Slack-Fight: 60Hz AMOLED vs high-refresh rate LCDs

Update: Updated with poll results!
Slack-Fight: 60Hz AMOLED vs high-refresh rate LCDs

In the third edition of our Slack Fight series, I am at a war of words with our German editor Ben. The reason for the fight? Xiaomi’s decision to host a now-deleted poll in which they asked consumers if they prefer a slow 60Hz AMOLED panel or a fast 120Hz LCD on their upcoming Redmi Note 10. The results of the poll, surprising as it may seem to Ben, went (overwhelmingly) in favour of the (slow) AMOLED panel. And Ben, for the life of it, can’t seem to wrap his head around the results. Why would anyone pick a 60Hz display over a superior 120Hz panel?  What is wrong with these people, he asked me repeatedly. One thing led to another, and we decided to fight it out on our favourite worktime past-time: Slack. 

Because Ben really loved the 120hz panel of the S21+, he takes the extreme side in this slack-fight. So he'll defend 120hz panels on budget smartphones while I argue against them.

Anyway, here’s what transpired between Ben and me on Slack on a warm, sunny February evening (atleast in India)!

Update: Who won?

One week after my Slack Fight with Ben, I am here to report to you the results of our in-article poll. Note that the poll ran on two other NextPit domains (German and French) as well where translated versions of this article were also live.

As it turns out, most of you guys agree with me, Rahul, and overwhelmingly prefer 60 Hz AMOLED panels over 120Hz LCDs. In fact, you not only agree with me but also with the results of the Twitter poll held by Xiaomi a few days ago where people from India overwhelmingly voted in favour of an AMOLED panel over an LCD.  In hindsight, it was a well-orchestrated plan by Xiaomi India since now we know that the Redmi Note 10 Pro will indeed feature a 120Hz AMOLED panel anyway!  

A key takeaway from the polls? Most of you guys prefer bright displays with ultra-high contrast more than a potentially ‘smoother’ refresh rate. In fact, many of you even write in our comments that the overall smoothness of 120 Hz panels isn’t THAT visible anyway.

Most of you also seem to agree that OLED panels with 90Hz refresh rate could be a good compromise for budget or mid-range handsets. However, with Xiaomi confirming 120Hz AMOLED on the Redmi Note 10, I am guessing we are already in the era of budget phones with 120 Hz OLED panels.

In addition, you have repeatedly pointed out in the comments that in addition to the frame rate, the touch sampling rate must also be observed. This shows ho well-informed the NextPit community really is and that our members refuse to be blinded by marketing gimmicks and always makes an informed decision before purchasing a new smartphone or gadget!

Read our original article below.

Round 1: Faster is (not) always better

Ben: Hey, Rahul! Did you hear about Xiaomi’s Social-Media-Poll, where they asked about the refresh rate in the new Redmi Note 10? Turns out, 90 per cent of the pollsters prefer a slow AMOLED-Panel over a 120 Hz LCD panel? Are they crazy? Who wants to look at slow displays in 2021?!

Rahul: Really, Ben? You just called more than 8,000 people crazy! If you check the now-deleted poll, you will see that more than 10,000 people voted, of which just 12 per cent voted in favour of a fast LCD panel. Last time I checked, companies make their products based on user feedback and take them very seriously. And the feedback here is overwhelmingly clear –  and in favour of a 60Hz AMOLED panel. Here's an image of the poll (thank god for the screenshots!)

It’s also about time you open your mind to obvious facts. The truth is, people who actually buy these inexpensive phones do not mind having a ‘slow’ AMOLED display over a high refresh rate LC-display. The reasons are many. AMOLED panels are inherently better than LCDs in almost every aspect.

And guess what? Xiaomi is indeed using an AMOLED on the Redmi Note 10 if we are to believe the latest leaks. Democracy FTW and more power to the people!

Ben: I think most of them never saw the advantages of high refresh rates themselves. It's something that can't really be shown via YouTube or media. These refresh-rate-comparisons in slow motion don't really do the fluidity justice. Ever since I used my first 120 Hz panel, every other phone just seemed to be "slower" lists are lagging while scrolling through them, system animation is creeping across the screen and so on. 60 Hertz simply doesn’t cut it in 2021. Do you get me? It’s outdated! 

Rahul: Judgemental much, eh? No one here denies the advantages of high refresh rates. I love them myself. But remember that we are talking about budget handsets here, and most devices that will be presented with his conundrum will be priced below €300. And at that price, there will be compromises made, and it is now evidently clear that the lack of high refresh rate panels doesn’t feel like much of a compromise to consumers in this segment.

And this is also what even I felt a good month before this poll even appeared. 

Remember my Xiaomi Mi10i (Mi10T Lite) review in which I questioned the use of a 120Hz LCD panel on that phone? If you read that review, you will know that I was miffed with Xiaomi’s decision to favour a 120Hz LCD in favour of a standard 60Hz AMOLED because I wasn’t really able to enjoy all the 120Hz goodness because the software experience was choppy.  I was also convinced that the choppy performance was partly because the phone’s ‘mid-range’ hardware had a hard time driving the 120Hz display. 

P1020102
The 120 Hz display experience on the € 300 Mi10i wasn't memorable. It could easily done better with a 60Hz AMOLED panel instead/ © NextPit

So please, save me the talk of all the high refresh rate goodness on budget and affordable smartphones. I will be much happier with a slower AMOLED panel on my €300 or €250 phone that will not only offer me better display quality, viewing angles and brightness levels  – but also consume less battery.

