We have been tracking the differences between AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync for some time now. The launch of FreeSync-capable displays started out a bit shaky, as some features we took for granted went missing. The first round of FreeSync displays we reviewed came with non-functional overdrive when the display / GPU pipeline was operating in FreeSync mode.
Comparison of overdrive response in first round FreeSync displays. Images should look like the ROG Swift (left), which was correctly applying overdrive.
While AMD apparently fixed a portion of this problem in a subsequent driver update, getting overdrive to function in these early displays would require a firmware update. Unlike what you may be used to with a motherboard or SSD firmware, displays are not typically end-user upgradeable. This meant that even if manufacturers produced a fix, owners would have to send in their display to be updated (and be without it for several weeks).
The only manufacturer to step forward and retroactively support overdrive in their first gen FreeSync panel was BenQ. In a statement issued via TFTCentral:
BenQ have confirmed that the FreeSync/AMA issue which affected their XL2730Z display has now been fixed. This issue caused the overdrive (AMA) feature to not function when the screen was connected to a FreeSync capable system. As a result, users could not make use of the AMA feature and benefit from the improved response times that the 'normal' AMA mode offered, as compared with AMA Off. See our review for more information.
A driver update from AMD is already available and should be downloaded from their website. In addition BenQ will be releasing a firmware update for the monitor itself to fix this issue. Current stocks in distribution are being recalled and updated with retailers so future purchases should already carry this new firmware. This is expected to apply for stock purchased AFTER 1st July, as V002 firmware screens should be shipped by BenQ to distributors in late June.
For those who already have an XL2730Z if you want to, you can return it to BenQ for them to carry out the firmware update for you. This only applies if the user is experiencing issues with the performance of the screen. There is no simple way for the end user to update the firmware themselves and it is not encouraged. Users should contact BenQ support through their relevant country website for more information on how to return their screen for the update.
The catch with the above is that the statement came from BenQ PR for Europe, and we nor TFTCentral have been able to confirm any equivalent upgrade process in place for the USA. We did note in various online reviews that those receiving their BenQ XL2730Z in the last week of June confirmed having the new V002 firmware.
If you have one of these panels, verifying your firmware is simple. Hold down the menu button while powering up the display (you will have to hold the power button for a few seconds before you hear a beep).
The display will power up and appear as normal, except that now pressing the menu button again will bring up the above service menu. Those with the update will have “V002” as the starting text of the ‘F/W Version’ result.
Overdrive functioning on the ASUS MG279Q IPS FreeSync display, showing an odd simultaneous ‘negative ghost’ outline of a slightly ghosted image.
We have been eager to retest the BenQ since hearing of this updated firmware revision. While we have seen overdrive functioning in the recent ASUS MG279Q, it was not a perfect implementation, and we were curious to know if BenQ’s implementation fared any better.
If you live somewhere you can visit or order from a Microcenter and consider a great value enough reason to use a TN based display then check out this deal on an AOC U2870VQE 28" 4K LED display. Currently only $349+taxes you can get a 4k display for your computer or to stream to from your mobile device. Again, at this price you cannot expect either adaptive refresh rate technology but for roughly the same price to pick up an IPS based FreeSync or G_SYNC monitor of comparable size you can grab three of these displays. Connectivity includes VGA, DP, Mini-DP and HDMI (MHL), the latter of which is compatible with mobile devices.
The display is sold as a 10-bit panel, in fact it is an 8bit panel which uses Frame-Rate-Control to up the number of colours to 1.07 billion but frankly unless you are using this for professional purposes you are not going to notice any difference; except the price of course. You can see the full news release below the fold, or just click on that link to order one for as you might expect, the supplies at this price are limited. Otherwise you can keep saving your pennies for a 4k IPS display with true 10bit colour and one of the two adaptive refresh rate technologies.
Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
AMD fans have been patiently waiting for a proper FreeSync display to be released. The first round of displays using the Adaptive Sync variable refresh rate technology arrived with an ineffective or otherwise disabled overdrive feature, resulting in less than optimal pixel response times and overall visual quality, especially when operating in variable refresh rate modes. Meanwhile G-Sync users had overdrive functionality properly functioning , as well as a recently introduced 1440P IPS panel from Acer. The FreeSync camp was overdue for an IPS 1440P display superior to that first round of releases, hopefully with those overdrive issues corrected. Well it appears that ASUS, the makers of the ROG Swift, have just rectified that situation with a panel we can finally recommend to AMD users:
Before we get into the full review, here is a sampling of our recent display reviews from both sides of the camp:
- ASUS PG278Q 27in TN 1440P 144Hz G-Sync
- Acer XB270H 27in TN 1080P 144Hz G-Sync
- Acer XB280HK 28in TN 4K 60Hz G-Sync
- Acer XB270HU 27in IPS 1440P 144Hz G-Sync
- LG 34UM67 34in IPS 25x18 21:9 48-75Hz FreeSync
- BenQ XL2730Z 27in TN 1440P 40-144Hz FreeSync
- Acer XG270HU 27in TN 1440P 40-144Hz FreeSync
- ASUS MG279Q 27in IPS 1440P 144Hz FreeSync(35-90Hz) < You are here
The reason for there being no minimum rating on the G-Sync panels above is explained in our article 'Dissecting G-Sync and FreeSync - How the Technologies Differ', though the short version is that G-Sync can effectively remain in VRR down to <1 FPS regardless of the hardware minimum of the display panel itself.
Subject: Displays | June 18, 2015 - 10:10 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, sm40unp, Seiki Pro, seiki, gleam, giveaway, contest
Earlier today we posted our review of the Seiki Pro SM40UNP monitor, a 40-in behemoth with a 4K resolution and 60 Hz refresh rate. Clearly this is not a monitor for mere mortals: you must have an impressive system to push out the pixels required for a 4K display and also have the desk space for a display that many would considerable sizeable for a TV!
Not only was Allyn impressed with the color capability of the display and the sheer size of the monitor, it offers some interesting features and capabilities including four simultaneous video inputs! Be sure you check out Allyn's full write up on the display that resulted in a Gold Award from the staff.
But let's get to the important news for this post: Seiki was willing to give us two of these monitors to hand out to our readers and viewers. That's right, two of you will be taking home a 40-in 4K 60 Hz monitor for your gaming PC! (Or for productivity and work, who are we to judge?)
The method is simple:
- Fill out the entry form below. You can enter through one or all of the methods listed but the more entries you include the better your chances! Seiki is particular interested to see all the 4K-ready gaming rigs our readers have built!
- It's stated in the Gleam form but it is worth reiterating here: all entrants will be sent one email from me (Ryan) with a coupon code for Seiki monitors that you can use on a purchase if you don't win one of the giveaways. You are not being signed up for some kind of mailing list or marketing list and your email address will never actually go to Seiki - I will send out the emails myself.
- The contest is open to anyone in the world. So enter away!
- The contest will end at 11:59pm on June 19th (EST)
Good luck to all entrants and a HUGE THANKS goes out to Seiki for providing these kick-ass prizes for our readers and viewers!
Subject: Displays | June 9, 2015 - 01:51 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: UHD, LG, ips monitor, gaming monitor, freesync, amd, 4k, 27MU67-B
LG announced a new 4K monitor today, and since it's from LG you know there has to be an IPS panel inside.
The 27MU67-B boasts a 3840x2160 UHD/4K IPS panel and supports AMD FreeSync variable refresh rate technology, though the panel appears to only support up to 60 Hz according to the official specs. Speaking of, here's the full rundown:
- Panel Type: IPS
- Color Gamut (CIE1931): SRGB 99%
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Resolution: 3840x2160
- Brightness (cd/m2): 300 cd/m2
- Contrast Ratio: 5M:1
- Response Time (GTG): 5ms
- Refresh Rate: 60 Hz: 178 / 178
- Viewing Angle: Hard Coating (3H), anti-glare
- DVI-D x1
- HDMI x2
- Display Port x1
- Black Stabilizer: Black Equalizer
- DAS Mode: Yes
- Reader Mode: Yes
- PC: Yes
- DDC/CI: Yes
- HDCP: Yes (2.2)
- FreeSync: Yes (w/ DP, mDP)
- Factory Calibration: Yes
- Super+ Resolution: Yes
- Screen-split: Yes (Software)
- Flicker Safe: Yes
- Pivot: Yes
- Dual Controller: Yes (Software)
The 27MU67-B also features factory calibration and 99% sRGB color the display could be used for more critical work (yes, gaming can be categorized as "critical").
