce motion blur in LCD and OLED TVs.

Full-screen black images are inserted between the source’s original frames. During periods with lots of motion, this tricks your brain into seeing the motion as smoother.

The idea for black frame insertion was first proposed in 2006, but the technology never became as popular as other motion-blur reduction methods. 

That’s because this tactic has some serious flaws. It reduces the overall brightness of the picture by as much as 50% and sometimes causes visible screen flickers.

How Do Refresh Rates and Frame Rates Work?

Refresh rates and frame rates work together. A frame rate measures how many frames a device can produce per second. These two should always match each other.

For example, if you’re playing a video game that runs at 60FPS (frames per second), then you should also have your TV or monitor running at 60Hz. Mismatches can cause motion blurring.

Frame rates are much more important for gaming than for watching TV or movies. Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of a 120Hz display for gamers.

What's the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz?

120Hz TVs and Next-Gen Gaming

In 2020, the release of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles sparked new interest in 120Hz TVs and gaming monitors. Both of these next-gen systems feature 4K 120hz.

As any serious gamer knows, fast frame rates are critical to optimizing your hardware’s performance. 

Before these next-gen systems, 60Hz was the standard for consoles. And less than a decade ago, 30Hz was considered an adequate performance.

Faster frame mates translate to a smoother gaming experience. You’ll see details you might miss at a lower frame rate. This means you can respond to what you see on the screen faster.

If you’re a serious gamer looking to get the most out of your next-gen console’s hardware, an upgrade to a new 120Hz TV or monitor could be worth the price of admission.

However, it’s important to note that there aren’t all that many console games with 120Hz support on the market as of August 2021. We expect this to become more common, though.

Ideally, you should look for a TV with 120Hz input and a variable refresh rate. These features make for an incredibly smooth gaming experience with minimal choppiness.

Refresh Rates in Gaming Monitors

High refresh rates have already been a popular feature in PC gaming monitors for years. Today, 120Hz and even 240Hz monitors are common among serious gamers.

In competitive PC gaming, every millisecond matters, so there’s a big difference between 60Hz vs. 120Hz.  Maximizing your frame rate is often necessary for keeping up with your competitors.

There are many other benefits of using a 120Hz or 240Hz monitor, including:

  • Motion-blur reduction and sharper images
  • Eliminates screen tearing caused by refresh/frame rate mismatches
  • Faster input response and less input lag

Competitive gamers will get the most out of a high refresh rate monitor, but casual ones will also likely enjoy an improved gaming experience.

If you’re looking to upgrade to a high-end gaming monitor, looking for something 120Hz or above should be a priority. 

Take your time to find the right option. We recommend making this type of purchase in person, so you can get a first-hand comparison of your choices.

Is a 60Hz or 120Hz TV Better For Movies and TV?

If you’re only going to be using your TV to stream content or watch sports (or anything other than gaming), then your needs are different. 

As of August 2021, next-gen video games are the only major source of 120fps content. 

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have a frame rate that varies between 24fps and 60fps. Most films run at 24fps.

So if you’re watching a Netflix series that runs at 60fps on a 120Hz TV, it won’t look any different than it would on a 60Hz TV.

However, you might notice a difference watching a native 24fps film on a Blu-ray disc or another media source.

That’s because a 60Hz TV is forced to alternate between inserting 3 and 2 frames between the 24 display frames per second.

This effect is called the 3:2 pulldown and can lead to a judder effect on the screen.

Conversely, a 120Hz TV needs to add 5 frames in between the original 24, which leads to an even 5:5 pulldown. The picture appears smoother since the same 5 frames are added every time, rather than alternating between 3 and 2.

Smartphone Screens: 60Hz vs 90Hz vs 120Hz

Smartphone manufacturers have also started offering high refresh rate smartphones. OnePlus started this trend in 2019 with its 90Hz Oneplus 7 Pro.

Since then, several smartphone manufacturers have introduced 90Hz and 120Hz phones (and even 144Hz), such as:

  • Samsung Galaxy S21/S20+ and GalaxyS21 Ultra (120Hz)
  • Asus ROG Phone 5 (144Hz)
  • OnePlus 9 Pro (120Hz)
  • Moto G60 (120Hz)
  • Google Pixel 5 (90Hz)

Should I Upgrade to a 120Hz Phone?

It depends on what you’re looking for in a phone. There are pros and cons to 120Hz display smartphones.

You’ll likely notice smoother scrolling and animation effects when using a 120Hz display. Additionally, many users notice less eye fatigue during periods of longer use.

However, these benefits sometimes come at the cost of battery life.

Right now, there isn’t too much content at 90Hz, let alone 120Hz. This could change in the future, though. 

If you’re looking for a new phone and want to future-proof your device, finding an option with a higher refresh rate could be worth it.

120Hz Phones For Mobile Gaming

Additionally, as we mentioned with TVs, mobile gamers will likely get more out of a higher refresh rate. 

Mobile games with frame rates over 60fps are out there, and will likely become more common. A 90Hz or 120Hz phone can help optimize the mobile gaming experience.

Is a 120Hz TV Worth It? 

When comparing 60Hz vs. 120Hz, a 120Hz TV is the better choice for video games and watching native 24fps films and other content.

So if you currently have a 60Hz TV that you’re satisfied with and you’re not a gamer, an upgrade solely for 120Hz probably isn’t worth it.

However, if you’re in the market for a new TV right now, most of what you find is going to be 120Hz anyway. And going forward, we can only imagine 120Hz will become the standard.

Those who are ready to buy a new 4K TV right now would be wise to go for 120Hz, as this will ensure your TV stays technologically current for at least several years.

People who are ready to upgrade their TV should focus on other important features too, such as:

  • 4K resolution
  • HDR compatibility
  • OLED vs. LCD Screens
  • Several HDMI ports
  • Screen size

A new TV is a significant purchase, so it’s important to take your time. Shop around, do some research, and find the option that best suits your needs and budget.

Tim Wells