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AMD Clears the Air Around Project FreeSync

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 31 comments

It looks like Adaptive-Sync might just become standard fare on DisplayPort-enabled monitors a couple years down the road.

AMD has been making lots of noise about Project FreeSync these past few months, but has also left plenty of questions unanswered. We’ve all been curious about how the industry is responding to AMD's FreeSync efforts, so we asked. It’s no surprise that AMD is confident when it comes to predicting the success of those efforts, especially based on its purported cooperation with major scaler players, but if the company’s optimism is met with any semblance of reality, we’ll see widespread support for Adaptive-Sync in monitors with DisplayPort interfaces in the not-so-distant future.

As a refresher for the uninitiated, Project FreeSync is AMD's effort to get mainstream adoption of the VESA Adaptive-Sync specification, which is implemented in DisplayPort 1.2a. Using this, a graphics card can work with supporting monitors to eliminate tearing and stuttering in games. Before Adaptive-Sync, you would have to live with these artifacts, or, if you enabled V-Sync, you could eliminate the tearing but would suffer even greater stuttering.

Nvidia has a similar, proprietary technology that it calls G-Sync, which we've tested and it works.

Another quick refresher: The Adaptive-Sync protocol works with variable vertical-blank intervals. After a frame is pushed to the display, the graphics card sends out a v-blank start signal, telling the monitor to keep the given image on-screen. Just as the graphics card finishes rendering the next frame, it will send out a v-blank end signal, telling the monitor to scan for information again, for which it receives the new frame and updates the image, and the process repeats.

The benefits: primarily a smoother experience for the user, with less perceived stuttering and uneven frame playback. The technology is primarily for gamers, but could be used to avoid inverse telecine artifacts for 24 FPS video. Adaptive-Sync comes with almost no latency; sending out these signals hardly costs any power at all; and there is effectively no performance overhead.

What’s more, this can be done with any monitor that supports Adaptive-Sync (in other words, the monitor uses a supporting scalar), since the graphics card tells the monitor what to do. No two-way handshake is needed for every frame when using Adaptive-Sync because the graphics card and the monitor will agree upon the minimum and maximum frame intervals upon connecting. Of course, this does require a DisplayPort link.

There are three or four major vendors that build scalers for most of the leading monitor vendors, according to an AMD spokesman. AMD is actively working with these scaler vendors to bring Adaptive-Sync support into their higher-end scalers, and the company expects the mainstream scalers to gain support for the features very soon as well. The process isn’t progressing as slowly as we thought, although the AMD spokesman did make it clear that it was still too early to discuss exact commitments. A number of monitor vendors are reaching out to AMD to get them to assist with implementing the technology, while others aren’t entirely convinced yet, the spokesman said.

It’s reasonable to expect this functionality to show up in non-gaming oriented monitors, like high-resolution IPS monitors. In fact, the monitor we saw running Adaptive-Sync at Computex 2014 was an IPS monitor with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels (we came by this information on our own). Although AMD won't reveal the manufacturer, that monitor can be purchased today in retail stores--just with different firmware that supports Adaptive-Sync. However, don’t expect monitor vendors to start updating the firmware of existing products.

Nevertheless, this is good news. We can expect to see almost all mainstream and high-end monitors support Adaptive-Sync in the future. Last month, during Computex, AMD announced that we should see Adaptive-Sync monitors on the market within 6-12 months. If so, Adaptive-Sync could have a leg up on G-Sync, at least in terms of speed to market (we’ll let our testing speak to technological superiority when the time is right). G-Sync also operates over DisplayPort, but with a proprietary protocol, which will probably limit its support.

AMD is unlikely to support similar technology over HDMI, according to the spokesman, who said: "If we wanted to do something over HDMI right now, it would have to be proprietary, and we would rather not do that." Perhaps a not-so-subtle knock at Nvidia.

Follow Niels Broekhuijsen @NBroekhuijsen. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • -9 Hide
    Bondfc11 , July 14, 2014 12:22 PM
    Although ASync only works with 2 AMD cards at the moment. Not sure how that makes it more open to the public. I am sure AMD will try and expand the card list to support Async in the future, but for now it is even more limited than Nvidia's solution.
  • 7 Hide
    caqde , July 14, 2014 12:31 PM
    I wouldn't call a limited listing of current cards as an issue considering the 6-12 month time before monitors that support it. That and given most people don't replace their monitors very often. I think by the time these monitors are commonplace AMD's full line of GPU's will likely support it.
  • 7 Hide
    iknowhowtofixit , July 14, 2014 1:20 PM
    Quote:
    Although ASync only works with 2 AMD cards at the moment. Not sure how that makes it more open to the public. I am sure AMD will try and expand the card list to support Async in the future, but for now it is even more limited than Nvidia's solution.


