AMD demonstrates free Nvidia G-Sync alternative at CES

By on January 7, 2014, 11:34 AM

Nvidia has been talking up its G-Sync monitor technology since late last year and while it does look promising, it isn’t exactly cheap. Fortunately, Nvidia isn’t the only outfit in town working on a solution as AMD recently demonstrated during the Consumer Electronics Show.

Known as FreeSync (that’s right, AMD doesn’t plan to charge for the technology), AMD demonstrated their variable refresh rate technology for the guys over at AnandTech. It’s all a bit technical but it boils down to having the GPU’s display engine, the panel and the display hardware all allowing for control of VBLANK intervals. If all of the above components support controlling VBLANK, then you ultimately get what AMD calls the equivalent of G-Sync without any additional hardware.

To demonstrate it, AMD selected two Toshiba Satellite Click notebooks purchased at retail as the panels already support VBLANK. What’s more, AMD’s display engines have supported it for a couple of generations now. The team simply needed to create driver support for controlling VBLANK timing which is present in the latest Catalyst Driver (although controls aren’t yet available to end users).

Next, AMD created a demo to help show off the fact that the technology was working. The publication said it obviously wasn’t as impressive as the Nvidia demo but it worked nevertheless.

Unfortunately, AMD isn’t yet at a point to productize the technology nor do they have a go to market strategy just yet. With any luck, however, more panel vendors will support variable VBLANK in the coming months and maybe we’ll eventually get an AMD driver that allows end-user control.




User Comments: 19

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Guest said:

WOW!

would be nice to some one figure how many monitors support VBLANK?

3 people like this | theBest11778 theBest11778 said:

G-sync monitor price premium just cut in 1/2. Thank you AMD to keeping Nvidia in check

Ahmed90 Ahmed90 said:

"obviously wasn't as impressive as the Nvidia demo but it worked nevertheless."

I would rather get this with little less performance than buying new Nvidia GPU and a new monitor that support Gsync

EEatGDL said:

I'm waiting for G-SYNC prices to drop once those monitors go into mass production, right now they're sky-high -it doesn't matter if I buy in the US or in my country. I want triple monitor and can't afford three of those. God bless competition.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Great to see there may be alternatives to the premium prices for proprietary G-Sync hardware. It'll be interesting to see how it all works out, and if adding the VBLANK compatibility to monitors adds much of a premium to the cost.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

Glad to see this, the mix of Mantle and Vblank will be cool to see in the near future. I just like the fact that current gen monitors for awhile have been supported meaning no hardware upgrades. I want to see a side by side comparison of this and G-sync, sounds cool.

2 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

And here we were thinking nVidia was the first to the table.

Speaking of the video, I don't know what I'm looking for. I couldn't see a difference in the two videos.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"obviously wasn't as impressive as the Nvidia demo but it worked nevertheless."

I would rather get this with little less performance than buying new Nvidia GPU and a new monitor that support Gsync

If you have a 650Ti Boost or above, then you don't need to buy a new GPU (Pretty much people who already own these GPU's is what G-Sync is aimed at) and this VBLANK compatibility, well is there some kind of list of screens with this compatibility? What connections work? VGA,DVI,HDMI? too many questions at present but I bet not many screens already have this compatibility, it's obviously been around a while as a standard of sorts but not many monitor manufactures probably took it on board? Who knows, I personally can't wait for more info, G-Sync will then get cheaper xD

EEatGDL said:

The logic behind this not performing as well as G-SYNC is that unlike G-SYNC where the screen scans when told to do so; this AMD approach adjust the screen refreshing timer after noticing a change in the frame time, which is a delayed effect and may cause a weird sensation in moments when FPS go high and low almost instantly (if the FPS are at 30 the refresh rate will be adjusted to 30 Hz and if suddenly they go up to let's say 70 FPS, the refresh rate will still be 30 Hz before readjusting it to 70 Hz followed by a possible opposite effect). That wouldn't resolve tearing at all but in games with consistent FPS it would be very helpful against fixed refresh rate when FPS are different to the native refresh rate [let's say RTS games fixed at 30 FPS] and it would indeed resolve tearing in those scenarios -not in games with very variable FPS.

