With the latest generation of gaming consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X supporting 120 frames per second (FPS) gameplay, high refresh rate TVs have become very desirable for the smoothest possible visual experience. But how can you tell if your television can actually handle the demands of 4K 120Hz gaming? Here are the key things to look for.
What is 120 FPS and Why It Matters
FPS stands for frames per second. It‘s the number of unique consecutive images displayed on a screen every second. The higher the frame rate, the smoother and more fluid the video will look, especially during fast motion scenes.
For movies and TV shows, 24 FPS or 30 FPS is standard. But in gaming, a higher frame rate is critical because it reduces input lag between your controls and on-screen response. This allows for much more precise actions and improves your ability to target and track objects on screen.
While 60 FPS has been the norm for console gaming, 120 FPS takes it to a new level. Going from 60 FPS to 120 FPS halves the time between frames from 16.7 milliseconds to 8.3 milliseconds. The resulting boost in responsiveness and silky smooth visuals is highly advantageous in fast-paced, competitive multiplayer games.
But to achieve 120 FPS, you need a display with an equally high 120 Hz refresh rate. The refresh rate determines how many times per second the TV can redraw the entire screen. If the refresh rate is lower than the frame rate, you won‘t get the full benefit of the higher FPS.
Checking for 120Hz Support
There are a few ways to verify if your television can handle a 120 Hz input signal for 120 FPS gaming:
– **Check the specs** – Your TV‘s specifications sheet, manual, or product page on the manufacturer‘s website should list its native refresh rate. Look for confirmation that it has a “120 Hz”, “120Hz”, or “120 Hz Native” panel.
– **Look for 120Hz labels** – Marketing materials and the box may tout “120Hz” capabilities if it supports it. But don‘t confuse 120Hz with motion smoothing “effective refresh rate” which is simulated by interpolation, not true 120 FPS display.
– **Test with a console** – Connect your PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S or other 120 FPS-capable device. Go into the display or video settings to see if 120Hz is available as an output resolution option. Select it to check if the TV switches into 120Hz mode.
– **Verify with TV settings** – Go into your TV‘s display settings menu and look for a setting like “Input Signal Resolution”. See if 120Hz refresh rates are listed among the detectable input signals.
Check your TV‘s native refresh rate
The key specification to look for first is a native refresh rate of 120Hz. The refresh rate tells you how many times per second your TV updates the image on the screen.
Standard 4K TVs have 60Hz refresh rates. But newer models are starting to natively support 120Hz at 4K resolution. If your TV manual or specs list “120Hz,” then it can handle 4K at 120 FPS.
According to HDMI.org, 120Hz refresh provides smoother, clearer motion and responsiveness compared to 60Hz. It‘s why 120Hz is highly desired for gaming and sports.
Your TV needs HDMI 2.1 ports
To receive 4K signals at 120 FPS, your TV must have HDMI inputs compliant with the HDMI 2.1 specification.
Why? HDMI 2.1 has 48Gbps of bandwidth—far more than older versions. This allows it to transmit 4K video at 120Hz with full HDR color.
Based on the HDMI 2.1 spec sheet, common resolutions and frame rates supported include:
– 4K at 120 FPS
– 8K at 60 FPS
– 10K at 100 FPS
By comparison, the old HDMI 2.0b standard taps out at 18Gbps. No bueno for 4K 120Hz.
New TVs in 2022 and beyond are shipping with HDMI 2.1. Check your manual or web page for specifics. Inputs labeled “Enhanced format” may indicate HDMI 2.1 capability.
Check your console‘s display settings
If you already have a PS5 or Xbox Series X, connect them to your TV and dive into the display settings.
The latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft will show you 120Hz and 120 FPS display modes if your TV is compatible.
According to Microsoft, only HDMI 2.1 TVs will show you the 120Hz gaming option on Xbox Series X. If it‘s missing, your TV may not support it.
Enable your TV‘s Game Mode
Most modern TVs have a special Game Mode you can enable for gaming. Turning this on may help unlock your TV‘s full 120Hz potential if it‘s supported.
