What is FreeSync? FreeSync vs FreeSync Premium vs Premium Pro


Are you a gamer? Do you happen to have one of those fancy high-end graphics cards that can pump 100s of frames? You can enjoy beautiful graphics from your game only if your monitor can reproduce those frames properly. If your graphics card and monitor are not in sync, then you get what is known as the Screen Tearing effect. Major graphics card manufacturers such as Nvidia and AMD developed techniques to eliminate (or minimize) this effect. AMD’s version of this tech is known as FreeSync.

In this guide, we will explore more about FreeSync and understand what is FreeSync, how it works, different versions of FreeSync, and many more.

What is FreeSync Technology?

Before understanding what is FreeSync technology, we will have a quick peek into what is screen tearing. Let us consider a normal 60Hz monitor. 60Hz here indicates the refresh rate of the monitor i.e., the screen refresh at a rate of 1/60 or 0.016s (16ms).

If the graphics card sends a new image before the screen can refresh i.e., the graphics card draws a new image while the display is still displaying the previous image, we get horizontal shear in the image and this is commonly known as Screen Tearing.

This problem is persistent if the frames per second from the graphics card are not a multiple of the refresh rate of the monitor. To solve this problem, the video technical standard organization VESA developed a technology called Adaptive Sync for the DisplayPort (1.2a standard).

The Adaptive Sync synchronizes the display’s refresh rate with the frames pushed by the graphics card. In its basic form, this can be considered as the earliest form of variable refresh rate technology.

Based on VESA’s Adaptive Sync Technology, both NVIDIA and AMD developed their own versions for tackling Screen Tearing and to work with their respective graphic cards. The NVIDIA’s version is known as G-Sync. It is a proprietary technology that requires dedicated hardware built into the monitor (display) in order to work with the NVIDIA graphics cards.

AMD on the other hand developed a royalty-free version of adaptive sync called FreeSync. This means the display manufacturers don’t have to pay any licensing fee to use the FreeSync technology in their monitors. As a result, FreeSync monitors are slightly cheaper than their G-Sync counterparts with identical performance.

While the original FreeSync technology is designed to work with DisplayPort, modern FreeSync displays work for both DisplayPort and HDMI connections. On the contrary, G-Sync works over DisplayPort only.

How to Enable FreeSync?

First of all, for a monitor or display to be certified as ‘FreeSync’, it must go through a testing process from AMD. If it passes all the tests, then the monitor or display will be FreeSync-Certified.

If you have a FreeSync monitor, then you have to pair it with an AMD graphics card or an AMD APU (AMD CPU with integrated graphics) to make use of the feature. To enable FreeSync, you have to install the proper AMD Radeon Software and enable FreeSync in its settings.

FreeSync vs. FreeSync Premium vs. FreeSync Premium Pro

AMD’s FreeSync is further divided into three tiers.

  • FreeSync
  • FreeSync Premium
  • FreeSync Premium Pro

The AMD FreeSync is the basic version of the three. It offers a solution to screen tearing with stutter free gameplay and also provides low latency. The middle tier is AMD FreeSync Premium. In addition to the features offered by the basic FreeSync, the Premium tier also offers low framerate compensation and support for a 120Hz refresh rate at 1080p resolution.

Finally, we have the AMD FreeSync Premium Pro tier. It was previously known as FreeSync 2 HDR. Along with the features of AMD FreeSync Premium. The Premium Pro version adds support for HDR capabilities (for supported displays and games) and also low latency for both SDR and HDR.

The following table shows a simple feature list of FreeSync, FreeSync Premium, and FreeSync Premium Pro. Irrespective of the tier of FreeSync, AMD must certify all the displays.

AMD FreeSync AMD FreeSync Premium AMD FreeSync Premium Pro
AMD Certified AMD Certified AMD Certified for color and luminance
 Tackles Screen Tearing  Tackles Screen Tearing HDR support for Displays and games
Low Latency Low Latency Tackles Screen Tearing
Minimum 120Hz at 1080p Low Latency with SDR and HDR
Low Framerate Compensation (LFC) Minimum 120Hz at 1080p
Low Framerate Compensation (LFC)

FreeSync Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It is royalty-free technology. OEMs don’t have to pay any fee to AMD to implement it in their monitors and displays.
  • AMD FreeSync Monitors are significantly cheaper than G-Sync alternatives.
  • FreeSync works over both DisplayPort as well as HDMI.
  • The performance of FreeSync is very similar to that of G-Sync.
  • Modern FreeSync is compatible with AMD as well as NVIDIA graphics cards.

Cons

  • To get HDR support, we have to opt for FreeSync Premium Pro, which can be slightly expensive.

Conclusion

FreeSync is AMD’s answer to the screen tearing problem that gamers face while playing high frame rate games on a relatively low refresh rate monitor. As it is royalty-free without any proprietary hardware, AMD FreeSync certified monitors are less expensive than G-Sync monitors from NVIDIA with no difference in performance. If you want to experience a variable refresh rate even without HDMI2.1, the FreeSync is the first step for that.



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