What is Display Refresh Rate all about?

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We have seen mobile manufacturers focus on improving phone cameras and fast charge technologies. We have now stepped into the age of improving screen refresh rate.

If you follow news in the smartphone industry, you will have seen news of one new phone with a 90Hz refresh rate or 120Hz refresh rate. There is even an elite group of smartphones with 144Hz refresh rate.

If you have wanted to fully understand what this is all about, I’m here to break it down for you in easy to understand language.

what is refresh rate in display

What is refresh rate in display? How is it related to frame rate?

All electronic displays are able to show video content by updating the images on the screen. So this is applicable not just to smartphones but also TV screens and PC screens.

Refresh rate is the number of times your phone  screen (or  any  electronic monitor or display) updates with new images each second. For example, a 60 Hz refresh rate means the display or monitor updates 60 times per second, while a 90 Hz refresh rate means the display or monitor updates 90 times per second. A higher refresh rate results in a smoother picture.

FPS (frames per second) is the measure of how often a video file or video game displays frames. Standard movies are recorded and play at 24fps, while video games are usually locked to 30fps or 60fps. As video cameras have improved though, it becomes possible to record videos and design games that play at higher frame rates.

The challenge then is that screen refresh rates and video frame rates need to be in sync to enjoy the experience without artifacts like screen tearing.

As such, 120 fps video may not be properly displayed on a screen with 60 Hz refresh rate without some form of conversion happening in the background.

What is the standard refresh rate?

As of today, the standard refresh rate on most modern smartphones is 60 Hz. Which is why you almost never hear it mentioned. Manufacturers tend to mention the refresh rate of a phones phones only when it is higher than the common standard.

So you hear of new cell phones that have 90 Hz, 120, and 144 Hz refresh rates, because, all other things being equal, they are better. They are smoother in use, especially during screen scrolling, video playback, and gameplay.

Are higher refresh rate screens always better?

Are displays that support 90 H, 120Hz, 144 Hz always better than 60 Hz screens? Not at all. Just because a cell phone screen has a higher refresh rate does not mean it is better than one with a lower figure. There are other factors that contribute to the quality of a screen.

One easy example is the screen resolution. It is usually stated like this; 1080x 2340 pixels. Another is the screen size, usually stated in inches e.g. 6.t inches. Another factor is whether it is an LCD display or an AMOLED display, or any one of their variations.

All of the above factors, along with refresh rate, determine how good each phone screen is. We have seen cases where a phone screen with 120 Hz refresh rate is disappointing.

But if you are a smartphone gamer, phones with higher refresh rates will be more appealing to the eyes during gameplay.

Are there any disadvantages of higher refresh rates?

As with all things good, higher refresh rates often come at a cost to power consumption. Gaming and video playback on your phone will look smoother, but your phone’s battery will die faster, as the screen does more work.

Do you need a phone with a higher refresh rate?

Most of the video content and games out there today are encoded at a maximum of 60 FPS and so, screens with 60 Hz rates handle them just fine. Most YouTube video, for example, are recorded and played back at 30/60fps.

As such, you do not really need a smartphone with a higher refresh rate unless you are an avid gamer. If you do get one, there is usually a setting to peg the maximum refresh rate to something lower should you need to.

Phones with 90 Hz refresh rate

The 6.67 inches display of the OnePlus 7 Pro is a bit too much.
OnePlus 7 Pro

Phones with 120 Hz refresh rate

Poco X2 Pocophone

Phones with 144 Hz refresh rate

Asus ROG Phone 3
Asus ROG Phone 3 has 144 Hz refresh rate
  • Lenovo Legion Phone Duel
  • Asus ROG Phone 3
  • iQOO Neo 3 5G
  • iQOO Z1 5G
  • Nubia RedMagic 5G
  • Nubia Play 5G
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4 comments

  1. I still have a question tho… With a mid range chipset say 720/730g and or mtk g90t that have just above average GPU, those does having higher refresh rate improve gameplay?

    Using a 720g and the gameplay fails in comparison with wait for it iPhone 6s, hence my question

    1. Ehis,

      There are games that are designed to run at higher frames per second, say 90 fps. You need a smartphone with a refresh rate that matches the requirements of those games. That would be a phone with a 90 Hz display.

      For example, Pixel 4a uses a mid-range Snapdragon 730G chipset and has a 90Hz display. Games that play at 90 FPS will run really smoothly on it. Yes; you will experience improved gameplay on such a phone.

    2. Arrgh… Na who first buy car buy old model..

      So despite 720g being slightly >> 730g in comparisons and benchmarks, 4a will game better cos of 90hz.. not fair!!

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