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January 18, 2022

Samsung Boosts Gaming Support on 4K/8K TVs & Monitors

Samsung Electronics announced new gaming features that will be standard on select 4K and 8K TVs and gaming monitors. Features include support for HDR10+ gaming, VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), and panels with 144Hz refresh rates. NVIDIA GPUs will power new 4K, and 8K gaming titles also announced.

2022 models of 8K TVs from Samsung are also expected to support the new “gaming mode” requirement, part of the new 8K Association Certified TV program. This mode requires VRR and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) support.

HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are dynamic metadata solutions that include frame-by-frame or scene-by-scene metadata to allow the TV, monitor, or projector to optimize the content based on its capabilities. To date, HDR10+ Technologies, LLC has focused on building out device and content support for movies and television content. A new initiative extends the effort to the gaming market. Dolby Vision already has support in this market and some games, so it will take time for the HDR10+ group to catch up.

The first steps in this direction were discussed at CES 2022. On the device side, Samsung said that the 2022 Neo QLED TV lineup with the Q70 TV series and above and their gaming monitors would support their HDR10+ Gaming mode.

Samsung has partnered with NVIDIA to allow their graphics cards to support the new HDR10+ gaming standard for playback. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series, RTX 20 Series, and GTX 16 Series GPUs will support the HDR10+ Gaming standard with drivers scheduled for release in 2022. The support status from AMD, Intel, and game console makers Sony & Microsoft is unclear.

The HDR10+ Gaming mode also features Source Side Tone Mapping (SSTM). This seems similar to how movie and television content is mastered today to support HDR10+ metadata. The content needs to be analyzed to evaluate the luminance range in each frame or scene. The metadata is then added to the content for distribution. The TV or monitor can then use this metadata to tone map the content to provide the best possible giving the particular capabilities of the TV or monitor.

The big difference is that the graphics card does the tone mapping and not the TV or monitor. For example, it seems that the Nvidia graphics card will first read the EDID data from the TV (or monitor), which provides the luminance & color capabilities and other data about the visual performance capabilities of the display and processing electronics. Using this information, the Nvidia GPU will then apply tone mapping to the game output to provide the best visual quality for that particular display. This game engine optimization of the content in real-time helps to reveal details in the dark shadows and preserve the brightest highlights so that gamers can see and react to everything on the screen.

The HDR10+ Gaming mode also sets the TV in a low latency reference mode and does automated HDR calibration. Setting the TV into filmmaker mode, so the TV does no additional processing once the optimized signal is received from the game engine (PC or console) appears to be similar.

Separately from the HDR10+ Game mode option, Samsung has upgraded their GameBar interface to be more like a Gaming Hub. This is all being implemented to eliminate the need for the game player to tweak settings for each game they play manually. Theoretically, this will now be automated – and provide HDR10+ high dynamic range images. To support HDR10+ Gaming mode, Samsung upgraded the refresh rates on select TV (and input ports) to support 144Hz. We believe that only PCs can support this 144Hz frame rate and only at 4K resolution – not game consoles.

At CES 2022, Samsung claimed that overall click-to-screen latency at 144 Hz is now down to less than 5 ms. At 120 Hz refresh rates, it is about 6 ms, and at 60 Hz, closer to 10ms, looking quite good. They have lowered latency for online gaming to under 100 ms – not ideal but perhaps acceptable for casual gamers.

Samsung Gaming Support on 4K/8K TVs HDR10+ Gaming
Credit: Chris Chinnock

Leveraging their quantum 3D Processor, the new Game Hub helps coordinate many features. For example, it allows for more optimized upscaling of game content. That means AI-based upscaling on 3D textures is done differently than 2D text and graphics to improve the overall image quality. There are some preset modes like sports, where the grass color is optimized, or first-person shooter, where the shadow details are optimized. Screen ratios can also be changed.

Samsung announced that some publishing companies have agreed to author games with the new standard on the gaming content side. These include Saber Interactive and Game Mechanic Studios. It is a start, but gamers will expect more content. The requirements for the game developer to author to the new standard are still unclear.

According to Todd Hollenshead, Head of Publishing at Saber Interactive, the company is developing Redout 2. It is a tribute to classic arcade racing games and the sequel to the critically acclaimed Redout, which features racing through the dystopian wastelands of a semi-abandoned Earth. Redout 2 will be authored in 8K resolution and looks to be PC-based. The company is also developing Pinball FX, the king of digital pinball, brought to life in a brand-new way. Slated for early access in March 2022, it will be available on console devices.

Samsung Gaming Support on 4K/8K TVs  Redout
Credit: Saber Interactive

Game Mechanic Studios also showcased their HDR10+ Gaming title “Happy Trails and the Kidnapped Princess”, which will be available in 2022, and may also be targeted for a console release.

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