(Pocket-lint) – One of the big advancements the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S bring to console gaming is 120fps.
While each is primarily designed for stable 4K 60fps playback (1440p60 in the case of the Series S), they are capable of upping the frame rate further. But, what caveats will come with that and what do you even need to play games at their smoothest?
We explain all right here.
What is 120Hz gaming?
Faster frame rates have always been the holy grail for game developers, with certain types of games – shooters, racers, etc – benefitting greatly from the smoothest action possible. More frames per second on screen equates to much smoother presentation and a more responsive gameplay experience.
PC gamers are already au fait with extreme frame rates, with many games having unlocked fps so they can run as well as the hardware allows, but consoles have traditionally attempted to hit 60fps maximum. And, before this generation arrived, most were happy to sit at 30fps. How things have changed.
The latest-gen consoles don’t only offer 60fps as standard on most games, they have the extra graphical grunt to go a step further – up to 120fps. This effectively means that, for every frame you see on a standard Xbox One or PS4 game, you will see at least four on the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S. That results in action, such as a bullet fired from a gun or rival car coming across your bonnet, being shown more accurately and can be reacted to faster.
There are caveats. For starters, even with their graphical prowess, games running at 120fps on next-gen often have to drop resolution (normally to a maximum of 1080p on Xbox Series S and PS5, 1440p on Xbox Series X). Alterntaively, they adopt dynamic resolutions, with the pixel count rising and sinking depending on the scene.
in addition, you will need a TV or monitor with a refresh rate that matches the frame rate of the game. So you need to look out for a display with a refresh rate of 120Hz or more – so the TV can refresh the screen in sync with every frame.
What TV or monitor do I need for 120Hz gaming?
There are plenty of gaming monitors that sport a 120Hz refresh or more. However, there are far fewer TVs – expecially at 4K.
Indeed, only the most recent TVs are capable of 120Hz refresh rates at anything above 1080p. You even have to watch out when it comes to 2021 TVs, as not all support such high frame rates.
LG has partnered with Xbox and therefore has 120Hz on its flagship OLED TVs, Samsung offers the same on some of its QLED range-toppers, while Sony has ensured some of its sets are “PlayStation 5” ready, for obvious reasons. But, not all manufacturers are on board yet.
There are two important factors in this. A TV needs a fast, responsive panel to refresh that quickly and, thus, they have only recently started to trickle onto the market. Plus, to be able to read the signal from either the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, you need at least HDMI 2.0 connectivity (for 1080p at 120fps). Whereas, HDMI 2.1 is mandatory for 4K at 120fps. As we’ve said above, the consoles won’t be pushing 120fps at maximum resolutions that often – not initially anyway.
The best bet is to look at the spec sheet of any TV you are thinking of buying and, while you’re at it, check if the set also has support for variable refresh rates and a low latency mode – they’ll also be handy for next-gen gaming (on the Xbox consoles, anyway).
Here are a few TVs to check out – they are confirmed to support 120Hz refresh rates:
LG C1 OLED
This TV has no fewer than four 120Hz-capable HDMI ports, which can even handle 4K 120fps.
As we say in our review: “The LG C1 is a fantastic TV for gamers, thanks to support for 4K resolution at 120Hz with variable refresh rate support – including Nvidia G-Sync and AMD Freesync. Gameplay is smooth and tear-free, while ALLM automatically switches the TV into the low-latency Game Optimiser mode when a console is detected.”
This Samsung is a decent shout and is the first Mini LED TV on our list. All of its HDMI ports are compatible with 4K 120Hz.
As we say in our review: “Since the QN95A uses an LCD panel, there’s no danger of screen burn. It also offers a host of features aimed at gamers, including VRR for syncing the TV’s refresh rate with the console’s frame rate, thus reducing tearing. There’s also support for 4K at 120Hz, along with AMD Freesync Premium Pro and Nvidia G-Sync compatibility.”
We thought we’d chuck in a 2020 8K TV for good measure, although the ZH8 is only capable of up to 4K at 120fps, rather than the full 8K.
As we say in our initial review, it’s a full array LED TV, which means it comes with a full backlight arrangement that makes for great black levels and superb contrast. It naturally comes with Dolby Vision and Atmos, which are both important aspects of the Xbox Series X and S at least.
How can I check if my TV has 120Hz?
One way to check if your current set has a 120Hz input and screen refresh rate (if it doesn’t say in the manual) is to plug a decent PC or laptop into its most advanced HDMI port and either run a game at the highest frame rate possible or head to a refresh rate checking website through a browser, such as testufo.com.
If you already own one of the consoles, you can find out in their respective display settings. The tend to list the different refresh rates and resolutions your TV is compatible with, including 4K at 120Hz and 1080p at 120Hz.
Top PS4 games 2021: Best PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro games every gamer must own
In all honesty, if your TV is more than two years old, it’s not that likely anyway.
What else do I need to remember?
You should also ensure that your HDMI cables are high bandwidth enough to carry a 1080p/4K 120Hz signal.
Any cable listed as HDMI 2.1 will be fine. And, of course, the cables that come with your new next-gen console.
And finally, if you do run your source equipment through an AV receiver, that has to be 120Hz-capable too. Denon, Marantz and Yamaha each range AVRs that are 120Hz-enabled.
Writing by Rik Henderson. Originally published on .