The battle for better monitor technology just got a bit more interesting. AMD is releasing the second iteration of FreeSync today, one that has more features than simple refresh rate and latency optimizations.
FreeSync 2 attempts to bring monitors into the future
The new technology that they’re introducing goes beyond simply syncing higher refresh rates and making a smooth gaming experience. After all, that’s only one part of the equation of good gaming experiences. The first version was all created to have an open standard for high refresh rate monitors, though it included not much more. It was an effective tool against NVIDIA’s closed closed source G-Sync technology. It helped to propel AMD into the spotlight and gain support for their future endeavors: FreeSync 2.
Because this new set of technology standards are more complex, FreeSync 2 is meant to be available alongside the original FreeSync, not replacing it. FreeSync is the less complex version that’s less expensive and time consuming to implement, so to speak. Which brings the point of royalties to the top. Though AMD has not collected and had no intention of collecting royalties for the use of the original FreeSync, it seems that the possibility is in the air for the newer version. As of right now they do not, but that has the potential to change in the future.
So what is it? Essentially it makes the refresh rate requirements much more strict and also includes improvements for the implementation of HDR for monitors. In essence, it shortens the pipeline that’s used to display HDR content to the display, removing a good amount of theoretical input lag. As it stands right now, the HDR display pipeline is a bit long and convoluted to work with at the moment, so this seeks to simplify that. In essence; FreeSync 2 makes HDR and wide color gamut monitors much better and easier to work with.
The issue of color space is also prevalent in Windows. FreeSync 2 combined with a compatible monitor will automatically switch to the proper color space when an application requires it, say an HDR compatible game. sRGB is the usual color space for consumer monitors and gear, so this would allow automatic switching and handling of the entire pipeline. It simplifies HDR for consumers, greatly.
Of course there are improvements for variable refresh rates as well. FreeSync 2 tightens those standards so that the experience is much better. That is, the original iteration allows for monitors that can only do limited refresh rates, say 30Hz to 60Hz, but that really isn’t enough for a good experience. And it also doesn’t let them use the FreeSync Low Framerate Compensation technology either. Going forward, FreeSync 2 will require all monitors to support LFC, meaning they need to have wider refresh rates. That’s a good thing, even if it means we may see more expensive monitors as a result. It actually make a large difference in experience. The Viewsonic XG2700-4K, which will be reviewed very soon, is capable of 24-120Hz, and can keep the action going precisely at the framerate you’re getting. It feels far better than one might expect.
With mandatory LFC comes mandatory low latency requirements. There’s no specifics as to what that entails, though we think that these monitors will have to be validated either internally, against stringent requirements, or externally. Input lag is a huge issue, and though imperceptible by many, it can be a very annoying issue if you’re sensitive to it.
So, FreeSync 2 is much more than just making even higher refresh rate monitors. It’s about improving the technology behind monitors and making them better. The minimum standard should be much higher, letting us actually enjoy the content we see. Thankfully, AMD has many different partners, more than NVIDIA, and plans on adding even more as they make FreeSync 2 a standard that hopefully has an impact across the PC domain. HDR can do wonders for games, even if it’s subtle, so having a way to make the appearance of it HDR in the market better and not just a novel afterthought will be great for the industry. AMD is forward thinking in this respect.