CES 2015: FreeSync hands-on by PC Perspective

One of the most frustrating things about the FreeSync launch is that much of the actual capabilities of FreeSync and the Displayport 1.2a Adaptive Sync standard isn’t public knowledge yet. No-one outside of AMD and its partners really knows how finely tuned the process is, no-one can say yet how good it is compared to a custom solution like Nvidia GSync. However, PC Perspective shot a hands-on video of the FreeSync demo inside AMD’s showrooms and what we learn from it is quite enlightening.

For those of you unable to watch the video, Ryan Shrout goes through a few of the specifications of the monitors before delving into the part that interests us most – how low can it go? Nvidia’s GSync scaler is a custom solution and can do a lot more than the regular monitor scalers that support FreeSync can. For one, it already supports triple displays and can go as low as 20Hz depending on the panel, both things that FreeSync cannot do at the moment.

The minimum refresh rates of the 60Hz panels on display go down to 40Hz. My guess is that if the refresh rate was any lower, there may be blurriness on-screen and there may be IPS panels that simply can’t transition the pixel colours slow enough to make 30Hz minimums a possibility. AMD is erring on the side of caution here, going with 40Hz minimums because that’s something that most IPS, VA and PLS monitors are capable of. With most IPS panels sitting with 8ms response times at 60Hz, halving that speed would likely double the response time, increasing issues like ghosting and creating other artifacts.

For the VA and TN monitors that have maximum refresh rates of 144Hz, the minimums allowed on those panels are 30Hz. Again, this is likely to be an issue with how slowly the pixels can transition in a controlled manner from one colour to another and TN panels can do it pretty well at almost any speed.

Finally, AMD has taken the hard and fast route when it comes to putting this up against VSync. Unlike GSync, which requires VSync to be on at all times as a global setting, FreeSync will have VSync turned off globally by default. The user needs to decide which trade-off they want and if they decide to stick with FreeSync, any application that runs faster than 60Hz will have tearing and mismatched frames. Should you use VSync instead, you will have to accept the tradeoffs of doing so.

The proper solution may turn out to be FreeSync with a framerate limiter through a third-party application like RivaTuner, Radeon Pro or Raptr, but it remains to be seen how well FreeSync will play with such a setup. We won’t have long to wait to find out!

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