90Hz vs 60Hz displays: do people actually see the difference?

90Hz vs 60Hz displays: do people actually see the difference?
When looking at the latest and best smartphones, it is easy to think that display technology can't get any better than this. Yet only next year, it does. A newer model comes along bringing a screen that's even sharper, clearer, or more color accurate than anything before it. 

However, a better screen isn't only one with more pixels or higher brightness. Recently, we've been seeing smartphone makers pushing the boundaries of mobile screen technology by adopting screens with higher refresh rates – a specification that hasn't been getting much attention until now. 

A display's refresh rate is the rate at which visual information on it is updated vertically. For most screens, that happens 60 times per second, hence at a rate of 60Hz. But the screens of some newer phones can go up to 90 or even 120Hz. This makes movement look smoother, as all of us here in the office can confirm, having seen the 90Hz display on the new OnePlus 7 Pro

But here's the thing: we're tech journalists and enthusiasts. We live and breathe hardware; we pay attention to specs and know what they mean; we notice things that most normal people wouldn't. And for the past few days, I've been wondering: can normal people see the difference 90Hz makes without knowing about it?

Can ordinary people appreciate the extraordinary display on the OnePlus 7 Pro?


To us, the answer seems obvious. Anyone here at the office can clearly see that the OnePlus 7 Pro looks smoother at 90Hz. With normal people, however, things are quite different. 

Several days ago, I took the OnePlus 6T (60Hz) and the OnePlus 7 Pro (set to 90Hz), then I showed the two phones side by side to 10 people outside of the PhoneArena office. After confirming that none of them were familiar with the 7 Pro, I asked them a simple question: "Do these two screens look different?" I let them play with the two for at least a few minutes while taking down notes on their reactions.

The answers to my question were mostly comments on qualities like contrast, colors, resolution, and sharpness. Surprisingly...


I wasn't happy with these results. Perhaps my approach was incorrect, and maybe the question I was asking was leading people to focusing on evaluating screen qualities I wasn't interested in. That's why for the second round of my testing, I showed only the OnePlus 7 Pro to the same 10 people, and to avoid distractions, I let them only scroll up and down in the Calendar app. After a minute or so, I asked them to turn around, switched the screen's refresh rate setting – without explaining what I was doing, of course – and let them scroll for another minute. The results were quite different this time around:


So, can normal people see the difference between a 60Hz and a 90Hz display refresh rate setting? Unfortunately, it's hard to give a definite "yes" or "no" answer based on the mixed results from my quick experiment, especially since I didn't have two OnePlus 7 Pro units to show side by side. It looks like a higher refresh rate is something that people can see – but most don't notice it until you point it out to them. Perhaps they do perceive a difference in smoothness but can't consciously realize that this somehow has a subtle positive impact on their experience.

On the other hand, I am confident in saying that a screen with a high refresh rate is nice having, but it's clearly not that big of a deal to non-nerds. It's like making crème brûlée with vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. Yes, you do get a higher-grade final product, but only some people would truly appreciate the effort – and we all know that anyone would clean the bowl with either recipe.

Related phones

7 Pro
  • Display 6.7" 1440 x 3120 pixels
  • Camera 48 MP / 16 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 4000 mAh(34h talk time)

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52 Comments

1. shield

Posts: 824; Member since: Sep 12, 2015

120Hz is better

7. iloveapps

Posts: 715; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Yes, ipad pro has it. It’s noticeable

11. vgking9699

Posts: 171; Member since: Mar 01, 2019

Loving my 144hz laptop lol

22. RayrayRay

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 01, 2019

Sony has a TV set that has a 240 refresh rate Don't tell me that anyone can see it !

28. rubyonrails3

Posts: 372; Member since: Oct 01, 2014

I doubt that is true.

48. XyAzario

Posts: 35; Member since: Mar 15, 2019

I'm in love with my 360Hz 2025 Galaxy phone.

2. User123456789

Posts: 666; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

People celebrate 90 when other brands use 120 for years

16. yalokiy

Posts: 923; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Which smartphones had 120hz for years besides razer phone?