Adhmuz Adhmuz, TechSpot Paladin, said:

And here we were thinking nVidia was the first to the table.

Speaking of the video, I don't know what I'm looking for. I couldn't see a difference in the two videos.

That's what I was thinking watching the video, it's obviously reduced playback speed, but besides one looking brighter than the other it appears the same to me, Also would be nice to know which is which. Maybe the one on the right has the feature turned on and the one on the left not? Not like it matters, what can be scene with the naked eye won't be scene with a video camera necessarily.

1 person liked this | Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

"obviously wasn't as impressive as the Nvidia demo but it worked nevertheless."

I would rather get this with little less performance than buying new Nvidia GPU and a new monitor that support Gsync

If you have a 650Ti Boost or above, then you don't need to buy a new GPU (Pretty much people who already own these GPU's is what G-Sync is aimed at) and this VBLANK compatibility, well is there some kind of list of screens with this compatibility? What connections work? VGA,DVI,HDMI? too many questions at present but I bet not many screens already have this compatibility, it's obviously been around a while as a standard of sorts but not many monitor manufactures probably took it on board? Who knows, I personally can't wait for more info, G-Sync will then get cheaper xD

The interesting part is when you consider that if you run AMD graphics, you are out of luck for G-Sync. And we're talking a very large percentage of the gamer community, not just a fraction. Whereas with VBLANK, there is no indication of any specific minimum GPU requirement (that I saw), and it could theoretically be used by both AMD and Nvidia users (if Nvidia chose to adapt it into their drivers). Seems like that would be the more lucrative way to go if I was a monitor manufacturer, supporting an already present standard vs. a proprietary hardware solution that excludes half of the gaming community. Have to wonder if this might slow down G-Sync adoption, even though it sounds like G-Sync is the better technical solution for tearing.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

The interesting part is when you consider that if you run AMD graphics, you are out of luck for G-Sync. And we're talking a very large percentage of the gamer community, not just a fraction. Whereas with VBLANK, there is no indication of any specific minimum GPU requirement (that I saw), and it could theoretically be used by both AMD and Nvidia users (if Nvidia chose to adapt it into their drivers). Seems like that would be the more lucrative way to go if I was a monitor manufacturer, supporting an already present standard vs. a proprietary hardware solution that excludes half of the gaming community. Have to wonder if this might slow down G-Sync adoption, even though it sounds like G-Sync is the better technical solution for tearing.

You know, that's actually a good point, it did not even occur to me. I wonder how the manufacturers will react to this.

Guest said:

"Speaking of the video, I don't know what I'm looking for. I couldn't see a difference in the two videos."

Same reason you have to see G-Sync in person... YouTube videos are locked at 30fps.

JC713 JC713 said:

And here we were thinking nVidia was the first to the table.

Speaking of the video, I don't know what I'm looking for. I couldn't see a difference in the two videos.

I think it has something to due with the framerate of youtube videos.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

The interesting part is when you consider that if you run AMD graphics, you are out of luck for G-Sync. And we're talking a very large percentage of the gamer community, not just a fraction. Whereas with VBLANK, there is no indication of any specific minimum GPU requirement (that I saw), and it could theoretically be used by both AMD and Nvidia users (if Nvidia chose to adapt it into their drivers). Seems like that would be the more lucrative way to go if I was a monitor manufacturer, supporting an already present standard vs. a proprietary hardware solution that excludes half of the gaming community. Have to wonder if this might slow down G-Sync adoption, even though it sounds like G-Sync is the better technical solution for tearing.

