Podcast #344 - Intel SSD 750 Series, NZXT S340, an ASUS FreeSync Monitor and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 9, 2015 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: video, podcast, nvidia, mg279q, Intel, gsync, gigabyte, freesync, ddr4-3400, corsair, compute stick, asus, amd, 750 series

PC Perspective Podcast #344 - 04/09/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel SSD 750 Series, NZXT S340, an ASUS FreeSync Monitor and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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Hosts:Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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ASUS MG279Q Monitor Now Officially a FreeSync Monitor

Subject: Displays | April 7, 2015 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: variable refresh rate, mg279q, freesync, asus, amd

If you remember back at CES in early January, we got hands-on with an upcoming monitor from ASUS, the MG279Q. Unlike the company's other G-Sync enabled displays, this monitor was unique in that offered support for the Adaptive Sync portion of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard but was also not a part of AMD's initial wave of FreeSync monitors.

mg279.jpg

The ASUS MG279Q from CES 2015

The screen technology itself was impressive: a 2560x1440 resolution, IPS-style implementation and a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. (Note: the new marketing material indicates that the panel will have a 144 Hz maximum refresh rate. Maybe there was a hardware change since CES?) During a video interview with ASUS at the time it was labeled as having a minimum refresh rate of 40 Hz which is something we look forward to testing if and when we can get a sample in our labs.

At the time, there was some interesting debate about WHY this wasn't a FreeSync branded monitor. We asked AMD specifically about this monitor's capability to work with capable Radeon GPUs for variable refresh and they promised there were no lock-outs occurring. We guessed that maybe ASUS' deal with NVIDIA on G-Sync was preventing them from joining the FreeSync display program, but cleary that wasn't the case. Today on Twitter, AMD announced that the MG279Q was officially part of the FreeSync brand.

amdfs-mg279q.jpg

I am glad to see more products come into the FreeSync monitor market and hopefully we'll have some solid gaming experiences with the ASUS MG279Q to report back on soon!

Source: AMD Twitter

Podcast #343 - DX12 Performance, Dissecting G-SYNC and FreeSync, Intel 3D NAND and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2015 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, dx12, 3dmark, freesync, g-sync, Intel, 3d nand, 20nm, 28nm, micron, nvidia, shield, Tegra X1, raptr, 850 EVO, msata, M.2

PC Perspective Podcast #343 - 04/02/2015

Join us this week as we discuss DX12 Performance, Dissecting G-SYNC and FreeSync, Intel 3D NAND and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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Hosts:Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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Author:
Manufacturer: Various

It's more than just a branding issue

As a part of my look at the first wave of AMD FreeSync monitors hitting the market, I wrote an analysis of how the competing technologies of FreeSync and G-Sync differ from one another. It was a complex topic that I tried to state in as succinct a fashion as possible given the time constraints and that the article subject was on FreeSync specifically. I'm going to include a portion of that discussion here, to recap:

First, we need to look inside the VRR window, the zone in which the monitor and AMD claims that variable refresh should be working without tears and without stutter. On the LG 34UM67 for example, that range is 48-75 Hz, so frame rates between 48 FPS and 75 FPS should be smooth. Next we want to look above the window, or at frame rates above the 75 Hz maximum refresh rate of the window. Finally, and maybe most importantly, we need to look below the window, at frame rates under the minimum rated variable refresh target, in this example it would be 48 FPS.

AMD FreeSync offers more flexibility for the gamer than G-Sync around this VRR window. For both above and below the variable refresh area, AMD allows gamers to continue to select a VSync enabled or disabled setting. That setting will be handled as you are used to it today when your game frame rate extends outside the VRR window. So, for our 34UM67 monitor example, if your game is capable of rendering at a frame rate of 85 FPS then you will either see tearing on your screen (if you have VSync disabled) or you will get a static frame rate of 75 FPS, matching the top refresh rate of the panel itself. If your game is rendering at 40 FPS, lower than the minimum VRR window, then you will again see the result of tearing (with VSync off) or the potential for stutter and hitching (with VSync on).

But what happens with this FreeSync monitor and theoretical G-Sync monitor below the window? AMD’s implementation means that you get the option of disabling or enabling VSync.  For the 34UM67 as soon as your game frame rate drops under 48 FPS you will either see tearing on your screen or you will begin to see hints of stutter and judder as the typical (and previously mentioned) VSync concerns again crop their head up. At lower frame rates (below the window) these artifacts will actually impact your gaming experience much more dramatically than at higher frame rates (above the window).

