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
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  • imaheadcase - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    The cost means nothing, keep in mind the people buying this stuff pay out the nose already for hardware. Given that most people who by nvidia cards are going to get a Gsync, cost has no meaning.

    This is a double bad thing for AMD..first its still tied to IT'S graphics card (NV already so no to support), and 2nd the monitors announced already are already below the specs Freesync is suppose to do, and worse than next gen Gsync monitors.

    I mean i love competition like the next person, but this is just PR making it seem like its a good thing when its not.
  • SleepyFE - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Your name says it all. Do you really think manufacturers will beg NVidia to come and mess with their manufacturing process just to include something that only they support? Time will come when phone makers will join and they mostly don't use NVidia GPU's. So now you have NVidia vs AMD and Intel (for ultrabooks) and ARM (Mali) and PowerVR. You think NVidia can hold them off with overpricing and PR?
  • Murloc - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    uhm no?
    I'd want my next monitor to be GPU agnostic ideally.
    And I'd want to use an nvidia card with it because right now AMD cards are still ovens compared to nvidia.
    Not because I like paying through the nose, a 750 Ti doesn't cost much at all.

    I'll hold out since I'm trusting that this thing will solve itself (in favour of the industry standard, adaptive sync) sooner or later.
  • Ranger101 - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    So a difference of 10 degrees celsius under load makes an AMD gpu an OVEN and an Nvidia gpu presumably a Fridge by comparison....LOL.
  • Lakku - Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - link

    The reported GPU temp means nothing. That is just an indication of the heatsink/fans ability to remove heat from the GPU. You need to look at power draw. The AMD GPUs draw significantly more power than current nVidia cards for less performance. That power generates heat, heat that needs to go somewhere. So while the AMD cards may be 10 degrees Celsius more, which isn't minimal in and of itself, it is having to dissipate quite a bit more generated heat. The end result is AMD GPUs are putting out quite a bit more heat than nVidia GPUs.
  • althaz - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    There are a bunch of 4k monitors announced. Yet there are no 4k G-Sync monitors available - how is that worse specs?

    I'd buy a 4k 27" G-Sync display at a reasonable price in a heartbeat. In fact I'd buy two.
  • thejshep - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Acer XB280HK
  • arneberg - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Freesync today are only open to people with radeon cards. AMD made the better deal they let the monitor builders take the cost for freesync. Nvidia made the hardware themself
  • chizow - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Huh? Who cares if its open/closed/upside down/inside out? G-Sync is better because it is BETTER at what it set out to do. If it is the better overall solution, as we have seen today it is, then it can and should command a premium. This will just be another bulletpoint pro/con for Nvidia vs. AMD. You want better, you have to pay for it, simple as that.
  • lordken - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    better? did we read same article? I cant find where it says that gsync is better than freesync. In what aspect it is better?
    And answer for your 1st question is, anyone with the brain. Thing is that nvidia could enable support for freesync if it wouldnt hurt their pride, which would be big benefit for their customers (you wouldnt be restricted on monitor selection) but they chose what is better for them, pushing gsync & milking more money from you.
    This is pretty stupid, while you may be some average gamer that thinks it is fine to have your monitor selection restricted to 2% normal people probably wouldnt be that happy. The way it should be is that every monitor should support freesync (or whatever you call it) as this is display feature and should have been in 1st place developed by LCD makers but they dont give a shit to provide excellent displays as far as they can sell shit that people are buying like crazy (not refering to gsync monitors now).
    Vendor lockin is always a bad thing.
    Oh and article says that gsync monitor doesnt provide advanced OSD as comon panels yeah gsync is clearly better

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