Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 04:22 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vrr, variable refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, hdmi, g-sync, freesync, adaptive sync, 48G
The HDMI Forum has introduced an update to the HDMI specification, bringing the video standard to version 2.1. The updated specification, along with its accompanying new "48G" (48 Gbps) HDMI cable, brings support for higher resolutions refresh rates, and color spaces along with new features such as dynamic HDR, a variable refresh rate "Game Mode VRR", and eARC for audio device detection and object oriented audio (e.g. Dolby Atmos).
Specifically, HDMI 2.1 adds support for 8K resolutions at up to 60 Hz and 4K at up to 120 Hz along with HDR (high dynamic range). The specification is even a bit future looking in that it allegedly supports 10K50/60/100/120 modes! The 8K@60 and 4K@120 (and higher) profiles do require the new 48 Gbps cable though lower resolutions can still get by with the older High Speed cable. The specification also supports BT2020 color spaces with 10, 12, and 16 bits per color component which I expect Ken and Allyn will appreciate.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature though is the Game Mode VRR which appears to be HDMI's take on DisplayPort's Adaptive Sync (which AMD uses for FreeSync). At last year's CES AMD was showing off FreeSync over HDMI (video) with AMD doing FreeSync over HDMI as an extension of the specification. It now appears that HDMI is rolling some manner of that variable refresh technology into the base HDMI 2.1 specification. Variable refresh rates being supported with HDMI is a good thing as it means that future game consoles may see their own FreeSync/G-Sync like variable display output options as I do not see game consoles and living room devices (TVs, receivers, et al) adopting DisplayPort any time soon if only because of the huge install base and foothold HDMI has on that market.
Notably, HDMI 2.1 remains backwards compatible with earlier specifications, cables, and devices based on older HDMI standards including the Ethernet channel and inter-device communication. Existing devices will be able to use HDMI 2.1's 48 Gbps cables but will not be forwards compatible with all of the new features (though partial new feature support might be possible with firmware updates though in no way guaranteed).
The new specification is expected to officially drop in early Q2 2017 at which point it will be available to all HDMI Adopters for testing.
I estimate that, following the compliance testing and device QA, products using the new specification should start shipping as soon as next year (at CES 2018 perhaps!). It is harder to say when graphics cards or game consoles will start supporting the new output though. I would hope that AMD and NVIDIA would be able to sneak it in before Vega and Volta based cards launch respectively but the timing may not have lined up like that. And on the game console side of things, Microsoft and Sony have already launched their revised consoles this year save Scorpio so it might be awhile before they sport variable refresh. Perhaps JoshTekk and the crew will have some thoughts on the podcast next week!
What are your thoughts on HDMI 2.1? Will it lay the groundwork for interesting displays and better living room gaming?
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Subject: Displays | August 4, 2016 - 09:20 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: vrr, variable refresh rate, SE2717H, monitor, ips, freesync, display, dell, 27-inch
Dell's newest monitor is the SE2717H, a 27-inch display with AMD's FreeSync technology and an IPS panel - all for just $249.
The matte-finish display offers 1920x1080 resolution, with a variable refresh-rate range from 48 Hz - 75 Hz, with a 6 ms response time. The 6-bit panel achieves 16.7 million colors via FRC (frame rate control, A.K.A. dithering), so it perhaps wouldn't be appropriate for color-accurate work, but just fine for gaming.
Dell SE2717H Specifications:
- Display Size: 27 Inches
- Aspect Ratio: (16:9)
- Backlight Technology: LED
- Display Screen Coating: Antiglare with 3H hardness
- Panel Type: In-Plane switching Technology
- Panel Bits: 6-bits + FRC panel
- Maximum Resolution: 1920 x 1080
- Viewing Angle: 178° vertical / 178° horizontal
- Contrast Ratio: 1000: 1 (typical), 8 Million: 1 (Dynamic)
- Pixel Pitch: 0.3114 mm
- Pixel Per Inch (PPI): 82
- Brightness: 300 cd/m2 (typical)
- Response Time: 6ms (gray to gray)
- Free Sync support frame frequency: Yes, 48-75Hz
- Color Support:
- Color Gamut (typical): 84% (CIE 1976), 72% (CIE 1931)
- Color Depth: 16.7 Million colors
- Narrow Bezel (Edge of Monitor to Edge of viewable screen) 11mm
- Tilt (-5° to 21°)
- Built in cable-management
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 10, 2016 - 12:11 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: windows 10, windows, vrr, variable refresh rate, uwp, microsoft, g-sync, freesync
Back in March, Microsoft's Phil Spencer addressed some of the concerns over the Unified Windows Platform and PC gaming during his keynote address at the Build Conference. He noted that MS would "plan to open up VSync off, FreeSync, and G-Sync in May" and the company would "allow modding and overlays in UWP applications" sometime further into the future. Well it appears that Microsoft is on point with the May UWP update.
