Our very own Anand Shimpi just got off of the Computex showfloor for a bit after paying a visit to AMD’s booth. Among the items AMD is showing at Computex is the current status of their FreeSync project, whose base feature of Adaptive Sync was recently added to the DisplayPort 1.2a standard as an extension.

First announced at CES 2014, FreeSync is AMD’s take on variable refresh monitors, utilizing some variable refresh functionality first designed for embedded DisplayPort (eDP). At the time AMD was showing off the concept on laptops (due to the need for eDP) but are back at Computex with an update on the project.

Here at Computex AMD is showing off the first prototype monitor that is FreeSync capable, which interestingly enough is based on a retail monitor that was hardware capable and could be converted with updated firmware. AMD’s actual demo hasn’t changed – they’re still running the fan blade demo we saw at CES 2014 – but it’s now running on external monitors. The monitor in question operates with a fairly narrow range of rates of just 40Hz to 60Hz, which for the purposes of a prototype is good enough to showcase that the technology works, though it is narrower than the refresh ranges AMD is expecting for retail monitors.

At this point AMD is emphasizing that while they were able to get FreeSync up and running on existing hardware, owners shouldn’t be expecting firmware updates as this is very unlikely to happen (though this is ultimately up to monitor manufacturers). Instead AMD is using it to demonstrate that existing panels and scalers already exist that are capable of variable refresh, and that retail monitors should not require significant/expensive technology upgrades. Meanwhile AMD is also holding to their earlier projection of 6-12 months for retail monitor availability with retail prototypes expected around September, which puts final retail availability potentially as early as very late this year, but more likely into the first half of 2015.

Finally we have a video interview of the FreeSync demo in action. It bears mentioning that YouTube is limited to 30fps, so while we can give you some idea of what FreeSync performs like it’s not a fully capable representation. That will have to wait for closer to release when we can sit down with a high speed camera.

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  • Spunjji - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    It's free as in free-specification, not free as in "we will upgrade the existing display hardware in your monitor that was not designed for this specification"... If the monitor was not designed with appropriate hardware to flexibly modify the refresh rate then no amount of firmware will fix that! Reply
  • Soulwager - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    Is the spec free to anyone, or just VESA members? I'm definitely curious about the details. Reply
  • ninjaquick - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    Either way, almost everyone is a VESA member. Reply
  • akbo - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    Free as in free speech not free beer. Hardware costs money for you know, "binned screens" verified to run 10-100 hz and compute and stuff. Reply
  • TheJian - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    You already know the answer. It isn't going to be EASY or FREE. I wonder how long they had to look to find a monitor that would even do it between 40-60hz which by the way, nobody would buy. They're also clear here you won't be doing this on monitors with a firmware upgrade. They can hint you could do it, but that is BS if they can't even get ONE to go outside 40-60hz. That isn't a tech that is WORKING, it's what we commonly call jerry-rigging something and it seems just good enough to show a demo with. It's becoming more clear by the day NV didn't screw anyone, they just did what was necessary to get it to market. What takes 6-12 months (err...12months+, for AMD fudge factor)? Convincing someone to make a scaler/tech (whatever is needed) etc that can go far outside 40-60hz and be done reasonably cheaply. Nobody will do this for free which is exactly what NV ran into. They gave NV the bird, and NV made their own solution and even then it would only work on ONE monitor for months as we're just starting to see more gsync stuff coming in the pipe.

    AMD has a long ways to go here and it won't be free. Free for AMD maybe, but not for someone involved in making the monitor and not for us after they pass it on. Also just like NV, you'll need specific cards to get the job done. So for most (like me with a radeon 5850), you need a card+monitor. ZERO manufacturers will go back and make new firmware to allow you to put off purchasing a NEW monitor. That is stupid for them and they are not stupid. I can hear the conversation now:

    "So amd, you'd like us to make new firmware that will make people live longer in their monitors and avoid buying a new one for another year or two since they'll love how fluid their games are on the OLD one they have now? FU." Followed by "Ring...ring...Hello Nvidia? Can we start making some gysnc stuff so we can sell more monitors TODAY instead of a few years from now on AMD's free plan?"...LOL. There is a price to pay for awesome tech, and it isn't FREE. One day it gets cheaper so us mere mortals may be able to buy it, but it is VERY expensive for first adopters of pretty much anything great or cool.

    We can only hope the AMD solution gets close enough NV has to license the REAL deal for a decent price to move it into everything (tablets, phones, tv's, monitors etc) and that should bring costs down for all.

    That being said competition is great. We wouldn't have anything being looked at if they weren't trying to top each other. Gsync led to and AMD response. However it happened we now have Mantle, DX11 drivers from NV that catch mantle, OpenGL speeches from NV showing it has been in there for years (why nobody talked about this 3yrs ago is beyond me), DX12 coming to solve the same problems etc. It's amazing game devs needed a speech to tell them OpenGL has ways around driver overhead for years. We really don't even need dx12 or Mantle if they'd just use what is ALREADY in OpenGL. Whatever caused it all, at least the conversation is REALLY happening now. Since Valve's steamos won't run DX we should start seeing people take advantage of OpenGL stuff soon especially with DX12 so far off (how many can use it when it hits? How long before games use it massively?). OpenGL works for everyone today including Intel/AMD/NV/ARM crap etc.
    Reply
  • Spazturtle - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    They have said they don't expect display vendors to make new firmware, this was just for demo to show that it could be done.

    Why would display vendors pay NVIDIA for something that is worse then what is provided for free as part of the DP 1.3 spec?
    Reply
  • tuxRoller - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    Dp 1.2a, apparently. Reply
  • edzieba - Friday, June 6, 2014 - link

    Why would display vendors pay NVIDIA for something that is worse then what is provided for free as part of the DP 1.3 spec?
    Because Nvidia will sell them a module that can drop in and have a working product. AMD expect them to either develop and manufacture their own controller, or pester a panel controller manufacturer to develop and sell one to them.
    Reply
  • Antronman - Thursday, June 12, 2014 - link

    Please actually read about Freesync the next time you decide to post about it sir. Reply
  • antimoron - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    they talk about video cards... Free to use with any video cards. You need a Nvidia card to use G-Sync. What a moron writing one page of useless words. lol That means like the PhysX this can be software and not just hardware proprietary. Reply

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