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First look: Chromecast and Android 12's frame rate matching is a work in progress

20 Oct 2022 | Rasmus Larsen |

Android 12's new 'match content frame rate' feature is no match for Apple TV 4K's system. In fact, it does not work with any of the major streaming apps at launch.

We were excited earlier this month to see Chromecast with Google TV (4K) get upgraded to Android 12 with Google's new frame rate matching API that is designed to eliminate video judder caused by a mismatch between the content frame rate (25fps, for example) and the video output (60Hz, for example). However, excitement quickly turned to disappointment when we started testing the new feature that will also arrive on other TV devices with Android 12.

Seamless vs. non-seamless

Let's first rewind. Android 12 adds a new settings menu under Display & Sound. From here you can select 'Seamless', 'Non-seamless' and 'Never':
  • Seamless is HDMI 2.1's QMS (Quick Media Switching) which lets a media player match its video output to the frame rate of the content seamlessly without causing an intermediate black screen on the TV.
  • Non-seamless is standard HDMI mode switching which causes an intermediate black screen (HDMI bonk) every time the display's refresh rate switches between 24Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz and so on. Chromecast does not support HDMI 2.1 QMS so it is a little surprising to see the option listed here but it is probably a generic thing. At this time, there are no TVs with QMS support either. So you have to select the non-seamless option even though it is not the obvious choice after reading Google's description. We are not even sure why there are two options because a QMS-enabled player should automatically detect if the connected TV is compatible or not. It's just clutter.

    Android frame rate match

    Android 12's match content frame rate feature. Screenshot: FlatpanelsHD

    Android frame rate match

    Android 12's match content frame rate feature. Screenshot: FlatpanelsHD

    System-level support, opt-in

    Apple TV's frame rate matching is so successful and smooth because it is a system-level feature that is opt-out for apps, meaning that all video apps that use Apple's default tvOS video player support frame rate matching without modification. Only apps that use a custom video player need to manually implement Apple's API. Google does not have the same tight control over the video pipeline in Android TV apps so it has chosen an opt-in system for frame rate matching. Unfortunately, this means that for the feature to work each app developer must manually implement the Android frame rate API (developer documentation here). We tried Amazon, Apple TV, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and a handful of smaller, local streaming apps. Not a single of these video apps supported frame rate matching on Android 12 in Chromecast. Not even the company's own Google Play Movies app with movie rentals supports it. Kodi and Plex support frame rate matching but both are using an older API in Android that is not optimal for video streaming over the internet. Android supports both integer (24.000Hz, 60.000Hz etc.) and fractional (23.976Hz etc.) rates but at this time we cannot confirm if it works as expected in conjunction with Android 12's new frame rate matching API. Also read: Filmmakers urge TV industry to phase out fractional frame rates (e.g. 23.976fps) Google's new feature is disappointing and we fear that it will take years to get all of the major streaming services onboard. As a result, we still recommend Apple TV 4K if you want proper video playback without judder across streaming apps.
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