Over the weekend, Microsoft and AMD made a somewhat unexpected announcement on the debut of their new Inside Xbox show: AMD FreeSync 2 support will be coming to the Xbox One S and Xbox One X this spring. With FreeSync-over-HDMI capable displays, the consoles will be able to implement variable refresh rates to reduce input lag and screen tearing, as well as the HDR aspects that are part of the FreeSync 2 spec. Current Alpha Xbox Insiders will be able to test the feature next week when variable refresh rate support will be pushed out to the Alpha preview ring. Slated to arrive this spring for general release, FreeSync 2 support appears to be part of the upcoming Xbox Spring Update.

As revealed last spring in Digital Foundry's series of exclusive Xbox One X (Scorpio) deep dives, the console would be able to support forthcoming variable refresh technologies, including both AMD's proprietary Freesync-over-HDMI technology as well as the open standard HDMI 2.1 implementation. However outside of the HDMI consortium reiterating this idea – and while Microsoft has tip-toed a fine line since they can't claim to be compliant with an HDMI specification before it's finalized – we hadn't heard anything further on the subject until now.

Along with finally enabling a variable refresh rate mode with FreeSync, Microsoft's announcement adds an extra dimension since it turns out this is going to support the expanded FreeSync 2 feature set. Announced last year, AMD’s FreeSync 2 extends AMD's FreeSync abilities, chiefly by specifying low-latency HDR support on top of variable refresh.

In terms of upcoming Xbox support, details were sparse; only FreeSync-over-HDMI is supported, and the FreeSync 2 HDR features were confirmed to be supported. In practice, the actual TV implications look to be quite limited right now; as best as I can tell, there are no FreeSync TVs on the market at this time. PC monitor users however will be better off: the Xbox's new variable refresh capabilities should work with all FreeSync-over-HDMI monitors, while owners of the handful of FreeSync 2 displays on the market will get access to that expanded feature set.

Meanwhile the fact that the Xbox One S is included in all of this was a small surprise in and of itself. We've known for a while that Microsoft's budget console includes a newer display controller in order to support 4K output for UHD videos, but until now it was never for certain that the controller was also capable of supporting variable refresh.

Xbox One S/X and FreeSync 2 announcement at 1:38:00

Overall the implementation of FreeSync support for the Xbox One familiy is one of several Xbox graphics updates on Microsoft's schedule. The Xbox Spring Update is bringing support for native 1440p, while support for Auto Low Latency Mode (i.e. TV ‘Game Modes’) – a feature that disables TV post-processing during gameplay – is set to come later in 2018. And of course, along with introducing cross-platform FreeSync capability, we're expecting to see HDMI standard variable refresh pop up in a later update as well.

Source: Microsoft & AMD

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  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - link

    You run out and plunk down $500 on a console at launch but 1080p is a dealbreaker? Seems a discerning fellow like yourself who can't tolerate pedestrian resolutions would clearly own at LEAST a 4K display... which it supported on day one. 1440p, how primitive.
  • prashplus - Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - link

    I think Freesync is not AMD proprietary. FreeSync was developed by AMD in collaboration with VESA, its royalty-free and free to use as per the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeSync
  • Manch - Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - link

    Well yeah it's in the name. FREEsync. When it was announced by AMD it was made known that it was a free solution vs Nvidias G-SYNC which requires hardware in the monitor to support it. I think theVESA model already had an implementation for variable refresh rate that no one until AMD took advantage of.
  • mdrejhon - Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - link

    The main part of the variable refresh rate protocol of FreeSync, VESA Adaptive-Sync and HDMI 2.1 VRR is actually darn near identical.

    They are simply variable-height blanking intervals -- if you're familiar with an analog TV, back in the 1970s, where the picture rolled with a misadjusted VHOLD knob -- that thick black bar is the VSYNC interval. Variable refresh rate is simply varying the height of that blanking interval to vary the time between refresh cycles -- diagram at https://www.blurbusters.com/photo-of-analog-vsync-...

    FreeSync has some additional enhancements above and beyond, but the root protocol is fully interoperable. ToastyX CRU is capable of configuring a Radeon graphics card to output a FreeSync signal out of HDMI, and using a HDMI-to-VGA adaptor to make FreeSync work on an analog CRT display! It works, if the CRT is (A) multisync and (B) doesn't have blankout electronics for refresh-rate-changes. There's some hacker threads that confirmed freesync worked successfully on certain high end old multisync CRTs.

    The technique of refresh-rate varying is actually relatively gentle to these CRTs, though the refresh-rate slewing can cause picture-position/size distortions on the fly if the refresh interval changes too quickly, but the picture was stable (except varying rate of flicker).

    It's rather neat how FreeSync commandeered a creative modification of the digital version of a 1930s scanning technique -- by simply inserting/deleting hidden scanlines from the VBI (that black bar between refresh cycles) -- which is apparently backwards compatible with analog so FreeSync worked on certain 'strong' MultiSync CRTs.
  • Manch - Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - link

    OK, that is cool! I knew VESA had a variable refresh rate protocol no one ever implemented, and I knew AMD used it to build FREESYNC bc it would enable manufacturers to implement the spec if their controllers were already up to standard. Didn't know about the CRTs!
  • HStewart - Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - link

    I am curious about to things related to Xbox One S

    1. What games will take advantage of FreeSync
    2. Will a Samsung 40 in 4K monitor with HDR 7 Series purchase this year - will work with FreeSync
    3. I also have Samsung 4K monitor purchase about 2 years ago also
  • Hixbot - Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - link

    Only displays that explicitly say they support freesync or vrr. There are no consumer television yet on the market that support it. Many computer monitors support it, you need to look up the specs on your monitor,

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