Microsoft is Bringing Dynamic Refresh Rate Support to Windows 11

Posted on June 29, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 10 Comments

Microsoft announced this week that Windows 11 will support dynamic refresh rates on compatible displays, offering better performance and battery life.

“A higher refresh rate means that motion on the screen feels smoother—for example, inking and touch feel immediate and smooth,” Microsoft’s Ana Marta explains. “However, this will also reduce battery life. If you’re using a laptop and want to save battery power, you can lower the refresh rate, but it might reduce the quality of your overall experience.”

Dynamic refresh rate capabilities have been available on various Android flagship smartphones for years—and Apple is rumored to finally add this feature to some of its high-end iPhones later in 2021—but this is a feature that’s been lacking on the PC. Windows 10 supports higher refresh rates—say 120 Hz instead of the more traditional 60 Hz—but it’s a hard setting in which you can only choose one or the other.

With dynamic refresh rate support, Windows 11 will be able to change the refresh rate automatically and on the fly, to match whatever it is you’re doing and provide the proper balance between performance and battery life. “For example, with a Dynamic (60 Hz or 120 Hz) mode, your display will refresh at 60 Hz for everyday productivity tasks, such as email, writing a document, and so forth to conserve battery life,” Marta says. “It will then seamlessly switch to 120 Hz for tasks such as inking and scrolling, to provide a smoother and more responsive experience.”

Today, in the Windows Insider Program, key Windows 11 apps like Microsoft Office, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Whiteboard, Microsoft Photos, Microsoft Snip & Sketch, Drawboard PDF, Microsoft Sticky Notes, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft To Do, and Inkodo all support smoother inking via the system’s dynamic refresh rate support. And Microsoft Office offers smoother scrolling.

There’s nothing to do if you do have a display that supports this feature: Windows 11 will automatically adapt the refresh rate on the fly. But you can navigate to Settings (WINKEY + I) > System > Display > Advanced display to make sure that the refresh rate is set to “Dynamic” if you wish.

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Comments (10)

10 responses to “Microsoft is Bringing Dynamic Refresh Rate Support to Windows 11”

  1. martinusv2

    Will that interfere with AMD FreeSync and nVidia G-Sync?

    • darlingtonpear

      Isn't it basically enabling freesync/g-sync for windows itself as opposed to just in-game? In which case, no.

    • bettyblue

      Potentially. I mean will Microsoft turn their version off when a game starts? Is Gysnc on all the time now (have not checked in years) even in Windows?

      It could be a total wreck if not cordinated. I imagine gamers will disable this if possible, as step #1. Like uninstalling all of the krap from Microsoft on a new build of Windows.

    • jhoersch

      From the linked blog post:

      "Note: All your existing games will continue to run and perform like they always have because DRR does not apply to games."


      "5. Can I use DRR on my external display?

      No, DRR is only available on laptops."

      So even if it did affect games, it would only affect them when played on laptops.

  2. darlingtonpear

    This is a significant improvement on windows for both 'power' users and improved battery life for general public laptops. A few more improvements like this can generally paper over the backwards compatibility gaps. Why did they not talk up some of these engineering things on the launch ??

  3. rbgaynor

    "Dynamic refresh rate capabilities have been available on various Android flagship smartphones for years—and Apple is rumored to finally add this feature to some of its high-end iPhones later in 2021"

    Apple has offered this for several years on the iPad Pro.

  4. Daniel Blois

    I don't know why Microsoft does things only halfway? Why don't they allow the Refresh Rate to go even lower than 60 Hz. 30 Hz is sufficient for normal productivity tasks.

    • MikeCerm

      30 Hz is not enough unless you're just talking about static images. Just moving the mouse cursor around feels pretty gross at 30 Hz. Sure, a lot of people might not notice, but I definitely do. That being said, if it meant that I could get 9 hours of battery life instead of 6 hours, there might be times when that trade off is worth it.

  5. Username

    Does “inking and scrolling” really require 120Hz? Will be interesting to know much CPU% will be used to figure out what refresh rate user wants.

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