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Note 20 Ultra Variable Refresh Rate Explained

In August 2020, Samsung launched the new Note20 Ultra – an interesting device that we have on our review test bed. It's safe to say that over the last few generations, there hasn’t been all that much exciting about the Note line of devices - the phones typically use the new silicon and camera technologies that were introduced in the Galaxy S-series of the same year, and the Note lends on its form factor, only improving upon the design and software experience around the S-Pen. This year’s Note20 Ultra, based on our testing, generally also follows the same formula, but with the important exception: the Samsung Note20 Ultra has, according to the company, the first mobile variable refresh rate (VRR) screen in the industry.


From a software perspective, you’d normally expect Samsung’s advertised refresh rate modes from 1Hz to 120Hz to be exposed to the system, however this is not the case, and the phone features the same resolution and refresh rate modes that were also available on the S20 series. As from the data above, this means 48 Hz, 60 Hz, 96 Hz, and 120 Hz.

However, the key difference between the S20 series and the Note20 Ultra is that its refresh rate mode is described as operating in “REFRESH_RATE_MODE_SEAMLESS”  instead of “REFRESH_RATE_MODE_ALWAYS”. In that regard it does look like things are working correctly.

However one key component of variable refresh rate displays are the lower refresh modes to help save power. As shown on the list above, the 'lowest' refresh rate advertised is 48 Hz. So I went searching. 


2020-09-07 19:42:16.764 948-948/? I/SurfaceFlinger: 
  setActiveConfig::RefreshRate: ID=2, Width=1080
2020-09-07 19:42:21.758 948-948/? I/SurfaceFlinger: 
  setActiveConfig::RefreshRate: ID=4, Width=1080