Game Mode minimizes input lag by bypassing extra video processing that could delay controller response times. It‘s great for competitive gaming.
An additional benefit is that some TVs gray out 120Hz refresh options outside of Game Mode. So be sure to enable it!
Use an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable
Don‘t skimp on any old HDMI cable. To reliably get 4K 120 FPS, you need an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable. Also called HDMI 2.1 certified.
These newer cables have 48Gbps bandwidth to handle those blazing fast 4K and 120Hz signals without dropping frames or cutting out.
Many 4K 120Hz issues are simply due to older HDMI cables hitting their limits. So get a properly specced UHS cable. 8K models are fine too.
Understand 60Hz vs 120Hz differences
You‘re probably familiar with 60Hz refresh rates. Most 4K TVs and monitors still max out at 60Hz. And 60 FPS is fine for movies, shows, and casual gaming.
But according to RTINGS, 120Hz makes a big difference for motion clarity and responsiveness. Objects move across the screen twice as smoothly compared to 60Hz displays.
120 FPS also halves input lag down to around 10ms or less. Your gamepad and keyboard inputs register quicker, helping improve your skills. Especially in twitchy shooters and fighters.
120 FPS support still limited to newer TVs
Since native 120Hz displays are relatively new, don‘t expect most older 4K TVs to magically support 120 FPS sources. Unless they‘ve received firmware updates enabling HDMI 2.1, 120 FPS is likely out of reach.
As a general guideline, LG‘s 2019 OLED models were some of the first with 120Hz at 4K. Samsung, Sony, and others followed suit in 2020 or later.
So if you have a 4K TV from 2018 or earlier, 120 FPS capabilities are less likely without an upgrade.
Disable 4K to get 120 FPS at 1440p or 1080p
Here‘s a useful tip: Your TV can‘t simultaneously output maximum frame rates for both 4K and lower resolutions like 1440p or 1080p.
If enabling 120 FPS at 1440p or 1080p isn‘t working, try turning OFF 4K in your console video settings first.
According to Samsung, this prevents any conflicts between the TV‘s maximum supported resolutions and frame rates.
Consider 1080p and 1440p displays too
You don‘t always need an expensive 4K 120Hz TV to enjoy 120 FPS gaming. 1080p and 1440p monitors and TVs with 120Hz+ refresh rates are plentiful and affordable.
Just make sure you have the required HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort connection to deliver those frame rates at 2560×1440 or 1920×1080 resolution.
According to Tom‘s Hardware, Nvidia GPUs can push up to 240Hz refresh rates over DisplayPort 1.4. Great for high FPS esports.
Weigh 120Hz vs 144Hz for serious PC gaming
Gaming monitors for PC esports often go up to 144Hz or 240Hz refresh rates. Especially models with DisplayPort and high-end AMD or Nvidia graphics cards.
PC Mag says 144Hz is a sweet spot between performance and visual smoothness. 240Hz provides diminishing returns unless you‘re a hardcore esports pro.
For example, CS:GO pros may benefit from 240Hz monitors paired with 300 FPS gameplay. But 120-144Hz is plenty for popular AAA games locked at 120 FPS or below.
TVs Known to Support 4K 120FPS Gaming
Here are some current TV models that reviewers have confirmed meet the requirements for 4K 120 Hz gaming:
– **LG CX** – This highly regarded 2020 OLED TV has HDMI 2.1 ports and delivers 4K 120FPS gameplay beautifully with extremely low input lag.
– **Sony X900H** – Sony‘s 2020 4K LED TV lineup includes HDMI 2.1 and variable refresh rate for smooth 4K 120Hz gameplay.
– **Samsung Q80T** – Samsung‘s 2020 4K QLED TVs support 4K 120Hz through their HDMI 2.1 compliant Game Bar interface.
Other features to look for that indicate true 120Hz support include variable refresh rate (VRR), auto low latency mode (ALLM), and motion interpolation up to 120 frames per second.
