AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

After more than a year, finally, the first screens with support for AMD Free Sync on the market, the technology that AMD last year in response to Nvidia’s G-Sync announced. As that technique, there it must ensure that the picture composition of a monitor is fully synchronized with the processing speed of the video card. We started off with two of the first Free Sync monitors, Acer XG270U and BenQ XL2730Z.

 

If we Nvidia and AMD G-Sync Free Sync technologies should describe in one sentence, then, these techniques ensure that your monitor and video card displaying images better coordinated. The big advantage you see when playing content with a variable frame rate, ie: games. This must be able to fully play smoothly with these techniques, even if the video card can compute only a smaller number of frames per second.

Where you can continue with a normal monitor as a rule of thumb that a video card in a game on average, reaching at least 60 fps for smooth gaming experience, you have a G-Sync or Free Sync monitor an equally smooth experience when the card average does not further then, for example, 45 fps. That knife cuts both ways: you can either smoother gaming with a slower video card, or even the possibility of a higher quality / resolution at faster cards (at the expense of frame rate).

AMD’s marketing around Free Sync is smart. Nvidia made by introduction of G-Sync clear that a special monitor manufacturers, Nvidia developed chip should use in their screens, which as yet an additional cost of 100 euros or more means. AMD based Free Sync, however, an open standard (DisplayPort Adaptive Sync) and was mainly convince developers to implement this standard actually, besides making suitable their own drivers. That first one is moreover not as easy as it sounds, there are only three major manufacturers of scaler chip and are rarely willing to add additional functionality is not a good reason. The monitor market is a budget airline market, where suppliers of components, above all, want to be the cheapest.

However, it takes more time than money and so was called “Free Sync” fast born AMD would require no license agreements unlike Nvidia. The latter is true, but the implicit promise that a Free Sync monitor has no extra charge above a further similar non-Free Sync screen must still be met. Because it’s not that AMD to earn, it is to have the manufacturers of the scaler chip or simply monitor manufacturers in the new technology see a chance on screens to increase their profit margin slightly. The two screens where we for this review to get started gone expenses’ respectively about 550 and 700 euros. Now there are no 27 “WQHD 144 Hz screens without G-Sync or Free Sync to compare the price, but a” normal “60 Hz WQHD 27” TN panel you buy from 300 euro.

Before we look at the specifics of AMD Free Sync and the experience of the two monitors, let’s perform further expanded explained what exactly the problem is being solved by G-Sync and Free Sync.

Technology: GPU and monitor synchronization (1)

Foreword: The images on this page come from Nvidia’s presentation of the G-Sync technology. As AMD Free Sync in the base does the same, the technology using the same images can be interpreted. More importantly, we find the images of Nvidia’s presentation just a bit clearer than those of AMD.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

To understand the usefulness of Nvidia and AMD G-Sync Free Sync, we should just take a dip in the art. Monitors usually operate at a fixed refresh rate, typically 60 Hz, even though there are modern gaming screens that work with 120 Hz or 144 Hz. A 60Hz screen reads 60 times per second for 16.7 ms (1 / 60th second) the so-called frame buffer from the video card. Which frame buffer is a portion of the memory of the graphics card which completed computed images so be ready to be shown to be in geopslagen. Which framebuffer is put during the refresh period (16.7 ms so at a 60 Hz screen) and read picture line for line image on the screen.

When V-sync enabled on the video card drivers and the settings of the 3D game you play, the graphics card ensures that at any time the last full image is rendered in the frame buffer. For V-sync enabled to obtain a smooth image, there must be, in the case of a 60 Hz monitor, can actually be calculated every 16.7 ms, a new image. However, this can not be guaranteed …

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

The speed at which to calculate a GPU in games new images is indeed highly variable and depends on the quantity: each image has a different processing time and the frame rate of a video card can sit high peaks and valleys. Succeed in a complex scene to the next picture does not compute within 16.7 ms, the previous image in the frame buffer stops and let the monitor so twice in a row are the same image. The result is that you normally after 16.7 ms, a new image sees that sometimes after 2 x 16.7 ms = 33.3 ms happens. Translated, this means that the performance rely so briefly from 60 fps to 30 fps. You notice that as a hickup in the gameplay, stuttering in jargon.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

To counter stuttering can a gamer V-sync off. The video card then calculates just as soon as possible new images and places them as soon as they are finished in the frame buffer. The monitor remains on fixed speed image line to image line reading frame buffer. It will then, however, is (almost) always possible that halfway between the read-out of the frame buffer as the data of the next frame is placed in. The result is that a portion of the monitor displays the previous frame and another part of the following frame. This annoying artifact called tearing has a negative impact on the image quality, but take most FPS gamers in the bargain.

