PS5 VRR Update – Performance Review

Variable rate refresh has been one of the most requested features on the PlayStation 5 since its launch nearly two years ago. Sony has now fixed that, finally rolling out VRR to PS5 consoles, allowing gamers with a compatible TV or monitor to enable the feature in potentially any PS5 game. There is a short list of games that will be patched to enable VRR support in the coming weeks, but you can enable it for unsupported games as well. Just be aware that those without official support might not get perfect results.

What is VRR and how does it work?

VRR is a relatively new (2013) technology that changes a long-standing limitation of computer and console display methods. Before VRR (also known as Free-Sync/G-Sync), your TV or monitor fixed how often games could update their frames every frame, based on how fast the screen could refresh its display to draw a new image. . Most popular TVs tended to be 60Hz, which is why 60fps has been the target of gaming performance for so long. This means the fastest a PC or console could send a new frame would be every 16ms, which after 1 second gives us 60 new frames.

The next rate below is 30 fps or 33 ms, which breaks into 60 fps evenly. This meant game engines had to lock all of their functions, loops and inputs into that screen-dictated fixed drumbeat called V-sync, and means that as long as the console and TV align at the same point of 16 or 33 ms in times, we get a new image each time. The problem here, or at least one of the few, is that it can have a significant performance cost and impact console and PC. This is why disabling V-sync can sometimes improve performance, as it allows the system to skip this fixed screen timeout period.

The downside of disabling V-sync is that it can result in a torn image, where the screen only has part of the new frame in the bottom section, which is still being rendered by the PC/console, and a part of the old at the top. So far, that’s been the dilemma: choose cleaner image quality at the expense of performance headroom, or better performance at the cost of visual issues.

Enter VRR. This technology allows the console or PC to “drum” instead, allowing it to tell the screen when to refresh a new image (within a defined range) when it’s ready. This means we can almost get the best of both worlds: the frame time can change per frame and the TV will adjust its cycle within that defined window. The net result is that the system can fluctuate between the 8ms ceiling of 120fps and up to 20.9ms or 48fps. In other words, removing that 30 or 60fps cap while eliminating screen tearing. At first glance, this looks perfect, but there are some caveats that go into the solution offered here.

VRR on PS5

Insomniac has jumped the first feet into the VRR ring with not one but three updates that add VRR to the current 3 modes, greatly aided by the single engine that powers them all.

Starting with Spider-Man Remastered, the game has been updated with a 120Hz mode – similar to what we received last year in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart – which boosts the 4K Fidelity mode to 30 fps to 40 fps as this is a divisible rate of the 8ms frame time required by 120Hz. With VRR enabled this can extend beyond that, effectively unlocking the frame rate to potentially achieve this ceiling of 120 frames per second. In 4K Fidelity mode, enabling VRR results in performance gains of 12-13%, and up to 25% in some cases, over the old 40 fps limit. Those gains are respectable, but Fidelity mode is actually the least impressive here, made worse by the fact that it’s mostly outside the VRR’s useful range here. Insomniac appears to use Low Framerate compensation, similar to a 2:3 pulldown used in 24fps cinema modes on TVs. This means that when it drops into the 40s it duplicates the image 3x with the 8ms refresh. This helps reduce vibration when it falls outside the active VRR range.

The other two modes see much larger jumps – and that’s true for all three games (Spider-Man, Miles Morales, and Rift Apart). Performance Ray Tracing mode’s old 60fps limit is now doubled in a best-case scenario, though I only saw such a dramatic improvement briefly, when swinging across town. Across a variety of sections tested, performance has increased by around 50%, meaning frame times are halved and input response has increased – one of the biggest benefits of frame rates. images at 120 fps or faster. The jump is significant and really hammers home the extra work the team has put in here to maximize the motor and capitalize on the gains that are possible when V-sync is no longer set to such a (relatively) low rate. Additionally, all three games now have increased resolution targets in all modes, which means dynamic scaling levels have been increased. It’s a great under-the-hood look at the headroom available on those stationary console games that, unlike on PC, we rarely see.