You can check current model specs on the manufacturer‘s website or consult television review sites like Rtings.com which tests real-world performance for gaming and PC use cases.
Don‘t Be Fooled By Fake “120Hz”
Some televisions advertise a “120Hz” motion rate or “effective refresh rate”. This is achieved through motion interpolation technology that inserts simulated frames between the real frames to give the illusion of smoother motion.
But interpolation doesn‘t allow the TV to accept and display a true 120fps input signal in real time. So don‘t be misled by marketing lingo. Always check for the actual native refresh rate specification.
Cables – Use HDMI 2.1 for 4K 120Hz
To connect devices capable of 4K 120Hz like the latest consoles, you‘ll need certified Ultra High Speed HDMI cables.
Older High Speed HDMI cables are not guaranteed to work properly at the high bandwidth requirements of 4K 120Hz. Using HDMI 2.1 cables ensures you have the headroom to max out what your equipment can handle.
Enable 120Hz Mode in Settings
Once you‘ve confirmed your TV has 120Hz support and an HDMI 2.1 connection, go into settings to enable the maximum performance:
**On a console:**
– Go to video/display settings
– Choose 120Hz output if available
– Disable HDR, chroma subsampling or other features if 120Hz doesn‘t show up
**On a TV:**
– Find picture/video output settings
– Select the HDMI input with the 120Hz device
– Choose the maximum mode like “Enhanced” or “Performance Mode”
This will switch the TV into its 120Hz input/output mode of operation so you can take full advantage of the higher frame rates.
Benefits of VRR and G-SYNC/FreeSync
For the absolute smoothest 120Hz gaming experience, look for TVs that also support variable refresh rate technology (VRR).
VRR features like Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync match the TV‘s refresh rate in real-time to the variable frame rate output of the GPU. This eliminates stuttering and screen tearing while maintaining low input lag.
Having the right television enhances high FPS gaming like never before. By checking your display specifications, HDMI ports, supported resolutions, and implementing the correct settings, you can unleash the full potential of 120 frames per second for an unparalleled smooth and responsive gaming experience.If you‘re a gaming or home theater enthusiast, you‘ve probably heard about televisions with 120Hz refresh rates that can display gameplay up to 120 frames per second (FPS). This high frame rate results in an extremely smooth, responsive, and immersive gaming experience.
But with TV specifications often being unclear or exaggerated, how do you know for sure if a TV can truly support 120 FPS? As a video display technology specialist, I‘ll explain exactly what to look for and how to unlock the full potential of 120Hz gaming.
What Does 120Hz Refresh Rate Mean?
First, let‘s distinguish between a TV‘s refresh rate and frame rate:
– Refresh rate – Measured in Hertz (Hz), this is how many times per second a TV redraws the entire screen. For example, 60Hz = 60 times per second.
– Frame rate – This tells you how many unique consecutive still images are displayed per second to create the illusion of smooth, continuous motion. Movies use 24 FPS, while TV broadcasts typically use 30 FPS or 60 FPS.
So for a TV to show live video at a full 120 FPS, its panel must be able to refresh at an equal 120Hz rate. Otherwise, you won‘t see the full benefit of those extra frames.
Here‘s a comparison of how many new frames various refresh rates can display each second:
|Refresh rate||New frames displayed per second|
With a 120Hz panel, motion looks twice as fluid at 120 FPS versus standard 60 FPS. This matters most for fast-action gameplay – the higher the frame rate, the more precise and responsive the visual experience.
According to studies, going above 120 FPS provides diminishing returns, but every little bit helps for competitive gaming. So 120Hz-144Hz is considered the current sweet spot until display technology further improves.
Why HDMI 2.1 Ports Are Also Essential
Supporting 120Hz input requires not just an internal 120Hz-capable display panel, but also having HDMI 2.1 ports.
See, HDMI 2.1 provides nearly 3x the bandwidth of older HDMI 2.0 ports – up to 48 Gigabits per second (Gbps) versus 18 Gbps. This huge jump in bandwidth gives HDMI 2.1 the capacity to handle 4K resolution at 120 FPS.
