If you haven’t heard about it from literally every other outlet on the planet, Prime Day begins today, capitalism’s annual ritual when Amazon stuffs every worker into a locker and steals lunch money. While most of the promotion is complete bullshitthere is the occasional diamond in the rough, such as a rare TV with a variable refresh rate (VRR) feature.
Wait, what the hell does “variable refresh rate” mean?
Uh huh, I know. At first it was “teraflops”. Then it was “solid-state drives”. This generation of consoles is really turning us all into tech geniuses!
Simply put, “refresh rate” refers to the rate per second at which the screen is updated, much like the frame rate of a gaming console. Think of it this way: a modern gaming console like PlayStation 5 from Sony or Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, typically creates 60 individual images or frames per second. You will need a screen that updates 60 times per second to match this.
The math is as simple as it gets, even one-to-one matching; a 60Hz display can display 60fps, a 120Hz display can display 120fps, etc. (though hopefully not too much far away, because a world where 240 fps is the standard seems to be stomach churning).
If the refresh rate of the TV and the frame rate of the console match, you get a smooth picture. But come on, you were playing the modern game. You know that the frame rate is not always stable. TVs that don’t have variable refresh rates aren’t fully equipped to do this.
A display with a static refresh rate – one that stays locked at, say, 60Hz or 120Hz – is prone to lag, judder, screen tearing, and other visual quirks. However, the one with variable speed can automatically match the frame output from the game console. Let’s say you play Avengers Marvel or some other buggy game and the frame rate drops below the plinth. A TV with a static refresh rate of 60Hz still updates 60 times per second. However, a TV with VRR will adjust on the fly to make sure the screen matches the image your game console is broadcasting. Variable refresh rate doesn’t completely prevent any visual glitches, but it does allow for on-screen display path smoother picture than on a standard screen.
Variable refresh rate is a fairly common feature on high-end PC displays these days, but it’s less common on most living room TVs. Even worse, many variable refresh rate TVs cost, I don’t know, almost 10 percent of the monthly rent for a studio apartment in today’s market.
One of these TVs is LG OLED B1. Right now, it’s down 37 percent for Prime Day, a promotion run by a company that routinely violates anti-union laws, at least according to documents from National Labor Relations Board. LG’s OLED screen is widely regarded as one of the best gaming TVs on the market. It’s also – and it pains me to type this – almost $2,200 for a 77-inch model.
At the opposite end is TCL 6 Series QLED. The 65-inch model currently retails for $700 for Prime Day. It’s not as flashy as LG’s top-of-the-line display, but it does the job. (I have a similar TCL TV at home, but without a variable refresh rate. That’s… normal.)
After all, you are not need TV with VRR. But nice to have.