How to View Display Refresh Rate on Mac

Jun 22, 2021 - 5 Comments

See the refresh rate of external monitor on Mac

If you’re a Mac user running an external display, you may be interested in knowing what the displays refresh rate is. For whatever reason, refresh rate is hidden from easy view in the places you might think to look, but with a little effort you can show the refresh rate on display connected to a Mac.

Knowing the refresh rate of a display can be helpful for many reasons, particularly if you want to be sure you’re using the displays native refresh rate. Perhaps you connected an external display to a Mac and find the monitor is laggy or choppy, or the cursor moves choppily, and that may be because of refresh rate settings. And of course you can change the refresh rate too, assuming the display and Mac supports it.

How to View Display Refresh Rate on Mac via System Information

You can check the refresh rate easily on displays connected to a Mac by going through the System Information app (called System Profiler on earlier MacOS versions).

  1. Hold down the OPTION key then click the  Apple menu
  2. Choose “System Information”
  3. From the sidebar, choose “Graphics / Displays”
  4. Locate the refresh rate information for the active displays used by the Mac

Show monitor refresh rate on Mac

How to See Monitor Refresh Rate via Display Preferences on Mac

You can also see refresh rate for a monitor by going to Display system preferences in macOS. For most Macs, this is the only way to see the refresh rate of the built-in display.

  1. Connect the display to the Mac you wish to see refresh rate for, if you haven’t done so already
  2. Go to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
  3. Choose “Display”
  4. Hold down the OPTION / ALT key, then click on “Scaled” to reveal the Refresh Rate of the current display and resolution

Show refresh rate of external display on Mac

Note that some displays only support certain refresh rates at certain resolutions, and not all Macs support all display resolutions, so while your display may technically support 120hz or 144hz, it doesn’t mean the Mac will.

If you’re expecting a refresh rate that is not shown, you can go ahead and change the refresh rate of displays used by Mac in most situations.

What if I’m not seeing the refresh rate expected for my display / Mac?

There are numerous reasons you may be seeing refresh rates that are not what you expect. Perhaps you have a 4k 60hz display but you can only use 30hz for example, which results in a laggy experience and choppy cursor.

If you’re using a modern Mac with USB-C, you may try using a dedicated USB-C to DisplayPort cable, like this one, or a USB-C to HDMI cable, rather than using a dongle or adapter. Some dongles or adapters do not support 60hz at 4k, and others seem to have issues with driving 60hz or higher refresh rates.

Some Macs do not support driving monitors at high refresh rates. This is particularly true with older Macs running with newer high resolution displays. But this can apply to new Macs as well.

Additionally, some Macs seem to have issues driving certain displays at certain refresh rates. This is a common complaint with some M1 Mac owners, where a 4k 60hz display is only able to use 30hz, or a 144hz display is only able to use 60hz. There are various speculations as to what the problem is, but it may simply be a bug that has yet to be addressed in macOS, or it may be specific to M1 Macs. If you have any added details on this issue, share it in the comments.

Sometimes rebooting the Mac, and then using Detect Displays when connecting the monitor can resolve the issue.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Sayed says:

    Windows is better than mac

  2. Bob McCormac says:

    I have a Late 2013 Mac Pro and a Thunderbolt display and the Refresh Rate is not shown anywhere.

    Why is this?

    • Paul says:

      It should show up in the System Information app as shown in the article.

      Otherwise, refresh rate is hidden by default in newer versions of macOS, hold down the OPTION key as described above to access it via the Display preference panel.

  3. Adrian Hobbs says:

    The information here does not appear to apply to Intel MACs. If this is so, it would help if future information stated to which MACs it applied.

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