Google’s Pixel 6a Display Can Be Tricked To Run At 90Hz With This Mod
High refresh rate displays are part of the magic that makes flagship phones feel silky smooth. It makes scrolling feel more natural and touch input more responsive. It is also a feature that is typically on the chopping block when manufacturers design their more wallet friendly handset options to keep costs in line. Case in point, Google’s Pixel 6a offers much of the Pixel 6 experience, but does skimp on some features like wireless charging and slashes the 90Hz display to 60Hz – or does it? An experienced modder who goes by TheLunarixus has found a way to clock the Pixel 6a display at 90Hz.
As it turns out, the Samsung display used in the Pixel 6a is very similar to that of the Pixel 6. The two devices have different sizes and resolutions, but the displays are both capable of higher refresh rates – or so TheLunarixus thought. The Lunarixus noticed The Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 both use the Samsung S6E3FC3. This sparked his curiosity in the project, but it turns out the S6E3FC3 is actually the display driver, not the display, but it can indeed drive displays up to 120Hz.
The exact panel models used in the Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 remain unclear. It is likely the Pixel 6a’s panel is rated for only 60Hz operation, but that did not stop TheLunarixus from getting a 90Hz mode exposed and working. He posted various photo and video proof of the refresh rate working to Twitter.
The mod is still a work in progress. Other modders working to test on their own devices have had varying levels of success. Mishaal Rahman was among the first to provide commentary. His own Pixel 6a did allow 90Hz to be selected after applying the mod but doing so caused the display to go blank. He also explained that even for devices that work, the display mode is uncalibrated and suffers from a significant green tint. Rahman did eventually get the mod working on his Pixel 6a with some extra legwork but ran into the same green tint issue.
The modders all warn that we should not expect to see widespread adoption any time soon. In addition to the calibration issues, the Pixel 6a is not able to operate stably at 90Hz. Some testers experienced frame-skipping which can be jarring. Applying the mod also requires flashing a modified vendor_boot image in a process that wipes user data, though that in and of itself will not deter most experienced Android tinkerers. There was a time when I would flash a new ROM to my phone multiple times per day, each of which required a factory reset.
The big unknown is how this mod will affect devices long term. If the display is indeed only rated for 60Hz, then this overclock has the potential to cause damage. TheLunarixus stresses that voltages were not altered in the mod, but it could ultimately require more power draw to resolve stability. Phones are not great at dissipating excess heat, either. In addition, overlocking an OLED display’s refresh rate out of spec could cause some ghosting or accelerated burn-in. More testing will be necessary to know if these risks hold up here.