According to the MS DirectX Developer Blog, a Windows 10 update being pushed out today will enable UWP to support unlocked frame rates and variable refresh rate monitors in both G-Sync and FreeSync varieties.
As a direct response to your feedback, we’re excited to announce the release today of new updates to Windows 10 that make gaming even better for game developers and gamers.
Later today, Windows 10 will be updated with two key new features:
Support for AMD’s FreesyncTM and NVIDIA’s G-SYNC™ in Universal Windows Platform games and apps
Unlocked frame rate for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) games and apps
Once applications take advantage of these new features, you will be able to play your UWP games with unlocked frame rates. We expect Gears of War: UE and Forza Motorsport 6: Apex to lead the way by adding this support in the very near future.
This OS update will be gradually rolled out to all machines, but you can download it directly here.
These updates to UWP join the already great support for unlocked frame rate and AMD and NVIDIA’s technologies in Windows 10 for classic Windows (Win32) apps.
Please keep the feedback coming!
Today's update won't automatically enable these features in UWP games like Gears of War or Quantum Break, they will still need to be updated individually by the developer. MS states that Gears of War and Forza will be the first to see these changes, but there is no mention of Quantum Break here, which is a game that could DEFINITELY benefit from the love of variable refresh rate monitors.
Microsoft describes an unlocked frame rate as thus:
Vsync refers to the ability of an application to synchronize game rendering frames with the refresh rate of the monitor. When you use a game menu to “Disable vsync”, you instruct applications to render frames out of sync with the monitor refresh. Being able to render out of sync with the monitor refresh allows the game to render as fast as the graphics card is capable (unlocked frame rate), but this also means that “tearing” will occur. Tearing occurs when part of two different frames are on the screen at the same time.
I should note that these changes do not indicate that Microsoft is going to allow UWP games to go into an exclusive full screen mode - it still believes the disadvantages of that configuration outweigh the advantages. MS wants its overlays and a user's ability to easily Alt-Tab around Windows 10 to remain. Even though MS mentions screen tearing, I don't think that non-exclusive full screen applications will exhibit tearing.
Gears of War on Windows 10 is a game that could definitely use an uncapped render rate and VRR support.
Instead, what is likely occurring, as we saw with the second iteration of the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark, is that the game will have an uncapped render rate internally but that frames rendered OVER 60 FPS (or the refresh rate of the display) will not be shown. This will improve perceived latency as the game will be able to present the most up to date frame (with the most update to date input data) when the monitor is ready for a new refresh.
UPDATE 5/10/16 @ 4:31pm: Microsoft just got back to me and said that my above statement wasn't correct. Screen tearing will be able to occur in UWP games on Windows 10 after they integrate support for today's patch. Interesting!!
For G-Sync and FreeSync users, the ability to draw to the screen at any range of render rates will offer an even further advantage of uncapped frame rates, no tearing but also, no "dropped" frames caused by running at off-ratios of a standard monitor's refresh rate.
I'm glad to see Microsoft taking these steps at a brisk pace after the feedback from the PC community early in the year. As for UWP's continued evolution, the blog post does tease that we should "expect to see some exciting developments on multiple GPUs in DirectX 12 in the near future."
Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 08:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: asus, CES, CES 2016, mg28uq, mg24uq, vrr, freesync, adaptive sync
Two 4K monitors were announced by ASUS at the show. Both use VESA Adaptive-Sync for variable refresh rate (VRR) gaming, which means they are compatible with AMD FreeSync, but not NVIDIA G-Sync. If you want to use the latter VRR standard, then you would be more interested in the ROG Swift PG348Q monitor that was announced in September. There was talk that Intel would be implementing a VRR format VESA Adaptive-Sync in a future GPU.
If you're still here, then you either don't care about variable refresh, or you are looking for an AMD-compatible one. The first one is the 24-inch MG24UQ. It is based on an IPS panel, which are used for vibrant, precise colors and wide viewing angles. They tend to be a little slower than traditional “gaming” panels, but that is so low for the last couple of years that IPS is considered a pure upgrade. The second monitor, the 28-inch MG28UQ, is not IPS, though.
Again, no pricing or availability yet as it varies by region.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 12:13 AM | Ryan Shrout
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.
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...
...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!
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