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Google Pixel 6a display apparently supports a 90Hz refresh rate, but with some caveats

The home screen of the Google Pixel 6a
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Last month, the Google Pixel 6a launched with a 60Hz refresh rate display.
  • A new mod now makes the Pixel 6a run at 90Hz — thanks to developers who tested it.
  • Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6a are said to have shared some similarities in their displays. 

Since the Google Pixel 6a was announced late last month, there have been several debates about the omissions that Google has made to bring the best of the Pixel at an affordable price. That included the highly argued 60Hz refresh rate display. 

That's because, under $449, there are a couple of other options like the Nothing phone (1) and Samsung Galaxy A53 — both of which offer higher 120Hz refresh rate panels. However, it seems the Google Pixel 6a may have purposefully chosen not to use the faster refresh rate, despite the panel's compatibility, according to recent discoveries from a developer.

The discovery spotted by Nathan (aka @TheLunarixus) is actually done through a mod that unlocks the 90Hz refresh rate on the Pixel 6a. The mid-range device featuring a 6.1-inch AMOLED panel made by Samsung shipped with a regular 60Hz refresh rate. Nathan suggests that the mod has been developed considering the Samsung display in mind since the Pixel 6 and the new Pixel 6a display share some commonalities like codenames — S6E3FC3, for example.

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Mishaal Rahman, the senior technical editor for Esper, further backs the finding that the display operates at 90Hz, similar to the Pixel 6. He also insists that there are similarities between the display panels used on both devices; however, according to Rahman, while the display panel may seem similar, they don't function in the same way. He says during his testing time with the new mod provided by Nathan, the Pixel 6a struggled auto-shifting between 60Hz and 90Hz refresh rates, and he had to force it to run at 90Hz by tweaking the settings manually.

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Though the mod appears to be working fine for the Pixel 6a, both Nathan and Rahman suggest that using it on your daily driver isn't advisable. That's because there might be display panel issues since neither Google nor Samsung have officially enabled this refresh rate on the phone.

However, some users, including Nathan and Rahman, alongside a couple of other tech reporters from The Verge and 9to5Google (Max Weinbach), have used the new mod on their respective Pixel 6a (s), and it worked for them. The process involves enabling debugging mode and unlocking the bootloader, which might void the warranty. 

If you're a Pixel 6a user and still unsure whether to risk going through the hectic process to try the mod, there might be some good news for you. According to The Verge, Nathan has confirmed that they're working on a "custom ROM with the ROM side changes to make this fully stable and ready for the public."

Before the ROM goes public, you should also be aware of some more insights shared by another developer Kuba Wojciechowski. He suggests that the display panel on the Pixel 6a could be perfectly capable of running a 90Hz refresh rate, but it isn't supported by Google or Samsung just yet. Additionally, he believes this mod could potentially damage the display altogether rather than be beneficial.

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The new mod on one of the best mid-range Android devices had certainly raised hopes high for many, as I have also purchased the Pixel 6a recently. Without testing on a certain number of devices and not being assured by either Google or Samsung, users should consider this feature with a grain of salt and keep their expectations minimal.

Vishnu works as a freelance News Writer for Android Central. For the past four years, he's been writing about consumer technology, primarily involving smartphones, laptops, and every other gizmo connected to the Internet. When he is away from keyboard, you can see him going on a long drive or chilling on a couch binge-watching some crime series.