Whenever a device’s screen is on, the display never stops updating - whether it’s a TV, computer monitor or smartphone, it’s being refreshed multiple times, every second. This process is known as refresh rate, and as technology evolves, so has the capacity for increasing this.
This is something that has played a key role in online gaming, to ensure that gameplay runs as smoothly as possible, but is equally beneficial for those of us who stream videos on our devices too.
What is the refresh rate on a smartphone?
Your smartphone’s refresh rate marks the number of times your display updates or refreshes over the course of a second. This is measured in Hertz (Hz) - for example, 60Hz means that an image on a screen is being updated 60 times in a second.
This process doesn’t happen all at once, it’s a case of each row of pixels updating in turn, until the whole display has done so, something which is constantly done while your phone is switched on. It happens at a speed that’s impossible to see with the naked eye.
What are the standard refresh rates for smartphones?
Initially, the standard refresh rate in TVs and computer monitors was 60HZ, hence this naturally became the benchmark refresh rate for smartphones - this is the refresh rate that all iPhones currently use. By refreshing a phone’s display at that rate, everyday tasks run efficiently and remain up to speed.
Smartphone manufacturers have looked to follow in the footsteps of other tech screen producers, which has increased the capacity for refresh rate, improving the user experience. This has seen handsets such as the Motorola Moto G10 with a refresh rate of 90Hz, or the Oppo Find X3 Pro with a refresh rate of 120Hz in recent times; these higher specs are becoming more common in the Android world.
Specialist gaming phone manufacturers are looking to push the refresh rate even higher, with some models offering speeds of 144HZ. This shows signs that developers are moving to emulate the refresh rate that some computer monitors provide – yet on a small smartphone screen.
How does refresh rate impact your smartphone experience?
The refresh rate can affect your day-to-day smartphone experience, with a high refresh rate making your device more responsive. For instance, a larger refresh rate reduces any potential motion blur that you get when you scroll through apps and menus.
If you’re a gamer, it’s good to know that an increased refresh rate reduces latency, as this decreases your chances of encountering lags. Latency is the time between you making a move and it actually taking place in the game. So, if you’re using a standard rate 60Hz display, the latency is limited to 16.63ms, due to that being the time it takes to refresh each image. A smartphone with an 120Hz display refreshes almost twice as quick, so images are fully refreshed in around 8.33ms.
Does a high refresh rate drain your battery?
A high refresh rate can consume more energy from your phone and, as a result, your battery life may be affected. Some smartphone manufacturers have developed a function called a variable refresh rate (VRR), which helps to maximise your battery life by adjusting the refresh rate whenever possible.
When you’re using your phone for low energy tasks, such as reading an article online or browsing through your photo gallery, your display rate doesn’t need to be working at an increased speed. This is when VRR would step in and lower the rate to a more appropriate one. This rate won’t just cut down to 60Hz, it can be reduced to levels as low as 10Hz – this is a very helpful feature to ensure you aren’t reaching for your charger multiple times a day.
In 2021, there are only a limited number of smartphone models that have the capacity to operate this battery saving tool. These are most often earmarked as the manufacturer’s flagship models, and include the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy S21.
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