    A simple driver update could address this as long as the gfx card is capable of the appropriate version of display port.
  • 7 Hide
    hannibal , July 14, 2014 1:41 PM
    The best thing would be to have Intel to support this feature with their next CPUGPU upgrades. It should be possible to do it just by making new drivers, and those CPUGPU solutions really need this feature, because they can have really poor frame rates.
  • 7 Hide
    falchard , July 14, 2014 3:35 PM
    I am certain AMD wants this to work on AMD, NVidia, and Intel GPUs. Most proprietary solutions fail in the marketplace without the company shelling out cash for manufacturers/developers to adopt. After all no point limiting your market to 50% of users. More than likely we will see support for AMDs current architecture and NVidia since Kepler.
  • 9 Hide
    Martell1977 , July 14, 2014 4:37 PM
    No special hardware needed, no extra cost onto the monitor...If this works as expected, who would ever spend extra for gsync, and then be pigeon-holed into only using nVidia's GPU's.
  • 7 Hide
    Tem B , July 14, 2014 5:22 PM
    Quote:
    Although ASync only works with 2 AMD cards at the moment. Not sure how that makes it more open to the public. I am sure AMD will try and expand the card list to support Async in the future, but for now it is even more limited than Nvidia's solution.


    R9 290X, R9 290, R7 260X and R7 260 graphics cards support it. Their APUs also support. A lot of people are already able to benefit when it comes out.

    Of course it is limited since its not out yet. When it is out though, its over for Gsync. If nvidia doesn't support this tech because of their stupid EGO or try to fight it, they will suffer - if reviews show it essential for a wide range of gaming levels (low to high to ultra high).
  • 2 Hide
    IInuyasha74 , July 14, 2014 6:06 PM
    Quote:
    The best thing would be to have Intel to support this feature with their next CPUGPU upgrades. It should be possible to do it just by making new drivers, and those CPUGPU solutions really need this feature, because they can have really poor frame rates.


    Yea and Intel has so far been really good about trying to update features on their graphics chips. Granted they only have a small handful that are worth using for anything which makes it easier to update as opposed to the massive holdings AMD and Nvidia have so many cards to update. So I bet Intel would be happy about the technology and support it. It would be good to see them get into it.
  • -2 Hide
    eklipz330 , July 14, 2014 6:07 PM
    i love amd, but if it wasn't for nvidias money-mongering, this would have never come to fruition
  • 5 Hide
    IInuyasha74 , July 14, 2014 6:12 PM
    Quote:
    i love amd, but if it wasn't for nvidias money-mongering, this would have never come to fruition


    Not necesarily. This issue has been present for pretty much the full history of computer gaming. That is why V-Sync was originally created. It seems more likely both companies were working on the same problem and have came up with different solutions. Nvidia created a solution that would make them more money. AMD created a solution which would improve their performance. It probably helps that having this, will prevent loss of sales from people wanting to use G-Sync, but I doubt that was their primary reason.
  • 5 Hide
    The_Icon , July 14, 2014 10:10 PM
    I like Nvidia, but I hate their proprietary technology bullshit! There should be open standards or semi open standards to drive innovation faster.
  • -1 Hide
    Truckinupga , July 15, 2014 1:21 AM
    Free is better, godspeed to AMD. Just please don't let this be another overly exaggerated minor performance improvement like Mantel.
  • 2 Hide
    Martell1977 , July 15, 2014 1:32 AM
    Quote:
    Free is better, godspeed to AMD. Just please don't let this be another overly exaggerated minor performance improvement like Mantel.


    Mantel has been successful in broadening the market by giving weaker CPU's a sizable performance boost. Higher end CPU's saw little to no performance gains, but they didn't really need them, being as strong as they tend to be. However, AMD marketing did seriously over-promise on Mantles abilities. Someone really needs to reign them in as very few products live up to their hype...
  • 2 Hide
    cemerian , July 15, 2014 1:34 AM
    Quote:
    The best thing would be to have Intel to support this feature with their next CPUGPU upgrades. It should be possible to do it just by making new drivers, and those CPUGPU solutions really need this feature, because they can have really poor frame rates.
    It will not improve fps at any way from or shape, and if people who used Gsync are believed, when it goes under 30 it looks worse than without g-sync, the optimal range is above 45
  • 1 Hide
    Truckinupga , July 15, 2014 2:07 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Free is better, godspeed to AMD. Just please don't let this be another overly exaggerated minor performance improvement like Mantel.


