Competition is a great thing, and without it, we as customers are the ones who truly suffer. Just recently, Nvidia announced its Gsync technology, which promises to remove the tearing and juddering of games. It does this by using dynamic refresh rates (more on this in a moment) which keep up with the speed the GPU is rendering a frame of animation on the screen.
AMD aren’t ones to just sit by though, and despite Nvidia showing this technology rather proudly at CES, AMD took some of the wind out of Nvidia’s sails by showing off its own similar technology, FreeSync. This technology was demoed on a laptop, and is all done via software, specifically the Radeon Graphics Cards driver. The way a laptop is connected to a GPU internally is different from the traditional desktop, and thus supports the variable refresh rate.
This technology was originally implemented by AMD as a power saving measure in Laptops, and thus was relatively simple to put this technology to another use. AMD have now dubbed this technology ‘Free-Sync’. For all intents and purposes, it uses the same VBlank manipulation strategy that Nvidia’s G-Sync does.
But, a lot of hardcore PC gamers prefer desktop, due to the ease of upgrading (along with other reasons), and so far this technology doesn’t benefit them, with a traditional monitor. But AMD’s believes that it shouldn’t be super difficult to implement this technology, and in certain cases a simple update of the monitors firmware would likely do the trick. This isn’t to say that there wouldn’t be any issue, the GPU would still need to communicate with monitor to determine the maxiumum VBlank. Exceeding this would lead to a degradation in picture and color quality, which is basically wasting the point of the technology.
Nvidia weren’t taking this lying down, and immediately started to fire back at AMD, pointing out the issues with the technology. Because a typical desktop monitor uses HDMI or DVI to connect, and because of the scalar chip in the way, issues arise. Nvidia then commented that this is the reason that they built the G-Sync module. Nvidia don’t believe that a new standard of VESA is required however, and that the existing standards work just fine with the VBlank interval.
Nvidia aren’t going to just share their technology however, their reasoning is they have spent a lot of time and money building this solution, and isn’t in the mood to simply share the technology with everyone. Believing that if competitors want a similar solution “they have to do the work. They have to hire the guys to figure it out.”
It’s familiar statement from Nvidia, and honestly as someone who owns a Nvidia GPU it affects me less. But honestly, I don’t think it’s good from the perspective of improving gaming in a big picture sense. Imagine where we’d be if AMD hadn’t shared its X86 technology for instance.
In theory, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One (because of their use of the AMD technology) should support Free-Sync, but obviously the implementation will be trickier than simply pressing a switch. In the end, this is a new technology that is sure to benefit games.
AMD Press releases
And Nvidia’s own CES stream.