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PS5 update adds 1440p output — with one big caveat

PS5
(Image credit: Sony)

Most PS5 software updates are small stability fixes, but every once in a while, we get something more substantial. This week, the new PS5 software update went live, and among other things, the update adds support for 1440p output, which should be a boon for PS5 players with QHD gaming monitors. 

While there’s a lot to like about the new functionality, though, it does have one major stumbling block: it doesn’t work with the PS5’s variable refresh rate (VRR) feature.

Sony has outlined the new PS5 software update features on the official PlayStation Blog, and it’s safe to say that resolution is at the heart of the story. 

While the blog post outlines YouTube voice search features and PS App improvements, 1440p resolution is the major addition this time around.

What is 1440p and how does it impact VRR?

To put things in perspective, let’s define a few terms. Resolution refers to the number of pixels in a given display, whether it’s a smartphone, a computer monitor or a TV. Higher resolutions contain more pixels, which can produce more detailed images. Older monitors and TVs often support full HD resolution, which is 1920 x 1080 pixels, or 1080p, for short. Newer monitors and TVs often support UHD resolution, which is 3840 x 2160 pixels, or 4K, for short. Right from the start, the PS5 supported both of these resolutions.

The trouble came with the middle ground: QHD displays, which exist in the middle ground between 1080p and 4K. Many PC monitors are QHD, specifically 2560 x 1440 pixels, or 1440p. This resolution tends to strike a healthy balance between resolution and frame rate, particularly for mid-range gaming PCs. The trouble is that if you hooked up a PS5 to a QHD monitor, it would default to 1080p, even though it’s capable of displaying much higher resolutions.

Now that the PS5 supports 1440p resolution, players who hook their PS5s up to gaming monitors can enjoy better graphics. (There aren’t really any 1440p TVs, as it’s not a popular format for video content.) We tested the 1440p options on the PS5, and they work as advertised. If you go to the Settings menu in your PS5 and select Screen and Video, you can then try the new Test 1440p Output option. It will let you know whether your display supports 1440p resolution and/or a 120 Hz refresh rate.

At the bottom of Sony’s blog post, however, is one major caveat: “VRR on PS5 supports 1080p and 4K video output but not 1440p.”

What are you missing without VRR?

For those who haven’t tried it, VRR is a feature that Sony implemented a few months back; the Xbox Series X has had it since launch. It’s one of those “exactly what it says on the tin” features, which adjusts the frame rate constantly as you play a game, rather than locking it to a constant refresh rate, such as 60 Hz or 120 Hz. 

In theory, this means smoother gameplay and more fluid graphics — in practice, it depends a lot on the game, and your display.

Since the PS5 supports VRR for both 1080p and 4K outputs, not having access at 1440p means that players with gaming monitors have to put up with yet another shortcoming that doesn’t affect TV users. Still, there’s some hope for the future. It took Sony two years to implement 1440p output, but it’s finally here. 

Perhaps VRR for the new resolution is just a few updates away.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.