AMD FreeSync Technology Review

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅19-03-15

Refresh rate synching is an interesting beast. Sometimes itís difficult to be sure if it is working, but other times you can be absolutely positive when itís not in use. Such was certainly our experience. When working well itís silky smooth, and when you disable it it feels like going back to a second-class experience; there can be few more glowing recommendations with graphics technologies.

Previously I had the view that adaptive sync technologies could make high-end graphics somewhat redundant as gamers could pick a low-end GPU and be happy with syncing at 35-50fps. Having experience FreeSync Iíve now revised that assessment. High end graphics hardware is very much rewarded as frames are clearer in motion, plus youíre hitting the low-end of the envelope less often. Deeper analysis of GPU frame rates will become all the more important as frame synching envelopes become commonplace on gaming monitors, and hitting a magical 40fps minimum at all times will be enormously satisfying in any upgrade you perform.

The development of FreeSync makes enormous sense with Mantle, DirectX 12 and next generation OpenGL, rendering techniques designed to reduce CPU load and hence also reduce frame timings in a pronounced fashion. Adaptive Sync technologies break down with microstutter and other instantaneous high frame render times, so staying consistent above all else is of primary value.

In that regard our R9 285, though an excellent card in its own right for 1080p gaming, is just on the cusp of greatness at 1440p. For this resolution, especially with newer titles, an R9 290-class GPU or whatever AMD have coming up in the near future would be a spot-on choice.

As good as Freesync is, itís not a panacea. Just as with any piece of high-end hardware youíll need to thoroughly investigate every FreeSync Monitor design. Panels which show evidence of ghosting will still do under FreeSync; limited viewing angles will not be affected; colour reproduction will be as good or bad as the basic monitor on which it is based. Ghosting especially will tend to undermine the clarity benefits of FreeSync at higher frame rates, which could be an issue with certain 144Hz designs that rely on aggressive OverDrive implementations.

So, whatís our overall assessment of Freesync? Two words: deeply impressive. However that assessment comes with a caveat: AMD claims that the technology would not significantly add to the list price of a comparable non-FreeSync Displayport monitor, and that principle needs to hold up. If it does AMD are on to a winner, as a combination of their graphics hardware and frame-rate-syncing monitor would be much more affordable than the competition. As things stand a FreeSync monitor of any stripe is far more aggressively priced than the most directly comparable G-Sync designs, and that in itself should be a wake-up call for the industry.

The fact that FreeSync is getting major support right out of the gate from some huge brands is very heartening for the chances of the VESA Adaptive Sync standard as well as FreeSync. If it can gain traction, and that popularity start to stimulate sales of AMD graphics hardware, it seems difficult to see Nvidia not either supporting Adaptive Sync themselves or cutting the price of G-Sync drastically. Adaptive-Sync also has applications in the new VR technology in the pipeline, aiding Ďpresenceí and in theory providing another open standard from which VR can launch. One can only hope that this is the start of some genuine momentum for the Red Team, and major overall benefits for all gamers no matter their brand preferences.

So, huge plaudits to AMD and their partners for FreeSync, and to VESA for implementing Adaptive Sync as a optional standard in DisplayPort 1.2a. With continued support many more people should be enjoying tear-and-stutter-free gaming in the very near future. In the mean time we have more to look at with FreeSync, and will be adding to this article accordingly. Even so, despite this being a strictly first impressions, FreeSync has to get our Elite award for being an absolute game changer.


+ Excellent frame syncing technology.
+ Smooth gameplay without needing to remain fixed at 60fps.
+ No tearing so long as you can meet a generous minimum frame rate.
+ Additional low-latency mode during high frame rate gameplay.

- Only works on a sub-set of AMD GPUs
- Nvidia don't support Adaptive Sync.

= Higher frame rates are still beneficial, so buying a high-end GPU is rewarded.

Click here for an explanation of our awards at

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