Should I Buy a 240Hz TV to Watch Sports?

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Q I went to Best Buy looking for a TV with the highest possible refresh rate. (I like to watch sports.)

The salesperson there explained to me that buying a 240Hz TV would —be a waste of money since there are no broadcasts with that frame rate—TV networks, cable, and satellite providers all transmit either 60Hz or 120Hz signals. He also said that if a set receives a signal that doesn’t match from its native refresh rate (240 Hz, for example), it can’t convert it. Was the salesman right, or I should follow through with my initial plan to buy a 240Hz set? —Nelson Aleman

A The BB salesman was right about one thing: there isn’t any 240 frames-per-second (fps) content available via network TV, cable, satellite, or any other source for that matter. Where he tripped up is in telling you that program providers transmit 120 fps content (not true), and that if a TV receives a signal that’s different from its native refresh rate, it won’t be able to convert it. Let’s dive into that last point.

Most TVs are spec’d as having either a 60 Hz, 120 Hz, or 240 Hz refresh rate. When the set receives a lower fps signal, it will either duplicate existing frames in the source to match its native refresh rate (e.g., each frame is duplicated 5x to hit 120Hz with 24 fps movies on Blu-ray), or interpolate them, creating new “in-between” images from the information contained in adjacent frames. (This latter setting is the cause of the Soap Opera Effect with film-based content, though it doesn’t have the same impact on video-originated programming like sports.)

Bottom line: You’re on the right track in seeking out a TV with a high refresh rate for sports, since that’s exactly the type of content that could benefit from it. Having said that, I’ll add two caveats: 1) the blur-busting effects of interpolation processing aren’t nearly as dramatic as TV makers would have you believe; 2) the performance differences between 120 Hz and 240 Hz displays are similarly elusive.

utopianemo's picture

Mr. Griffin,
When you said "The blur-busting effects of interpolation processing aren’t nearly as dramatic as TV makers would have you believe", is it because an interpolated frame between two frames that are filmed in motion(and thus blurry) will just be an interpolated blurry frame?

Al Griffin's picture
What I meant when I said "The blur-busting effects of interpolation processing aren’t nearly as dramatic as TV makers would have you believe" is that the effect of interpolation on video-sourced 60 fps content like a hockey game on ESPN-HD is very subtle. And yes, if motion blur exists in the original 24 fps film frames, any "tween" frames created via interpolation will also contain blur. You need high-frame rate image capture such as Peter Jackson used for The Hobbit to eliminate (or at least reduce) motion blur.
EnergySpeakerFanatic's picture

Wouldn't the best bet be getting a plasma tv? They have a "natural" refresh rate of 600Hz. Plus, even if it's on a rare occasion, wouldn't it be nice to have the best possible picture quality for movies? Come to think of it; isn't a plasma tv the best choice regardless of how you want to use your tv?

jnemesh's picture

Sorry, but Plasma sets do NOT have a 600hz refresh rate. They have a 600hz "sub field drive", which is different from the refresh rate. They started marketing 600hz in an effort to show you a big number on the box, rightfully assuming that the average consumer would confuse this with refresh rate. The 600hz sub field drive DOES mean that even with fast motion, ALL 1080 lines of resolution are fully resolved...some sets will only display 540 lines when there is motion...but again, this has nothing to do with refresh rate.

Plasma IS inherently better than LCD, however, in latency. Latency is how long it takes a pixel to revert to it's "rest" state after power is applied. Typical latency on an LCD panel is around 1-8ms (on a GOOD panel) low at 35ms on a bad (or older) one. By refreshing at a higher rate, you are mitigating the blurring effect of this latency by ACTIVELY controlling the pixels, instead of waiting for them to return to "rest" after power is removed from the pixel.

Plasma sets, however, have a latency of less than one PICOsecond! So you have no inherent blurring due to the latency of the pixels...hence, most plasma sets actually refresh at plain old 60hz (what is typically broadcast for TV).

That being said...Plasma TVs are essentially dead. Panasonic stopped making them, as did Samsung. Even though they were the better technology, the last year, one of Samsung's reps told me that they only represented about 6% of TV sales.

However...there are enough improvements on LED/LCD technology happening to make me not mourn the "death" of plasma too much. The newer "JS" series Samsung sets are flat out incredible looking. ACTIVE LED BACKlighting (as opposed to edge lit displays), give the top end JS9500 series incredible black levels and contrast. HDR gives the set the ability to display more lifelike contrasts between light and dark scenes, and improved detail in the shadows. And the "nanocrystal color" (also called "Quantum Dot") is an amazing improvement in the colors that can be displayed. Not to mention the UHD (4k) resolution, which plasma never was able to achieve.

