FreeSync Features

In many ways FreeSync and G-SYNC are comparable. Both refresh the display as soon as a new frame is available, at least within their normal range of refresh rates. There are differences in how this is accomplished, however.

G-SYNC uses a proprietary module that replaces the normal scaler hardware in a display. Besides cost factors, this means that any company looking to make a G-SYNC display has to buy that module from NVIDIA. Of course the reason NVIDIA went with a proprietary module was because adaptive sync didn’t exist when they started working on G-SYNC, so they had to create their own protocol. Basically, the G-SYNC module controls all the regular core features of the display like the OSD, but it’s not as full featured as a “normal” scaler.

In contrast, as part of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard, Adaptive Sync (which is what AMD uses to enable FreeSync) will likely become part of many future displays. The major scaler companies (Realtek, Novatek, and MStar) have all announced support for Adaptive Sync, and it appears most of the changes required to support the standard could be accomplished via firmware updates. That means even if a display vendor doesn’t have a vested interest in making a FreeSync branded display, we could see future displays that still work with FreeSync.

Having FreeSync integrated into most scalers has other benefits as well. All the normal OSD controls are available, and the displays can support multiple inputs – though FreeSync of course requires the use of DisplayPort as Adaptive Sync doesn’t work with DVI, HDMI, or VGA (DSUB). AMD mentions in one of their slides that G-SYNC also lacks support for audio input over DisplayPort, and there’s mention of color processing as well, though this is somewhat misleading. NVIDIA's G-SYNC module supports color LUTs (Look Up Tables), but they don't support multiple color options like the "Warm, Cool, Movie, User, etc." modes that many displays have; NVIDIA states that the focus is on properly producing sRGB content, and so far the G-SYNC displays we've looked at have done quite well in this regard. We’ll look at the “Performance Penalty” aspect as well on the next page.

One other feature that differentiates FreeSync from G-SYNC is how things are handled when the frame rate is outside of the dynamic refresh range. With G-SYNC enabled, the system will behave as though VSYNC is enabled when frame rates are either above or below the dynamic range; NVIDIA's goal was to have no tearing, ever. That means if you drop below 30FPS, you can get the stutter associated with VSYNC while going above 60Hz/144Hz (depending on the display) is not possible – the frame rate is capped. Admittedly, neither situation is a huge problem, but AMD provides an alternative with FreeSync.

Instead of always behaving as though VSYNC is on, FreeSync can revert to either VSYNC off or VSYNC on behavior if your frame rates are too high/low. With VSYNC off, you could still get image tearing but at higher frame rates there would be a reduction in input latency. Again, this isn't necessarily a big flaw with G-SYNC – and I’d assume NVIDIA could probably rework the drivers to change the behavior if needed – but having choice is never a bad thing.

There’s another aspect to consider with FreeSync that might be interesting: as an open standard, it could potentially find its way into notebooks sooner than G-SYNC. We have yet to see any shipping G-SYNC enabled laptops, and it’s unlikely most notebooks manufacturers would be willing to pay $200 or even $100 extra to get a G-SYNC module into a notebook, and there's the question of power requirements. Then again, earlier this year there was an inadvertent leak of some alpha drivers that allowed G-SYNC to function on the ASUS G751j notebook without a G-SYNC module, so it’s clear NVIDIA is investigating other options.

While NVIDIA may do G-SYNC without a module for notebooks, there are still other questions. With many notebooks using a form of dynamic switchable graphics (Optimus and Enduro), support for Adaptive Sync by the Intel processor graphics could certainly help. NVIDIA might work with Intel to make G-SYNC work (though it’s worth pointing out that the ASUS G751 doesn’t support Optimus so it’s not a problem with that notebook), and AMD might be able to convince Intel to adopt DP Adaptive Sync, but to date neither has happened. There’s no clear direction yet but there’s definitely a market for adaptive refresh in laptops, as many are unable to reach 60+ FPS at high quality settings.

FreeSync Displays and Pricing FreeSync vs. G-SYNC Performance


View All Comments

  • Refuge - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    Thats the thing, this is clearly a tech that can help lower end GPU's provide a better gaming experience, and it is a patch away for nVidia.

    Them saying they won't or them just not doing it is honestly a slap in the face to every customer of theirs. Me included, I don't want my GPU to work better with one monitor than another because of a branding issue.

    if nVidia doesn't support Freesync, I'll just never buy their products again. I honestly don't see why they wouldn't support it. Then their GPU's work with everything and AMD are still stuck to Freesync.

    Not only is it insulting to me as a customer, it is also stupid from a business standpoint as well.
  • Creig - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    AdaptiveSync - An open VESA industry standard available for free to any company that wishes to utilize it.
    G-sync - Nvidia's proprietary solution that they collect royalties on and refuse to allow any other company to use.

    Big difference.
  • tobi1449 - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    Plus I doubt the companies producing the scalers don't want their cut for additional features like this one. Reply
  • cbutters - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    So you are arguing that the cost is that you have to stick with AMD hardware? For one, how is this a cost?? But my point is the only reason that you would have to stick with AMD hardware is because NVIDIA chooses not to support displayport 1.2a. So it is NVIDIA costing you.
    Secondly, You are not limited to AMD hardware, rather NVIDIA is excluding itself from your next purchase. Freesync is not closed tech... Intel graphics chips could adopt it tomorrow since it is an open standard. It is NVIDIA that is closing down options, not AMD.
  • JonnyDough - Monday, March 23, 2015 - link

    Costs will trickle down somehow...yes with good PR. AMD spent a ton developing this only to give it away for free. It will pay because it makes NVidia look bad. I'm not a fanboy, I prefer NVidia's drivers usually. I just like AMD better because they compete on cost, not match it like an oligopoly. Reply
  • anubis44 - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    "Costs still trickle down somehow..and that cost is you having to stick with AMD hardware when you buy a new monitor."

    That's not a cost AMD is imposing on us, it's a cost nVidia is imposing on us, by stubbornly refusing to give their customers Freesync compatible drivers. nVidia is simply trying to grab as much cash as possible, and people like you are helping them rip us all off.
  • chizow - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    How is it not a cost AMD is imposing? LOL. FreeSync panels carry a premium over non-FreeSync panels, this is a fact. AMD has said it is the panel mfgs charging a premium for higher quality components, specifications, engineering/QA costs. No one has a problem with this, even AMD fanboys like you.

    Yet when Nvidia does the same, especially when their G-Sync module is clearly doing a better job at what it needs to do relative to the new FreeSync scalers, all while offering more features (3D and ULMB), suddenly there's a problem and Nvidia has no right?

    LOL, idiots. Nvidia and their mfg partners are charging more because the market sees value in their superior products, simple as that. These are the same mfgs btw, if they thought they could charge more they would, but clearly, they also see the Nvidia solution commands the higher price tag.
  • medi03 - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    As mentioned in the article, FreeSync support is no big deal and is already supported by most upscaler chips out there. Had there been "hidden cost" they wouldn't do it.
  • FriendlyUser - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    How is it better because it works with Nvidia hardware? I mean, if you have a Nvidia card you don't have a choice. That doesn't make GSync better in any meaningful way. Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    ... If you currently have an AMD card, you have much less of a choice. Actually given the restriction of GCN 1.1 or later, there's a decent possibility you have no choice. Reply

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