G-Sync treats this “below the window” scenario very differently. Rather than reverting to VSync on or off, the module in the G-Sync display is responsible for auto-refreshing the screen if the frame rate dips below the minimum refresh of the panel that would otherwise be affected by flicker. So, in a 30-144 Hz G-Sync monitor, we have measured that when the frame rate actually gets to 29 FPS, the display is actually refreshing at 58 Hz, each frame being “drawn” one extra instance to avoid flicker of the pixels but still maintains a tear free and stutter free animation. If the frame rate dips to 25 FPS, then the screen draws at 50 Hz. If the frame rate drops to something more extreme like 14 FPS, we actually see the module quadruple drawing the frame, taking the refresh rate back to 56 Hz. It’s a clever trick that keeps the VRR goals and prevents a degradation of the gaming experience. But, this method requires a local frame buffer and requires logic on the display controller to work. Hence, the current implementation in a G-Sync module.

As you can see, the topic is complicated. So Allyn and I (and an aging analog oscilloscope) decided to take it upon ourselves to try and understand and teach the implementation differences with the help of some science. The video below is where the heart of this story is focused, though I have some visual aids embedded after it.

Still not clear on what this means for frame rates and refresh rates on current FreeSync and G-Sync monitors? Maybe this will help.

Continue reading our story dissecting NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync!!

Podcast #342 - FreeSync Launch, Dell XPS 13, Super Fast DDR4 and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2015 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: XPS 13, video, Vector 180, usb 3.1, supernova, Silverstone, quadro, podcast, ocz, nvidia, m6000, gsync, FT05, freesync, Fortress, evga, dell, ddr4-3400, ddr4, corsair, broadwell-u, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #342 - 03/25/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the launch of FreeSync, Dell XPS 13, Super Fast DDR4 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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Hosts:Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

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Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: AMD

What is FreeSync?

FreeSync: What began as merely a term for AMD’s plans to counter NVIDIA’s launch of G-Sync (and mocking play on NVIDIA’s trade name) has finally come to fruition, keeping the name - and the attitude. As we have discussed, AMD’s Mantle API was crucial to pushing the industry in the correct and necessary direction for lower level APIs, though NVIDIA’s G-Sync deserves the same credit for recognizing and imparting the necessity of a move to a variable refresh display technology. Variable refresh displays can fundamentally change the way that PC gaming looks and feels when they are built correctly and implemented with care, and we have seen that time and time again with many different G-Sync enabled monitors at our offices. It might finally be time to make the same claims about FreeSync.

But what exactly is FreeSync? AMD has been discussing it since CES in early 2014, claiming that they would bypass the idea of a custom module that needs to be used by a monitor to support VRR, and instead go the route of open standards using a modification to DisplayPort 1.2a from VESA. FreeSync is based on AdaptiveSync, an optional portion of the DP standard that enables a variable refresh rate courtesy of expanding the vBlank timings of a display, and it also provides a way to updating EDID (display ID information) to facilitate communication of these settings to the graphics card. FreeSync itself is simply the AMD brand for this implementation, combining the monitors with correctly implemented drivers and GPUs that support the variable refresh technology.

disp4.jpg

A set of three new FreeSync monitors from Acer, LG and BenQ.

Fundamentally, FreeSync works in a very similar fashion to G-Sync, utilizing the idea of the vBlank timings of a monitor to change how and when it updates the screen. The vBlank signal is what tells the monitor to begin drawing the next frame, representing the end of the current data set and marking the beginning of a new one. By varying the length of time this vBlank signal is set to, you can force the monitor to wait any amount of time necessary, allowing the GPU to end the vBlank instance exactly when a new frame is done drawing. The result is a variable refresh rate monitor, one that is in tune with the GPU render rate, rather than opposed to it. Why is that important? I wrote in great detail about this previously, and it still applies in this case:

The idea of G-Sync (and FreeSync) is pretty easy to understand, though the implementation method can get a bit more hairy. G-Sync (and FreeSync) introduces a variable refresh rate to a monitor, allowing the display to refresh at wide range of rates rather than at fixed intervals. More importantly, rather than the monitor dictating what rate this refresh occurs at to the PC, the graphics now tells the monitor when to refresh in a properly configured G-Sync (and FreeSync) setup. This allows a monitor to match the refresh rate of the screen to the draw rate of the game being played (frames per second) and that simple change drastically improves the gaming experience for several reasons.

slides01.jpg

Gamers today are likely to be very familiar with V-Sync, short for vertical sync, which is an option in your graphics card’s control panel and in your game options menu. When enabled, it forces the monitor to draw a new image on the screen at a fixed interval. In theory, this would work well and the image is presented to the gamer without artifacts. The problem is that games that are played and rendered in real time rarely fall into a very specific frame rate. With only a couple of exceptions, games frame rates will fluctuate based on the activity happening on the screen: a rush of enemies, a changed camera angle, an explosion or falling building. Instantaneous frame rates can vary drastically, from 30, to 60, to 90, and force the image to be displayed only at set fractions of the monitor's refresh rate, which causes problems.

