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HDTV's: Is a higher refresh rate better?

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This year, many retailers are pushing to get to customers' wallets first by pushing Black Friday savings into Thanksgiving. Walmart is having three door busting events: 8 PM, 10 PM, and 5 AM. Target is opening its doors at 9 PM. The tactic is arguably distasteful, but it is not going to prevent consumers from lining up outside major retailers immediately after finishing their Thanksgiving feasts. High definition TV's have become a Black Friday staple over the past few years, but the differences between manufacturers and resolutions are often confusing to those in the market for a new TV. When talking about resolution, the magic number is 1080. A blu-ray movie plays in 1080p at 60 Hz. It is this second number referring to the TV's refresh rate that is most confusing to consumers. What does it mean and, similar to other figures, is a higher number better?

The answer is yes… and no. Looking through this year's Black Friday ads, one will find a number of black rectangles in various sizes with "60Hz," "240Hz," or even "600Hz" in the smaller print. Without getting too technical, there are a few things you should know when looking at your HDTV's speed. The video you watch is actually a series of still images or frames played much like a flip book. Here in the United States, television has traditionally been projected at about 30 frames per second (fps) at 60 Hz. The film you watch at the movie theater is actually only 24 fps. In other words, there is currently no media format that exceeds 1080p60(Hz). In some cases, the frame rate in movies are actually decreased to 1080p24 to recreate that original in-theater effect.

TV's with refresh rates higher than 60 Hz attempt to provide detail that isn't actually there in the original film by injecting additional frames. The result is an incredibly smooth picture with no delay or image ghosting (a brief image left on the screen during fast on-screen movements after the image on the screen has changed). HDTV technology has advanced to the point of nearly eliminating this to the point where you probably don't even notice it happening. With the video playing back so smoothly, it may sometimes appear too artificial or sped up.

To some, this is desirable and if that's the case, you will want to look at TV's with higher refresh rates. Remember, it does not add any detail to the video, just seamlessness amongst frames. If you do wind up with a TV supporting 120 Hz or greater, you may be able to disable the enhanced frame rate in the settings menu should you decide it isn't for you.

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Shaun Beacham is musician and multidimensional journalist on Examiner. Subscribe to all of his channels and be sure to follow him on Twitter or other social media outlets.

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