This is potentially a big one. Microsoft’s next game console will feature HDMI 2.1, including adaptive frame rate for significantly smoother motion in games. Microsoft has confirmed the good news to Eurogamer.
HDMI 2.1 & adaptive frame rate
Xbox ‘Scorpio’ will be one of the first devices to feature an HDMI 2.1 output port. That may sound like a boring new .1 revision but HDMI 2.1 is actually a major step forward for the entire video ecosystem in several areas, as we outlined in January 2017
In addition to much higher throughput bandwidth, HDMI 2.1 supports something called ‘Game Mode VRR’, short for “variable refresh rate” – also called adaptive frame rate in the industry. If you are a PC gamer you may know similar systems in the form of Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync. In short, it allows the console/PC and the display to stay in perfect sync at all times.
An example: Let us say that you have an open world role playing game. In some areas of the world your console will be powerful enough to deliver full 60fps (frames per second) but in other areas of the open world the beautiful landscape forces the console to its knees, dropping the frame rate to, let’s say, 27fps. Because of the way HDMI is – or was – designed, video output would always be 60Hz, which in the instance of 27fps can lead to motion stutter or tearing. In mathematical terms, 60 divided by 27 is not a whole number.
The way to solve this is to ensure that the display refreshes to the exact same refresh rate as the game console in real time. This will lead to visibly smoother motion in games and reduce input lag.
Specifically, Xbox ‘Scorpio’ will support AMD FreeSync 2 for PC monitors as well as the ‘Game Mode VRR’ specification in HDMI 2.1, Microsoft has confirmed to Eurogamer. These systems both solve the issues outlined above. That is of course great news.
Will require a new TV
The bad news is that you will need a new TV with HDMI 2.1. It appears that none of the new 2017 TVs, from any brand, that are rolling out now will support HDMI 2.1. The first TVs with HDMI 2.1 baked in will likely launch in late 2017 or early 2018.
The HDMI group has said that some elements of HDMI 2.1 are firmware upgradeable on TVs but it is not clear which ones.
One the other hand, if you own a PC monitor with FreeSync 2, which compared to FreeSync 1 adds support HDR and a wider range of frame rates, you should be good to go as soon as you get your hands on the new Xbox in late 2017.
Adaptive frame rate on Xbox ’Scorpio’ will be integrated on the system level so game developers will not have to worry about implementing anything. It will simply work across all Xbox games.
Of course, adaptive frame rate technology can be used for much more than just gaming and we are delighted to see that HDMI 2.1 will finally fix this limitation in the TV ecosystem in 2017.