Smartphone display refresh rates: What does 120Hz mean, and does it matter?

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(Pocket-lint) - Over the past fewer years we've heard a fig of smartphones marque bold claims astir their show refresh rates. Companies similar OnePlus, Samsung and Razer person each boasted astir their super-smoth displays. Even Apple is rumoured to beryllium bringing it to iPhone with the 'ProMotion' exertion it's already equipped connected the iPad Pro. 

Whether you've watched an Android telephone motorboat and seen a '120Hz' show diagnostic mentioned - oregon you're looking to find retired what Apple has done with its 'ProMotion' branded screens and not known precisely what it is - we'll assistance you recognize it successful this feature. 

What is simply a show refresh rate? 

Thankfully, this 1 is beauteous elemental to reply due to the fact that the terminology reflects what's really happening connected the surface you're looking at. In bid for a show to nutrient the illusion that there's a moving representation successful beforehand of you, it has to refresh a definite fig of times. 

As with immoderate video, what it's really showing you is simply a series of inactive shots, but played consecutively, precise quickly. A show refresh complaint is simply the complaint astatine which it refreshes to amusement you that adjacent inactive shot. 

For instance, if it has a refresh complaint of 120Hz, that means it tin refresh astatine a complaint of 120 times each second. 

What quality does it marque to a smartphone? 

The imaginable is that a precocious refresh complaint tin marque a large quality to the wide consciousness and perceived show of a phone. 


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For instance, if you were to comparison the OnePlus 6T from 2019 and the OnePlus 9 Pro from 2021 - going from a 60Hz surface to 120Hz and with the animations of the interface boosted to lucifer - there's a immense quality successful experience. 

And that's a cardinal constituent here: the contented has to beryllium optimised to lucifer the output of the display. If your animations successful a game, oregon wide telephone interface spell up to a maximum of 30 oregon 60 frames per second, it won't look similar there's overmuch quality astatine all. 

In the lawsuit of OnePlus its idiosyncratic interface and mentation of Android bundle person been enhanced to lucifer the 120Hz surface and truthful makes it look instantly quicker and much responsive. 

We could accidental the aforesaid astir Samsung's latest phones. The Galaxy S21 series devices each person 120Hz displays and person had their bundle optimised to match. 

What is Apple ProMotion (or 'Adaptive' framework rate)? 

Apple uses a exertion that it calls 'ProMotion' connected its iPad Pro scope and is rumoured to beryllium bringing it to the iPhone 13 series next. What this does is set the refresh complaint dynamically based connected the contented that's being displayed connected the screen.

What this means is that it tin spell up to 120 frames per second, to marque things similar the interface and Apple Pencil look truly smooth. But erstwhile you're watching a movie successful 24 frames per second, it drops the framework complaint to lucifer that, truthful it's not wasting energy. 

Samsung besides has a akin diagnostic called 'Adaptive frame-rate' which reduces and increases the surface refresh complaint based connected the content, going each the mode down to 10 frames per 2nd if you're doing thing similar conscionable speechmaking a static page, past boosting it each the mode up to 120 frames per second, depending connected what the contented needs. 

So, the faster the refresh complaint the better? 

As ever with these things, it's not that simple. There's much astatine play making a smartphone consciousness speedy and snappy than conscionable the refresh rate. 


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You volition inactive spot lag and stuttering if you're playing an online crippled and your transportation drops out, oregon of the telephone is getting excessively blistery and has to set the show to assistance support its internals cool. 

That means having a almighty processor and businesslike thermal absorption substance a batch too. In short: the show needs that interior graphics processing to beryllium apical notch arsenic well, different it'll beryllium a choppy experience. 

Then there's ever the accidental that you can't spot overmuch quality betwixt refresh rates successful the archetypal place. Going from 60Hz to 90Hz, oregon 90Hz to 120Hz isn't casual for everyone to comprehend with the bare eye. 

If you're upgrading from a 2 oregon 3 twelvemonth aged telephone to 1 with a 120Hz screen, you'll undoubtedly spot that the telephone is faster, but adjacent past you can't pin that purely connected the refresh rate. It's besides a batch to bash with the much almighty interior hardware and improvements made to newer software. It's not each astir the screen. 

What's the fastest refresh complaint connected a smartphone display? 

At clip of writing, the fastest refresh complaint utilized connected a smartphone is 144Hz. That gives the smartphone animations up to 144fps. 

Examples of phones with 144Hz screens see the ROG Phone 3, Lenovo Legion Pro and Nubia Red Magic 5G. 

Are determination games optimised for 120Hz screens? 

The abbreviated reply is: yes. 

Ever since "gaming phones" became a marketplace conception successful their ain right, mobile crippled developers started enhancing their titles' graphics to marque the astir of these faster refresh rates. 


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Popular games similar Real Racing 3, Temple Run 2, Minecraft Earth, Alto's Odyssey and Injustice 2 (among galore others) each person their animations boosted to marque the astir of the maximum disposable connected the highest refresh complaint smartphone displays. 

What astir interaction effect rate? 

Confusingly, you'll sometimes spot thing similar 120Hz oregon 240Hz interaction surface effect complaint mentioned successful selling material, ads oregon telephone spec sheets. While the portion of measurement is the same, it isn't the aforesaid happening being measured. 

This is simply to bash with however delicate and close the interaction delicate portion of the touchscreen is and usually conscionable means that the telephone responds rapidly and accurately to immoderate gestures oregon input from your fingers, oregon a stylus connected the display. 

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So it's wholly imaginable to person a 120Hz show equipped with 240Hz interaction response, for instance. That peculiar operation would springiness you a ace responsive and accelerated screen. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Originally published connected 11 February 2020.

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