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I haven't found an example where I can't get rid of Refresh[]:

In[1]:= Dynamic[DateString[],UpdateInterval->1]
Out[1]= Sat 10 Nov 2012 01:36:34
In[2]:= Dynamic[Refresh[DateString[],UpdateInterval->1]]
Out[2]= Sat 10 Nov 2012 01:36:34
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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Let me know if this is not enough, but I'll just quote the docs for now

From the Advanced Dynamic Functionality tutorial:

Nesting Refresh

In the "Refresh" section examples, Refresh is always the outermost function inside Dynamic. You might almost wonder why its options are not simply options to Dynamic. But in fact it is often important to place Refresh as deeply in the expression as possible, especially if it specifies a time-based updating interval.

Consider this example.

DynamicModule[{showclock = True}, {Checkbox[Dynamic[showclock]], 
  Dynamic[If[showclock, Refresh[DateList[], UpdateInterval -> 0.05], 
    "No clock"]]}]

When the checkbox is checked, Refresh is causing frequent updating of the clock, and CPU time is being consumed to keep things up-to-date. When the checkbox is unchecked, however, the Refresh expression is no longer reached by evaluation, the output remains static, and no CPU time is consumed. If Refresh were wrapped around the whole expression inside Dynamic, CPU time would be consumed constantly, even if the clock were not being displayed. The words "No clock" would be constantly refreshed, pointlessly. (This refreshing is not visible; there is no flicker of the screen, but CPU time is being consumed nevertheless.)

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Refresh also has a TrackeSymbols option. Consider the case where several dynamic variables are declared in the first argument to DynamicModule but you only want updating to occur on a proper subset of those variables. An example is given at the bottom of the answer I gave to this question.

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