High refresh rates seem to be the new battleground for mobile display tech – but do you actually care? Naturally, gaming phones were the first to adopt this feature (starting with the Razer Phone in 2017), now it has crossed over to mainstream flagships.
Last year 90Hz was pretty popular, this year the industry is moving to 120Hz. We know that the Samsung Galaxy S20 and the OnePlus 8 phones will sport 120Hz displays. Xiaomi even demoed 144Hz overclock for the Redmi K30 5G’s 120Hz screen (just inside the lab, this mode hasn’t been officially released to consumers).
Enabling a high refresh rate in the hardware is only half of the equation, the other half is content. Razer maintains a list of games with 120Hz support, but that is not enough so phone companies are taking a page out of the TV maker’s playbook.
If you’ve seen high-quality TVs, you’re no stranger to MEMC. We’ve created a custom MEMC chip that can push ordinary 30fps video up to 120, so any video gets the full advantage of our 120Hz Fluid Display. pic.twitter.com/YPD3fw5uOn
— Pete Lau (@PeteLau) January 16, 2020
OnePlus is touting motion smoothing, which will interpolate 30fps video to 120fps using a dedicated MEMC chip (“Motion Estimation/Motion Compensation”). That’s not new, the ZTE Axon 9 Pro featured MEMC tech back in 2018 (“Axon Vision”), though that only worked on a 60Hz screen (and thus interpolated to 60fps). Maybe MEMC on a 120Hz screen will be live-changing or maybe it will look just as bad as it does on TVs (which already commonly have 120Hz or even 240Hz panels).
Motion smoothing just doesn’t have good reputation. Among consumers it is known as the “soap opera effect”, Hollywood movie makers hate it even more. Is this all a gimmick? Especially since these high refresh modes often come with limitations.
For example, the Pixel 4 phones needed the brightness set high for 90Hz to work and now we’re hearing that the Galaxy S20 phones won’t support 1440p at 120Hz mode, instead dropping down to 1080p rendering.
So, will high refresh rate screens influence your buying decisions in 2020?