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

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On April 26, 2022, the PlayStation 5 received long-awaited variable refresh rate (VRR) display compatibility from Sony. Some games benefit from a spectacular gain in fluidity, while others, such as elden ringthe result is disappointing.

Sony PlayStation 5 (PS5)



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This is how the pricing table works

Sony PlayStation 5 (PS5) digital edition

Introductory price €399


Sony PlayStation 5 (PS5) digital edition
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    399.99

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    399.99

This is how the pricing table works

On Tuesday April 26, 2022, a year and a half of waiting for the lucky owners of a PlayStation 5 and a state-of-the-art HDMI 2.1 display came to an end. On this day, Sony’s next-gen console finally got an update that brings it support for VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) screens, which the manufacturer had promised ahead of the machine’s November 2020 launch.

As a reminder, VRR refers to the ability of the display to synchronize its refresh rate in real time with the refresh rate generated by the gaming machine’s GPU – within a certain range. Advantage of the process: being able to leave frame rate of the game can sway freely in this range without ever experiencing stuttering (display without VRR with vertical sync) or tearing of the image (without vertical sync). Ultimatelythis therefore makes it possible to compensate for the slowdown of a game that could not keep its sound perfectly. frame rate Aim, or just unlock the frame rate to have the console output as many frames per second as possible at all times, resulting in on-screen animation that is as smooth as physically possible.

To do this, the PS5 uses the HDMI VRR standard, which is part of the HDMI 2.1 specification. Of course, in order to be able to use it, it is necessary to connect the console to a television that also explicitly supports HDMI VRR. This is the case for most screens that claim to be HDMI 2.1 compatible, but not all; Therefore, great care should be taken if you decide to equip yourself. TV reviews from Digital are of course at your disposal to inform you of the presence or absence of this support on the model that interests you.

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The flag bearers Spiderman and Ratchet & Clank at 90fps

The PS5 isn’t the first gaming console to be compatible with VRR: its big competitors, the Xbox Series X and S, have been since their first day of availability… and to be honest, even the Xbox One X and S became compatible in 2018 done… Now that the two adversaries can finally be confronted, there is a fundamental difference in philosophy. On the Xbox side, the VRR is implemented as a system functionality that is injected into the machine’s graphics drivers and is therefore activated in a completely transparent way for the games (that is, for all titles without exception). Conversely, the PS5 invites developers to integrate native support for VRR into their games. This approach has its merits, as it allows developers willing to make the effort to design new modes of operation and new optimizations that specifically exploit the possibilities that the VRR offers.

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

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

Among the first wave of “officially” compatible games, the always pioneering studio Insomniac Games offers a great demonstration of the mentioned possibilities. Of all three games the studio has already released on PS5 (Spider-Man Remastered, Spider-Man Miles Morales and Ratchet & Clank Rift apart) once the console is connected to a 120Hz VRR display that frame rate is unlocked to result in a truly transfigured experience compared to what you get on a fixed-refresh 60Hz display.

Fidelity display modes in near native 4K with reflections ray tracing, are released from their lock at 30 fps and are now hovering around 45.50 fps – with even a few spikes teasing 60 fps. “Performance” modes range from 60 fps to an average of almost 90 fps. The result on the screen is really amazing Ratchet & Clank In particular: The game is still one of the most beautiful graphic demos of the PS5 and now also one of the best ambassadors for the comfort of very high frame rates.

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Spider-Man Miles Morales shoots in Performance RT mode on an LG Oled CX TV.  Open cityscapes like this will drop framerates to their lowest levels.  However, we stay very comfortably above 60 fps.  ©Sony Interactive Entertainment

Spider-Man Miles Morales runs in Performance RT mode on an LG Oled CX TV. Open city panoramas of this kind are what bring this down frame rate to its lowest values. However, we stay very comfortably above 60 fps. ©Sony Interactive Entertainment

The fact is, however, that the insomniac case is currently an exception; the other available implementations are very conventional. They are no less remarkable for that. Especially in 120fps modes of games like Call of duty avant-garde From where Devil May Cry 5 Special Editionactivating the VRR makes the relatively frequent drops to 100 or even 90 fps in the heat of the moment hardly noticeable.

“Incompatible” games are still compatible, but…

What about games without formal VRR support? Unfortunately, this is where the little frustrations start to surface. Granted, the PS5 has the decency of allowing the user to force VRR to be activated on these games, but the effect, while undeniably beneficial, doesn’t quite reach the level expected.

First, the PS5’s VRR range has a lower limit of 48Hz (compared to Xbox’s 40Hz), which means that when playing games, their frame rate is unlocked, but does not stay above 48 fps consistently, the VRR will drop out. The solution to this could have been the LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) technique, but unfortunately the console doesn’t apply this technique at the system level. And if the Insomniac games manage to correctly display framerates in VRR below that limit, it’s because the studio’s engineers went to great lengths to develop their ‘in-house’ recipe for LFC. A task that by far not all developers can afford.

We obviously had high hopes for the Elden Ring case... © FromSoftware - Bandai Namco

We obviously had a lot of hope in the case elden ring… © FromSoftware – Bandai Namco

Added to this is a recurring problem in unpatched games of poor synchronization between the simulation of the game world and the times when the GPU renders the images, which means that there is always a small irregularity in the animation during the falls of frame rate, and hence small stutters – certainly a lot less severe than what we would see without VRR, but still present. That’s what makes a title like the essential elden ringwhose significant performance issues we are aware of, VRR in PS5 sauce isn’t enough to fully sanitize the gaming experience, and that’s why it’s the Xbox Series X version of the game on the VRR screen that’s our preferred way of playing console games to this day to practice new gene.

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