FreeSync monitors will sample next month, start selling next year


— 6:00 AM on August 14, 2014

The Siggraph conference is going down in Vancouver, Canada this week, bringing a bunch of graphics goodness into the back yard of TR's northern outpost. Freshly minted AMD "Gaming Scientist" Richard Huddy spoke at the show, and we sat down with him yesterday to discuss a range of topics that included AMD's "FreeSync" alternative to Nvidia's G-Sync adaptive refresh tech.

The first FreeSync monitors will start sampling as early as next month, Huddy told us, and finished products are due to hit the market early next year. That's a little more precise than the release timeframe AMD mentioned in May.

"Multiple" vendors are preparing displays based on the technology, though Huddy declined to name names. Interestingly, he suggested there's more excitement surrounding adaptive refresh mojo than there is for 4K resolutions. You'll certainly need a lot less graphics horsepower exploit the benefits of a dynamic refresh rate than you will to run games at 4K.

FreeSync is based on an embedded DisplayPort capability that was formally added to version 1.2a of the standard spec. Like the rest of the standard—and unlike G-Sync—this "Adaptive-Sync" feature is royalty-free. There are some associated hardware requirements, but the additional cost should be minimal, according to Huddy, who told us he'd be surprised if FreeSync compatibility added more than $10-20 to a display's bill of materials. Even taking additional validation costs into consideration, monitor makers should be able to support adaptive refresh rates fairly cheaply. They're still free to charge whatever premium they want, though.

There are no requirements surrounding the range of refresh rates that monitor makers must support. However, Huddy expects entry-level models to start at 24Hz, which is the most desirable update frequency for typical video. Higher-end implementations could scale up to 144Hz and beyond.

Some of AMD's current products use cheaper display controllers that won't be compatible with Adaptive-Sync. (A full list of compatible GPUs and APUs is available here.) However, Huddy said all future AMD hardware will support the feature. The firm is evidently committed to the technology, and it will be interesting to see how the finished products compare to equivalent G-Sync solutions. We will dutifully subject ourselves to hours of gaming "tests" to get to the bottom of that important question.

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