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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  • Stochastic - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    Long-term, this could be a big deal in the console space (I'm thinking next-gen consoles). Variable refresh rates along with dynamic resolution scalers make targeting 60 FPS a lot more feasible. Right now the weak Jaguar cores are the bottleneck that keep most Xbox and PS4 games locked to 30 FPS, but with Ryzen cores coming in next-gen systems that will no longer be the case. The auto low latency mode would also enable non-techies to benefit from the low-latency modes offered by modern TVs. The end result could be large swaths of people being able to enjoy games with greatly reduced input lag.
  • MonkeyPaw - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    Considering both PS and Xbox use all-AMD SOCs, I wonder if Sony will also add the feature?
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    The PS4 Pro's display controller is a newer generation since it supports HDMI 2.0. However it's not guaranteed since we don't know the inner workings, and ultimately it's up to Sony whether they want to pursue it.
  • close - Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - link

    I thought most gamers actually connect their console to a big screen TV (probably 50+"). How many of those support FreeSync? HDMI 2.1's adaptive sync is the closest thing most people will have to this but it's still not really in the hands of consumers.

    If I have to connect my console to a "PC" LCD and play from the comfort of the desk chair I'd rather use a PC for it.
  • jnemesh - Friday, April 6, 2018 - link

    Just found out that all of Samsung's "Q" Series 2018 sets (the ones JUST hitting stores) support FreeSync and VRR, and support up to 120hz at 1080p! (we have to wait for HDMI 2.1 for 4k@120hz) These are out now, and competitively priced to other premium sets on the market.
  • jeremyshaw - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    A lot of people talk about the current gen of Xbox/PS consoles as if they were x86 PCs, just because they use the X86 ISA. There is very little architectural similarity to a common PC (I'm not speaking of x86 ISA!), especially the PS4.

    Pertaining to the specific topic at hand, Sony does not use AMD's display output controller, instead using a proprietary chip (iirc, it was a Sony designed chip from Panasonic, I may be wrong on that). Xbox One/S/X use the APU's built in, AMD display output controller.
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - link

    What evidence do you have that console-specific builds target 30FPS because they are bottlenecked by the CPU? I'm pretty sure they optimize heavily, use all available threads, and offload as much work as possible to the GPU and custom blocks. Dynamic scaling has allowed Fortnite BR hit 60FPS pretty consistently (once you're on the ground) even on base Xbox One. Sounds more like a graphics bottleneck to me.
  • Trixanity - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    Any word on whether FreeSync 2 support only entails HDR or if it also includes the other parts of the spec? I'm more specifically fishing for LFC support.
  • jordanclock - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    Looks like FreeSync already plays well with LFC.

  • Ryan Smith - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    LFC is actually a native FreeSync feature. It's simply not available if a display doesn't support a wide enough range of refresh rates (>2x).

    All FreeSync 2 certification does is require that a monitor supports a wide range. It doesn't actually have any implication for the source device (video card/console).

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