November update makes the 90Hz Smooth Display behave differently on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

Late last month, we learned that the Pixel 4’s display automatically switches between 90Hz and 60Hz refresh rates based on the brightness of the display. Our Editor-in-Chief, Mishaal Rahman, confirmed that the Pixel 4’s 90Hz Smooth Display automatically turned down to 60Hz when the brightness was below 77%. While we did find a way to force the 90Hz refresh rate from within the Developer Options, it wasn’t the most ideal solution as it took a toll on battery life. Shortly after the revelation, Google released a statement claiming that it was already working on updates to enable the 90Hz refresh rate in more brightness conditions. These updates are now making their way to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL alongside the November 2019 security patches.

Following the update, the displays on the two devices will stick to the 90Hz refresh rate under more circumstances. However, the two devices will exhibit different behavior. The Pixel 4 will switch to 90Hz whenever the display brightness is above 42% and the ambient brightness level will have no effect on the refresh rate. On the other hand, the Pixel 4 XL will stick to 90Hz irrespective of the display or ambient brightness. This difference in behavior can likely be boiled down to Google wanting to save battery life on the smaller Pixel 4. However, you can still enable the “force 90Hz” mode in Developer Options to get around the display brightness trigger.

It’s worth noting that these changes have led to another issue with the Pixel 4 XL. Since the device will now run at 90Hz in more situations, the display gamma bug is now more noticeable on it. Due to this, when you turn off and on the display, it applies the wrong gamma table and the display looks very contrasty and shifted towards a magenta hue.

About author

Pranob Mehrotra

A Literature and Linguistics graduate with a keen interest in everything Android. When not writing about tech, Pranob spends most of his time either playing League of Legends or lurking on Reddit.

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