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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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Try counting again: LG 29", LG 34", BenQ 27", Acer 27" -- that's four. Thanks for playing. And the Samsung displays are announced and coming out later this month or early next. For NVIDIA, there are six displays available, and one coming next month (though I guess it's available overseas). I'm not aware of additional G-SYNC displays that have been announced, so there's our six/seven. I guess maybe we can count the early moddable LCDs from ASUS (and BenQ?) and call it 8/9 if you really want to stretch things.

    I'm not saying G-SYNC is bad, but the proprietary nature and price are definitely not benefits for the consumer. FreeSync may not be technically superior in every way (or at least, the individual implementations in each LCD may not be as good), but open and less expensive frequently wins out over closed and more expensive.
    Reply
  • chizow - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    @Jarred, thanks for playing, but you're still wrong. There's 8 G-Sync panels on the market, and even adding the 1 for AMD that's still double, so how that is "nearly caught up" is certainly an interesting lens.

    Nvidia also has panels in the works, including 2 new, major breakthroughs like the Acer 1440p IPS, 1st 144Hz, 1440p, IPS VRR panel and the Asus ROG Swift 4K IPS, 1st 4K IPS VRR monitor. So yes, while AMD is busy "almost catching up" with low end panels, Nvidia and their partners are continuing to pioneer the tech.

    As for FreeSync bringing up the low end, I personally think it would be great if Nvidia adopted AdaptiveSync for their low end solutions and continued to support G-Sync as their premium solution. It would be great for the overwhelming majority of the market that owns Nvidia already, and would be one less reason for anyone to buy a Radeon card.
    Reply
  • TheJian - Sunday, March 22, 2015 - link

    You sure have a lot of excuses. This is beta 1.0, it's the lcd's fault (pcper didn't think so), assumption that open/free (this isn't free, $50 by your own account for freesync, which is the same as $40-60 for the gsync module right?, you even admit they're hiking prices at the vendor side for $100+) is frequently the winner. Ummm, tell that to CUDA and NV's generally more expensive cards. There is a reason they have pricing power (the are better), and own 70% discrete and ~75% workstation market. I digress... Reply
  • anubis44 - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    @chizow:

    "I'll bet on the market leader that holds a commanding share of the dGPU market, consistently provides the best graphics cards, great support and features, and isn't riddled with billions in debt with a gloomy financial outlook."

    You mean you'll bet on the crooked, corrupt, anti-competitive, money-grubbing company that doesn't compensate their customers when they rip them off (bumpgate), and has no qualms about selling them a bill of goods (GTX970 has 4GB ram! Well, 3.5GB of 'normal' speed ram, and .5GB of much slower, shitty ram.), likes to pay off game-makers to throw in trivial nVidia proprietary special effects (Batman franchise and PhysX, I'm looking right at you)? That company? Ok, you keep supporting the rip-off GPU maker, and see how this all ends for you.
    Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    @Anubis44: Yeah again, I don't bother with any of that noise. The GTX 970 I bought for my wife in Dec had no adverse impact from the paper spec change made a few months ago, it is still the same fantastic value and perf it was the day it launched.

    But yes I am sure ignoramuses like yourself are quick to dismiss all the deceptive and downright deceitful things AMD has said in the past about FreeSync, now that we know its not really Free, can't be implemented with a firmware flash, does in fact require additional hardware, and doesn't even work with many of AMD's own GPUs. And how about CrossFireX? How long did AMD steal money from end-users like yourself on a solution that was flawed and broken for years on end, even denying there was a problem until Nvidia and the press exposed it with that entire runtframe FCAT fiasco?

    And bumpgate? LMAO. AMD fanboys need to be careful who they point the finger at, especially in the case of AMD there's usually 4 more fingers pointed back at them. How about that Llano demand overstatement lawsuit still ongoing that specifically names most of AMD's exec board, including Read? How about that Apple extended warranty and class action lawsuit regarding the same package/bump issues on AMD's MacBook GPUs?

    LOL its funny because idiots like you think "money-grubbing" is some pejorative and greedy companies are inherently evil, but then you look at AMD's financial woes and you understand they can only attract the kind of cheap, ignorant and obtusely stubborn customers LIKE YOU who won't even spend top dollar on their comparably low-end offerings. Then you wonder why AMD is always in a loss position, bleeding money from every orifice, saddled in debt. Because you're waiting for that R9 290 to have a MIR and drop from $208.42 to $199.97 before you crack that dusty wallet open and fork out your hard-earned money.

    And when there is actually a problem with AMD product, you would rather make excuses for them and sweep those problems under the rug, rather than demand better product!

    So yes, in the end, you and AMD deserve one another, for as long as it lasts anyways.
    Reply
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    HD-DVD was technically superior and higher cost? It seems BlueRay/HD-DVD is a counterexample to what you are saying, but you include it in the list to your favor. Laserdisc couldn't record whereas VCRs could. Minidisc was smaller and offered recording, but CD-R came soon after and then all it had was the smaller size. Finally MP3 players came along and did away with it.

    There's another difference in this instance, though, which doesn't apply to any of those situations that I am aware of, other than minidisc ): G-Sync/FreeSync are linked to an already installed user base of requisite products. (Minidisc was going up against CD libraries, although people could copy those. In any case, minidisc wasn't successful and was going AGAINST an installed user base.) NVIDIA has a dominant position in the installed GPU base, which is probably exactly the reason that NVIDIA chose to close off G-Sync and the "free" ended up being in FreeSync.

    Assuming variable refresh catches on, if after some time G-Sync monitors are still significantly more expensive than FreeSync ones, it could become a problem for NVIDIA and they may have to either work to reduce the price or support FreeSync.
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Uh, HD-DVD was the open standard there guy, and it lost to the proprietary one: Blu-Ray. But there's plenty of other instances of proprietary winning out and dominating, let's not forget Windows vs. Linux, DX vs. OpenGL, CUDA vs. OpenCL, list goes on and on.

    Fact remains, people will pay more for the better product, and better means better results, better support. I think Nvidia has shown time and again, that's where it beats AMD, and their customers are willing to pay more for it.

    See: Broken Day 15 CF FreeSync drivers as exhibit A.
    Reply
  • at80eighty - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Keep paddling away, son. The ship isn't sinking at all Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    If you buy a FreeSync monitor you will get 2-3 paddles for every 1 on a G-Sync panel. That will certainly help you pedal faster.

    http://www.pcper.com/image/view/54234?return=node%...
    Reply
  • at80eighty - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    oh hey great example - no ghosting there at all. brilliant! Reply

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