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What is VRR? Variable Refresh Rate TV technology explained

One of many gaming specific technologies appearing on TVs and monitors today is Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). Here we explain what it does and why it's important to have.

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Among the various new technologies appearing on TVs today is Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) – a gaming-specific tech that is supported by the Xbox consoles and, more recently, the PlayStation 5. It’s not essential to have it on your set to enjoy the best gaming graphics, but those who do are likely to never go back.

Here we explain why.

VRR: everything you need to know

If your television supports Variable Refresh Rate technology it can adjust the frame rate (the refresh rate) in real time to suit the output of a game. Some titles, for example, don’t stick to a locked frame rate or offer an unlocked frame rate mode which uses a dynamic refresh to keep the action moving while retaining high levels of graphical fidelity.

On a TV that is only capable of set refresh rates – normally 60Hz (60fps) and/or 120Hz (120fps) – that means action can look juddery. If a game outputs 48 frames per second during an intensive scene, yet your TV is displaying it at 60Hz, it needs to fill in the extra information itself. This is far from ideal and can be jarring.

A TV with VRR can move its refresh rate to match the frame rate output, giving a much smoother presentation. It’ll still exhibit some stuttering as the game drops frames, but with far less of an impact on your enjoyment.

What TVs feature VRR?

Many modern LED, LCD and OLED TVs that feature at least one HDMI 2.1 port will offer Variable Refresh Rate technology. You might need to switch it on in the TV’s settings for that port, however.

You will soon know if your TV doesn’t support the technology as your games console won’t offer the option in its settings.

It’s worth noting that many TVs also feature VRR tech from AMD and Nvidia – G-Sync and FreeSync respectively. This also ensures that they work smoothly if you want to use one as a gaming PC monitor.

What consoles feature VRR?

Until relatively recently, only the Xbox consoles supported VRR – which you can find in Settings > General > TV & display options > Video modes. However, Sony also added the functionality to its PlayStation 5 machines (both the standard and digital only models).

VRR can be toggled on the PS5 in Settings > Screen and Video > Video Output.

Sadly, the Nintendo Switch does not support Variable Refresh Rate technology.

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Rik Henderson
Rik Hendersonhttp://gameslifer.com
Rik is a professional journalist with more than 35 years experience across online, magazines and television broadcasting. As well as the creator of GamesLifer, he is the News Editor of T3.com, while his previous work includes stints as editor and group editor on several monthlies and weeklies covering video games and technology. He has also been a series producer on daily and weekly TV shows, and has presented and guested on multiple TV series too, including GamesMaster, Games World, Game Over, Virtual World of Sport, Live TV, Greatest Christmas TV Ads, and The Apprentice.
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