What is ProMotion? Apple’s killer screen tech explained

If you’re thinking about buying a new iPhone 13 Pro, iPad Pro or newly unveiled MacBook Pro 2021, you’ll likely have seen “Promotion” appear in the devices’ specs sheet and marketing material.

And for good reason. The tech is an awesome feature that’s helped Apple devices earn a spot among the best in the business on more than one occasion. Here’s everything you need to know about.

When Apple unveiled ProMotion all the way back in 2017, it called the iPad Pro’s screen the “world’s most advanced display”.

ProMotion is essentially Apple’s name for the adaptive, high refresh rate, 120Hz display first available on the iPad Pro.

While a standard refresh rate will update a display 60 times a second (60Hz), the ProMotion’s adaptive 120Hz screen works at twice this speed. This results in smoother scrolling, improved responsiveness and better gaming performance. 

You can read Apple’s official definition of ProMotion below: 

“The stunning, redesigned Retina display in iPad Pro features ProMotion, a new technology that delivers refresh rates of up to 120Hz for fluid scrolling, greater responsiveness and smoother motion content.

With ProMotion, Apple Pencil is even more responsive with an industry-best, 20-millisecond latency for even more fluid and natural drawing. ProMotion also improves display quality and reduces power consumption by automatically adjusting the display refresh rate to match the movement of the content”. 

One of the most important aspects here is that the refresh rate is adaptive. This means you won’t be stuck at 120Hz when the high speeds offer no benefit, saving you some battery. Examples of this include when you’re watching a 24fps movie or a 30fps YouTube video. 

Another benefit to ProMotion is that it works well with the Apple Pencil, making the stylus feel more responsive and fluid by offering it a 20ms latency. 

Until Apple’s September 14 event, ProMotion was only supported in Apple’s top-end iPad Pro range of tablets and had been a key selling point of the best tablet since the second-gen model. 

High refresh rate displays are commonplace on Android phones. You’ll find 120Hz panels on phones at all price ranges, including the Xiaomi Note 10 Pro, Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, Xiaomi Mi 11 and Oppo Find X3 Pro.

The cheaper devices, like the A52G, will stick at 120Hz all the time rather than intelligently dialling down. However, adaptive refresh rates are becoming more common on higher-end Android phones, like the OnePlus 9 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Now, Apple has joined the list with its new iPhone 13 Pro. The flagship smartphone feature’s Apple’s ProMotion 120Hz display for the first time outside of the iPad Pro.

This is likely enabled by the same LTPO tech found on the Apple Watch, which comes with a range of benefits, including greater power efficiency, improved durability and – most importantly for ProMotion – variable refresh rates.

The newly unveiled 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro’s are the first Apple laptops to feature Promotion displays. Both feature variable refresh rate screens that are being marketed to creatives as Apple’s best to date. We’re yet to test either version, but based on our experience with other Apple Promotion displays, we’re excited at the prospect.

High refresh rate displays are common on gaming-focused laptops (the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE (GX551) being an example), but we have yet to see the tech trickle down to more mainstream models. This could change soon, as Lenovo has recently revealed a duo of laptops with 90Hz and 120Hz panels.

All of Apple’s current Mac line have 60Hz panels, as does the Pro Display XDR. Whether a new MacBook Pro 2021 or iMac 2021 changes this remains to be seen.

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