Variable refresh rate (VRR) technology is a feature some displays like monitors and TVs have to match their refresh rate with the frame rate of the signal when it's constantly changing. It's especially useful for gamers when the frame rate of the game fluctuates on the fly, and it helps reduce screen tearing. Usually, only higher-end TVs have VRR support, but it's becoming more of a norm with mid-level TVs too.
We test for the VRR support by using different PCs to see which formats the TV supports and then look into the range at which it works.
Variable refresh rate support is most important for gamers. It's necessary to make sure both the source and the TV support the same VRR format, or it won't work. The TV matches its refresh rate with the frame rate of the game, even if the game is dropping frames, which is why it's a variable refresh rate and not a static one. Most PC games and graphics cards support VRR, and while only Xbox has implemented it with their consoles, the PlayStation 5 should get it in a future firmware update, so VRR support on TVs is important for most gamers.
Without VRR support, there's a chance your games tear, with horizontal screens appearing across the screen, like if someone is tearing the image in half. On the flip side, having VRR support doesn't guarantee it removes all screen tearing, but it helps reduce it.
We test the variable refresh rate support of TVs after checking the supported resolutions, so we know which resolutions to check. Most of the time, we'll know if a TV supports VRR solely based on the marketing, but we always check to see if it works and which formats it supports. We use a PC with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card, another with a Radeon RX 580 card, and also our Xbox Series X.
Before performing any VRR tests, we list the native refresh rate of the TV, which we find out by using the supported resolutions test. Currently, the native refresh rate of TVs is always either 60Hz or 120Hz.
This result simply states if the TV supports any VRR technology or not. We test to see if it supports HDMI Forum VRR, FreeSync, and if it's G-SYNC compatible. If it supports any of those three formats, it passes this test and gets a 'Yes'; otherwise, it's 'No'.
HDMI Forum VRR is a new VRR format used mainly in consoles over HDMI connections. The Xbox Series X supports it, but it's currently the only console to do so. The PlayStation 5 may receive it in a future firmware update, but it hasn't been confirmed yet. It's a bit difficult to know which TVs support HDMI Forum VRR because the Xbox Series X supports both HDMI Forum VRR and FreeSync, and there's no way to know which one is actively working, so until the PS5 receives its update, we leave most TVs as 'Unknown'.
However, we can confirm which LG TVs support it because we can disable FreeSync on the TV, so if VRR still works with the Xbox, we know it's HDMI Forum VRR.
FreeSync is AMD's implementation of VRR, and between TVs and monitors, it's the most commonly supported format. We test for FreeSync using the RX 580 PC because it only supports FreeSync. We open the Radeon settings in the PC, and we check to see if we can enable FreeSync. Unlike monitors, we don't distinguish whether or not it's certified by AMD; we simply put 'Yes' if FreeSync works.
The last of the three VRR formats we check is NVIDIA's G-SYNC, and we use our RTX 3070 PC for this. G-SYNC support is rarer on TVs than on monitors, and TVs with G-SYNC are only certified to be G-SYNC compatible instead of native G-SYNC. Still, G-SYNC compatible works like native G-SYNC support on TVs, but it doesn't have a few features.
We check for G-SYNC compatibility by opening the NVIDIA Control Panel on the RTX 3070 PC. We know it supports G-SYNC when there's a 'Set up G-SYNC' option in the left-hand side column.
Most LG OLED TVs are listed as 'Yes (NVIDIA Certified)'. This is because NVIDIA certifies them to be G-SYNC compatible on their website, and there aren't any other TVs on that list. NVIDIA thoroughly tests them to make sure they properly work with G-SYNC, and when you connect an NVIDIA graphics card, G-SYNC is automatically enabled.
Once we check to see if it supports G-SYNC, we use the RTX 3070 PC and the NVIDIA Pendulum test program to check for the VRR range. If it doesn't support G-SYNC, we use the Radeon PC instead. With the RTX 3070 PC, we make sure V-SYNC is disabled, we open the test program, and we set the resolution to our desired resolution, and we set the frame rate to something where it shouldn't tear, like 55 fps. We adjust the frame rate of the signal and refresh rate of the display at the same time, setting it higher and always checking to see if it's still tearing. Most TVs will have the VRR maximum as its max refresh rate.
We check the maximum for 4k, 1440p, and 1080p resolutions. On HDMI 2.0 TVs, the range at 1440p and 1080p is often wider than at 4k.
We repeat the same process for the VRR minimum, by adjusting the frame rate lower. Some TVs use Low Framerate Compensation to have a lower VRR minimum than 40 fps, and if they go below 20 fps, which is the lower limit of our tool, we list the VRR minimum as '<20Hz'. Other TVs may have the lower limit at 40Hz or 48Hz.
Once again, we check this with 4k, 1440p, and 1080p signals.
We list which input type supports VRR. Since TVs only have HDMI inputs and not DisplayPort, any TV that has VRR will have this listed as 'HDMI'.
VRR technologies aren't perfect; they don't remove all screen tearing, and at times even increase the input lag. Still, it's a good tool to have when gaming if you notice screen tearing, as they aim to provide a tear-free gaming experience. G-SYNC, HDMI Forum VRR, and FreeSync aren't the only three VRR technologies around, as there's Adaptive Sync by VESA and even mobile VRR technologies, but the three we test are the main ones.
To take full advantage of the VRR support on a TV, you need to make sure your console or PC supports the same format(s) as the TV. You can't use G-SYNC with your NVIDIA graphics card if your TV doesn't support it. Often, you'll have to enable certain settings on the TV, such as 'Game Mode' or 'Variable Refresh Rate' settings. Each brand uses different names, so consult the Settings pages for our reviews to find out how to enable VRR.
Variable refresh rate is a feature that allows the TV to display frames as they are sent, without requiring a constant fixed frame rate, and adjust the refresh rate on the fly. This results in reduced screen tearing. We test TVs for variable refresh rate support, including the maximum and minimum frequencies at which the TV can stay synchronized without screen tearing. If you want to avoid frame skipping or screen tearing while gaming, look for a TV that supports a variable refresh rate standard.