The LG 27MU67-B has an MSRP of $599.99 and availability is listed as “coming soon”.
Introduction and Specifications
Seiki has spent the past few years making quite the entrance into the display market. Starting with LCD TVs, they seemingly came out of nowhere back in April of 2013 with a 50” 4K display that was available at a very competitive price at that time. Since then, we’ve seen a few more display releases out of Seiki, and they were becoming popular among home theater enthusiasts on a budget and for gamers who wanted a bigger panel in front of them. Last June, Seiki announced a desktop line of 4K monitors. These would not just be repurposed televisions, but ground-up designs intended for desktop professionals and gamers alike. The most eagerly awaited part of this announcement was promised 60 Hz support at 4K resolutions.
Just under a year later, we are happy to bring you a review of the first iteration on this new Seiki Pro lineup:
Subject: Displays | June 1, 2015 - 12:21 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: nvidia, gsync, g-sync, asus, 3800R
At Computex this week ASUS is showing off a prototype of the new ROG 3800R monitor, a 34-in curved display with a 3440x1440 resolution and G-Sync variable refresh rate capability. ASUS claims on its PCDIY blog that the 21:9 aspect ratio was the one of the "most requested" specifications for a new ROG monitor, followed by a curved design. The result is a gorgeous display:
Here's a list of specifications:
- 34” optimal dimension for QHD resolutions with 3440×1440 resolution
- 21:9 ultra-wide aspect ratio for increased immersion and improved horizontal workflow
- IPS based panel for superior color reproduction, black levels and reduction of color shifting
- NVIDIA G-SYNC equipped offering smooth, fluid and tear free gaming with improved motion clarity. Additionally equipped with ULMB operating mode for outstanding motion clarity.
- Frameless design for seamless surround gaming
- ASUS exclusive GamePlus feature and Turbo Key
- Ergonomic adjustment including tilt, swivel and height adjustment
Hot damn, we want of these and we want it yesterday! There is no mention of the refresh rate of the display here though we did see information from NVIDIA that ASUS was planning a 34x14 60 Hz screen - but we are not sure this is the same model being shown. And the inclusion of ULMB would normally indicate a refresh rate above 60-75 Hz...
Another interesting note: this monitor appears to include both DisplayPort and HDMI connectivity.
This 34-inch 3800R curved display features wide-viewing angles, a 3440 x 1440 native resolution, and 21:9 aspect ratio. It features NVIDIA® G-SYNC™ display technology to deliver smooth, lag-free visuals. G-SYNC synchronizes the display’s refresh rate to the GPU in any GeForce® GTX™-powered PC to eliminate screen tearing and minimizing display stutter and input lag. This results in sharper, more vibrant images; and more fluid and responsive gameplay. It has extensive connectivity options that include DisplayPort and HDMI.
The above information came from ASUS just a few short hours ago, so you can assume that it is accurate. Could this be the start of panels that integrate dual scalars (G-Sync module plus something else) to offer more connectivity or has the G-Sync module been updated to support more inputs? We'll find out!
Subject: Displays, Mobile | May 31, 2015 - 06:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: nvidia, notebooks, msi, mobile, gsync, g-sync, asus
If you remember back to January of this year, Allyn and posted an article that confirmed the existence of a mobile variant of G-Sync thanks to a leaked driver and an ASUS G751 notebook. Rumors and speculation floated around the Internet ether for a few days but we eventually got official word from NVIDIA that G-Sync for notebooks was a real thing and that it would launch "soon." Well we have that day here finally with the beginning of Computex.
