The Pixel 4 90Hz refresh rate doesn't work on low brightness – but you can change that

Google Pixel 4
(Image credit: Future)

One of the main features of the new Pixel 4 phones is the 90Hz refresh rate of their displays – putting them on a par with the likes of the OnePlus 7T Pro in offering silky smooth screens while you're scrolling and gaming.

Now these phones are getting into people's hands, it seems a quirk has been discovered (over at Reddit and XDA Developers) regarding this refresh rate: it doesn't apply when the screen brightness is lowered.

The magic threshold seems to be 75% percent – go below that and the 90Hz refresh rate is apparently no longer available (except if the ambient brightness is very high, it seems). Exactly why this is isn't clear, but it appears to be intentional.

Changing the refresh rate based on what you're actually doing is normal, and other phones do it (it saves on battery life for a start). However we haven't seen a phone turn off the higher refresh rate based on screen brightness before.

Forcing 90Hz refresh rates

There is a way to force the 90Hz refresh rate at all times: you need to enable Developer options first by opening Settings, selecting System and then About phone, and then tapping on Build number until you see a developer notification appear.

That unlocks a new Developer options menu on the Settings screen. Dive into that and you'll see an option to force the 90Hz refresh rate, no matter what's happening on screen and whatever the brightness level is set to.

This option suggests Google could use a software update to change the behavior of the Pixel 4, and keep smooth scrolling enabled irrespective of the brightness level – although the hit on battery life might not be worth it.

As yet Google hasn't said anything officially about the feature, but it's something to try testing if you've taken the plunge and bought yourself a Pixel 4.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.