Technology: GPU and monitor sync (2)

With a conventional monitor so you have – unless your video card is fast enough to always be within 16.7 ms to calculate an image either always more than 60 fps can handle – the choice between two undesirable effects: risk of stuttering either tearing. Many FPS gamers choose in a battle of life and death, but for the tearing, since there is less delay, but does so with obvious artifacts as a result. V-Sync gives optically superior picture quality, but thus with risk of shock. With the arrival of Nvidia G-Sync and now AMD Free Sync does that choice between two evils no longer be made.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

G-Sync Free Sync does the monitor is no longer a fixed refresh rate, but the video card determines when the monitor may retrieve and process a new image. Immediately after the GPU has calculated a new frame is a signal to the monitor directly the data can retrieve and process. Thanks G-Sync / Free Sync monitor actually also going to work on a variable rate, but since it is fully in sync with the video card the result is a completely smooth gameplay: no stuttering and no tearing. Because the monitor immediately after the completion of a frame can get to work, the average will lag – the delay between the calculation of an image and the time that the monitor displays the – also reduced.

The result is that if your video card to a particular game and your chosen settings average get about 40 fps, this former (read: V-Sync) as “jerky” was seen as the de facto video card switched between 60 fps and 30 fps, but now feels completely fluent. We wrote it all: for those with a slower video card G-Sync Free Sync for that reason an outcome, but especially for people with a high-end system. If you have a card that WQHD at Ultra settings, for example, only around 45 fps is able to calculate, you can still use some fine optimal image quality thanks to G-Sync Free Sync.

In theory, G-Sync Free Sync is especially ideal if it could be added at little or no extra cost to a relatively inexpensive 60 Hz screen. The reality now is that both G-Sync as Free Sync is available mainly on relatively upscale (read: expensive) monitors with 120 Hz or 144 Hz panel. Especially with such screens is the positive effect of the technologies much less.

To go again to go back to the explanation of the previous page. Suppose that the video card in certain settings to calculate around 40 fps. That means that when a new refresh regularly no new image is ready and the existing frame must be repeated. In a 60 Hz display will take to build up an image (maximum), 16.7 ms. After 16.7 ms no new image ready, you see (on V-Sync) 16.7 ms following the same image again, totaling 33.3 ms. Translated it means you hovering between 60 fps and 30 fps, what you experience as obvious shock.

However, a modern gaming 144 Hz monitor does 1000/144 = (maximum) about 6.9 ms to process a complete image and display it. Or: every 6.9 ms requested a new image from the frame buffer. As with a 144 Hz display the same image to be displayed again because there is no new finished, the old image is initially only 6.9 ms shown again, for a total representation of 13.8 ms; chances are that after it a new image is ready and the effective refresh rate is still well above the 60 Hz.

With the V-Sync on a 60 Hz display is hovering converted between the 60 Hz, 30 Hz, and, in extreme cases, 20 Hz. With a 144 Hz screen is 144 Hz, 72 Hz, 48 Hz and 24 Hz. As a result, V-Sync enabled stutter effects on a 120 or 144 Hz much less present / noticeable, even if your video card by no means comes close to compute 120 or 144 fps.

Difference between AMD G-Sync and Nvidia  Free Sync

To be quite honest: actually Nvidia and AMD G-Sync Free Sync completely interchangeable technologies that do exactly the same. Provided that your Nvidia G-Sync course Nvidia GPU and G-Sync compatible screen need and Free Sync for AMD AMD GPU and a Free Sync-compatible screen. But beyond that both do the same technologies and bring them the same effect. Both are also based on additional signaling a DisplayPort cable – and therefore explicitly not work with HDMI or DVI.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

AMD does in her official presentation her best to make it look better Free Sync than G-Sync, but the arguments put forward are in our humble opinion not very strong. First of all AMD indicates that the switching on a G-Sync performance drop of about 1.5% with respect to the average frame rate may have. That is such a small and imperceptible difference that in our opinion is not worth mentioning. Let’s be honest: the person who sees the difference between an average of 50.0 fps and 49.3 fps on average, may his hand stabbing.

