Asus says it’s figured out how to have adaptive sync solutions like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync work nicely alongside its own ELMB motion blur reduction technology.
For years, manufacturers have included motion blur-mitigating settings on their monitors. BenQ has BenQ Blur Reduction and Samsung has Clear Motion Rate – and Asus has ELMB (Extreme Low Motion Blur).
While these are effective at all but eliminating motion blur, a downside of these settings is that they can’t be used at the same time as adaptive sync solutions, such as Nvidia’s G-Sync, which attempts to prevent screen tearing by synchronising a display’s refresh rate to the frame rate produced by a system’s graphics processor.
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Because motion blur solutions have relied on forcing an LED monitor to strobe its back lights at very specific and fixed frequencies (typically above 85Hz – any strobing at frequencies below this can apparently be detected by the human eye) you can see why technologies like G-Sync or FreeSync, which dynamically adjust a display’s refresh rate, would cause problems for something like ELMB.
However, Asus is now hoping its new TUF Gaming VG series of monitors can clean up, by making ELMB play nicely with G-Sync and FreeSync. Naturally, Asus is calling this solution ‘ELMB-Sync’.
At Computex 2019, Stephen Funke, from the technical marketing team of Asus’s Open Platform Business Group, revealed the company had successfully developed a series of complex algorithms that sidestep the issue entirely.
“The timing [for anti-motion blur solutions to work] needs to be very precise,” Funke explained. “You have to finish [rendering] this frame. It can’t be halfway done, it needs to be completely finished before the strobe goes off. Otherwise, you’re going to cause artifacting. You’re going to end up in a worse situation before you turn ELMB, or whatever motion blur reduction technology, on. So the timing is critical, which means we used a fixed refresh rate in the past… That’s why if you turned G-Sync on, or FreeSync on, you had to turn ELMB off. Usually on a gaming monitor, it will just be disabled.
“What we’ve done with ELMB-Sync, is solve that pain point. We now allow motion blur reduction, a strobing backlight, to work in conjunction with variable refresh rate technology. You can use FreeSync or G-Sync, and motion blur reduction at the same time.
“This is not easy to do, by the way! So we are the first ones, we will be exclusive in the market. We had to use a dedicated processor to do this advanced strobing. And of course, you can imagine, you have to use some algorithms to analyse the rate of the incoming frames, the refresh rate of that monitor, and then decide when to turn the backlight on and when to turn it off.”
So far so good. But why the TUF range? TUF is Asus’s entry-level gaming brand aimed at first-time PC builders who prize durability over all else. You might expect Asus to debut ELMB-Sync on a higher-end gaming monitor from its Strix line.
“We’re bringing this feature not into the high-end premium monitors, but into these three brand-new TUG Gaming displays. Why are we bringing it into the mainstream? Why not bring it into the top and then trickle it down?
“Couple of reasons for that. One, mainstream panels are going to benefit a lot more from this type of technology. High-end panels don’t often suffer from that much motion blur or ghosting anyway, so, it’s not really going to have that much benefit from ELMB-Sync. The other reason is that our high-end panels are all focused on HDR. 1000 nits. For these types of panel, you need to have maximum brightness available, at a split seconds’ notice. If you’re strobing the backlight, that won’t work at all… [ELMB-Sync and HDR] are basically incompatible. This feature makes way more sense as a mainstream feature.”
So that’s ELMB-Sync, an industry-first feature for the masses. As for the TUF Gaming VG monitors themselves, there are three versions currently announced.
All are WQHD 1440p displays, and they’re each IPS, TN, and VA types respectively, to cater for different types of buyers.
The first two, the VG27AQ and VG27BQ are 27-inch panels, boasting maximum refresh rates of 155Hz. The former is an IPS-type while the latter is a TN. The TUF Gaming VG32VQ is a 31.5-inch VA type that refreshes up to 144Hz.
At a media demo before Asus’ big keynote event, Trusted Reviews and other attendees were only able to see the TUF Gaming VG27AQ, the IPS model, in action.
Two VG27AQs were set up side by side, both of them running the Street Map test from testufo.com, but only one with ELMB-Sync active. While you can’t tell from a static photo, the difference between the two was obvious – road lines and street names were much clearer and easier to scan with the motion blur-nixing setting on. That’s not quite the same as seeing, say, Battlefield 5 paired with G-Sync and ELMB-Sync though.
And, as strobing naturally sees a monitor’s backlights turned off for small amounts of time, you can expect luminance to drop – we can expect therefore that peak brightness on the TUF Gaming VG series may be below what you’d expect from otherwise similarly-specced monitors.
While the proof will be in the playing, this is an impressive-sounding achievement.
Price and release date information isn’t yet available and while TUF Gaming monitors tend to be cheaper, it’s currently unclear if ELMB-Sync will see prices creep up in the short term – that R&D isn’t going to pay for itself – or if Asus intends for this to be a standard feature of all TUF monitors going forwards.
Either way, with buyers of high end monitors tending to reap advances first, it’s nice to see mainstream-level TUF guys getting something for a change.
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