Explainer: What is adaptive refresh rate and how does it work?

The refresh rate of a screen means the number of times the image is being “refreshed” or updated every second. It happens so fast that it is difficult for human eyes to detect. Devices that come with a screen keep on changing the pixels to make the users understand motion. It is measured in Hertz and is available in all displays that include your TV, smartphone, laptop or PC monitor. To make it simpler, a 60Hz display can refresh the screen 60 times in one second. On the contrary, a 120Hz can refresh the screen 120 times in a second. The screen refreshes its pixels more every second with higher refresh rates. Here we will be discussing adaptive refresh rate, what it means, how it works and how it affects the user’s interaction with the smartphone.
What is the adaptive refresh rate feature?
As the term adaptive suggests, the refresh rate adapts or changes from the content that is being played. This means that a static website will be opening at 10Hz refresh rates and while playing a game it will change to 120Hz. So, there might be a possibility of inaccurate delivery of the refresh rates.
Apple introduced this feature for the first time with its iPhone 13 Pro series. The Cupertino-based tech giant named the adaptive refresh feature ProMotion. Flagship Android smartphones from Samsung have already had this feature for some time now.
In Android phones, users can set the 120Hz refresh rate option as default, but Apple is not allowing users to do that. Although, ProMotion will get more adopted in the industry as Apple has made it easier for the developers to gain from it. App developers will be able to code in such a way that will have specific refresh rates set for various aspects of their app.
Importance of adaptive refresh rates
Higher refresh rates are better at handling motion and it helps in different activities like — playing games, scrolling through your social media feed or even watching an action movie. It makes a big difference if you are into hardcore mobile gaming. Casual games like Subway Surfers don’t need higher refresh rates, but games like BGMI are better to play on a 120Hz display. Higher refresh rates help in better responsiveness and improve motion resolution.
Disadvantage of higher refresh rates
A display with a higher refresh rate like 120Hz can have an impact on the battery life. Latest smartphones like iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra are designed to save the phone’s battery life by boosting the refresh rates of the display only when it’s needed.
How is refresh rate is different from frame rate?
The rate at which frames appear in a display and form video is called the frame rate. It means the speed of a video at which it is played and it is measured by the number of frames displayed in one second. Experts believe that human eyes can see between 30-60 frames per second (fps). The standard frame rate for a video is 24 frames per second. It means 24 frames in 1 second, even movies are shot in this format.
30 fps is a standard in most modern smartphones for shooting videos, but some premium phones even support 60 fps. On the contrary, games are developed with frame rates upto 120fps. Refresh rates are different from frame rates but, both of them have to work together for the best visual experience.