In a nutshell: Google’s mid-range champ, the Pixel 6a, may be more valuable than it might seem at first glance. After speculation that the phone might be secretly featuring a 90 Hz panel, developers have found a way to overclock it from 60 Hz to 90 Hz using a mod that looks pretty solid.
It all started when some curious developers noticed that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a share an indispensable display hardware: their software identifies as s6e3fc3, and the developers Ideas are panels or their controllers. Then in theory, if the Pixel 6 supports a 90 Hz refresh rate, the 6a should too, and it can be limited to 60 Hz via software rather than hardware.
Based on this theory, a developer named TheLunarixus came up with a way to see if the Pixel 6a’s panel is overclockable. He took the 6’s display drivers and packages, mixed it with the 6a’s Android 13 build, and flashed the results to his 6a. With that, the option to enable 90 Hz mode appeared in his 6a’s developer settings, and when he turned it on…it worked.
He shares his patchwork of packages and his hobbyists, including Sean Hollister of The Verge who was able to replicate the results. A few minor issues were posted on Twitter, and Lunarixus was largely able to troubleshoot, save for persistent issues with the panel’s color calibration or lack of calibration. Some users complained about the green color after installing the mod, even before enabling 90 Hz mode.
Update: I flashed the new vendor_boot image sent by @TheLunarixus and now my Pixel 6a runs at 90Hz! The green tint/calibration issue is still quite noticeable on my device, even though @MaxWinebach says he doesn’t have it on his device. pic.twitter.com/beM2vmTTo9
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) August 11, 2022
Otherwise, as of now Testing so far has shown that the Pixel 6a can reliably overclock its panel to 90 Hz without causing any catastrophic hardware failure. TheLunarixus is quick to point out that the mod leaves the panel’s default voltage and power consumption unchanged, making hardware damage less likely.
But one question remains unanswered: is this a typical overclock to exploit hardware space, or is it something Google decided to disable in software? Unfortunately, neither Google nor panel maker Samsung has answered the question.
Further investigation revealed that the s6e3fc3 device is not a panel after all, but most likely the driver for the controller. It’s unclear if there are similarities between the panels of the Pixel 6 and 6a, they do differ in resolution and size.
For now, we recommend against trying this mod unless you somehow own a spare three-month-old Pixel 6a, this mod is for yourself. On the plus side, TheLunarixus says he’s working on a simple ROM for this mod that will make it almost plug-and-play, which might be worth considering at that point.
Photo credit: Thai Nguyen