A second major difference is that Nvidia G-Sync works between 30 and 144 Hz. Voorals is that lower limit of interest: when a video card calculates less than 30 fps, the synchronization can not stand and must still images are displayed twice. AMD calls proud that Free Sync is suitable for 9 to 240 Hz. However, if you delve into the fine print, you’ll see that the limits are for the standard, but that each implementation will be different. At the top of the spectrum implies that the displays with a refresh rate of more than 144 Hz as yet simply do not exist. At the bottom of the spectrum gives AMD quietly that the panels which are used at this time are limited in Free Sync screens up to about 40 Hz for retaining images. Or: 9-240 Hz in practice currently actually 40-144 Hz.

AMD for Free Sync requires no license fee is fun for monitor manufacturers, but as long as it has not in fact lower prices, you can buy as a consumer rare.

Indeed a major advantage of Free Sync is that the scalers used now support all kinds of standard monitor adjustments. The Nvidia chip that used to be required in G-Sync screens offers single DisplayPort as input and provide poor limited settings for color correction and the like. For other functionality is absolutely no support, in terms of opportunities, the G-Sync screens hitherto therefore called universal scanty.

One thing we need to add to this: the Nvidia G-Sync module includes memory chips and it is us still not clear where those are for. When G-Sync was introduced Nvidia told clearly that the technology offered opportunities that still were not used and therefore have not yet been announced. That is until the day the case, but so it would just be that Nvidia ever a rabbit out of the G-Sync hat turns … or not natural.

Suitable hardware for Free Sync

To make use of Free Sync you obviously need an AMD video card. Currently it will Nvidia management be unwilling DisplayPort Adaptive Sync (the official name for the technology) support, but if AMD manage to get Free Sync screens like hot cakes go, Nvidia best would therefore sometimes tack can go. We finally have an official VESA standard. Anyway, before Free Sync screens will need to be significantly cheaper.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

For now not support any AMD card capable, only the newest GPUs based on GCN architecture 1.2 Free Sync. In separate video cards means to be exactly the Radeon R7 260, 260x R7, R9 285 R9 290 R9 and R9 290x 295X2. Also AMD’s APUs from the Kaveri-series support Free Sync.

And the scenes: AMD today announced a 11-odd Free Sync compatible monti ears. Please note: this is in all cases to luxury screens with high resolution and / or a high refresh rate. To what extent Free Sync truly “Free” you might wonder. A fairly simple 60 Hz Full HD screen with Free Sync without significant additional cost would name our opinion only do real justice.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

The two screens that we used for this article are the Acer and BenQ XG270U XL2730Z. In both cases, these 27 “WQHD (2560×1440) monitor with a TN panel with a maximum verve ring frequency of 144 Hz Samsung has announced several Ultra HD monitors with Free Sync LG has two 21:.. 9 Routing Sync monitors with 2560×1080 resolution, 75 Hz refresh rate and dimensions of respectively 29 “and 34”.

Acer XG270U and BenQ XL2730Z

In the table below you can see the specifications and test results of the two screens. The last we discuss as said in a separate review in detail, but let’s look at the basic features and prices.

In both cases, these WQHD monitors with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels. The technique used is TN, as in some months available ASUS RoG ‘Swift’ PG278Q, a G-Sync monitor – and therefore with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

Both screens offer a nice range of inputs, with the difference that the Acer has no VGA / D-sub and BenQ has two HDMI inputs instead of one. For Free Sync is as stated DisplayPort required. The Acer is anyway what balder performed: no height-adjustable base, no pivot, no USB hub. Speakers or built again, who has not BenQ (BenQ will rightly assume that no right-minded gamer who would use it) – but all other features mentioned or sit in the XL2730Z. Which also further includes a wired “remote control” to quickly switch between presets for the screen, a convenient handle and a suspension seat for a headset.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested

However, looking at the prices of the two, we see that the Acer screen consider 200 euros cheaper than that from BenQ. At time of writing, we only see prices in Germany at the Acer, but the Dutch price will not deviate much from there. For 500 euros you can buy a 60Hz WQHD monitor with IPS or VA panel. Color reproduction versus refresh rate you would think so, and to some extent this is true. However, ahead of our full review of these screens, for TN panels, these two certainly not bad. More read you soon on Hardware.Info.