By comparison, most HDMI 2.0 ports max out at 4K 60Hz. Some may accept 1440p at 120Hz, but can‘t fully breathe at 4K 120Hz. So for the latest game consoles and PC video cards, you‘ll need HDMI 2.1.
Here‘s a summary of the HDMI versions and their differences:
|HDMI Version||Maximum Bandwidth||Supported Resolutions|
|2.0||18 Gbps||4K 60Hz, 1440p 120Hz|
|2.0a/b||18 Gbps||4K 60Hz, 1440p 120Hz|
|2.1||48 Gbps||4K 120Hz, 8K 60Hz|
So when shopping for a high refresh rate TV, look for multiple HDMI ports rated as HDMI 2.1. Some TVs misleadingly have 120Hz panels with only HDMI 2.0 ports that won‘t provide the full experience you‘re looking for.
Rigorously Testing for True 120Hz Support
How can review sites like Rtings and CNET be sure a TV fully supports 120Hz and isn‘t exaggerating?
Their thorough testing methodology involves:
– Checking internal specs and hardware to confirm a native 120Hz panel, not simulated effective refresh rate.
– Verifying multiple HDMI 2.1 ports that can sustain bandwidth for 4K 120Hz.
– Connecting 120 FPS-capable gaming PCs and consoles to see if they can engage 120Hz mode.
– Using external tools like Leo Bodnar input lag testers to precisely measure signal input vs. display output.
– Evaluating motion clarity in test patterns to see that 120 FPS makes a visible difference over 60 FPS.
This level of hands-on objective testing is needed to cut through marketing claims and validate real-world 120 FPS performance.
Optimal Viewing Distance for 4K 120Hz
To fully appreciate the enhanced clarity and smoothness of 4K 120FPS content, you‘ll want to sit at the ideal viewing distance from the screen based on its size.
Here are the recommended viewing distances according to picture experts THX:
|Screen Size||Optimal Viewing Distance|
Sitting too far outside these recommended distances means you lose perceivable detail and may not discern the full benefit of 120 FPS. So position your gaming TV accordingly to get the most of its capabilities.
Brightness Requirements for HDR
To display HDR content with expanded color and contrast at 120Hz, your TV also needs high enough peak brightness. Look for at least 600 nits for appreciable HDR, with 1000 nits being ideal.
Based on objective lab testing by Rtings, here are some of the brightest 120Hz 4K TVs currently available:
– Samsung QN90B QLED TV – 1672 nits
– Sony X95K QD-OLED TV – 1054 nits
– LG G2 OLED Evo TV – 897 nits
– Sony X90K LED TV – 761 nits
So consider HDR brightness alongside refresh rate when shopping for a premium gaming TV. Higher brightness allows you to truly see benefits like enhanced vividness in shadows and highlights.
Smartphones/Tablets With Fast Refresh Rates
It‘s not just televisions getting buttery smooth 120Hz displays. Many recent high-end smartphones and tablets also support 120 FPS, especially Apple‘s iPhone 13 Pro and iPad Pro lineup.
Here‘s how they compare for mobile gaming:
|iPhone 13 Pro||6.1″ Super Retina XDR OLED||120Hz|
|iPad Pro 12.9″||12.9″ Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED||120Hz|
|Samsung S22 Ultra||6.8″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X||120Hz|
Mobile gamers appreciate how 120Hz smooths out animations, improves touch responsiveness, and takes full advantage of higher frame rate content. It‘s especially important for fast-paced multiplayer titles.
GPU Support for HDMI 2.1
To max out 4K 120Hz from a gaming PC, you‘ll want a video card with HDMI 2.1 outputs. Here are some current-gen AMD and Nvidia GPUs supporting the latest spec:
– AMD Radeon RX 6000 series (6800/6900)
– AMD Radeon RX 7000 series (upcoming)
– Nvidia RTX 30 series (3070/3080/3090)
– Nvidia RTX 40 series (upcoming)
Note that you may need to enable 120Hz mode manually in your GPU control panel and game settings. But pairing these cards with a compatible monitor or TV guarantees you have the full signal chain for buttery smooth 4K 120Hz.