29. Larry_ThaGr81

Posts: 589; Member since: May 26, 2011

Sharp Aquos R3, Sharp Aquos Crystal, Sony XZ Premium, Sony Xperia 1, Razor Phone, Razor Phone 2 to name a few.

36. gavilan355

Posts: 59; Member since: Mar 19, 2015

you and the other person are wrong, phone companies haven't been making 120hz screens for "years" only recently. All the phones you mentioned either came out this year and the oldest is the Sony Xperia 1 which came out 2 years ago - which doesn't qualify as coming out "years ago" also the Sharp Aquos Crystal did not have a 120hz screen

51. Matte_Black13

Posts: 12; Member since: Oct 12, 2018

Actually by being plural (2) the phones has in fact been using 120Hz for YEARS, so it's applicable.

41. matistight

Posts: 956; Member since: May 13, 2009

We have gone over this many times. Sharp phones aren't in the US. Sony phones can do 120hz, but have it disabled. Razer Phone and the 2 have 120hz, but the 1st was weakkkkkk. Haven't tested the 2 though.

44. cheetah2k

Posts: 2198; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

The XZ premium didnt have it able to be enabled, or on by default. You had to run a modified kernel - and those that tried it said the results were inconsistent as it only worked on 1080P.. so I would debunk that one. Maybe the correct statement for that phone would be "120hz capable"....

46. yalokiy

Posts: 923; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Phones that can do it but have it disabled don't count.

47. yalokiy

Posts: 923; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Sharp Aquos R3 = released in 2019 just a month or two ago. Sharp Aquos Crystal = it doesn't have it. Sony XZ Premium = disabled, doesn't count. Sony Xperia 1 = released in 2019 Razor Phone = I've mentioned it already Razor Phone 2 = less than one year old

30. rubyonrails3

Posts: 372; Member since: Oct 01, 2014

People don't like LCD much in smartphones nowadays so yes it's thing to rejoice on 90Hz on AMOLED.

3. dimas

Posts: 3324; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

There's an obvious difference when using 90hz but if it will make me a wall-hugger, forget it. I can do my documents and take calls in regular fps so this 90hz should be a feature for most buyers.

42. matistight

Posts: 956; Member since: May 13, 2009

Wall hugger? I notice a 5-10% battery difference when having 90hz on. Not wall hugger material. Plus with Warp charging, more like wall slapper than a hugger.

4. afrohoxha

Posts: 232; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

Victor told us Samsung should replace s-pen with a 90 hz display.

5. japkoslav

Posts: 1465; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

90Hz vs 60Hz displays: do people actually see the difference? They do, end of discussion.

10. Bankz

Posts: 2514; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Meh, only when you out them side by side. But even still, 120hz is where it's at, if at all.

18. japkoslav

Posts: 1465; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

"Where it is" is at your limit and that is not 90, 120, 240 etc. most of the people can see a real diference even at 300+ Hz. 120 is pathetic compared to what you can actually see. This is what you can safely say, bigger number = better.

43. matistight

Posts: 956; Member since: May 13, 2009

If you can't see the difference in 90hz, you may be intoxicated. Even then, you can tell the difference.

26. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1313; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

60Hz should be default system setting and anything higher should only be used when it matters. Right now it really only matters in gaming but only if the higher refresh rate can be consistently maintained.

32. rsiders

Posts: 1898; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

The OnePlus 7 Pro dynamically changes based on what you're doing if I'm not mistaken. Still averaging 6 and a half and up of screen on time with no added efforts on my part.

6. Sparkxster

Posts: 1198; Member since: Mar 31, 2017

There's a difference between 90hz and 60hz but it's not as significant as going from 60hz to 120hz. 120hz is were it's at.

8. DFranch

Posts: 526; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

I switched to 60hz right off the bat. I'd rather have the extra battery life.

31. Larry_ThaGr81

Posts: 589; Member since: May 26, 2011

The 90hz refresh is more like gimmick because there's very little support for it at this time.

33. rsiders

Posts: 1898; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

I leave mine on 90hz and still get over 6 and a half hours SOT daily and got over 8 yesterday. Adaptive brightness and the auto screen resolution switch will keep the lights on.

9. Jason2k13

Posts: 1451; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

There is a difference, but to the public 90% won't notice the difference unless you point it out it becomes to 50%.

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