AMD FreeSync No Longer PC-Exclusive - Broad XBOX One Support Announced
There was some big news this weekend on the premier livestream of Inside XBOX which will potentially have large ramifications outside of the console gaming space. Next week Microsoft will release an Alpha software update for the XBOX One X and XBOX One S to support AMD's FreeSync 2 technology over HDMI, while the original XBOX One will support first generation FreeSync. In a very short space of time this will balloon the ecosystem of supported gaming systems by upwards of 30 million units, offering low-latency stutter-free and tear-free gaming outside the PC for the first time.
FreeSync 2's inclusion was mooted fairly late on in Project Scorpio's development, but the XBOX One X's launch came and went without a mention of the feature. It may be late arriving, but to console enthusiasts should be no less welcome. In fact it has notationally been available to the vast majority of AMD GPUs built on their GCN architecture, so wider XBOX One support was always a possibility. Unfortunately adaptive sync technologies were considered to be heavily weighted towards DisplayPort devices (as initial VESA standards were developed for DisplayPort) and so were not a priority for TV manufacturers. Circumstances are now sure to change, not only due to this announcement but also the HDMI Forum's adoption of variable refresh rate technology as part of the HDMI 2.1 specification.
For a long time adaptive sync technologies were pushed solely as a premium technology for hardcore gamers, featuring 144Hz refresh rates to support gameplay up to 144fps. It may be even more exciting in the low-cost console market however, where meeting the requirements for rock solid 60fps gameplay is more of a challenge due to hardware constraints.
Once the XBOX One implementation is mature (i.e. when it's gone through various public development iterations) attention will turn to monitor and TV manufacturers. There are already a huge variety of FreeSync monitors available in a wide range of prices (starting below £100), an ecosystem which XBOX One owners will be able to tap into immediately. Sadly quality control for some FreeSync panels has at times been hit-or-miss, so don't be surprised if there is a drive to ensure optimal performance with the XBOX in particular. One additional key feature will probably be support for Low Frame Rate Compensation, which will require a maximum refresh rate of at least 2.5x the minimum, i.e. ~30-75Hz monitors and TVs may become the defacto standard.
It's also interesting to note that, in theory, there's also no reason why the PlayStation 4 cannot also support FreeSync given the similarity in hardware under the hood. An announcement from Sony therefore may be coming soon too.
In the meantime, making advanced technologies such as this more affordable is bound to heap pressure on NVIDIA, who have thus-far been adamant in not supporting open variable refresh rate standards. Perhaps higher quality Adaptive Sync-enabled TVs and low-cost monitors, combined with high GPU and overall system prices, will encourage them to budge.
For those not in the loop, FreeSync is AMD's implementation of synced variable refresh rate technology, utilising the VESA Adaptive-Sync standard on DisplayPort and a similar implementation on HDMI. It allows a monitor's refresh rate to synchronise with the output frame rate of a GPU, eliminating tearing and stuttering for a much smoother gaming experience. NVIDIA's G-SYNC implementation is proprietary, requiring both an NVIDIA GPU and G-SYNC capable monitor, and so is unsuitable for home consoles.
Key to FreeSync's adoption has been the relative affordability and range of compatible monitors. A 75Hz FreeSync monitor could set you back less than £120 from the likes of AOC, but they're also available as premium 4k and 144Hz panels. Last year AMD unveiled FreeSync 2, a progression which supported HDR content and panels.
You can read more on FreeSync at https://www.amd.com/en/technologies/free-sync
SOURCE: Inside XBOX Livestream 10.03.2018, PC Perspectives