Xbox Scorpio Hidden Gem Is AMD FreeSync And HDMI 2.1 Support For Even Smoother Gameplay

Last week’s Xbox Scorpio technical spec reveal held back one bit of eyebrow-raising information. The new console will support AMD’s FreeSync for monitors and the upcoming HDMI 2.1 spec for television sets to support Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), per a new Eurogamerreport. The promise of smoother gameplay may be enough for hardcore gamers to hold off on their next 4K TV or monitor purchase.

So what is AMD FreeSync and VRR, and why does it matter for the Xbox Scorpio? Console gaming enthusiasts are all too familiar with games incapable of maintaining a steady 30 frames per second (fps) or 60 fps due to compromises made by the developer and the hardware. This leads to both screen tearing and stuttering when V-sync is enabled to prevent the former.

The overall experience is a much smoother and cleaner gameplay experience. Additionally, this is completely handled at the system level. Meaning, a developer does not have to code its games specifically for FreeSync or HDMI 2.1’s VRR. This will benefit not just Xbox One titles played on Scorpio, but backward compatible Xbox 360 games too.

An example of the benefits of AMD FreeSync to preven screen tearing.
[Image by AMD]

Nvidia started the movement first with its proprietary G-Sync technology. AMD followed with its Freesync open standard variant. FreeSync 2, which is supported by the Xbox Scorpio, was announced this past January with additional support for games running under 30 fps and high-dynamic range (HDR) lighting support. Meanwhile, VRR support was added to the HDMI 2.1 support, announced this past January.

Existing 1080p Freesync monitors can be picked for as little as $100 currently while the 4K versions start in the $300 range and quickly go up. Monitors with Freesync 2 support have yet to be announced. Meanwhile, 4K TV sets with HDMI 2.1 and VRR support will arrive sometime in 2018.

In the near term, the announcement of AMD FreeSync 2 and HDMI 2.1 don’t mean much for the Xbox Scorpio since there are only a couple of monitors that AMD’s standard and no TV sets with VRR support. That will change in 2018 as more and more consumers are expected to invest into higher resolution entertainment.

The long-term gains are substantial, however. It potentially gives developers more leeway when targeting framerates in games. For example, a title that struggles to maintain a constant 60fps will be less troublesome from a player’s point of view when playing on an HDMI 2.1 television or FreeSync monitor.

There’s also the potential for an improved experience in virtual reality gaming. The Xbox Scorpio will support VR, where a smooth framerate is a boon to prevent nausea and other issues related to the growing new genre.

Digital Foundry's spec comparison of the Xbox Scorpio versus the Xbox One and PS4 Pro.
[Image by Digital Foundry]

The Xbox Scorpio will launch this holiday season with plenty of power to spare. The console will feature a custom eight-core AMD CPU clocked at 2.3 GHz paired with an AMD GPU running at 1172 MHz to provide 6 teraflops of performance. This is well ahead of the PS4 Pro’s 4.2 teraflops.

The console will also sport 12GB of DDR5 memory, a big jump over the 8GB of DDR3 memory in the Xbox One. Games will have 8GB of dedicated memory to use while the balance will be utilized by the operating system (OS). The Xbox One splits its memory with 5GB for games and 3GB for the OS. The PS4 Pro has a similar arrangement.

There is no official name or price for the Xbox Scorpio yet. Xbox Head Phil Spencer has repeatedly called it a “premium console,” suggesting its price will be in the $400 to $500 range when it launches holiday 2017.

Expect a full Xbox Scorpio reveal complete with games at Microsoft’s E3 2017 press briefing on Sunday, June 6.

[Featured Image by Xbox/Microsoft]