Speakerboy30's picture

First setep, walk out of Best Buy. Second, look up a local store that specializes in A/V. Third, go there to shop for TV's and Audio from now on.

EnergySpeakerFanatic's picture

Easier said than done. There may not be any aroun. If that's not an option, I would go onto reputable websites like this one, cnet, etc. and look at reviews. I do this before I buy anything av related. It's a big purchase, usually, and I want to do as much research as possible before I invest a lot of money on any new gear.

jnemesh's picture

What city are you in? I may be able to help you find a knowledgeable dealer.

EnergySpeakerFanatic's picture

I have a few in my area. My point is not everybody does. Especially in this market, if you don't have an AV store around you, you gotta do the reasearch yourself. Podcasts help a lot, along with the aforementioned websites. Compare reviews and see what the consensus is. That's how I decided on the Panasonic VT60. Countless research on websites and podcasts all agreed on the quality of the T.V. and I'm super thrilled with my purchase.

jnemesh's picture

The problem isn't that some areas don't have AV professionals, but that most don't have retail storefronts. The overwhelming majority of custom installation pros don't...but Google is a wonderful thing.

Now, if you are just buying a display, you probably don't need to hire someone to help you, and can find advice and reviews to help you as you did. However, I can't stress enough the importance of hiring a professional if you are going "whole hog" and doing a dedicated theater, home automation, lighting control, or basically anything more than a stand alone TV and soundbar! It's a pretty deep rabbit hole to fall down, and there are MANY pitfalls that a pro will help people avoid. That isn't to say that some people can't do it all themselves, but, in general, unless you are REALLY into doing it yourself, you will save both time and money hiring someone who knows what they are doing.

And I agree, you purchased a truly EXCELLENT set in the VT60! Glad you got one before Panasonic killed off their plasma business!

mikem's picture

I have a Panny plasma and a college 'football-aholic,' and I've never had a problem with fast action/motion images, or any other source material. That said, almost any tv at any price, can be made to look horrendous, either by willful intent, or lack of knowledge re: best picture. My set was reviewed by Tom Norton and I use his settings to calibrate the picture. I might add that it doesn't hurt to have a Darbee processor. I have an external(Darblet) one for my sat, and an Oppo 103D for bluray. Used conservatively, the Darbee "lifts off the veil" from any source without adding any extraneous noise - unless you crank up the settings.

Penrynca's picture

My Samsung pn58a550s just went kaput after just 6 years. $850 to repair so I'm in the market. Looking at the Sony 65 inch x850b and the Samsung 2015 uhd sets. Can anyone give a recommendation on the best set for the money (both are in the $2200 range. Or better to wait another 2-3 months for all the 2015 sets to get to the market? HELP!

jnemesh's picture

Sorry to hear your set broke on you! Actually, though, most new models are already out...typically models refresh in late Spring/early Summer. So the brand new sets have only been out for a month or two. Also, the prices have dropped DRAMATICALLY on the new Samsung sets just in the past week, so your timing is pretty good on that front.

Now, I will admit up front that I am not as familiar with Sony's new offerings...I work for a distributor that handles Samsung, so I can speak to those sets. I HAVE seen the Sony flagship next to a Samsung, though, and, in my opinion, Samsung has the edge in picture quality. Sony IS better on the control if you need a set with RS-232 control or IP control with a 3rd party automation system (Crestron, RTI, etc), I would go that route. If you don't, then I would recommend Samsung.

I would HIGHLY recommend stretching your budget by a little. If you can spend $2999, go with the UN65JS8500. This is the thinnest Samsung set made, at 1.2 inches, and it has the new "nanocrystal" (or Quantum Dot) technology...which means that the set has dramatically better color than the lesser models. It also supports HDR (High Dynamic Range), which means, with compatible content, you will see a LOT more detail in the shadows, as well as significantly wider contrast range between the darkest darks and the brightest parts of the makes the picture much closer to what you see in reality. Amazon video, Netflix, and the new UHD Blu-Rays coming this fall will all support HDR as well as the enhanced range of color that the "JS" series is capable of.

If you simply can't go to $2999, then I would recommend the UN65JU7100, which just dropped to $2499. It doesn't have the "nanocrystal" color, nor the HDR support, but is still an overall good picture.

I would AVOID any of the 6000 series sets. These are built just to meet a price point, and often, corners get cut (like the quality of the power supply).

Hope this helps you...reply back if you have any other questions, I will do my best to help answer them!