PS5 variable refresh rate in the test: a revelation in some games, a disappointment in others

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On April 26, 2022, the Sony PlayStation 5 received long-awaited compatibility with Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) displays. Some games benefit from impressive fluency gains, while others such as ancient ringthe result is disappointing.

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On Tuesday, April 26, 2022, one and a half years of waiting for the happy owners of the PlayStation 5 and the modern HDMI 2.1 display ended. On that day, Sony’s next-generation console finally received an update giving it support for the variable refresh rate (VRR) screens that the manufacturer promised ahead of the machine’s November 2020 launch.

As a reminder, VRR refers to the ability for a display to synchronize its real-time refresh rate with the frame rate generated by the gaming machine’s GPU – within a certain range. Advantage of the process: the ability to leave frame frequency the game’s images freely oscillate within the specified range, which never results in stuttering (non-VRR display with v-sync) or tearing (non-v-sync). At the endtherefore, it helps to smooth out the slowdowns of the game, which would not be able to perfectly hold the sound. frame frequency aim or just unlock frame frequency so that the console always outputs as many frames per second as it can, resulting in the animation on the screen being as smooth as possible physically.

To do this, the PS5 uses the HDMI VRR standard, which is part of the HDMI 2.1 specification. So to take advantage of this, you obviously need to connect your console to a TV that also explicitly supports HDMI VRR. This applies to most screens advertised as HDMI 2.1 compliant, but not all; therefore the greatest care is required if you wish to equip yourself. TV reviews from Digital of course at your service to inform you about the presence or absence of this support on the model you are interested in.

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standard-bearers Spiderman and Ratchet and Clank at 90 fps

The PS5 isn’t the first gaming console to be VRR compatible: its main competitors, the Xbox Series X and S, have been that way since day one… and to be honest, even the Xbox One X and S were compatible in 2018. Now that the two adversaries can finally come face to face, there is a fundamental difference in philosophy. On the Xbox side, VRR is implemented as a system functionality embedded in the graphics drivers of the machine, and is therefore activated in a completely transparent way for games (hence, for all games without exception). Conversely, PS5 invites developers to integrate native VRR support into their games. This approach has its advantage, as it allows developers willing to make such an effort to develop new modes of operation and new optimizations, specifically taking advantage of the opportunities offered by VRR.

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Obviously, VRR only works if the corresponding option is activated in the PS5 settings.

Obviously, VRR only works if the corresponding option is activated in the PS5 settings.

Among the first wave of “officially” compatible games, the always innovative studio Insomniac Games offers a great demonstration of these features. Of the three games the studio has already released on PS5 (Spider-Man remastered, Miles Morales, Spider-Man and Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart), once the console is connected to a 120Hz VRR screen, frame frequency unlocked, resulting in a truly transfigured experience compared to what you get on a display with a fixed 60Hz refresh rate.

“Fidelity” display modes, almost native 4K with reflections in ray tracing, are released from lock at 30fps and now gravitate towards 45.50fps – and even a few bursts tease 60fps. As for the Performance modes, they go from 60fps to averaging close to 90fps. The result on the screen is really amazing Ratchet and Clank in particular: the game is still one of the most beautiful PS5 graphical demos, as well as one of the best representatives of the comfort afforded by very high frame rates.

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Spider-Man Miles Morales spins in Performance RT mode on an LG Oled CX TV.  Such open cityscapes reduce the frame rate to the lowest values.  However, we remain very comfortable above 60fps.  ©Sony Interactive Entertainment

Miles Morales, Spider-Man works in Performance RT mode on LG Oled CX TV. It is these open city panoramas that are confusing. frame frequency to the lowest values. However, we remain very comfortable above 60fps. ©Sony Interactive Entertainment

However, the fact is that at present the case of insomnia is an exception; the other implementations available are very traditional. All this makes them no less valuable. Especially in 120fps modes of games like call of duty vanguard Where Devil May Cry 5 Special Editionactivating VRR makes relatively frequent drops to 100 or even 90 fps almost imperceptible in the heat of the moment.

“Incompatible” games are still compatible, but…

What about games without official VRR support? Unfortunately, this is where the small disappointments begin to show. Admittedly, the PS5 has the decency to allow the user to force VRR on these games, but the effect, while undeniably beneficial, doesn’t quite reach the level expected.

First, the PS5’s VRR range settles for a low end of 48Hz (compared to 40Hz on the Xbox), which means games whose frame frequency unlocked but not consistently exceeding 48fps, VRR experiences a dropout. The solution to this problem could be the LFC (Low Frame Rate Compensation) method, but unfortunately the console does not apply this method at the system level. And if Insomniac games manage to correctly display frame rates in VRR below this limit, it’s because the studio’s engineers, determinedly diligently, took the trouble to develop their “internal” recipe for LFC. A task that not all developers can afford to complete.

Obviously, we had high hopes for the Elden Ring case... © FromSoftware - Bandai Namco

We clearly had high hopes for the chance ancient ring… © FromSoftware – Bandai Namco

Added to this is the still recurring problem in unpatched games of poor synchronization between the game world simulation and the GPU image rendering moments, which means there is always a slight animation jitter during crashes. from frame frequency, and hence small jerks – of course, much less strong than what we would see without VRR, but still present. That’s what makes it in the title important ancient ringwhose serious performance issues we know, VRR in PS5 sauce is not enough to completely clean up the gaming experience. And so the Xbox Series X version of the game on the VRR screen remains our favorite way to practice console gaming to this day. new generation.