What you need to know

  • The Google Pixel 4's 90Hz OLED display switches to a 60Hz refresh rate when the brightness level is set to 75% or less.
  • Other phones with 90Hz displays, such as the OnePlus 7 Pro, do not drop to a lower refresh rate at lower brightness levels.
  • Fortunately, you can force the display to refresh at 90Hz permanently from Developer Options.

Update: October 24 1:46 AM ET:

Google has now clarified that the Pixel 4's Smooth Display lowers the refresh rate down to 60Hz in some situations to help preserve battery life when a higher refresh rate is "not critical." The company has also confirmed that an update to enable 90Hz in more brightness conditions is planned to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

The 90Hz "Smooth Display" on the Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL is one of the biggest selling points of the two smartphones. However, Android developer Brian Sefcik has now discovered that the phone's "Smooth Display" switches to a lower 60Hz refresh rate on lower brightness levels.

Sefcik found that the Pixel 4's display switches from 90Hz to 60Hz when the brightness is set at 75% or less. This has been confirmed by XDA Developers' Mishaal Rahman, who verified it using the Logcat tool via ADB.

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The Pixel 4 and 4 XL are actually the first phones with 90Hz displays that switch to a lower refresh rate depending on the brightness level. The OnePlus 7T and other phones featuring 90Hz displays do not switch to 60Hz when the brightness level is lowered.

Fortunately, however, it isn't very difficult to force the Pixel 4's display to refresh at 90Hz all the time. All you have to do is enable the "Force 90Hz refresh rate" setting under Developer Options. While forcing 90Hz refresh rate will give you better touch responsiveness and smoother animations, it will also have a negative effect on battery life.

Google Pixel 4

The Pixel 4 is designed for consumers looking for a compact yet powerful smartphone. Like its predecessors, the Pixel 4 is extremely impressive in the camera department. With features like improved Night Sight, you can click great photos even in low-light. The phone also comes with the other impressive features such as Motion Sense, secure face unlock, and the new Google Assistant.

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