- The latest-gen consoles, such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, offer up to 120fps for smoother gameplay, but with caveats like dropping resolution or adopting dynamic resolutions.
- To take advantage of 120Hz gaming, you need a TV or monitor with a refresh rate of 120Hz or more, and HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 connectivity for different resolutions.
- Check if your current TV has a 120Hz input and screen refresh rate by plugging in a PC or laptop with a high frame rate game or using the display settings on the consoles themselves. HDMI cables with high enough bandwidth, listed as HDMI 2.1, are also necessary.
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 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 a 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 this generation often have to drop resolution (normally to a maximum of 1080p on Xbox Series S, and 1440p on PS5 and Xbox Series X). Alternatively, 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, in order for the TV to 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, but TVs have only really started to support high frame rate technology in the last couple of years. And, even then, it tends to be at the higher end of the scale.
Only the top-of-the-line TVs are generally capable of 120Hz refresh rates at anything above 1080p. You even have to watch out when it comes to the models in shops right now.
LG has partnered with Xbox and has therefore had 120Hz on its flagship OLED TVs for a while, Samsung offers the same on many of its QLED range-toppers, while Sony has ensured some of its sets are “PlayStation 5” ready, for obvious reasons. We can vouch for Panasonic and Philips too.
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 (ALLM) – they’ll also be handy for this generation of gaming.
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. They tend to list the different refresh rates and resolutions your TV is compatible with, including 4K at 120Hz and 1080p at 120Hz.
In all honesty, if your TV is more than three years old, it’s not that likely anyway.
What else do I need to remember?
You should also ensure that your HDMI cables have high enough bandwidth 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 latest-gen console are compatible.
And finally, if you do run your source equipment through an AV receiver, that has to be 120Hz-capable too. Denon, Marantz and Yamaha are among the companies that range AVRs that are 120Hz-enabled.