I was pretty straightforward in my review of the Acer Chromebook 516 GE: 120Hz screens are simply fantastic to look at. I love how they look when gaming, sure, but I also really enjoy all the UI animations rendered at 120Hz across the entire ChromeOS system. At least, I thought I did, anyway.
As made clear by 9to5 Google, the 120Hz smoothness we’re seeing on ChromeOS doesn’t quite extend throughout the entire Chromebook experience. Keep in mind, ChromeOS isn’t just web-based applications any longer. We have an Android container, a Linux container, and coming soon for quite a few devices, a Steam container available to users.
It seems that – for now at least – 120Hz only applies to the ChromeOS UI and web-based applications. As a long-time ChromeOS user myself, I lean very heavily on the web for my daily usage, so I didn’t even notice this performance difference until it was pointed out. But now that I’ve taken a bit of a closer look, I can’t unsee it, either.
While 60Hz is the standard on most Chromebook screens, these new 120Hz displays spoil you quite quickly when you get used to them. As I said above, I love the smooth look of the UI and getting to fully experience all the animations across the board with these higher refresh rates. Though I rarely use Android apps, the minute I do, the drop in frame rate is immediately noticeable and a bit jarring, too.
A common Chromebook pattern
With only 3 Chromebooks on the market at this point featuring a built-in 120Hz display, it makes sense that tons of work isn’t exactly going into getting high refresh rates into the containers at this point. Google needed to ship 120Hz for the core OS and make sure services like GeForce NOW could ramp up to those speeds for the launch of the cloud gaming Chromebooks; they’ve clearly not moved past that point just yet.
But ChromeOS is always a work in progress. Just yesterday, I wrote a post about productivity features that I use on a daily basis that didn’t exist just a few years ago. And then I wrote about yet another upgrade to Virtual Desks on Chromebooks that just arrived in the Stable Channel behind a feature flag. With this being one of a multitude of updates to the standard Virtual Desks feature over the past couple years, it’s easy to see Google’s way of doing things, here: get the main stuff in place and add the peripheral features as you go.
For now, I’m pretty happy with these high-refresh Chromebooks and I look forward to that silky-smooth frame rate applying to other parts of the OS down the road. I feel confident it will come, but there’s no telling how long that change will take. I’d hope that we’ll see some movement on that front as Steam games move closer to a stable release. Playing local games at 120Hz on these gaming Chromebooks will be sweet for sure. For now, though, I’m just continuing to enjoy GeForce NOW and, as always, if I see an update on this front, I’ll let you know.