The open nature and flexible implementation specifications of AMD's FreeSync variable-refresh-rate technology have doubtless contributed to its wide adoption by monitor manufacturers. At its summit in Sonoma, California, last month, AMD boasted that it now has 121 FreeSync displays from 20 display partners, and it's quick to press that numeric advantage over the claimed eight partners and 18 displays it says that Nvidia has netted with G-Sync.
Not every one of those 121 FreeSync displays are a gamer's dream, though. Refresh rate ranges aren't often clearly communicated by manufacturers, and support for desirable features like Low Framerate Compensation among FreeSync displays can still require a deep dive into AMD's own FreeSync monitor list.
The challenge of figuring out exactly what one is getting from a given monitor is about to become more and more difficult, too. We're already seeing displays with a wide range of specs that claim HDR support, and unless you're already well-versed in video, professional graphics, or photography, it can be hard to keep track of the wide range of color gamut standards that displays can reproduce. As HDR support and wide color gamuts begin to make their way into games, however, it'll doubtless become tricky to tick all the check boxes needed to faithfully reproduce that content.
Today, AMD is trying to make life with those increasingly bright and colorful displays easier. Its FreeSync 2 initiative, debuting this morning, addresses several of the issues with displaying the "deep pixels" that the company has been evangelizing for some time. Just like FreeSync does for refresh rates, FreeSync 2-compatible displays will communicate critical information about their color-reproduction capabilities and dynamic range to the graphics driver.
AMD says the major benefit of this information-sharing is reduced input lag, since the graphics card and game engine can target the particular color space and tone-mapping of a given display directly. Without FreeSync 2, additional tone-mapping steps would have to be performed in the display chain to match the output characteristics of a given screen, increasing lag.
That communication also lets the graphics card automatically switch between color spaces and dynamic ranges as needed. For example, moving from an sRGB desktop to a HDR10 movie or game and back should happen seamlessly.
To meet those high standards for ease of use, dynamic range, color reproduction, and input lag, AMD says FreeSync 2 monitors will have to support HDR and wide color gamuts by default, and they'll have to undergo a strict certification process. FreeSync 2 displays will also be required to have Low Framerate Compensation capability. Because of those stricter implementation requirements, FreeSync 2 won't replace the original FreeSync.
Once FreeSync 2 displays begin arriving, FreeSync-compatible Radeon hardware that was already capable of working with wide color gamuts and HDR content should hook right up to FreeSync 2 displays with the proper drivers installed.
AMD didn't announce any FreeSync 2 displays at its summit last month, but we imagine we'll see or hear of at least one compatible display on the CES show floor. Stay tuned as we keep an eye out for these appealing-sounding displays during our trek through Vegas this week.
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