What is VRR and which TV models support it? Here is what you should know plus an updated list – from the TV Database – of TV models with HDMI 2.1 VRR, AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync Compatible.
What is VRR?
A display with VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) can adjust its refresh rate in real-time to match the source. That would typically be a game console or a PC, but it could also be a video player. VRR is supported on PCs, Xbox One S/X and Xbox Series S/X, and Sony PlayStation 5 (after this week's update).
This is in contrast to a fixed refresh rate, which is the norm in TVs that have historically refreshed at 60 or 120Hz in North America (and other NTSC regions) and 50 or 100 Hz in Europe (and other PAL regions). Modern TVs can refresh at all of these fixed refresh rates – and sometimes other refresh rates – depending on the source signal.
However, a game running on a game console or PC does not always have a fixed frame rate. Some games run at an 'unlocked' frame rate, which is what you need to enjoy the benefits of VRR. A specific game may render at 120fps in dialog scenes but drop to 50fps or lower in action sequences. Setting up the PC or game console to output in VRR over HDMI tells a compatible TV that it should also operate in VRR mode, i.e. adjust its refresh rate in real-time to match the source's output at any given time.
VRR provides benefits such as elimination of 'tearing' (where the image briefly breaks into two segments), lower input lag (time between the received signal and the picture on the display), and smoother overall gameplay with reduced judder. VRR also makes it easier for game developers to move beyond 60fps in games, as even 70-80fps represents a noticeable improvement – without VRR game developers would have to jump to all the way to a fixed 100Hz or 120Hz output mode.
Unfortunately, VRR is not without downsides today. On LED LCD TVs, zone dimming systems are either completely disabled or critically downgraded because zone dimming in general requires picture analysis which requires picture delay, and that only works with packaged media (movies, series etc.).
It effectively means that an advanced LCD TV in VRR mode is more or less reduced to a conventional non-zone dimming LCD TV with much lower contrast. Many LCD TVs are not fast enough – response time is too slow – to take full advantage of 60fps+ either.
OLED TVs are better suited for VRR as they have far higher native contrast, much faster response time, and pixel-level luminance/color control, but VRR mode can still cause elevated blacks and flicker in low-frame rate game sequences due to how the picture circuit was originally optimized for 120Hz.
As a rule of thumb for the best VRR picture quality and experience, you want a given display to be reliant on as few 'patch work' solutions, i.e. zone dimming, as possible. That is because VRR mode reduces the display panel to a raw form. Our recommendation for VRR gaming is a self-emitting display technology, for example WOLED, QD-OLED or microLED.
Also read: HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC explained
It should also be noted that not many AV receivers or soundbars support VRR passthrough so you should aim to connect your PC or console directly to the TV's HDMI 2.1 port, and then use the TV's HDMI eARC output to pass the audio to your receiver/soundbar.
Activating VRR on Xbox can raise blacks on both LCD and OLED TVs (LG GX in the photo). In Gears 5 you can use this scene from the first chapter: Activate/deactivate VRR on Xbox to see the difference. Photo: FlatpanelsHD
Three VRR formats
In the TV market, there are three flavors of VRR:
HDMI 2.1 VRR
Nvidia G-Sync Compatible
AMD and Nvidia's systems have worked for years on the DisplayPort standard. The new development is that they now also work over HDMI 2.1 (FRL) in up to 4K 120Hz. Enhancement systems such as LFC (Low Frame-rate Compensation) are source-dependant.
It is also important to take the frequency range into consideration. If a given TV model has a frequency range of 48-120Hz, it means that the panel can refresh only at 48Hz or higher (up to 120Hz). If a game drops to a frame rate of 46fps, for example, you will no longer get the full benefits of VRR. Confirmed frequency ranges for TV models can found in the table below.
List: TVs with VRR
Not all HDMI 2.1-equipped TVs support VRR. This list of compatible TV models pulls data from FlatpanelsHD's TV Database. It will update automatically as new TVs launch so you can bookmark it for future reference. Click on any TV model to open the product page in the TV Database for more information and specifications, or to compare TV models side-by-side.
click icon (in the list) to see the VRR frequency range for a specific TV model.