G-Sync for notebooks has no clever branding, no "G-Sync Mobile" or anything like that, so discussing it will be a bit more difficult since the technologies are different. Going forward NVIDIA claims that any gaming notebook using NVIDIA GeForce GPUs will be a G-Sync notebook and will support all of the goodness that variable refresh rate gaming provides. This is fantastic news as notebook gaming is often at lower frame rates than you would find on a desktop PC because of lower powered hardware yet comparable (1080p, 1440p) resolution displays.
Of course, as we discovered in our first look at G-Sync for notebooks back in January, the much debated G-Sync module is not required and will not be present on notebooks featuring the variable refresh technology. So what gives? We went over some of this before, but it deserves to be detailed again.
NVIDIA uses the diagram above to demonstrate the complication of the previous headaches presented by the monitor and GPU communication path before G-Sync was released. You had three different components: the GPU, the monitor scalar and the monitor panel that all needed to work together if VRR was going to become a high quality addition to the game ecosystem.
NVIDIA's answer was to take over all aspects of the pathway for pixels from the GPU to the eyeball, creating the G-Sync module and helping OEMs to hand pick the best panels that would work with VRR technology. This helped NVIDIA make sure it could do things to improve the user experience such as implementing an algorithmic low-frame-rate, frame-doubling capability to maintain smooth and tear-free gaming at frame rates under the panels physical limitations. It also allows them to tune the G-Sync module to the specific panel to help with ghosting and implemention variable overdrive logic.
All of this is required because of the incredible amount of variability in the monitor and panel markets today.
But with notebooks, NVIDIA argues, there is no variability at all to deal with. The notebook OEM gets to handpick the panel and the GPU directly interfaces with the screen instead of passing through a scalar chip. (Note that some desktop monitors like the ever popular Dell 3007WFP did this as well.) There is no other piece of logic in the way attempting to enforce a fixed refresh rate. Because of that direct connection, the GPU is able to control the data passing between it and the display without any other logic working in the middle. This makes implementing VRR technology much more simple and helps with quality control because NVIDIA can validate the panels with the OEMs.
As I mentioned above, going forward, all new notebooks using GTX graphics will be G-Sync notebooks and that should solidify NVIDIA's dominance in the mobile gaming market. NVIDIA will be picking the panels, and tuning the driver for them specifically, to implement anti-ghosting technology (like what exists on the G-Sync module today) and low frame rate doubling. NVIDIA also claims that the world's first 75 Hz notebook panels will ship with GeForce GTX and will be G-Sync enabled this summer - something I am definitely looking forward to trying out myself.
Though it wasn't mentioned, I am hopeful that NVIDIA will continue to allow users the ability to disable V-Sync at frame rates above the maximum refresh of these notebook panels. With most of them limited to 60 Hz (but this applies to 75 Hz as well) the most demanding gamers are going to want that same promise of minimal latency.
At Computex we'll see a handful of models announced with G-Sync up and running. It should be no surprise of course to see the ASUS G751 with the GeForce GTX 980M GPU on this list as it was the model we used in our leaked driver testing back in January. MSI will also launch the GT72 G with a 1080p G-Sync ready display and GTX 980M/970M GPU option. Gigabyte will have a pair of notebooks: the Aorus X7 Pro-SYNC with GTX 970M SLI and a 1080p screen as well as the Aorus X5 with a pair of GTX 965M in SLI and a 3K resolution (2560x1440) screen.
This move is great for gamers and I am eager to see what the resulting experience is for users that pick up these machines. I have long been known as a proponent of variable refresh displays and getting access to that technology on your notebook is a victory for NVIDIA's team.
Subject: Displays | May 31, 2015 - 06:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: nvidia, gsync, g-sync, computex 2015, computex
In conjunction with the release of the new GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card today, NVIDIA is making a handful of other announcements around the GeForce brand. The most dramatic of the announcements center around the company's variable refresh monitor technology called G-Sync. I assume that any of you reading this are already intimately familiar with what G-Sync is, but if not, check out this story that dives into how it compares with AMD's rival tech called FreeSync.
First, NVIDIA is announcing a set of seven new G-Sync ready monitors that will be available this summer and fall from ASUS and Acer.
