Most product launches are fairly straightforward, but some things take a little longer to come to market. After lots of hearing about it and little seeing, AMD announced today that its FreeSync is finally available.
AMD's FreeSync isn't so much a product per se as it is a combination of hardware and software. What it does is remove stuttering and/or tearing in games, and it requires a compatible GPU, a compatible monitor, and the right driver.
It works by matching the display's refresh rate to that of the game you're playing on a frame-by-frame basis. Essentially, what this means is that the display will update at the very moment when a new frame is ready, rather than sticking to a fixed refresh rate all the time. The end result is a much smoother and tear-free gameplay experience, despite not having an incredibly high framerate. The technology works by using the Adaptive-Sync protocol in the DisplayPort standard.
Part of today's news is that FreeSync-enabled monitors are now available for purchase. In total, there are currently 11 monitors that should be available now (or very soon) that support AMD's FreeSync. In terms of pricing, at present we know that the Acer XG270HU will go for $499, the BenQ XL2730Z will sell for $599, the LG 34UM67 will cost $649, and the LG 29M67 will be yours for $449.
AMD pointed out that the panel in the Acer and BenQ monitors is the same as that in the Asus ROG Swift, which sells for about $200 to $300 more.
AMD also announced which of its graphics products support the technology. These are the AMD Radeon R7 260, R7 260X, R9 285, R9 290, R9 290X, and the R9 295X2. On the Desktop APU side, the A6-7400K, A8-7600K, A8-7650K, A10-7800 and the A10-7850K are supported.
Along with this information, AMD also gave some performance data. It has long been a question of whether FreeSync will have any performance impact, and to answer this AMD has done some tests of its own. On identical platforms using a Z87 motherboard and an i7-4770K processor, AMD said that enabling FreeSync actually improved performance by about 0.2 percent when using an R9 290X. When using a GTX 780, AMD actually observed that its competitor's technology, G-Sync, reduced performance by about 1.5 percent.
Of course, gaining 0.2 percent or losing 1.5 percent of your performance is really not much to write home about. Despite losing 1.5 percent of its frames when enabled, G-Sync will still make the game feel much smoother than if you were to leave it disabled. The test shown in the chart was done with Alien Isolation, but AMD also sent us some additional data points, the results of which followed the trend.
One problem that AMD has recognized with the technology, however, is that it can introduce a mouse lag when it is enabled together with V-Sync (which prevents tearing). For this reason, AMD has opted to allow you to have FreeSync enabled without V-Sync enabled, which will give you the benefit of smoother gameplay, but may introduce tearing when the game runs faster than the display's refresh rate.
The idea is that most gamers do not game with these settings, except when gaming competitively, and in that case, FreeSync without V-Sync will ensure that the images rendered show up on the display as quickly and smoothly as possible, even if that means a little tearing in order to get a latency benefit.
Looking at the facts AMD presented, it certainly appears that AMD has a major winner on its hands with FreeSync. It remains to be seen, however, whether AMD's FreeSync actually performs as well as or better than Nvidia's G-Sync.