Gaming Monitors for 4K 120FPS
In addition to TVs, desktop PC gamers can benefit from high refresh rate monitors. Popular options include:
– Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX – 32′′ 4K 144Hz mini-LED monitor with HDMI 2.1 and G-Sync
– LG 32GQ950 – 31.5′′ 4K 160Hz nano-IPS monitor with HDMI 2.1 and G-Sync
– Alienware AW3423DW – 34′′ QD-OLED 3440×1440 monitor overclockable to 175Hz with G-Sync
Monitors have more compact screen sizes compared to TVs, so it‘s recommended to sit 1.5x to 2.5x the diagonal screen length for fully appreciating 4K 120Hz visuals.
Benefits of Backlight Strobing
For even clearer motion when gaming at 120 FPS, look for TVs and monitors that support backlight strobing. This black frame insertion technique reduces persistence blur in between frames.
One implementation is Nvidia‘s ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur) which strobes the backlight in sync with the refresh rate. This further enhances clarity of high speed motion to make gameplay feel extremely responsive.
Troubleshooting 4K 120Hz Issues
If you‘re having trouble getting your TV, console and video card to activate 120Hz mode properly, here are some things to check:
– Try using a different certified Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 cable. Poor quality cables can fail at 48Gbps bandwidth.
– Disable HDR, chroma subsampling or other features taking up bandwidth if 120Hz doesn‘t engage.
– Update all firmware on TV and source devices – fixes often improve HDMI 2.1 compatibility.
– Try different HDMI ports in case only some are fully HDMI 2.1 compliant.
– Use compatible display modes like performance/gaming mode to unlock max capabilities.
– Ensure PC GPU driver, Windows display settings, and games are set for 120Hz output.
More 120Hz TV Options Under $1000
While the latest LG OLEDs and Samsung QLEDs offer exceptional 4K 120Hz performance, here are some value options under $1000 based on Rtings input lag testing:
|TV Model||Input Lag @ 4K 120Hz||Price|
|Hisense U7H||5.3 ms||$650|
|TCL R646||7.6 ms||$950|
|Vizio P-Series Quantum||12.7 ms||$900|
These affordable models still provide impressively low input lag for responsive high FPS gaming. The Hisense U7H in particular is a standout budget 4K 120Hz TV.
Some quick troubleshooting tips
If 4K 120Hz isn‘t working as expected, here are some quick troubleshooting steps:
– Confirm you‘re using an Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 certified cable, not an older HDMI version. Many issues stem from inadequate cables.
– Check that your source device and TV firmware is up to date. Updates sometimes enable dormant HDMI 2.1 ports and features.
– Make sure HDMI ports labeled as “Enhanced format” are enabled on your TV and set to the correct format.
– Try a different HDMI port on your TV. Not all ports may support the full HDMI 2.1 feature set.
– If using adapters, remove them. Pass-through adapters can cripple bandwidth.
– Disable HDR if you‘re struggling to get 120Hz. This reduces the overall bandwidth required.
– Adjust chroma subsampling settings to 4:2:0 or lower. Helps maximize throughput for 120Hz.
– Disable CEC device control which can interfere with modes switching properly.
Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to chat more about getting TVs and monitors running buttery-smooth 120Hz and beyond.
Achieving ultra smooth 120 FPS gameplay requires a capable display that can keep up. By understanding native refresh rates, HDMI specifications, ideal viewing distances, and properly configuring settings, you can experience gaming at its most fluid and immersive yet on supporting TVs and monitors.
As display technology continues advancing, even higher refresh rates and frame rates will push the limits of realism. But for buttery smooth visuals today, 120Hz is that sweet spot. I hope this guide has helped equip you with the knowledge to make the most of 120 FPS entertainment. Let me know if you have any other questions!