Which LCD TV Is Better: 120 MHz or 60 MHz?
By John Lister
Opting for a 120Hz television over a 60Hz TV will -- if the manufacturers are to be believed -- give you a smoother image with less blurring. Whether this is noticeable depends on the type of programming you watch. Opting for 120Hz can also bring some disadvantages. This means that your personal needs and preference will determine whether 120Hz is a better option, and whether the benefits justify a price premium.
Hz (short for hertz) refers to the number of times per second that a particular event happens. In the context of an LCD television, it refers to the number of times a TV can show a new video field each second. The way LCD TVs work means that they display two video fields for each frame of the video being displayed. A frame is simply an individual image; television broadcasts show these images in sequence to produce a moving image, in the same way as child's flickbook drawings. A higher Hz figure thus means the onscreen image refreshes more frequently.
Effects: Motion Blur
The more time that passes between each fresh image, the more noticeable any differences between the two images are. These images can be jarring to the viewer, a phenomenon known as motion blur. With fast-moving video such as sports and console gaming, the effect can be more pronounced, simply because objects on the screen may have moved more between images. A TV running at 120Hz rather than 60Hz cuts the time between each fresh image, reducing motion blur.
60Hz LCD televisions can be problematic with movie content, which is traditionally shot at 24 frames per second. Because a 60Hz display shows 30 frames per second, the TV has to use a workaround to rectify the disparity. This workaround means that in some cases the content of the screen will be made up of two separate frames from the original movie, creating a blurry image known as judder. 120Hz LCD television can show every image exactly five times (5 x 24 = 120), meaning there is no judder.
Not all viewers like the effects of removing judder from movies. It can make the picture look like it was shot on video rather than film, which can change the visual effect. Ironically, some viewers may also find that the smoother picture that comes with 120Hz looks less realistic. As a very rough rule, sports and game lovers may find the benefits of 120Hz outweigh the drawbacks, while movie lovers may find the opposite holds true. Wherever possible, spend some time auditioning a potential purchase with the type of video content you watch most often.
Some newer LCD sets offer 240Hz, billed as increasing picture quality. Opinion about their benefits is mixed and the improvements from 120 Hz to 240Hz do not seem to be as pronounced as with the switch from 60 Hz to 120 Hz.
A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.