What are VRR and ALLM for TVs and why do you need them?
Here's why gamers should be on the lookout for these two terms.
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Shopping for a new TV these days can be tricky. Every year, the list of technobabble slapped on the side of any TV box seems to grow. If you’ve perused the shelves of a big-box store in recent years—or browsed for TVs online—you may have come across this confounding pair of initialisms: VRR and ALLM.
While I’d love to tell you that these two terms are nothing more than technological mumbo jumbo, the truth is that they’re quite important—especially if you’re a gamer. As is the case with most TV terms, understanding VRR and ALLM (and how they affect your TV’s performance) will help you shop for a new TV with confidence.
What is VRR (Variable Refresh Rate)?
Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) is a gaming-related software enhancement that prevents visual inconsistencies as a result of changes in frame rate. These visual artifacts, or quirks, often arrive in the form of screen tearing, where a partial frame is presented on top of another, which creates something of a visual seam.
VRR works by ensuring that all of the action on your TV screen is in sync with the video information being output by your gaming console. VRR is designed to match your display’s refresh rate with the gaming console’s frame rate, or the number of consecutive images being displayed per second, expressed in frames per second (fps). When VRR is enabled, your display automatically syncs with the source device’s frame rate, and visual artifacts like screen tearing are resolved.
For best results, you’ll want to look for a TV with a 120Hz refresh rate, which will allow it to match up to 120fps video output from your console. Some budget TVs with VRR have only a 60Hz refresh rate, which will still improve screen tearing, but may not be as effective at minimizing tearing on the highest pace games. LG’s C1 OLED, our favorite TV of 2021, is an example of a VRR-ready TV with a 120Hz refresh rate, but there are many other options available.
There are several different types of VRR, most of which are branded, but they all function more or less the same. AMD’s VRR technology is called FreeSync, of which there are separate performance tiers that cater to specific display hardware. Nvidia’s VRR technology is called G-Sync, and while it is supported on far fewer TVs than FreeSync, it also comes in a handful of tiers. You'll also find these features (often both versions) supported on gaming monitors.
I wouldn’t worry too much about what type of VRR is equipped on your TV. All you need to know is whether or not your TV supports some variation of the technology. If you’re even somewhat serious about gaming, it’s an important feature to have in your back pocket, as it goes a long way toward keeping the action silky smooth.
What is ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode)?
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) is a feature that allows a TV to automatically switch into its designated gaming mode whenever a gaming console’s input is chosen. In other words, it removes the need for a user to manually activate their TV’s gaming mode so that they may enjoy the benefits of low input lag (hence the "low latency") without fumbling for a remote control and visiting the TV’s settings menu.
Designed specifically for use with video games, Game Mode (or some variation of that name) is offered on most modern TVs. Most of the time, a TV’s game mode is a preset picture setting, though occasionally it's a standalone setting that you can toggle on or off. Typically, game mode turns off the TV’s motion-smoothing enhancements, limits input lag, and optimizes the picture for whatever the manufacturer considers the best look for games. Some game modes even enable VRR when engaged, ensuring that the feature is automatically switched on ahead of every gaming session.
What do I need for VRR and ALLM?
The first thing you need to take advantage of these two gaming-related features is, obviously, a TV that supports them. Most of the best TVs you can buy now offer VRR and ALLM, but both enhancements have begun to trickle down into a handful of budget-friendly TVs, too.
Although VRR and ALLM are technically standard features of the newest HDMI specification, HDMI 2.1, some TVs support variations of these features with HDMI 2.0b. That said, both of these features (particularly VRR) are more likely to be found on TVs that offer at least one HDMI 2.1 input.
If your TV is equipped with HDMI 2.1 and you’re linking it with a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X, we recommend doing so with an HDMI 2.1 cable, as it is assured to provide enough bandwidth for VRR to operate at a higher resolution and framerate.
Do I really need VRR and ALLM for gaming?
Both of these gaming-related enhancements help to deliver smooth, hassle-free gaming. In particular, VRR stands to significantly improve the gameplay experience, even if you’re just a casual gamer. And, since most VRR-equipped TVs also come with ALLM right out of the box, VRR is a good feature to put at the top of your wishlist when the time comes to invest in a new TV for anyone interested in gaming.
There’s a wide array of mid-range TVs that support ALLM but not VRR. While it’s a convenient feature to have on its own, we recommend shopping for a TV that does both if you plan on doing any amount of gaming over the next several years. It truly makes a difference.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.