Up next is Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which has the same upgrades and similar results seen above, but the Performance mode offers even better results. Ray Tracing is no longer active, but the resolution scale can go even higher, as can the framerate. This often means an additional 17% improvement over Performance RT mode, with frame rates in the 90s and even 100fps levels in cutscene, combat, and traversal segments. These boosts are important for such an early and beautiful cross-gen game, and do a great job of selling the best that VRR has to offer.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is the next big hitter and again we see substantial performance increases across all modes. Now the Performance RT mode shines even brighter with frame rates often north of 80fps and beyond, with drops into the 60s still feeling silky smooth as they’re in the VRR sweet spot. It must be said that Insomniac continues to impress, with its three big games really showing the potential of the PS5 and the Variable Rate Refresh itself.

Another example is Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. In 120fps mode, having VRR on gives nearly identical performance, but tearing when VRR is off and ripples in the 8ms frame time are now cleaned up to provide those fast, smooth controls the series is for known while achieving a stable image quality.

Other games also get benefits, such as Dirt 5 and its 120fps racing mode now eliminating screen tearing while maintaining the same fast and smooth input times.

What about games without official VRR support?

As mentioned earlier, the PS5 VRR update lets you enable the feature even for games that haven’t received an official VRR patch yet. Dying Light 2, which we covered earlier this year when it launched, has an adaptive v-sync feature, which meant it could tear up a bit when going slightly over budget in higher sections. GPU-limited, such as segment-heavy aperture foliage in Performance mode. The game has yet to receive a developer-side VRR patch, but it still benefits from having the technology enabled, but to a lesser extent. Enabling VRR at the PS5 system level eliminates the aforementioned screen tearing, but the game is still capped at 60fps in Performance mode (unlike the Series X version which can run well into the 90s). I suspect Techland will release an update soon to allow the PS5 to break free from this artificial limit as well.

Cyberpunk 2077 is another that takes advantage of VRR without any developer input. It’s only a 60fps game, which means the window VRR has to operate in is the smallest yet, but the PS5 version tends to stay above the 48fps minimum most of the time. time, meaning any small dips that may still occur are harder to notice, while the reduction in vibration and the elimination of screen tearing when activating VRR is much more significant.

One of the major limitations of variable rate refresh is that 30fps games are outside the range required for VRR improvement. In the demanding Matrix demo powered by Unreal Engine 5, the game recognizes that VRR is active, even without any patches. Frame time can now dip to 8ms, but it still runs at the same levels capped at 24fps or 30fps depending on the segment and it can still tear the screen sometimes with frame drops. This proves that while the engine knows VRR is available, Epic would need to release a patch to take advantage of it. As such, the OS choice to be able to enable or disable VRR is welcome as some games, like here, may not work at all.

Also, backward compatibility games, even enhanced ones, do not recognize VRR. When testing Bloodborne, a game that would greatly benefit from increased frame times and smoother frame delivery, we find that nothing has changed. The same inconsistent frame delivery issues still occur and the same 30fps limit remains. This shows the limitations of VRR, which is that it can’t do anything for 30fps titles, as that’s outside of its operating window. VRR cannot increase framerates from their target, which means that unless a developer updates the game, a targeted framerate limit of 30, 60, or whatever will remain. whatever happens. The save is Batman: Arkham Knight which is capped at 30fps and reportedly tears on PS4. This hasn’t changed since the update, with the screen not engaging VRR and the game having no change in its output bitrate or input latency.

All in all, the variable refresh rate is a welcome addition to the PlayStation 5, although it came a little later than expected, especially since Xbox had VRR up and running before the consoles even launched. X and S series. However, it is nonetheless a welcome boost to the console’s toolkit, giving developers and gamers alike a choice. The fact that an OS option is enabled to force games to use it when possible is great, although as noted not all games will be able to take advantage of it. As a solution for ripping and improving both performance and input latency, VRR is a win, but don’t expect it to be a magic bullet for performance issues across the board. Either way, I can’t wait to see what the future holds as more developers roll out patches to expand VRR support in their games.

About Sara Rodriquez

Check Also

10 Best PS5 and PS4 Games to Buy Now

Sony is staging another massive round of PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 console sales right …