Pixel 7a Display Drops To 60Hz In Sunlight But There's A Hidden Option To Stop It

Pixel7a 1
The new Pixel 7a offers a lot for just $499, including several notable upgrades over last year's Pixel 6a. One of the improvements is a 90Hz display refresh, but now that the phone is in the wild, some owners have noticed that the OLED looks a lot less smooth in bright light. As it turns out, this is by design, but there is a way to change this behavior if you go digging.

The Pixel 7a has to cut a few corners to keep the price low, and it appears some advanced display features didn't make the cut. More expensive phones like the Pixel 7 Pro can adjust the refresh rate dynamically, but the Pixel 7a is locked to your chosen setting, either 60Hz or 90Hz. The 90Hz refresh rate looks much smoother, but it also consumes more power and increases heat. A commenter on Reddit notes that the Android source code mentions the Pixel 7a will drop to 60Hz when ambient light surpasses 50,000 lux.

The refresh rate drop appears to be aimed at controlling temperatures. It can be easy to forget that a hot day doesn't just make you overheat—it can make your phone overheat, too. Smartphone processors also throttle to control heat, but they can adjust clock speeds dynamically. The Pixel 7a's screen is just 90Hz or 60Hz, which makes the change a bit jarring.

Android pixel refresh

In our testing, the Pixel 7a does run a bit hotter than other devices with the Tensor G2 chip. There's some speculation that the G2 in Google's new budget phone was manufactured with a cheaper packaging process. Google might have been extra sensitive about heat, so the display throttles, too.

If you want to keep the Pixel 7a at 90Hz all the time, regardless of lighting conditions, you'll need to get into the developer options.

To activate that, you need to find the build number under the About Phone menu. Then, enter Developer Options under the System menu and scroll down until you see Force peak refresh rate. That will keep the phone at 90Hz regardless of light levels.
Tags:  Google, OLED, pixel 7a