Sony with its XBR series and Samsung with its latest lines, have led a whole host of other LCD manufacturers in producing picture quality you can get addicted to.

You may have thought your TV with its 60 Hz refresh rate was a pretty good set. About a year ago, 60 or 70 Hz was the standard; the latest 120 Hz refresh rate is almost twice as fast. But is the picture twice as good?

The refresh rate is the number of times the TV screen refreshes the image each second. A rate of 120 Hz means that the image on the screen is refreshed 120 times in one second. For the 2008 line of TVs, the hottest feature of the season is the refresh rate.

The higher the refresh rate, the lower the flickering   making TV viewing easier on your eyes. This means that the images, when they refresh at a higher rate, are smoother. The 120 Hz refresh rate also helps to reduce motion blur   a pesky feature that sometimes occurs with LCD televisions. Motion blur can cause some discoloration around images that are moving quickly or make things blurry when the action picks up.

Aside from those two features, the 120 Hz refresh rate doesn t do much more on its own to  help picture quality. However, LCD manufacturers have combined the 120 Hz refresh rate with video processing software and the two together smooth out all the content on your TV screen. This smoother picture is noticeably different when put up next to other models without these features.

The average viewer may not notice this difference until that football game you re watching on your Samsung 650 gets to fast-paced action; with the 120 Hz, everything looks more realistic. Players or fast moving numbers (like the clock counting down the final seconds of the game in the corner of your screen) don t get blurry. Or when the energy-packed action of The Dark Knight just flows smoothly on your Sony XBR6, 7 or 8.

It s especially noticeable when the camera pans over breathtaking vistas, like the ones in The Chronicles of Narnia. Experts have found the difference can be addictive. The smooth motion with the clear-cut images gives a depth to the scenes that surpasses picture quality of all the models that have come before.

So what does this all mean to you, the average TV consumer? These newer XBR models are bringing in better picture quality for a better deal. If you re in the market for a new LCD television that will stay current longer, go with the 120 Hz. The slower refresh rates and lower pixels look noticeably different and your eyes will be begging you to go with something faster.

The future looks even smoother with new models like the Sony XBR8 rumored to have a 240 Hz refresh rate. It sounds like it will really be something, but we ll have to wait to see what the difference will look like before we pass judgement.

See which TVs will give you a smoother picture with Top Ten Reviews best LCD TVs on the market today.  

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