The first reviews of the new Apple TV 4K were published this morning with an overwhelmingly positive consensus. One interesting tidbit revealed in these reviews is that the Apple TV 4K has another trick up its sleeve coming with a future software update: better support for variable refresh rates.
According to reviews from The Verge and TechCrunch, a future update to tvOS will add support for something called Quick Media Switching, commonly referred to as QMS VRR. This is a feature of HDMI 2.1 that wasn’t supported by previous Apple TV models and is also still not supported by TVs themselves with HDMI 2.1.
tvOS currently has two different “Match Content” settings: one for dynamic range and one for frame rate. If you enable these features, you’ll see a black screen whenever tvOS switches over to match the frame rate of a movie or TV show. FlatpanelsHD explains how the feature works:
- “Match frame rate”: Apple TV 4K will respect the source by matching its output to the frame rate of the video content at any given time. This prevents stuttering, i.e. by changing Apple TV’s output to 24.000Hz or 23.976Hz when a movie/series in 24fps or 23.976fps is streamed, to 50Hz out when you are watching 25/50fps content (from Europe etc.) and 60Hz output when you are watching 30/60fps content (from the US etc.).
With support for QMS VRR, however, you’ll no longer see this black screen when you have the “Match frame rate” option enabled. Instead, Apple TV will seamlessly switch frame rate when you start a movie or TV show at a specific frame rate.
The third-gen Apple TV 4K has another bit of future proofing up its sleeve: later this year, a software update will add support for what’s known as QMS VRR. This enables compatible TVs to switch between different frame rates without any black screens or noticeable picture interruptions. How many TVs work with QMS VRR, you ask? Well, zero at the moment. But you’ll start seeing them hit the market next year; stay tuned for more news about this feature at CES. I’ve never been that bothered by the short flicker when changing frame rates, but I won’t miss it, either.
But of course, as The Verge points out, there aren’t any TVs on the market that support QMS VRR at the moment. There’s also no word on when exactly Apple will add the feature to tvOS, but there’s no rush given the lack of support from TV manufacturers at the moment.
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