For the last few years, AMD and Nvidia have offered competing versions of the same technology. Both FreeSync (AMD) and G-Sync (Nvidia) are designed to smooth out gameplay presentation and offer superior image quality by matching a display’s refresh rate to the delivery of each new frame. In traditional v-sync, in contrast, frames are either displayed at a steady interval (typically 30 or 60 times per second) or are displayed as soon as they are ready. The first method can lead to dramatic dips in performance if new frames aren’t ready and creates a small-but-discernible amount of stutter in some cases. The second can lead to image tearing as frames are shoved out as quickly as possible.
Right now, FreeSync and G-Sync are both confined to computer monitors or mobile systems, but Tom’s Hardware thinks we might see them come to TVs as well. During a conference call touting the one-year anniversary of AMD’s decision to found the Radeon Technology Group, AMD’s Raja Koduri, head of RTG, had this to say: ““We are definitely working with the entire display community on getting FreeSync to more places,” said Koduri. “I think this is something we should follow up…on what we can share at this point on FreeSync TVs.”
The idea of including FreeSync on televisions isn’t as crazy as it sounds. It’s been baked into the DisplayPort standard for years now. While there are only a handful of TV sets that currently support DisplayPort, we might see more support for it in the future. AMD has also implemented FreeSync over HDMI, though there is no specific support for it baked into the HDMI standard.
In theory, AMD could work with specific TV manufacturers to bring particular sets to market, either with DisplayPort or HDMI support built-in. For PC gamers, this might not change much, though I know a few folks who have HTPC-style setups in their living rooms. It could, however, be a huge upgrade for the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.
This is where things get interesting — and more than a little complicated. As with HDR and 4K, you’d be tossing another feature into the mix and hoping consumers would see it as a positive (or would understand what kind of television they needed to purchase to take full advantage of the features). It’s easy to imagine Sony or Microsoft packing the capability into either a future PS4 update or Microsoft’s Scorpio. Then again, it would also make it that much more difficult for consumers to pick the “right” television — 4K, HDR, and FreeSync are all good features, but they do very different things.
An AMD slide explaining FreeSync / Adaptive Sync. Nvidia’s G-Sync accomplishes the same thing.
Will this happen? No idea. But we’re hoping it does. FreeSync and G-Sync work best with lower frame rates, because that’s where the lag gap is most visible. At 60 FPS, the difference between turning VESA Adaptive Sync (that’s the official name) on or off is visible, but not huge. At 120 FPS, you may not see it at all. At 30 FPS, though, it’s an immediate jump in responsiveness and smoothness that make a game feel like it’s running at a much higher frame rate than it actually is.