How much do the tech specs of HDTV's matter?
July 26, 2008 3:42 PM   Subscribe

When buying an HDTV, how much does 120mhz vs. 60mhz refresh, and 4ms vs. 5ms response matter?

I'm taking the HDTV plunge, most likely picking up a 1080p LCD from Samsung. Is the ~$350 price increase from the Series 5 (last year) to the Series 6 (this year) models worth it? The Series 6 models have a slightly faster response time (4ms vs. 5ms) and a better refresh rate (120mhz vs. 60mhz).

I'm looking forward to sports and XBox360 in HD, though I'm not quite so fanatic as a lot of the folks over in AVSForum. How much will I notice the difference in these things? Bonus question: will either of these improve playback of SD/DVD content?
posted by mkultra to Shopping (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The faster refresh rate apparently makes a big difference. However, if you are really concerned about refresh rates, get a plasma.
posted by kindall at 4:20 PM on July 26, 2008

120hz can improve the look of certain types of pans and crawls on an LCD set. The problem is that some manufacturers are so aggressive with their motion prediction algorithms, that they create what you read about on AVS, the triple ball effect.

All I know is that I like my 120Hz set better than my 60Hz set, but they both have very similar gray to gray refresh rates. Of course, a large part of that is that the new one has a much better black level.

If the difference is only $350 (on what, a $2000 set?), I'd go for the 120Hz model. It's likely that the current model has other improvements, probably with black level and some other stuff.

SD is mainly a function of the scaler and having a refresh rate fast enough to not blur too badly. I think nearly any set sold in the last few years qualifies (as long as it has a decent enough scaler, both my LG and my Philips do fine)

Just FWIW, I think the Samsungs are a bit pricey for what you get, but that's obviously just opinion. I will say that I rarely, if ever, see examples of poor performance out of them, so they probably are better at QC than some of the other brands.
posted by wierdo at 4:24 PM on July 26, 2008

Don't get a plasma if you're a gamer. Burn-in on plasmas is still a problem no matter what the sales reps say. It's true that faster response time is better, but all LCD TVs have so much faster response than they used to that it's not likely a highly discernable difference. As a gamer, I'd save the money on last year's model and spend the rest on games or something.
posted by ulotrichous at 4:25 PM on July 26, 2008

standard definition content won't look any better. the 120hz refresh rate is an effect created by the internal video processing chipset on the TV to add in video frames which don't actually exist in the native signal, the reasoning being that the pixels on LCDs respond slightly better if you bombard them with state changes (more video frames). the altered video signal is visibly different. personally, i am not too fond of how it looks, but you should check it out in person in a store to see for yourself. people's tastes differ.

it should be noted that to achieve this effect, the a significant buffer must be applied to the video signal, on top of other processing (scaling, color correction, sharpening, etc). when the 120hz effect is enabled, there is a large discrepancy from the time when the video signal arrives in the tv and when the image appears on the screen. no problem if you're watching TV or a movie, but if you're playing a game, it gets extremely difficult to control, as the video permanently lags behind the actual state of the game on the console. you will want to turn off as much stuff as your tv allows to turn off, and on a samsung LCD, you will also want to enable game mode.

year-to-year (sometimes 6 months, even) updates to LCDs are always incremental. it's up to you whether or not the $350 is worth the few extra features. if you go back 5 years, the difference is huge, but one year? it's up to you. me personally, i do not think most of the features most manufacturers came out with in the last year are significant over the previous lineup (120hz and a few other things).

if you're looking for the best gaming LCDs, the order from least latency to more latency (video buffer) is usually sharp, then sony, then samsung, then hp, then the no-names. i have a sharp.
posted by tumult at 4:26 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Honestly, if you're upgrading from a regular old tube TV, anything HD that you get will be such a huge improvement over what you've got that you wouldn't notice the difference between response times and refresh rates of the two you're considering. I mean, it's not likeyou'd get the 5ms series 5 up and running and then go "Man, this TV's refresh rate SUCKS!" - you'll be so in awe of the glorious HD picture that you get that you won't care.

And honestly, if you put the 4ms response rate and 5ms side by side, you as an average viewer wouldn't be able to tell the difference - you're talking about ONE MILLISECOND.

Save the $350 and get the series 5.
posted by pdb at 5:20 PM on July 26, 2008

The real reason is that film is shot at 24hz. 120hz is beautiful because you simply show each 24hz frame 5 times, without funky stuff like 3:2 pulldown.

The net result is *not* insignificant, and unless you only watch made-for-TV stuff, is IMHO worth every cent of the $350.

The outcome is much truer-to-theater quality without oddball side effects. Most of these side effects are difficult to point out specifically, but overall give a lesser quality feel when films are presented on TV.
posted by SpookyFish at 10:41 PM on July 26, 2008

SpookyFish: Sadly, almost no current 120hz sets actually do 5:5 pulldown. (most fail to properly IVTC 60hz 24fps content anyway, so it's moot)

Even without true 5:5 pulldown, there is some improvement in film judder.

I spent a lot of time looking at sets and ended up deciding (twice in the last few years!) that the extra thousands I would spend on a TV from one of the 3 Ss wouldn't be well spent. Other folks may have different priorities.
posted by wierdo at 11:35 PM on July 26, 2008

The initial jump from a tube TV to an HDTV is so huge that you wouldn't notice the difference. Maybe if you put them side by side. I would suggest putting the $350 toward a PS3 or other Blu-ray player - there's a big difference between Blu-ray and DVD.
posted by kenliu at 7:43 AM on July 27, 2008

60Hz is close enough to fluorescent lights that some really sensitive and annoying people (like me) find 60Hz screens very hard to look at under fluorescent light. The image is all jiggley and there's crawling lines all over... like a video acid trip.
posted by rokusan at 9:44 AM on July 27, 2008

wierdo: Actually, the Samsung Series 6/7 do support 5:5 when Auto Motion Plus (frame interpolation scheme) is turned off and they are receiving a true 24p signal from one of the handful of supporting Blu-Ray players.

Likewise on several models of flat panels from Sony, LG, Sharp, Mits, as well as various other plasmas and front projectors. The definitive thread and list is here.
posted by SpookyFish at 11:45 AM on July 27, 2008

Does the Xbox360 output its HD movie content at 24p?
posted by mkultra at 1:19 PM on July 27, 2008

It depends on what you are doing.

I have a couple different LCD models - for BluRay/HD & all-digital content (think monitor for my media PC) I do find that the faster refresh rate makes a difference.

However, for regular DVD & non-HD television - it is simply not noticable.
posted by jkaczor at 2:22 PM on July 27, 2008

mkultra: I assume you mean the download movies since HD-DVD is dead now. The HD downloads are encoded in 720p/24, but the system does not currently support 24p output. A software update -may- change that in the future. That said, it may not be as important. The downloaded shows are at least tagged correctly, so doing the pulldown to convert to 60fps isn't as troublesome as with DVD.

FWIW, the HD downloads are fair, but are -very- compressed and don't hold a candle to Blu-Ray -- but plenty of people are perfectly happy with it, they don't suffer from being a picture quality geek like some of us...
posted by SpookyFish at 9:19 AM on July 28, 2008

An update- I was all set to get the current model in a slightly smaller size to make up for the relative price increase over last year's model, then a friend offered this piece of advice- get the biggest screen you can afford for your space, or you'll always wish you got a bigger model.

So, I got the 46" in last year's model instead of the current 40". And, as pdb said, your gut reaction overrides scrutiny. Baseball and Xbox both look fantastic.

Thanks for your input, everyone!
posted by mkultra at 7:17 PM on September 8, 2008

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