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, 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 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 soon. Steam support is already planned for a number of Chromebooks as well, including some Acer and ASUS models.

We've previously seen evidence that Google is working on incorporating a gaming-style RGB keyboard 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
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.