Display technology: LCD, LED, and refresh rate explained

Aside from the age old debate of LCD vs plasma televisions, we now have to contend with LED backlit TVs and monitors, as well as features such as 120Hz motion refresh rates. There are often misconceptions regarding these various technologies, so we’ll take a quick look at what each means.

Is 120Hz right for you?

Typically a higher refresh rate gives you a smoother picture, eliminating stiff, jittery images. There is more to it than that though, especially when watching different kinds of content on your television.

If the source was recorded in video, the typical framerate would be 30 or 60 frames per second. This divides evenly into the 60Hz refresh rate, so transitioning between frames isn’t too much of an issue unless the scene is fast paced. This is often the case in sports, where the higher refresh rate is an advantage as it decreases judder as the players move.

Film is slightly different – because it is shot at 24 frames per second, it creates complications for a 60Hz refresh rate panel as it needs to use a 3:2 pulldown method, explained here. With a 120hz refresh rate, no pulldown adjustment is needed, leading to a smoother looking picture.

LED vs LCD: more of the same

In one of the best marketing campaigns ever, television manufacturers managed to convince a large portion of consumers that LED and LCD televisions are totally different. While the average Joe may be fooled thanks to the radical thickness difference between LED and LCD televisions, this is not the case.

They are essentially the exact same television, with different back-lighting methods. General LCD TVs make use of compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) backlighting, whereas LED televisions make use of Light Emitting Diodes, either via edge lighting or local dimming.

Regardless, LED is equal to or better than LCD when it comes to contrast and black level depth, as well as viewing angles in some scenarios. Both technologies offer similar motion playback performance and colour accuracy.

Keeping the above in mind, good deals on LCD televisions shouldn’t necessarily be overlooked when you consider the price/performance ratio.

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Display technology: LCD, LED, and refresh rate explained