[Update 1: Fix Coming] Google Pixel 4’s 90Hz display only works at high brightnesses
The Google Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL were announced last week and the duo was savagely leaked, with Google contributing to those leaks through official revelations. We weren’t expecting bells and whistles since most of the features were already out in the open – many of which Google didn’t even talk about at the Pixel 4 keynote – but, the new, smoother 90Hz display on the new Pixel smartphones was among the key features that a lot of us were anticipating. While references in the phone’s source code gave away to the 90Hz display at least a month ahead of the official launch, there’s something interesting that was recently discovered.
Just like the OnePlus 7 Pro and the new OnePlus 7T series, the 90Hz refresh rate does not work in all scenarios and only works in certain use cases or supported apps. Apparently, Google is using an algorithm to reduce the refresh rate of the Pixel 4/4 XL’s display to 60Hz smartly in cases such as when you’re watching a video or reading static content in which case it automatically kicks back in when you scroll.
However, a peculiar behavior in this regard was discovered by Android developer Brian Sefcik and confirmed by our Editor-in-Chief, Mishaal Rahman. They determined the Pixel 4’s display automatically switches between 90Hz and 60Hz refresh rates based on the brightness of the display.
Sorry, looks like it should be:
If brightness <= 75%, display id = 2.
If brightness > 75%, display id = 1.
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) October 23, 2019
Using the Logcat tool via ADB, Mishaal confirmed that the Pixel 4’s display automatically turns down to 60Hz when the brightness is below 75%. It’s unclear why Google has tied the setting to brightness, and we hope to soon find out the exact reason why. Interestingly, the Pixel runs at 90Hz even if the brightness is low so long as there is strong ambient lighting.
Notably, neither OnePlus 7 Pro nor the ASUS ROG Phone II display this behavior. This behavior is most likely to be intentional and not a bug but we’re not sure if this is an attempt by Google to avoid complaints regarding the smooth display draining the small batteries on the Pixel 4/4 XL too quickly.
Force 90Hz Refresh Rate on Pixel 4
Meanwhile, if you have a Pixel 4/4 XL and want to always enjoy the 90Hz display, you can set the display to stay at 90Hz permanently by forcing the option from Developer Settings. This will continue to work irrespective of the brightness you’re using your phone at.
Dev option to force 90Hz at all times pic.twitter.com/0LuxaZgUjK
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) October 15, 2019
Update: Software Update Coming
Google released a statement to The Verge about the 90Hz display situation on the Pixel 4. They reiterate that the display is designed to be at 90Hz when consuming content and navigating the UI, but to preserve battery they are able to lower it to 60Hz in certain situations.
In some conditions or situations, however, we set the refresh rate to 60Hz. Some of these situations include: when the user turns on battery saver, certain content such as video (as it’s largely shot at 24 or 30fps), and even various brightness or ambient conditions. We constantly assess whether these parameters lead to the best overall user experience. We have previously planned updates that we’ll roll out in the coming weeks that include enabling 90hz in more brightness conditions.
We’re not sure if this update will give more controls to customers or simply include better variables by default. Stay tuned for more information when this update rolls out. We’re also waiting on an update to bring open eyes settings to Face Unlock.