Google’s Pixel 6a display can run at 90Hz if you’re willing to mod it

Google’s mid-range Pixel 6a ships with a 6.1-inch OLED display running at 60Hz, but there’s a method to unlock a 90Hz mode. Twitter user TheLunarixus has created a mod to unlock the 90Hz mode on the Pixel 6a, and they’re working on a custom ROM to make it easy for any Pixel 6a owner to unlock the improved refresh rate.

Verge Senior Editor Sean Hollister has tested the mod on his own Pixel 6a, and has confirmed it works. What we don’t know is whether the display panel truly supports 90Hz, or whether this is effectively overclocking it to get to the faster refresh rate. We’ve reached out to Google to comment on whether 90Hz is simply software locked, or if there are indeed display panel constraints.

Our Pixel 6a running at 90Hz.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

The mod exists because many in the Android community noticed that the Samsung display in the Pixel 6a shares some similarities to the larger Pixel 6 display, and curiosity ensued. Google enables 90Hz on its 6.4-inch Pixel 6 panel, but the two displays aren’t exactly identical.

Right now the mod is very involved. To get the 90Hz option unlocked on the Pixel 6a you have to enable debugging mode and OEM unlock in the settings (which you might not be able to do on a locked carrier handset), and then unlock the bootloader, manually flash an Android 13 beta with some checks disabled, and flash a modified vendor_boot image.

If that all went over your head or you’ve never heard of XDA Developers, it’s probably best to wait on a custom ROM. The result of all these hacks unlocks the Smooth Display option and the ability to force the max refresh rate in the developer settings to 90Hz.

Others in the Android community have also tested this mod and confirmed it’s legit. Mishaal Rahman noticed a green tint on his handset after applying the mod, and we’ve noticed the same (although some others don’t have the issue).

There are also some concerns around the long term effects on the Pixel 6a display. Developer Kuba Wojciechowski warns that Samsung might not rate the Pixel 6a’s display at up to 90Hz, and that this is likely just overclocking. TheLunarixus says we won’t fully know until the mod is run on more than 100 phones.

“We are not pushing the panel any harder in terms of power, all this mod consists of is adding a new frequency mode to the driver with timings from the Pixel 6’s s6e3fc3 driver with modified height and width values,” says TheLunarixus. “No voltages etc were modded here, we use our own gamma table.”

Either way, TheLunarixus tell The Verge they’re “working on a custom ROM with the ROM side changes to make this fully stable and ready for the public.” We’ll keep an eye on our own handset to see if there are any long term effects of unlocking the 90Hz mode, and here’s hoping Google or Samsung Display comment on why the 90Hz option isn’t officially available on the Pixel 6a.

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