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Cashify Explains Refresh Rate: What Does 60Hz, 90Hz, or 120Hz Mean?

We are currently seeing a lot of smartphones launch with refresh rates higher than the standard 60Hz refresh rate. In this article, we will explain to you what exactly is refresh rate and the difference between 60Hz, 90Hz and 120Hz refresh rate displays.

By Akhil Taneja - 
Thu, 19 Mar'20
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Refresh Rate Explained

You must have seen recently that there has been a barrage of smartphones that have come with a higher refresh rate than normal. Now, you would have been okay with having the normal 60Hz refresh rate on your smartphone. Also, the majority of people still don’t know the difference between a 60Hz display and higher ones.

In addition, most people also are not aware of the fact that there are displays available with a higher refresh rate as well. It is worth noting as well that the higher refresh rate displays were limited to monitors by this time. However, as the technology has progressed and evolved, we are now seeing those higher refresh rate displays come to smartphones as well.

Also read: OnePlus 8 Leak Shows 120Hz Display

Also, the fact that smartphone displays now come with a higher refresh rate means that companies are obviously trying to make you upgrade from your older smartphone. But you should make it clear that there is no “urgency” or “need” to upgrade your 60Hz refresh rate smartphone to one with a higher refresh rate.

Having said that, it is always better to have a higher refresh rate on your smartphone along with your monitor or TV as it does make things smoother. To understand how things get smoother when the refresh rate gets higher, we will have to know what is refresh rate so read along:

What is Refresh Rate?

First of all, it should be noted that our displays on smartphones, monitors, TVs and other appliances are not static.

This is also the reason why we see things moving on the panel rather than seeing a static image on the panel. Although, it is interesting to note that there are a number of static images that are being shown to you on the display known as “frames”. These frames are moved at a speed that the human eye cannot detect which is why we don’t see them as static images but as a moving video.

Thus, you might have already understood that the rate at which these frames are changed or “refreshed” is known as refresh rate. So, higher the refresh rate will be, smoother will the video or content playing on the display.

Refresh Rate Explained Changing Refresh Rate
Image Source: Android Police

A few years back, we had a 60Hz refresh rate as default for all our smartphones including Android and iPhones. But ever since higher refresh rate displays have come, we are seeing smartphones come with 90Hz refresh rate panels and even 120Hz. Even the new iPhones this year are touted to feature a high refresh rate display.

Also read: New Smartphone Launches

What is the difference between 60Hz, 90Hz and 120Hz refresh rate?

Now that you have understood what refresh rate is, we will tell you about the difference between the standard 60Hz panel, 90Hz panel and also a 120Hz refresh rate display.

difference between 60Hz, 90Hz and 120Hz refresh rate

The difference is basically the way in which these panels refresh content being played on them. For instance, the 60Hz refresh rate display got its name on its working mechanism. A 60Hz refresh rate display will refresh its content 60 times per second or 60 frames per second in other words. Obviously, we can not see the frames being changed since we are capable of seeing 5 frames per second being changed at the most.

If you thought that this was smooth, wait till we tell you that a 90Hz panel refreshes the content at 90 frames or 90 times per second. On the other hand, a 120Hz panel will refresh its content at a pace of 120 times or 120 frames per second which makes the content look much smoother.

Now, we are taking the example of content being played on the screen to notice the difference in panels with a higher refresh rate but the difference can be felt while scrolling through apps too.

Basically, you need to understand that everything which requires a transition between one frame to the other such as switching between apps, scrolling through the app drawer, browsing the internet and even playing games will feel smoother on panels with the higher refresh rate.

What are the downsides of having a higher refresh rate?

Since we have mentioned above that a higher refresh rate display makes everything look smoother then you must be wondering why every smartphone does not come with a higher refresh rate panel than the current standard of 60Hz.

downsides of having a higher refresh rate
Image Source: Android Authority

Well, the first thing is that technology has just come to the world which means that it is still quite new and expensive. Even the 120Hz panels that we are talking about were only available in LCD format prior to the start of this year.

But engineers have now developed 120Hz refresh rate panels with AMOLED technology which means that it is perfect for flagship smartphones. This is also the reason why we have seen smartphones come out last year with a 90Hz AMOLED panel since the 120Hz was not available.

Also, the higher refresh rate panels are known to kill your battery quicker. As we mentioned, the smartphone refreshes 90 times or 120 times per second which is much quicker than 60 times so it will take a toll on the battery as well.

Thus, companies were preferring the 90Hz refresh rate panel because it didn’t consume too much battery life compared to 60Hz panels and was noticeably smoother. Now that the 120Hz panels are available, it will be a different case and OEMs will have to increase battery capacity on phones which will make them thicker.

Should you upgrade to a higher refresh rate phone?

The question now lies whether you need to upgrade from your old 60Hz smartphone to a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate phone. As we have mentioned earlier, there is no need for you to upgrade your phone to a higher refresh rate since it won’t make your current smartphone slower or old in any way.

But if you are currently in the market for a new phone or your old phone is giving you trouble, you should upgrade to a smartphone with a higher refresh rate display for sure. The reason being that higher refresh rate smartphones are the future and you will see the industry transition from 60Hz panels to 120Hz panels in the next few years.

Also Read: Best Smartphones With A 90Hz Display

Also, the 120Hz refresh rate technology will evolve over time and get cheaper which means even mid-range smartphones will get it.  So if you don’t want to spend on a flagship right now to get such a display, you can wait for one or two years and it will come to mid-range phones.

Also Read: Best Smartphones With A 120Hz Refresh Rate Display

Highlights of the Story

  • Refresh Rate means the number of times a display refreshes in a second
  • Higher Refresh Rate is generally better as it displays the content smoother
  • But higher refresh rate displays are currently expensive
  • These higher refresh rate panels also consume more battery than normal


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