Many of these displays offer configurations of panels we haven't yet seen in a G-Sync display. Take the Acer X34 for example: this 34-in monitor falls into the 21:9 aspect ratio form factor, with a curved screen and a 3440x1440 resolution. The refresh rate will peak at 75 Hz while also offering the color consistency and viewing angles of an IPS screen. This is the first 21:9, the first 34x14 and the first curved monitor to support G-Sync, and with a 75 Hz maximum refresh it should provide a solid gaming experience. ASUS has a similar model, the PG34Q, though it peaks at a refresh rate of 60 Hz.
ASUS will be updating the wildly popular ROG Swift PG278Q display with the PG279Q, another 27-in monitor with a 2560x1440 resolution. Only this time it will run at 144 Hz with an IPS screen rather than TN, again resulting in improved color clarity, viewing angles and lower eye strain.
Those of you on the look out for 4K panels with G-Sync support will be happy to find IPS iterations of that configuration but still will peak at 60 Hz refresh - as much a limitation of DisplayPort as anything else though.
Another technology addition for G-Sync with the 352-series (353-series, sorry!) driver released today is support for windowed mode variable refresh.
By working some magic with the DWM (Desktop Window Manager), NVIDIA was able to allow for VRR to operate without requiring a game to be in full screen mode. For gamers that like to play windowed or borderless windowed while using secondary or large displays for other side activities, this is a going to a great addition to the G-Sync portfolio.
Finally, after much harassment and public shaming, NVIDIA is finally going to allow users the choice to enable or disable V-Sync when your game render rate exceeds the maximum refresh rate of the G-Sync monitor it is attached to.
One of the complaints about G-Sync has been that it is restrictive on the high side of the VRR window for its monitors. While FreeSync allowed you to selectively enable or disable V-Sync when your frame rate goes above the maximum refresh rate, G-Sync was forcing users into a V-Sync enabled state. The reasoning from NVIDIA was that allowing for horizontal tearing of any kind with G-Sync enabled would ruin the experience and/or damage the technology's reputation. But now, while the default will still be to keep V-Sync on, gamers will be able to manually set the V-Sync mode to off with a G-Sync monitor.
Why is this useful? Many gamers believe that a drawback to V-Sync enabled gaming is the added latency of waiting for a monitor to refresh before drawing a frame that might be ready to be shown to the user immediately. G-Sync fixes this from frame rates of 1 FPS to the maximum refresh of the G-Sync monitor (144 FPS, 75 FPS, 60 FPS) but now rather than be stuck with tear-free, but latency-added V-Sync when gaming over the max refresh, you'll be able to play with tearing on the screen, but lower input latency. This could be especially useful for gamers using 60 Hz G-Sync monitors with 4K resolutions.
Oh, actually one more thing: you'll now be able to enable ULMB (ultra low motion blur) mode in the driver as well without requiring entry into your display's OSD.
NVIDIA is also officially announcing G-Sync for notebooks at Computex. More on that in this story!
LG Australia published a product page for their LG 27MU67 monitor, which the rest of the company doesn't seem to acknowledge the existence of. It is still online, even after three days worth of time that someone could have used to pull the plug. This one is interesting for a variety of reasons: it's 4K, it's IPS, and it supports AMD FreeSync. It is also relatively cheap for that combination, being listed at $799 AUD RRP.
Some websites have converted that to ~$610 to $620 USD, but it might even be less than that. Australian prices are often listed with their federal tax rolled in, which would yield a price that is inflated about 10%. It is possible, though maybe wishful thinking, that this monitor could retail in the ~$500 to $550 price range for the United States (if it even comes to North America). Again, this is a 4K, IPS, FreeSync panel.
Very little is posted on LG's website and thus it is hard to tell how good of an IPS panel this is. It is listed as 99% SRGB coverage, which is good for typical video but not the best if you are working on printed content, such as magazine illustrations. On the other hand, this is a gaming panel, not a professional one. Update (May 29, 2015): It also has 10-bit (per channel) color. It sounds like it is true 10-bit, not just a look-up table, but I should note that it doesn't explicitly say that.
Again, pricing and availability is up in the air, because this is not an official announcement. It is listed to launch in Australia for $799 AUD, though.