    Mantel has been successful in broadening the market by giving weaker CPU's a sizable performance boost. Higher end CPU's saw little to no performance gains, but they didn't really need them, being as strong as they tend to be. However, AMD marketing did seriously over-promise on Mantles abilities. Someone really needs to reign them in as very few products live up to their hype...


    I agree, Mantle did bring Improvements and the future is looking much brighter for graphics performance because of Mantle. That goes for AMD, Nvidia and Intel, but as you mentioned we are all getting a little fed up with overblown promises just to be let down. Even if they do deliver to a certain extent, it is not good to raise our expectations too high. That will only create disappointment even when there is a measurable Improvement as in the case of Mantle.

  • 1 Hide
    somebodyspecial , July 15, 2014 2:40 AM
    Quote:
    It looks like Adaptive-Sync might just become standard fare on DisplayPort-enabled monitors a couple years down the road.

    AMD Clears the Air Around Project FreeSync : Read more


    "AMD is actively working with these scaler vendors to bring Adaptive-Sync support into their higher-end scalers, and the company expects the mainstream scalers to gain support for the features very soon as well. The process isn’t progressing as slowly as we thought, although the AMD spokesman did make it clear that it was still too early to discuss exact commitments."

    Let me know when that is ACTUALLY TRUE. Until then I say BS, NV tried and couldn't get them to budge, so created a way to do it themselves. Too early to discuss commitments because there are ZERO to discuss. If scaler companies don't make the hardware, how far are you going to get? About as far as NV did I suspect. If it was progressing quickly why would you put a couple of YEARS? Also since there are moles everywhere, I'm sure NV will know when they decide to cooperate and at that point they can choose to drop gsync or lower the price to force more sales (it does sell a gpu also). It's up to them to figure out which way is better for their business and I'm sure their bean counters will be hard at work...LOL.

    http://www.blurbusters.com/gsync/list-of-gsync-monitors/
    The list is growing for gsync monitors announced. Not sure when it was last udpated but I'm sure more will be announced in the next 5 months. The only reason we don't see more already is the amount of time it takes to tune it for each panel (hence the cost). It would sure speed things up if they get a rev2 our or something that can just be applied to all monitors easily. Considering the difficulty in even doing it NV's way, I'm still wondering how GOOD AMD's solution will really be when someone finally is allowed to test it gaming across a dozen titles or so.

    "couple years down the road"
    This is a jump on Gsync that is ALREADY HERE? ROFL. "speed to market" means nothing if it takes years to actually GET to market. AMD said nothing here, no clearing the air, just more of what they HOPE will happen. Meanwhile monitors with gsync will be out in quite good numbers for xmas (meaning on a good number of monitors). Your comment is crazy. In order to have a jump on gsync you have to be FIRST don't you? Not in a COUPLE OF YEARS, right? Is it 6-12 months or a couple of years now?

    "We can expect to see almost all mainstream and high-end monitors support Adaptive-Sync in the future."
    Umm...There's that scaler problem that has to be worked out with the 4-5 vendors the AMD guy mentioned...Remember, NV said they tried and nobody would budge (that R&D costs money), so again, this is why they did it themselves. It is also why you DON'T give it away freely after doing that R&D. Make no mistake the scaler companies will charge the monitor people, and the monitor people will in turn charge YOU. The same thing happened with gsync. This is no different, it's just not AMD doing it to you, it's the scalers/monitor makers who will.

    "If we wanted to do something over HDMI right now, it would have to be proprietary, and we would rather not do that."
    ROFL...

    So in other words "Nvidia had no choice but to do it proprietary because that is all they had available to work with, and since we don't want to be blamed for charging you, we'll wait for years maybe until scalers cooperate so it can be blamed on them or monitor makers"...LOL.

