AMD Freesync Review
Published: 19th March 2015 | Source: AMD | Price: Range @ OCUK |
Testing anything that is display related is one of the hardest jobs we have. If you own a standard definition television then all the adverts in the world about HD wont convince you because you're looking at it through the TV you own. Equally when we're trying to express the benefits of high frame rates and tear-free gaming as offered by Freesync then unless you've already got the system you'll never see the benefits unless you see it with your own eyes.
AMD Freesync is one of those great ideas which can be explained and summed up in a pithy manner. It allows you to break through the regular 60FPS VSync limit without suffering from the resultant tearing, and does so with zero performance overhead. Supported by all current AMD hardware and some forthcoming monitors, if you have an AMD graphics solution in your system you'd be mad to not take advantage of these benefits.
It isn't the first system that attempts to fix this problematic issue and, with Adaptive VSync on the horizon it wont be the last, but it does it with aplomb and the more graphical horsepower you have on hand the better the benefits are. To manage to do this without any drop in frame rate is perhaps the single most impressive thing. We're so used to having a frame rate hit when improving image quality we struggle to understand this. After all, AA and AF come with performance hits and to remove tearing you have to cap to the monitor refresh, which loses frames. Especially as VSync comes in massive steps - if you go from 60FPS to 59 the frame rate actually drops to 30. So the Freesync system takes into account these performance changes without leading to a noticeable difference in smoothness to the user.
As always there are a few small caveats. The most obvious, and it's so obvious it barely needs mentioning, is that you need an AMD card to use this. In some ways we fear it will go the same way as PhysX because of this, where the technology that wins is the one that works on everything. The second thing of note is that, at the time of writing, there is no CrossFire support. R9 295X2 owners or those of you with multiple physical cards need not apply. At the time of writing there is no support for Eyefinity either which is a massive shame considering that this was one of the things AMD had absolutely nailed. Given that the biggest gains from Freesync are to be had when you're above the usual 60FPS limit then it behooves you to have as much graphical prowess as possible and so we're sure that AMD will fix this limitation sooner rather than later. Lastly in titles with particularly low frame rates, 20-odd FPS in Metro for example, having Freesync on brings with it a stuttering that isn't present with Freesync off.
If you are in the market for a new monitor then we'd highly recommend the Acer XG270HU. The black are spectacularly deep and the screen itself, despite being a TN, is very good with only the reds feeling a little washy at times. It's impossible not to be swayed by those fabulous looks and the extremely thin bezel. It's a very classy looking piece of kit and does the job of being a large, 1440 display even better than it looks. Fantastic piece of kit and brilliant value for money. There is a lot of Freesync kit easily found, OCUK already have loads listed on their site including a full system and monitor bundle.
We're not sure that Freesync alone is enough for you to be swayed to AMD over nVidia in the same way that GSync isn't enough to choose nVidia over AMD. Pick your GPU first, and then go for the monitor that supports that particular GPU brand. So if you have an AMD card and despair at the laggy nature of your games whilst being unwilling to put up with the screen tearing, the AMD Freesync is definitely the way to go.
You can discuss your thoughts on the AMD Freesync Review in the OC3D forums.