Experiences

On the basis of the Acer and BenQ screens we have gained our first experiences with Free Sync. We used before an AMD Radeon R9 290x on our standard graphics cards test system consisting of an Intel Core i7 5960X with 16GB DDR4 memory.

In order to make use of Free Sync, we used a pre-release AMD driver version 15.3.1.

As written, the main advantage of the technology make it smooth gameplay in settings where the video card actually just not enough frames per second can calculate. And when WQHD resolution is not so difficult to achieve: WQHD with Ultra settings and AA is usually sufficient to sweat a Radeon R9 290x.

We have tested a number of games including Far Cry 4, Battlefield 4, Crysis 3 and Watchdogs. With Watchdogs we ran into some problems that the game with Free Sync turned suddenly on exactly 30fps worked, probably due to a compatibility issue of this first generation driver. In the other games we observed similar results with both screens, which are again similar in turn with what we know of G-Sync.

When we do a 3D quality setting where the average frame rate in the order of 40-45 fps, we find V-Sync inschakeld any stuttering. It’s not all terrible – in fact: as a gamer are you probably already long been accustomed to – but it’s definitely there. With Free Sync inschakeld disappears stuttering and walking the image noticeably smoother. A nice situation where we could see this effect is good when you’re in Far Cry 4 is sitting in a car with auto-pilot. But in Battlefield 4 and Crysis 3, there is a noticeable difference in a setting that results in a frame rate around 40 to 50 fps.

Note that the clearly noticeable difference between V-Sync and Free Sync was actually purely with the screens set to 60Hz. Once we turn the screen at 144 Hz is the stutter effect V-Sync enabled anyway significantly less and thus the difference between V-Sync and Free Sync but very small. So small that even if we perform a blind test with people in our lab that quickly reveals that many people have to actually recognize not see any difference. Again, this was in our tests of G-Sync no different.

All in all we may conclude that with Free Sync exactly the same experience as with G-Sync, only now with AMD cards. We wrote it all: both technologies seem completely interchangeable.

Conclusion

We are excited about AMD Free Sync or DisplayPort Adaptive Sync as the technology is called officially, but it is certainly not that the technology makes a world of difference. When you monitor at 60Hz works and your video card is not fast enough to calculate any time more than 60 frames per second, Free Sync know like G-Sync to take clear stuttering ring road. Although subtle, it is clearly noticeable.

A 120 or 144 Hz monitor, however, is also an adequate solution to this problem. And like our G-Sync review, we must also conclude now that we have a video card with 40-50 fps at a 144 Hz screen with V-Sync find almost as smooth as a 60 Hz screen with Free Sync. Either: if a monitor offers 144 Hz option, Free Sync adds actually not that much anymore.

As for us will Free Sync and its counterpart are interesting primarily on Ultra HD monitors. That there are not 120 Hz or 144 Hz and precisely in the Ultra HD resolution, there is a very high chance that your video card is not fast enough to achieve 60+ fps. Although we have no Ultra HD Free Sync screen tested yet, we know from experience of Ultra HD G-Sync screens that therefore some video-game-setting combinations suddenly be perfectly playable.

It is therefore the aangekondidge Ultra HD screens from Samsung we are most looking forward to. Based on the already tested Acer and BenQ screens to determine the tricky how Free the Free Sync technology happens to be, since there is no 27 “WQHD TN 144 Hz monitors without Free Sync. However, the price of the BenQ screen is very similar to the WQHD 144Hz G-Sync screen from ASUS, we know that there is an expensive FPGA chip is in. Well, the introduction prices care 50 euros, but either the scaler manufacturer or monitor manufacturer gets a nice extra margin here. Something that matter in this market the exception rather than the rule.

Proof that Free Sync can be implemented without significant additional cost on a monitor should in our view still be delivered. If that is so, then we see next Ultra HD variants just also like affordable Full HD 60Hz screens with this technology.

AMD Free Sync review: first screens from Acer and BenQ tested updated: March 21, 2015 author: John Malkovich