After months of teasing and speculation, Microsoft finally unveiled the specs for the superpowered Project Scorpio last week via the hardware experts at Digital Foundry. Or at least they revealed the broad strokes. We got the lowdown on Project Scorpio’s beefy CPU, GPU, and memory, but what about the finer details? Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference between an adequate and truly great piece of hardware.
Well, Digital Foundry has revealed a few more interesting tidbits about Microsoft’s Xbox One revamp. Apparently, the system will support AMD’s FreeSync technology and the upcoming HDMI 2.1 standard. So, what’s that mean? It’s technical, but it should make games appear to run smoother, even if they don’t hit an ideal 60fps target.
Most TVs and monitors run at a 60hz refresh rate, meaning the screen updates the image 60 times per second. Now, if a game runs at a perfect 60fps, that means the screen gets a fresh new image every time it refreshes, and your game looks nice and smooth. Unfortunately, if a game runs at anything less than 60fps, it falls out of whack with the monitor and you start to notice jerkiness and juddering. Worse, many games will sacrifice visual quality to get the game back in sync with your screen’s refresh rate, leading to ugly polygon tearing.
Still with me? Technology like AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync take a different approach to this problem. Rather than trying to get a game to a perfect 60fps, they alter your screen’s refresh rate. By doing this, even slower framerates can look smooth. Our eyes aren’t really that perceptive – 45fps will look just fine, as long as the screen you’re watching is in sync. Digital Foundry explains the whole FreeSync thing in greater detail, with examples of how it changes performance, in the video at the top of this post.
Okay, techie talk done! Right now few monitors and no TVs support VRR (variable refresh rate), but it’s going to be a heavily-hyped feature over the next few years. If VRR catches on, it could be a game-changer for developers. Rather than targeting 30fps or 60fps religiously, game makers could focus on visuals first, and simply adjust refresh rates as needed. Anything that allows developers to put art and creativity above adhering to strict technical guidelines sounds great to me!
Want to keep up with the latest on Microsoft’s new machine? Just bookmark WWG’s Project Scorpio page.
[via Digital Foundry]