    If scaler makers move at all it will be due to them losing sales because Gsync is included INSTEAD of their scaler. At that point (say xmas or so when all the monitors that we know are coming with gsync are out in great numbers), they may be willing to at least do the work and charge a minimal amount for it, but they won't go for FREE, just cheaper than NV probably to win back sales from Gsync monitors. You see, without vast numbers of gsync selling yet, they have no fears, but that ends at xmas. You could say, AMD's success at getting it into monitors is solely based on Nvidia's success at selling Gsync this xmas...ROFL. If NV succeeds you'll see scaler vendors ramp up some R&D to get new scalers out the door to stop gsync from taking all their sales. It's that simple. Then again, if NV can drive the cost down as sales ramp up they may lose anyway. That's how cuda got entrenched. By the time AMD actually did something they already had years in cuda and owned 90% of the market.

    What air got cleared? No commitments discussed and no "it will be out on X day", so what got cleared up? The 4-5 scalers still haven't committed here either or it would be in the post. All I see is "it's taking long, so we thought we'd make more some more fluff noise and keep saying words like FREE when we know it isn't FREE for scalers or vendors". :)  Even the monitor makers have to pay some R&D to get their monitor to pass for the label. Why the heck would AMD not reveal a monitor that CAN be used today with adaptive sync unless it, well, CAN'T? Are you unable to purchase it with this different firmware that can use it because brand X wants to make you buy a new monitor?

    Fuzzy, fuzzy, fuzzy...Not clear at all.
  • 1 Hide
    somebodyspecial , July 15, 2014 2:49 AM
    Quote:
    Free is better, godspeed to AMD. Just please don't let this be another overly exaggerated minor performance improvement like Mantel.


    Who do you think will pay for the scaler R&D and monitors to pass Adaptive Sync validation?

    I'll give you ONE guess.
    The 4-5 scaler makers aren't jumping because to them it isn't FREE R&D. Monitor makers will have some cost incurred to get the label slapped on them as approved also (that takes some kind of R&D and testing).

    Free is better, but this isn't FREE to anyone but AMD (applying for something to be spec is one thing, getting it supported is quite another). First, if it was so easily implemented NV wouldn't have come up with Gsync, and second, it would be ALL OVER the place right now if it cost NOTHING to implement the "FREE" one. Why would ANY company hold up a product that "supposedly" (we haven't seen it in gaming yet on a review site, unlike gsync) helped gamers so much, if it was FREE and EASY to implement?
  • 1 Hide
    somebodyspecial , July 15, 2014 3:05 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    i love amd, but if it wasn't for nvidias money-mongering, this would have never come to fruition


    Not necesarily. This issue has been present for pretty much the full history of computer gaming. That is why V-Sync was originally created. It seems more likely both companies were working on the same problem and have came up with different solutions. Nvidia created a solution that would make them more money. AMD created a solution which would improve their performance. It probably helps that having this, will prevent loss of sales from people wanting to use G-Sync, but I doubt that was their primary reason.


    That's incorrect. They created what scaler makers would NOT create and that COST money so they have to charge for it or simply lose money. AMD created a solution that OTHERS must pay to implement. Those 4-5 scaler makers and monitor vendors have to update, and again that is NOT FREE. AMD's solution merely shifted the blame. Also, NV's solution VASTLY improves performance as all reviews have shown. It remains to be seen AFTER testing at review sites if AMD's solution is equal or LESS to NV's. It won't prevent my lost sale if it's 2nd rate. Nobody can say how that will turn out until it gets tested across a dozen games on some review site. Right now we don't have much more than AMD's word and a demo that isn't gameplay right?

    I also have a problem with their comment on their display saying "virtually eliminates stutter". We learned in school words like Virtually are red flags...LOL. I really hope it's good, but they sure haven't put it in anyone's hands for testing yet. That's not good IMHO. Not to mention all 3 comments on the display say "helps" in front of them. So not ELIMINATES? Just helps? That doesn't scream confidence does it?


    http://www.pcper.com/news/Graphics-Cards/AMD-Demonstrates-Prototype-FreeSync-Monitor-DisplayPort-Adaptive-Sync-Feature
    "What is not good news though is that this feature isn't going to be supported on the full range of AMD Radeon graphics cards. Only the Radeon R9 290/290X and R7 260/260X (and the R9 295X2 of course) will actually be able to support the "FreeSync" technology. Compare that to NVIDIA's G-Sync: it is supported by NVIDIA's entire GTX 700 and GTX 600 series of cards."
    Conveniently left out of this article post...ROFL. Is it free if I still need a new monitor and new AMD card? Sounds like the same price as NV correct? PCPER made ZERO mention of hoping for other cards, though maybe they just overlooked that HOPE.
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