AMD FreeSync technology is apparently now official, bringing an alternative to Nvidia’s G-Sync. Both technologies are implementations around the industry standard DsiplayPort specifications in their revision 1.2a and more specifically around the DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync. AMD’s implementation however does not rely on expensive hardware DRM module like Nvidia (the G-Sync module itself), so it should not increase the price of the display additionally. In theory AMD FreeSync should work on all DisplayPort 1.2a-equipped monitors if you have a compatible AMD GPU, though the company is not very clear on that subject. The list of compatible AMD GPUs with gaming support for FreeSync include AMD Radeon R9 295X2, 290X, R9 290, R9 285, R7 260X and R7 260 (the status of 7800 and 7900 series or 280X is not very clear).
There is still no official WHQL driver available, but apparently AMD FreeSync required Radeon 15.2 beta drivers or newer to be supported. AMD has released a list of 11 gaming-oriented monitors from multiple partners including Acer, BenQ, LG Electronics, Niexeus, Samsung and Viewsonic that come in different sizes and with different features. What AMD is still lacking compared to Nvidia is support for stereoscopic 3D gaming along with FreeSync – there are multiple Nvidia G-Sync compatible models that also support stereoscopic 3D gaming. Should that matter however when Nvidia is apparently abandoning stereoscopic 3D support for some time already and the company is doing this for a second time since it was founded (history repeating itself). We are already eager to see what does AMD have in store for us with their FreeSync implementation…
Update: After trying out Acer ХВ280НК 4K G-sync monitor with AMD Radeon R9 280X and 290X I can say that I’m not very happy with both AMD and Nvidia. The G-Sync monitor works just fine on Nvidia hardware with G-sync and without. On Radeon 280X (not officially compatible with FreeSync according to AMD!) the monitor works just fine, but no option to enable FreeSync in the drivers as expected. Connecting the monitor to a AMD FreeSync compatible GPU, namely Radeon R9 290X the drivers still show no option to enable FreeSync in the drivers, nor the display is detected as capable of supporting it. The problem with Sapphire R9 290X 8GB and the Acer ХВ280НК monitor is that the display is not working properly in this combination, there is picture, but the monitor constantly goes blank for a bit at irregular intervals, just as if it is loosing the input signal and getting back signal – happens in both 2D and 3D mode. The tests were performed using the AMD Catalyst 15.3.1 Beta drivers supplied by AMD for trying out the new FreeSync feature.
Update 2: It seems that if you want to be able to use AMD’s FreeSync technology you would still have to buy a new display that features DisplayPort 1.2a interface and also buy a new graphics card if you are using R9 280X, one of the most popular GPUs from AMD. It will not work on your older hardware as most likely you don’t have DP 1.2a capable monitor anyway, unless you bought a really recently announced model, so you might want to wait for one of the new gaming models that are officially compatible with FreeSync as listed by AMD. Also since Nvidia’s G-Sync technology uses DisplayPort 1.2 interface the officially licensed G-Sync monitors will apparently not work with FreeSync as well.
Nvidia has made available the G-SYNC DIY Upgrade kits for the ASUS VG248QE monitor available in their store, unfortunately they can be ordered only by people living in the US or Canada (as previously announced). The kit is being sold for $199 USD and you need to already have the monitor available in order to upgrade it to support the new G-SYNC technology. According to Nvidia the installation process should take approximately 30 minutes and it essentially covers the complete replacement of the LCD driver board and the power supply that the ASUS VG248QE uses with the ones included in the Upgrade kit.
Not only ASUS announced a new G-SYNC monitor – the ROG SWIFT PG278Q G-SYNC monitor at CES 2014, but most other Nvidia partners that are expected to launch monitor with built-in support for the G-SYNC technology have shown their upcoming products. The ASUS ROG SWIFT PG278Q however remains the most interesting product as it is the first one with official support for 120Hz resolution on a panel that goes beyond Full HD resolution, even though not 3D Vision support for it has been announced. All other announced models are in the form of 24-inch and 27-inch models with 1080p resolution and apparently only BenQ’s products will have support for the 3D Vision technology, or at least only that company is talking about 3D Vision support on their upcoming G-SYNC products.
The 27-inch Philips 272G5DYEB is going to be a Full HD monitor with G-SYNC support and 144Hz maximum refresh rate, no 3D Vision support, but we did not expect to see that feature available on a Philips product anyway as the company has not yet released even a single 3D Vision ready product although it has multiple models with over 60Hz refresh rate and 3D support. Philips 272G5DYEB should be available this spring with expected end user price of $649 USD. The BenQ XL2420G and BenQ XL2420G are respectively 24-inch and 27-inch models with Full HD resolution and G-SYNC support and BenQ does mention 3D Vision mode available in their press release, though you would probably need an external 3D Vision kit to use these display in stereo 3D mode. The BenQ XL2420G and BenQ XL2420G monitors should be available in Q1 2014 according to the company, or with other words probably earlier than the ASUS G-SYNC monitor, prices however haven’t been revealed for now. There is also the 24-inch ViewSonic VX2457GML monitor that will also be a Full HD display, but there are still not that much details about this one. AOC should be announcing their G-SYNC enabled solutions and maybe some time soon we can also get to see an announcement for a 4K display with support for G-SYNC.
Aside form these announcements about monitors, Nvidia has also announced that people in the US and Canada that own the ASUS VG248QE monitor would be able to very soon order the G-SYNC DIY Upgrade kit from the NVIDIA Store for $199, presumably available there by the end of the week. If you don’t live in US or Canada however you would still be out of luck and not able to easily get your hands on early on a G-SYNC kit or a monitor with one, unless you are willing to play quite a lot of money on top to import one from US. So better wait for the upcoming products that will come with built-in G-SYNC support in the the following months…