PS5 Upgrade Arriving Today Takes Away A Key Advantage Of Xbox Series X
As you may have heard, Microsoft has been gaining ground on Sony in the console wars. While Sony easily took the crown in the previous generation with its library of popular exclusive titles, Microsoft is slowly clawing back market share. This could be for many reasons, including the low cost of the popular Xbox Series S machine, their systems' broad backward compatibility, or the Xbox's choices to embrace forward-looking features like VRR.
VRR stands for "variable refresh rate," and it describes technologies such as DisplayPort Adaptive Sync (also known as AMD FreeSync) and NVIDIA's proprietary G-SYNC. HDMI revision 2.1 included provisions for a feature equivalent to the DisplayPort version known simply as "HDMI 2.1 VRR," although like all HDMI features, it's optional.
The Xbox side of things has supported VRR over HDMI since before it was actually added to the HDMI standard. It's a bit of a hack, but it's possible to do DisplayPort-style VRR over HDMI. AMD pioneered this with early versions of FreeSync. You can do VRR on a last-generation Xbox One S or Xbox One X as long as your display supports FreeSync over HDMI. Obviously, the current generation consoles support it as well, using HDMI 2.1 VRR.
Well, the PlayStation 5 has VRR now, too. We knew it was coming; Sony said such back in late March, although the company said at that time that it would be "in the next few months." As it happens, "the next few months" means "within the next month," because the update that added VRR support to the system firmware seems to have been update version 22.01-05.02.00, released two weeks ago.
VRR wasn't available then, but for whatever reason, Sony's released it now. PS5 owners should be able to restart their systems and find the option under Settings → Video Output → Screen and Video. It'll simply be labeled "VRR", and turning it on will enable it system-wide. It should take effect in all PS5 content and titles, although PS4 games won't benefit. Additionally, some games have gotten specific updates for the technology:
- Astro's Playroom
- Call of Duty Vanguard and Black Ops Cold War
- Destiny 2
- Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition
- DIRT 5
- Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered & Miles Morales
- Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
- Resident Evil VILLAGE
- Tiny Tina's Wonderlands
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
- Tribes of Midgard
Having VRR support on the PlayStation 5 is a boon for both players as well as developers, who can breathe easy if their game runs better than 30 FPS but not quite at a consistent 60. It's also great for users of high-refresh displays, as most console games do not have graphics settings that you can tweak to achieve more stable framerates, and they also typically don't expose control over v-sync.
There's still work to be done on Sony's part to catch up with Microsoft, though. In particular, a lot of people use their PS5 to enjoy PS4 games, and VRR support in that case is needed desperately. Also, the PlayStation 5 does not have backward compatibility for physical PlayStation 1, 2, or 3 games.
Finally, Microsoft supports native-resolution output on displays with arbitrary resolutions, but the PS5 only supports 1080p or 4K. Adding VRR is a great step forward for Sony and the PlayStation 5. Let's hope the PlayStation team doesn't lose momentum here, and keeps adding new features for its flagship system.