Who do you think won round one?
View results

Round 2: Budget phones need high refresh rate goodness too!

Ben: Good that you mention battery life. Because I agree that when it comes to smartphone displays, higher refresh rates are battery-killers, but I think that's one of the reasons why they really fit into midrange-smartphones. First of all, most phones with 120 Hz panels nowadays come with an adaptive refresh rate, so the phone decides when to boost the frames per second. Also, if you really need to use your phone for a longer period without charging, you can always throttle it yourself to 60 Hz. It's like having more horsepower in a car - most of the times, you don't need it, but when you do, it's really handy!

And secondly, many midrange phones feature huge batteries. Look at the Realme 7i with its 6,000 mAh-battery. Besides, many users charge the phone overnight anyway, even using 120 Hz all the time shouldn't do much harm given that these batteries are big rough to let you use the phones for well over a day.

Rahul: Too bad neither the consumers nor the brands agree with you. Most new budget and mid-range smartphones seem to be increasingly ditching high refresh LCDs in favour of standard 60Hz AMOLEDs - and rightly so. Take the example of the soon to be launched Redmi Note 10 and the Realme X7 (which I am testing right now).

Both the phones, which will be popular among mid-range consumers, use 60Hz AMOLED panels instead of useless high refresh rate LCDs – the advantages of the latter which these consumers will never get to enjoy.  And while it is true that affordable smartphones typically have larger batteries, that doesn’t mean that people who buy these phones aren’t concerned about saving battery at all. 

Also, note that the money saved from sourcing a costly high refresh rate LCD panel (that the user won’t get to enjoy anyway) is instead used to get him actually useful features like faster-charging speeds and, of course, a better AMOLED panel.  Take the example of the Realme X7, which I am using right now. This smartphone skips a 90/120Hz LCD and gets a standard 60 Hz AMOLED panel. But it also supports flagship-level charging speeds of 50W – a feature that is actually useful for consumers and will give them tangible benefits instead of a choppy 120Hz LCD panel that you can occasionally use to its full capability – that too with a compromised experience.

Besides, what is even the point in having a feature that one can’t enjoy to the fullest? High refresh rate LCDs on budget phones, therefore, make no sense - at least in the present scenario. But don’t worry, there is also a rumour that Xiaomi won’t entirely disappoint the high refresh rate+LCD camp and that they will also have an LCD variant of the phone for those who can’t live without a 120Hz panel.

Who won round 2?
View results

Round 3: Is there a middle ground? 

Ben: Maybe AMOLED panels with 90 Hz refresh rate will become the new ‘middle-way’ in the future. This would be optimal, of course. Quick-Charging is a whole different debate; we shouldn't start on that (haha). But I also see a huge difference between the need for fast charging and the attention it gets. Most people charge phones overnight anyways.

That's why I always steer toward high refresh-rates in phones. It's an advantage you see every time you use your phone. And AMOLED-Displays aren't by definition better than LC-Displays. I would've loved to see the "best 120 HZ LCD" that Xiaomi mentioned but if you people want to play it safe, have at it!

Rahul: Well, surprisingly, I sort of agree with you there. 90Hz AMOLED panels could go mainstream on midrange phones soon, given that the cost of high refresh rate AMOLED panels will continue to go down with increasing demand.  But I have already presented you with evidence which indicates that this entire high refresh rate experience on budget phones rarely match their more expensive counterparts – thereby nullifying the need for a seemingly needless feature, at least until future mid-range SoCs become really capable at driving them.

Also, while agreeing with you that most people charge their phones overnight, fast charging will definitely be more useful in cases where you are in dire need of a charge, and you only have a short amount of time to spare. In such scenarios, a short 30-minute charge will give you a days worth of battery. Now, would you prefer having that as an option, or would you rather ‘enjoy’ the choppy, compromised experience of a high refresh rate LCD panel on your €250 smartphone while also draining your battery?

Anyway, let us not continue this discussion, else we might end up doing yet another Slack Fight - this time on fast charging! 

While Xiaomi users who took part in that poll voted overwhelmingly in favour of 60 Hz AMOLED panels instead of a good quality LCD, we would like to know what our audience at NextPit thinks of this entire scenario. Would you rather enjoy the no-frills benefits offered by a 60Hz LCD or want manufacturers to cram in a high refresh rate panel even on their budget and mid-range phones? Do let us know in the comments section below or by casting our votes in the poll below.

What do you prefer on budget smartphones
View results


 

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4 comments

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  • Annabelle Iris 3 months ago Link to comment

    The more the refresh rate the more smoother picture you will have implying that 120hz display will be better than 60hz in case of smoothness. ... While AMOLED displays use individual light emitting components, LCD displays rely on a backlight as the sole light source.


  • Nachiket Mhatre 5 months ago Link to comment

    Looks like poor Ben pulled the short end of the stick.


    • Rahul Srinivas
      • Admin
      • Staff
      5 months ago Link to comment

      He willingly agreed to this. Brave of him!


  • Pierre Aubry 5 months ago Link to comment

    If the 120 Hz experience doesn't work that well on mid-range phones, then that was totally the right decision. Current mid-range phones are known for there huge batteries, so let them play to that strength as much as possible.
    I'm totally for a Slack fight about fast charging. I had a Oneplus 5T with fast charging, and now have a Zenfone 6 with slower charging, yet with battery-care software tools for charging over knight, and I've been OK with both.

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