The iPhone X and the Razer Phone have one thing in common despite being worlds apart. Both have the ability to run the screen at a refresh rate of 120 Hz. Apple markets this feature for responsiveness. Razer puts it at the service of fluid gaming visuals. Either way, it seems that it’s a rather niche feature that very few phone makers would bother with. It turns out, however, that Sony has had phones capable of that since 2016. You just can’t, and probably shouldn’t, enable it easily.
A 120 Hz screen refresh rate gives the semblance of a faster, smoother user interface. Web pages scroll better, graphics move more fluidly, and the screen feels more responsive to touch controls. It’s a trait few smartphone panels have and few smartphone makers can afford. Sony, one of the experts in LCD panels for entertainment purposes, has apparently been putting them in its most recent models but leaving them inert and useless.
Rumors have been swirling about the 120 Hz screen mode in the Xperia XZ Premium, one of only two Sony phones with 4K screens. It wasn’t until the device was added to the Sony Open Device Program that it was verified that it indeed support that faster refresh rate. In fact, it wasn’t the only one. Further investigation revealed that almost all recent mid to high-end Xperia phones supported it as well, including the Xperia X, Xperia X Performance, Xperia XZ, Xperia XZ1, Xperia XZ1 Compact, Xperia XA2, and Xperia XA2 Ultra. Only the Xperia X Compact isn’t invited to the party.
That said, the trouble one has to go through to enable this feature isn’t worth the results, at least for now. Enabling 120 HZ screen mode requires patching the kernel, which itself is no task for end users. Such users will have to settle for installing a custom ROM, which immediately means reducing the camera performance.
And the results are fairly inconsistent and almost negligible. Some testers report they can’t even get 90 Hz rates. XDA theorizes that this is mostly because the Android platform itself hasn’t been optimized for 120 Hz performance and that it will take a lot more modifications to make it work.