VESA has added Adaptive-Sync tech to the latest update of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard. The race to launch variable refresh rates monitors has been going on for a while. Nvidia took the first shot with G-Sync, while AMD announced FreeSync, but the two solutions aren’t exactly comparable.
G-Sync is a proprietary technology and it needs specialised hardware to work, namely a custom ASIC built into the monitor. Adaptive-Sync/FreeSync does not, but its applications are somewhat limited as it is next to impossible to implement on desktop monitors. However, it works fine on laptops, as they have a direct interface between the GPU and the panel, such as LVDS or Embedded DisplayPort (eDP).
Will VESA’s decision change anything?
VESA’s addition of Adaptive-Sync to the DisplayPort 1.2a standard should speed up development and help out AMD’s FreeSync push, but it still not relevant for desktop users and won’t be for months to come.
It still can’t work on desktop monitors, vendors are known to drag their feet when it comes to implementing new standards on desktop monitors. In theory it is possible to design desktop displays and graphics cards that could take advantage of DisplayPort 1.2a, but we wouldn’t hold our breath – we are highly unlikely to see any this year.
On the other hand, Nvidia doesn’t exactly have much of an advantage, as G-Sync can’t run on existing hardware, either. There are a few G-Sync enabled monitors on the market, but the premium for Nvidia’s custom ASIC is rather steep.
AMD might have the upper hand in the long run
Adaptive-Sync is not a new technology. It has been a standard component of VESA’s eDP specification since 2009. It is already widely used in various components, but it was not supported by external displays.
“DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync enables a new approach in display refresh technology, ” said Syed Athar Hussain, Display Domain Architect, AMD and VESA Board Vice Chairman. “Instead of updating a monitor at a constant rate, Adaptive-Sync enables technologies that match the display update rate to the user’s content, enabling power efficient transport over the display link and a fluid, low-latency visual experience.”
VESA is planning to use a new logo to denote Adaptive-Sync support on monitors and other hardware. The tech is royalty free.
AMD will keep using its FreeSync brand and the technology is already supported by GCN 1.1 GPUs. This means Hawaii and Bonaire GPUs (290- and 260-series) support it. AMD’s latest APUs also feature GCN 1.1 graphics and on paper they support Adaptive-Sync, too, but integrated GPUs don’t stand to gain much from the technology.