Continue reading our first impressions of the newly released AMD FreeSync technology!!

Podcast #340 - News from GDC 2015, FreeSync Release Date, Vulkan and Mantle, and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2015 - 02:09 PM |
Tagged: western digital, vulkan, video, SSD 750, Re+, raptr, r9 390x, podcast, nvidia, Mantle, Intel, imagination, gtx 960, gsync, gdc 15, freesync, Broadwell, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #340 - 03/12/2015

Join us this week as we wrap up news from GDC 2015, FreeSync Release Date, Vulkan and Mantle, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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Hosts:Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Paul Heimlich

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

AMD To Release FreeSync Ready Driver on March 19th

Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays | March 5, 2015 - 11:46 AM |
Tagged: freesync, amd

Hey everyone, we just got a quick note from AMD with an update on the FreeSync technology rollout we have been expecting since CES in January (and honestly, even before that). Here is the specific quote:

AMD is very excited that monitors compatible with AMD FreeSync™ technology are now available in select regions in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). We know gamers are excited to bring home an incredibly smooth and tearing-free PC gaming experience powered by AMD Radeon™ GPUs and AMD A-Series APUs. We’re pleased to announce that a compatible AMD Catalyst™ graphics driver to enable AMD FreeSync™ technology for single-GPU configurations will be publicly available on AMD.com starting March 19, 2015. Support for AMD CrossFire™ configurations will be available the following month in April 2015.

A couple of interesting things: first, it appears that FreeSync monitors are already shipping in the EMEA regions and that is the cause for this news blast to the media. If you are buying a monitor with a FreeSync logo on it and can't use the technology, that is clearly a bit frustrating. You have just another two weeks to wait for the software to enabled your display's variable refresh rate.

freesynclogo-small.jpg

That also might be a clue as to when you can expect review embargoes and/or the release of FreeSync monitors in North America. The end is in sight!

Still wondering about adaptive refresh and why it matters to more than the 144Hz crowd?

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2015 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: freesync, amd

The Tech Report published a video of Freesync in action using a camera which records at 240 fps.  The subject material is running at less than the 60Hz that most of our monitors use which means that you can actually see what it does for you.  Watching the video at 60Hz you can see the tearing on the blades of the windmill as the actual frame rate of the render is 44 - 45Hz while when Freesync is active the matched frequencies do not cause any tearing.  The demonstration shows how Freesync can benefit lower end systems that are not going to push a 144Hz monitor to the limits, if you can only manage 40-50 fps in a game Freesync is going to make it much easier on your eyes.  You can catch our latest coverage of Freesync here.

mg279q-2.jpg

"We've been hearing about FreeSync, AMD's answer to Nvidia's G-Sync variable refresh display tech, for just over a year now. This week at CES, we finally got a chance to see FreeSync in action, and we used that opportunity to shoot some enlightening 240-FPS footage. We were able to find out some new specifics from AMD, as well."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

CES 2015: ASUS MG279Q 27-in 2560x1440 IPS 120 Hz Variable Refresh Monitor

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 12:13 AM |
Tagged: vrr, video, variable refresh rate, mg279q, gsync, g-sync, freesync, ces 2015, CES, asus

We have talked about G-Sync for what seems like years now and we got our first hands-on with AMD's FreeSync monitors earlier this week at CES, but the new ASUS MG279Q is in an interesting place: it is the first display that publicly supports Adaptive Sync and DP 1.2a+ but does not have an affiliation with either branded variable refresh rate technology. As it turns out though, that isn't bad news.

mg279q-2.jpg

First, let's talk about the hardware. The screen is a 27-in 2560x1440 display with IPS panel technology and a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. High refresh rate IPS monitors are brand new and we are glad to see that ASUS is bringing one to the market so we can finally combine great color, great viewing angles and great refresh rates. The monitor supports DP 1.2a+ and Adaptive Sync which leads us too...

mg279q-q.jpg

...the fact that this monitor will work with AMD Radeon graphics cards and operate at a variable refresh rate. After talking with AMD's Robert Hallock at the show, he confirmed that AMD will not have a whitelist/blacklist policy for FreeSync displays and that as long as a monitor adheres to the standards of DP 1.2a+ then they will operate in the variable refresh rate window as defined by the display's EDID.

So, as described by the ASUS reps on hand, this panel will have a minimum refresh of around 40 Hz and a maximum of 120 Hz, leaving a sizeable window for variable refresh to work it's magic.

Even better? The price! ASUS said this panel will ship in late Q1 of this year for just $599!

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces