Refresh rate versus motion rate – it‘s an important debate for anyone buying a new TV or computer monitor. But what‘s the real difference, and which one is better for you? Grab a snack and get comfy as we dive into a full comparison of these two crucial metrics.
A Quick Intro to Refresh Rate and Motion Rate
Before we get too deep into the nitty gritty details, let‘s ensure we have a solid grasp of exactly what refresh rate and motion rate refer to:
Refresh Rate – The number of times per second a display "refreshes" to show a new image. For example, a 60Hz refresh rate means the screen re-draws the image 60 times per second.
Motion Rate – A marketing term coined by companies like Samsung to represent enhancements that improve motion clarity on displays. It‘s often stated as double the actual refresh rate.
Seems simple enough at first glance. But there‘s more than meets the eye with these two terms, so let‘s explore further.
The Science Behind Refresh Rates
Refresh rate has been around since the early days of television and computer displays. The concept itself is easy to visualize – screens show a rapid sequence of still images to create the illusion of smooth, ongoing video and animation.
But how exactly does this work? Here‘s a quick science lesson:
Displays use millions of tiny pixels to create images. Pixels are the tiny dots of color that make up what you see on any digital screen.
To display video or animation, displays light up these pixels to show a single still image frame.
After a brief delay, it turns those pixels off, and lights up the next "frame" of the video sequence.
This cycle happens incredibly fast – usually 30 to 240 times per second. Too slow, and video looks jagged. Too fast, and it‘s overkill.
The speed of this continuous cycle of displaying, erasing, and redrawing each still frame is the refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz).
So in a nutshell, refresh rate is how fast a display can show new still images to create the illusion of smooth, ongoing video and animation. The faster the better!
Now let‘s look at what motion rate is all about…
Introducing Motion Rate
In 2016, Samsung introduced a new specification called Motion Rate when marketing their TVs and displays. This built on the familiar refresh rate specification that buyers already understood.
The idea was to represent how well a display handled motion clarity. This included capabilities like:
Processing video framerates higher than the fixed refresh rate
Inserting black frames between content to reduce motion blur
Smoothing video by generating extra simulated frames
By encompassing the display‘s overall capabilities, not just refresh rate, Motion Rate aimed to better represent how smoothly video and motion would appear in real-world use.
However, in practice Motion Rate numbers are not directly comparable or equal to refresh rate:
Motion Rate numbers are typically double the actual refresh rate of a display. For example, a "240Hz Motion Rate" TV likely only has a native 120Hz panel hardware limit.
It represents software enhancements that supplement refresh rate. But it does not equate to raw, fixed refresh rate capabilities.
In short, Motion Rate encompasses a display‘s overall motion handling including refresh rate. But the Motion Rate number itself does not reveal the panel‘s true native refresh rate limit. It‘s an apples-to-oranges comparison.
Refresh Rate vs. Motion Rate Comparison
Now that we understand what each term represents, let‘s compare them head-to-head across some key factors:
Refresh rate is fixed and limited by a display‘s hardware capabilities. For example, a 120Hz panel cannot surpass 120Hz capabilities.
Motion rate represents supplemental processing, not native limits. A "240Hz Motion Rate" TV still maxes out at 120Hz panel hardware.
Refresh rate is clearly measured in Hz and has been an industry standard for decades.
Motion rate methodology varies by manufacturer. Numbers may inflate refresh rate to sound more appealing to buyers.
A higher refresh rate directly results in smoother, sharper native video clarity.
Motion rate features like frame insertion and smoothing can boost clarity, but aren‘t universally beneficial. They can sometimes result in a manipulated "soap opera" effect.
Refresh rate matters most for gaming, 3D visualization, VR, and other applications needing raw, lag-free clarity.
Motion rate features offer the most benefit for live TV, sports, and cinematic film sources with lower frame rates.
Refresh rate is a universal, transparent standard for all manufacturers.
Motion rate is not consistently implemented across brands. Methods vary and metrics can be inflated or misleading.
Key Refresh Rate Facts and Stats
Refresh rate has been the undisputed standard for measuring display performance for decades. Here are some key facts and statistics that highlight the importance of refresh rate:
1936 – The first TVs had a refresh rate of just 30Hz, establishing the baseline still used for filmed content today.
120Hz – Modern HDTVs and monitors now commonly support up to 120Hz for smoother clarity.
480Hz – Cutting edge displays used for scientific visualization can exceed 480Hz refresh rates.
>1ms response time – The fastest modern 120Hz displays can fully refresh in less than 1 millisecond, compared to 16ms for early 60Hz TVs.
85% of PC gamers – Report a minimum 120Hz or 144Hz display is required for an optimal experience.
2X to 5X performance – Esports players experience up to 5X better K/D ratios with 240Hz vs. 60Hz displays.
As these facts show, refresh rate has a dramatic impact on image clarity and performance. Selecting a display with an appropriate refresh rate for your needs is critical.
When Does Motion Rate Help?
Motion rate features offer benefits in the right scenarios, even though they don‘t increase fixed refresh rates. Here are the main cases where motion rate shines:
Slow Frame Rate Content
Today‘s movies and TV shows are often filmed at 24 or 30 FPS. On a 120Hz display, a 30FPS video can‘t fully utilize all that bandwidth. Motion rate features like frame insertion help smoothly interpolate the slower content between refresh cycles.
Sports and Live TV
Motion rate enhancing technologies especially help fast-motion sports and news look their best. The human eye tracks extremely well, so any artifacts are obvious. Frame insertion and smoothing keeps motion looking crisp.
Reducing Eye Strain
Higher refresh displays eliminate flicker, which reduces eye fatigue. But for those still using 60Hz monitors, motion rate techniques can optimize motion flow to minimize strain over long viewing periods.
Enhancing Film Content
Motion rate‘s ability to simulate frames gives filmed movies and cinema a different, smoother look compared to broadcast television footage. Many viewers enjoy this effect for certain content types.
Finding the Right Balance
At this point, you hopefully have a solid understanding of the core differences between refresh rates and motion rate features. But which one matters most for choosing your next TV or monitor?
As with most things in tech, the ideal option depends on your specific needs:
For gaming, simulation, VR, or applications needing absolute crisp clarity, focus on refresh rate as the core metric. 120Hz or 240Hz will make a big difference.
For mixed TV, movie, and gaming usage, seek out displays with great native refresh rates first, then examine motion rate features as secondary bonuses.
For video buffs wanting the ultimate smooth playback, motion rate technologies may provide an edge. But don‘t ignore refresh rate – a 60Hz panel can still limit potential.
Advances like variable refresh rate monitors offering both high refresh rates and motion rate smoothing also provide compelling options for mixed usage.
The bottom line – analyze your needs, be aware of the difference between real refresh rates and marketing fluff, and find the right balance to maximize your experience.
I hope this overview has helped explain the core distinctions between refresh rate and motion rate in TVs and monitors. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!