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Why your next monitor should have AMD FreeSync

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Why your next monitor should have AMD FreeSync

When Nvidia introduced G-Sync, its frame-smoothing monitor technology, 18 months ago we were pretty blown away by how much of a difference it made to the feel of smoothness when gaming. Even if your graphics card could only output 40fps, you still got a smooth, immersive gaming experience.

However, there was, and still is, a problem with G-Sync: it requires a whole new Nvidia controller to be built into monitors, which limits uptake of the technology and makes the monitors expensive, plus of course you have to have an Nvidia graphics card. And that’s where AMD’s FreeSync comes in.

Developed as a direct response to G-Sync, FreeSync is an alternative way of getting to the same result: having a monitor that responds to the framerate of the graphics card, rather than being fixed at, say, 60Hz or 75Hz.

SEE ALSO: The top tech from CES 2015

AMD FreeSync

28” 60Hz 4K display with FreeSync from Samsung

What makes it so attractive is that, unlike G-Sync, FreeSync doesn’t require any extra hardware from the monitor manufacturers. As a result AMD has been able to announce 11 new monitors that use FreeSync technology even though it has only just launched here at CES 2015. Meanwhile there are still relatively few G-Sync monitors even though it has been around a while, as the G-Sync module requires a license fee and is otherwise quite limited in what it can do.

FreeSync in fact uses the standard adaptive-sync command that’s part of the DisplayPort standard (yes, these technologies only work over DisplayPort) and as such it’s theoretically possible for many existing monitors to support it simply by applying a new firmware to the monitor’s controller.

AMD FreeSync Tearing

For those unfamiliar, the advantage of these technologies is that they eliminate (within certain boundaries) two of the most distracting graphical problems when gaming on a PC.

The first is tearing, which is where the monitor doesn’t wait for a complete new frame from the graphics card before updating its display so you get multiple images displayed on the same frame, creating a stepped or torn look to the image.

Tearing can be fixed by turning on V-Sync, which forces the monitor to wait for a full new frame before updating its image. The problem is, if it has to wait more than the period of time it takes for the monitor to refresh – i.e. 10ms for a 60Hz monitor – it creates a secondary problem where it shows the same image twice. This results in an effect called stuttering.

G-Sync and FreeSync aim to solve this by tying the refresh of the monitor to the graphics card, so if you can only get around 40fps in a game the monitor will essentially just run at 40Hz.

There are some limitations, though. For a start, the effect only works within certain framerate ranges: too low (below 30fps) and the framerate is just so slow that the experience is still very poor, while at the other end it obviously only works up to the maximum framerate of your monitor so if you feel limited by your 60Hz monitor G-Sync and FreeSync won't change this. Also, despite the fact that AMD’s solution theoretically requires little in the way of new hardware, it’s unlikely monitor manufacturers will release new firmware for existing monitors so you will have to buy a new one.

AMD FreeSync

27” 144Hz QHD display from BenQ

You’ll also likely have to buy a new graphics card as the outputting of the adaptive-sync signal is only supported on the latest AMD graphics cards or APUs, with Intel and Nvidia yet to get on board.

However, because FreeSync is an open standard that any monitor controller maker can use there's a good chance it’ll soon become standard, whichever graphics card or monitor you buy.

The full range of FreeSync monitors will be arriving over the next few months and already includes 4k, ultra-wide and budget models from the likes of BenQ, LG and Samsung.

Jedibeeftrix

January 9, 2015, 8:30 am

happily agreed.

Matthew Bunton

January 9, 2015, 9:43 am

Hopefully this will help bring an end to screen tearing whilst also lower the prices of G-sync monitors.

Dan Rizzatz

January 9, 2015, 6:16 pm

Yeah, it's funny, Intel doesn't really fight with AMD like that anymore.

When AMD makes IP that Intel likes, Intel just uses it.
When Intel makes IP that AMD likes, AMD also uses it after they engineer their own solution.

Ed

January 9, 2015, 9:33 pm

No research needed, just a slightly less misleading choice of phrase. Was simply trying to keep things brief and summarise the fact that there's a lower bound and upper bound due to a number of factors and that most monitors available with the technology will work in that range.

Iluv2raceit

March 1, 2015, 6:25 am

This article is so wrong in so many ways that I could immediately tell the author had no idea what the heck they were talking about. They do NOT understand how FreeSync works. IT REQUIRES A SPECIAL SCALER JUST LIKE GSYNC IN ORDER TO SUPPORT A DYNAMIC REFRESH RATE. FreeSync will not work with any monitor just because it has a higher refresh rate. Bad article full of incorrect information - period.

Hiebly

March 13, 2015, 10:15 am

Every monitor has scalers in it, and there are many different ones. The primary difference between G-Sync and FreeSync is that there is nothing proprietary about the technology for AMD's FreeSync. Once production ramps up (which hopefully will happen, should this become standard - though Nvidia will likely make that a painful journey) it shouldn't cost manufacturers any more to make a FreeSync-ready monitor than one without FreeSync.

Variable refresh rate benefits displays hugely... not only for gaming, but also helps when watching films or television that aren't at the same framerate as your monitor (such as 24 or 48 fps on a 60Hz panel). Very smooth.

Hiebly

March 13, 2015, 10:18 am

I expect so, though it won't be overnight. Nvidia is gonna milk G-Sync as long as they can.

Ed

March 19, 2015, 11:20 am

No it doesn't. Adaptive-Sync is set to become a standard and some scalers/controllers could theoretically simply be firmware-updated to support it. However it is unlikely that will happen, as I say in the article.

As for the bit about higher refresh rates, I don't even know what you're referring to there.

paalo sordoni

May 4, 2015, 6:33 pm

Could you please review this monitor as soon a you can ,ips 144hz ,freesync seems to good to be true.thanks in advance.
Asus MG279Q ROG Dominator 27" FREESYNC IPS 144Hz

News Flash

November 5, 2015, 12:22 am

I legitimately don't understand how this variable refresh rate thing is just now propping up rather than having been an industry standard for a decade. As soon as gaming took off and people talked about frames and frame rates... Surely there were people complaining about displays having fixed display rates?

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