As we had already reported, a component of the AMD technology coined as FreeSync has finally been ratified and standardized by VESA as part of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard. As of today, however, the standard will be known as Adaptive-Sync. While it may not be as catchy for companies like AMD, which liked to brag about the fact that their version of adaptive refresh rate syncing was a ‘free’ upgrade the truth is the technology is best named Adaptive-Sync. This is a more open version of what Nvidia’s currently doing with their G-Sync technology, which is also an adaptive-sync technology, but requires Nvidia GPU and Nvidia monitor electronics both of which are not only cost prohibitive but fairly closed in terms of accessibility to others. As such, Nvidia must be applauded for having brought this technology to market and for having made the issue a topic of discussion and ultimately resulting in DisplayPort’s supporting of this new adaptive-sync technology.
Adaptive-Sync is a great technology because it will allow both gaming desktop and notebook manufacturers to not only smooth out the frame rates of gaming and graphics, but also to only refresh the monitor as many times as the GPU is capable of delivering frames. This means that with fewer refreshes we could see much better power consumption and battery life out of these displays, which ultimately results in better power bills for people that always have their monitors on and better battery life for mobile devices that connect to an external display. Adaptive-Sync has been a part of VESA’s embedded DisplayPort, eDP, spec since 2009 and as a result, a lot of adaptive-sync technology is already incorporated into a lot of the components for displays that rely on eDP for internal signaling.
Implementation of DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync technology is offered to VESA members free without any license fee, which means we will likely see big monitor manufacturers like Dell and Samsung adopting this standard fairly quickly. This announcement, as we had stated earlier would likely happen in May, and precede VESA’s DisplayPort 1.3 announcement. This announcement is expected to come around the late Q2, early Q3 timeframe and will include all of the DisplayPort 1.2a features including adaptive-sync. And thanks to the inclusion of adaptive-sync into DisplayPort 1.2, the DisplayPort 1.3 standard may have an easier time enabling things like 8K video since supporting 8K video at variable lower frame rates going to be less bandwidth intensive than 30 or 60p. While we don’t know what the exact final specifications of DisplayPort 1.3 will be, we do know it will likely include VESA’s new video compression standard called Display Stream Compression which is designed to support up to 8K video. As we’ve said before, the people at VESA would really like to be able to maintain the same cabling as DisplayPort 1.1 and 1.2, however it may not be possible in order to enable 8K and 4K 3D technologies. Until then, we’ll keep you updated and informed on the latest from VESA and all of the video standards.
Update 11:35 am: AMD has sent us a series of Q&A about the new DisplayPort Adaptive-sync technology addressing some people’s questions
Q:What is DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync?
A: DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync is a new addition to the DisplayPort™ 1.2a specification, ported from the embedded DisplayPort™ v1.0 specification. DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync provides an industry-standard mechanism that enables real-time adjustment of a monitor’s refresh rate of a display over a DisplayPort™ link.
Q: What is Project FreeSync?
A: Project FreeSync is an AMD effort to leverage industry standards, like DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync, to deliver dynamic refresh rates. Dynamic refresh rates synchronize the refresh rate of a compatible monitor to the framerate of a user’s AMD Radeon™ graphics to reduce or eliminate stuttering, juddering and/or tearing during gaming and video playback.
Q: How are DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync and Project FreeSync different?
A: DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync is an ingredient DisplayPort™ feature that enables real-time adjustment of monitor refresh rates required by technologies like Project FreeSync. Project FreeSync is a unique AMD hardware/software solution that utilizes DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync protocols to enable user-facing benefits: smooth, tearing-free and low-latency gameplay and video.
Q: Is DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync the industry-standard version of Project FreeSync?
A: The DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync specification was ported from the Embedded DisplayPort™ specification through a proposal to the VESA group by AMD. DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync is an ingredient feature of a DisplayPort™ link and an industry standard that enables technologies like Project FreeSync.
Q: What are the requirements to use FreeSync?
A: To take advantage of the benefits of Project FreeSync, users will require: a monitor compatible with DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync, a compatible AMD Radeon™ GPU with a DisplayPort™ connection, and a compatible AMD Catalyst™ graphics driver. AMD plans to release a compatible graphics driver to coincide with the introduction of the first DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync monitors.
Q: When can I buy a monitor compatible with Project FreeSync?
A: AMD has undertaken every necessary effort to enable Project FreeSync in the display ecosystem. Monitor vendors are now integrating the DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync specification and productizing compatible displays. AMD is working closely with these vendors to bring products to market, and we expect compatible monitors within 6-12 months.
Q: What AMD Radeon™ GPUs are compatible with Project FreeSync?
A: The first discrete GPUs compatible with Project FreeSync are the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X, R9 290, R7 260X and R7 260 graphics cards. Project FreeSync is also compatible with AMD APUs codenamed “Kabini,” “Temash,” “Beema,” and “Mullins.” All compatible products must be connected via DisplayPort™ to a display that supports DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync.
Q: How is Project Freesync different from NVIDIA G-Sync?
A: While both technologies have similar benefits, G-Sync uses expensive and proprietary hardware. In contrast, Project FreeSync utilizes the industry-standard DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync specification to promote wider adoption, lower cost of ownership, and a broad ecosystem of compatibility.
Q: Why should gamers purchase a system that utilizes Project FreeSync?
A: Project FreeSync’s ability to synchronize the refresh rate of a display to the framerate of a graphics card can eliminate visual artifacts that many gamers are especially sensitive to: screen tearing, input lag, and stuttering. Project FreeSync aims to accomplish this through an open ecosystem that does not require licensing fees from participants, which encourages broad adoption and low end-user costs.
Q: What is the supported range of refresh rates with FreeSync and DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync?
A: AMD Radeon™ graphics cards will support a wide variety of dynamic refresh ranges with Project FreeSync. Using DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync, the graphics card can detect and set an appropriate maximum and minimum refresh rate based on the capabilities reported by the display. Potential ranges include 36-240Hz, 21-144Hz, 17-120Hz and 9-60Hz.