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AMD pushes FreeSync forward with support for HDMI, mobile, DisplayPort, HDR

Gordon Mah Ung | Dec. 9, 2015
Lenovo's Y700 laptop will be the first with FreeSync.

amd radeon

Standards wars are like the game Monopoly: The one with the most property usually ends up winning.

Well, AMD just snapped up the railroads and utilities. On Tuesday, the company's new Radeon Technologies Group announced it’ll have its variable refresh rate technology, dubbed FreeSync, working over HDMI ports next year. 

A variable refresh spec for HDMI is coming, but AMD's pushing ahead through the option of an extension to HDMI. The extension can be used in both HDMI 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 monitors.

For GPU support, AMD said any GPU that supports FreeSync over DisplayPort will be able to run it over monitors that support FreeSync using HDMI. 

Why this matters: The key to spreading AMD’s FreeSync is to get it on as many monitors as possible. Today it’s available only on more expensive panels with DisplayPort, and Nvidia’s G-Sync has a similar limitation. By adding HDMI, AMD should see a big boost in adoption.

Next up: Monitor and laptop support 

AMD also announced its first foray into mobile FreeSync with Lenovo’s new Y700 gaming laptop. The 15.6-inch Lenovo Y700 will feature a Radeon R9 M380 GPU and a quad-core AMD FX-F8800P “Carrizo” APU for $899.

The company said no fewer than eight new monitor models from Acer, LG, and Samsung will support FreeSync over HDMI. The company boasted that in monitor support it’s already outstripped Nvidia’s competing G-Sync by a healthy margin.

hdmi freesync 4
AMD says FreeSync isn’t even a year old but already has more monitor support than Nvidia’s competing G-Sync. Click on image to enlarge.

AMD claims 32 monitors support FreeSync vs. G-sync’s 17, adding that not all the announced G-sync monitors are available yet. AMD also dug at G-Sync by pointing out that every FreeSync panel has two inputs or more, while only a few G-Sync monitors do. That’s because G-Sync requires the use of an Nvidia-provided hardware scaler.

Last month, the company announced it had solved a complaint of image judder on most FreeSync monitors, using a software low framerate compensation algorithm. 

Nvidia would probably just shrug

Nvidia officials weren’t available to comment on AMD’s announcement. Based on recent conversations I’ve had with the company about FreeSync, however, I’d say it would shrug and say “meh.” Using our Monopoly analogy, AMD may have more pieces of property, but Nvidia owns Boardwalk and Park Place with hotels on them.

One issue facing FreeSync is its dependence upon an accompanying Radeon GPU. Today Nvidia’s in the leadership position, with numbers from November giving it an astounding 81.9 percent share of add-in graphics cards today. Gamers shopping for a monitor with variable refresh rate technology today would probably buy a G-sync monitor, and that won't change if AMD continues to lose ground to Nvidia in GPU sales. 


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