Ok, as I said in my post, G-Sync is really only relevant for people who already own the right graphics card, I'd also like to point out: http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey

AMD has 31.5% Nvidia 51.67% - When you break it down further into the Survey, It seems only about 8~% of Nvidia cards could even use G-Sync, Nvidia know it's for a small portion of users at the moment, To add to this, Not all of them are looking to replace their monitors right now, hell I bet less that 2% of them are, that leaves not very many people at all looking for a G-Sync Monitor, then those that don't want to spend silly amounts of money to get G-sync, you really are looking at a small number of people, scan.co.uk sell a g-sync screen, since the day they went up on the website they've pretty much been in stock since, I don't think they're selling all that well.

What I'm trying to get at, This tech is still extremely new, not very wide spread and has the usual early adopters price tag on, BUT we know what it can do, what it does, how it works and pretty much everyone who's seen it in person working say it's pretty impressive, I believe Linus compared it to SSD's, once you've gone SSD you can't really go back, or you can, just things don't feel snappy.

G-Sync was another product from Nvidia to try and sway consumers to buy an Nvidia GPU, whether it wins you over is up to you, Like you said, limits you to Nvidia GPU's and is expensive, It clearly didn't win you over, Or many people on this forum no doubt, but I bet their are a select few who already have decent Nvidia GPU's and are looking for a screen upgrade, These people are looking at G-Sync, Screens are a long term investment, G-Sync allows the GPU to last a bit longer before being replaced as well since you can hover around 30fps and it feels like 60fps still, pretty impressive stuff.

VBLANK (as far as I can tell) wasn't designed to stop lag, tearing and stutter. It was designed to conserve the power draw of a monitor, It can help though, which is why they were showing it off at CES.

Essentially, if you have the crazy money to spend on a decent setup, the best you can get right now is an Nvidia GTX 780ti with a G-Sync monitor.

AMD has the 290x with Mantle to materialize soon and possible support for VBLANK in the future, for much less.

I honestly hope AMD push VBLANK as a G-sync contender, then prices for both will at least be lowered substantially, Nvidia's solution will always be more expensive though, it's up to you whether you want AMD's half-assed approach to things or Nvidia's spit and shine... And whether you can afford it.

I'm tired, I can't even remember what I was replying to...

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I think it has something to due with the framerate of youtube videos.

Here's a 1080p 60fps video of G-sync in action, bare in mind this is the difference you see on a 60Hz monitor so I have no idea what the video looks like if you monitor is running on a higher or lower refresh rate:

[link]

Forg0t2 said:

And here we were thinking nVidia was the first to the table.

Speaking of the video, I don't know what I'm looking for. I couldn't see a difference in the two videos.

I know what I was looking for. That 1 thing why people disable the v-sync: Drop of framerate.

The left laptop was running at 29 FPS while the right laptop was running on 49 fps. But I couldn't read the other stuff so you still can't see whether it were 2 identical laptops or not and if the software is actually running or if you get tricked,... I dont expect AMD to fool people but I just cant read anything else except the FPS's...

JC713 JC713 said:

Here's a 1080p 60fps video of G-sync in action, bare in mind this is the difference you see on a 60Hz monitor so I have no idea what the video looks like if you monitor is running on a higher or lower refresh rate:

[link]

Interesting thanks.

Guest said:

cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said

And here we were thinking nVidia was the first to the table.

Speaking of the video, I don't know what I'm looking for. I couldn't see a difference in the two videos.

Guest said:

Same reason you have to see G-Sync in person... YouTube videos are locked at 30fps.

As a point of interest YT also does 24 FPS, and we are hoping for 60 soon.

Here is one Video that show another difference between the two Technologies (time / effort / cost): [video embed]

For certain we do not want to do "Brain Surgery" on our Monitors, nor do we want to add extra Chips/Heat to an already stuffed Graphics Card. AMDs Solution may not work quite as well but the 'FREE/easy Method' is what is most likely to prevail.

Now if there were an API for the Programmers to hint that Frame rate change was coming, and that could tell the Driver, which would then vary the Monitor ...

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