What Is FreeSync And Is It Worth It?

Getting a new graphics card nowadays has a lot of features that come with it that make the experience worth your while, and although there are other solutions for the issue of screen tearing, AMD has come out with its FreeSync technology which is key in ensuring the smooth gameplay.

In order to understand just what FreeSync actually is, we need to know to what problem it fixes.

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Screen Tearing

Screen tearing example

This issue is actually a good way to show how the lack of synchronization during the advancement in corresponding technology doesn’t always work out.

What happened?

Somewhere in the mid-to-late 2000s, the GPU capabilities grew almost exponentially and that led to a cascading series of events in the PC world. With the way video graphics evolved from the 8-bit style of the 80s (which was more of need than a choice) to almost hyper-realistic visuals from the seventh generation of video game consoles and onwards, it was almost a given that with each new game we’ll get newer, shinier graphics.

Unlike the standardized console market, the PC market was a bit different and people pushed their machines to the limit and this is exactly where things came to a head. Then-modern GPUs were forced to evolve to a level where they could perform high-quality images at a faster rate and the display technology simply wasn’t up to par with it.

At the time, the 60Hz monitors were just beginning to be standardized which created an issue when a GPU was able to send images at a faster rate than the monitor could show. So, in that case, we would get a monitor that would try to display two images at the same time which would result in an effect known as screen tearing.

This was a “blink and you’ll miss it” type of a problem, but it was still enough to be annoying and ruin many a gamers’ enjoyments. What would happen is that a certain part of the screen would show one frame, and another would show the next frame, but the lack of synchronization between the monitor and the GPU made the image appear as if cut in half.

Screen tearing

One of the best solution for the issue of screen tearing is AMD’s FreeSync.

So, What Is FreeSync?

FreeSync

FreeSync is a perfect solution to screen tearing. It a module added on to monitor itself as well as the GPU which allows it establish communication between the two and synchronize them.

What this means is that, if a GPU can produce more than 60 frames per second while the monitor can output at a higher rate than 60Hz, FreeSync will tell the GPU to slow it down and adjust. And likewise, if a GPU can’t produce at the level of a monitor’s refresh rate, FreeSync will tell the monitor to lower its refresh rate to be on the level with the GPU.

Of course, FreeSync isn’t the first technology to do this.

AMD’s chief competitor Nvidia came out with its own solution some two years earlier and called it G-Sync. This tech works pretty much the same way as FreeSync, but with one important distinction – it’s not free.

We’re talking about Nvidia requiring monitor manufacturers to purchases a license to use G-Sync technology exclusively on their monitors which in turn makes the monitor companies increase prices. However, it’s good to note that things are working in a more positive direction and more and more monitors are able to use both G-Sync and FreeSync allowing you to switch your GPU without worrying if you’ll be able to have proper vertical synchronization.

There were other attempts at solving the screen tearing issue in the past with probably the most famous one being VSync. Unlike FreeSync or G-Sync, VSync is a software-only solution and will work only in limiting the GPU because it can’t interact with the monitor. Although this isn’t the perfect solution, it’s still somewhat usable.

Is FreeSync Worth It?

freesync on vs off

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you might’ve thought from some of our previous points. As hinted earlier, getting a FreeSync monitor means that you’ll almost exclusively have to game with an AMD graphics card. Luckily, AMD isn’t as far behind performance-wise as it used to be in the years prior so this isn’t a big tradeoff. And with the way monitors are adapting to using both technologies, it may not even be an issue at all in the next few years.

However, that is in the future and right now, in 2021, FreeSync is only worth to you as the graphics card you plan on using. It is recommended to use an AMD graphics card (RX 6000 series if you’re looking to play the latest games) if you’re looking to play the latest games on your FreeSync monitor.

There are two other things that are important to mention. FreeSync Premium and FreeSync Premium Pro are two additional versions of FreeSync and relatively new to the market.

FreeSync Premium Pro

Despite the naming, there aren’t any additional costs associated with these two, but there is an issue of availability as you’ll have to get a relatively newer monitor model to game using these two. The downside is that only some AAA games have embraced these technologies so you won’t be able to enjoy them to their full effect just yet.

Both of these have low framerate compensation which will help the monitor adjust if the GPU falls out of its lower range by setting the refresh rate to a multiple of the FPS. FreeSync Premium Pro is also much better optimized for high dynamic range imaging (or HDR) which is designed to produce even higher quality images when using ray tracing (which AMD’s latest cards are.)

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Aleksandar Cosic
Aleksandar Cosic

Alex is a Computer Science student and a former game designer. That has enabled him to develop skills in critical thinking and fair analysis. As a CS student, Aleksandar has very in-depth technical knowledge about computers, and he also likes to stay current with new technologies.