Skip to main content

Chrome OS is picking up support for variable refresh rates, but there's a catch

Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook
Lenovo Duet 5 (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google is rolling out support for variable refresh rate output with the latest Chrome OS 101 Dev Channel release.
  • The new feature isn't live by default, but it can be enabled through a flag.
  • VRR promises a smooth gaming experience, but Chromebook owners will likely need an external display to use it.

When it comes to gaming, Chromebooks lag far behind PCs and MacBooks, but they may be catching up. Google appears to be testing variable refresh rates (VRR) support in the most recent Chrome OS 101 Dev Channel release.

According to About Chromebooks (opens in new tab), the latest experimental feature can be accessed by enabling a flag (chrome://flags#enable-variable-refresh-rate). Its most obvious use case is in gaming, where it allows your computer’s display to match the refresh rate of whatever is playing on the screen.

It's a widely useful feature, especially for gamers. For starters, VRR promises a smoother gaming experience by syncing the refresh rate of your display with the graphics processor's frames-per-second output. It also helps eliminate screen tearing.

However, many of the best Chromebooks (opens in new tab) currently do not have a display that supports a variable refresh rate. This means you'll likely end up needing an external display to make use of the latest feature.

Its flag description clearly indicates that you can only enable the "variable refresh rate (Adaptive Sync) setting for capable displays."

That said, the addition of VRR support to Chrome OS is a strong indication that Google is keen on turning Chromebooks into gaming powerhouses. Most recently, the search giant revealed that Steam would arrive on Chrome OS (opens in new tab) soon. Steam support is already planned for a number of Chromebooks (opens in new tab) as well, including some Acer and ASUS models.

We've previously seen evidence that Google is working on incorporating a gaming-style RGB keyboard (opens in new tab) into an upcoming Chromebook model.

The new experimental flag might spark hope for future Chromebooks natively integrating displays that support VRR video output.


Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He is a tech journalist based in the Philippines who has been writing about consumer tech for the past six years and has been using various Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. When he's not writing, he likes to spend time outside, stealing scenes with his phone camera.