AMD showed off a new syncing technology at CES that promises to counter NVIDIA's G-sync technology by eliminating tearing and shuttering in games. While NVIDIA's technology requires a new hardware module in the display, AMD's alternative relies on dynamic refresh rates, a feature that's been part of AMD's graphics lineup for three generations. AMD Graphics CTO Raja Koduri claims dynamic refresh rates coupled with triple buffering will be able to do nearly the same as NVIDIA's G-Sync.
AMD is still in the early stages of developing this technology but Koduri says it should become a free thing and that it may be launched as "free sync". The biggest issue preventing a widespread rollout is the lack of support from display makers. Adding support for dynamic refresh rates will reportedly cost "next to nothing" but so far display makers haven't been interested in the technology due to lack of demand.
During an impromptu meeting in a hotel ballroom this morning, I got an eye-opening demo orchestrated by AMD Graphics CTO Raja Koduri. He had a pair of relatively inexpensive laptops sitting side by side running a simple graphics demo showing a windmill with the blades in motion. One of the laptops was using traditional vsync, only refreshing the display at a fixed rate, and the quantization effect of the fixed refresh cycle introduced obvious roughness into the animation. On the other laptop, however, the motion was much smoother, with no apparent tearing or slowdowns—much like you'd see from Nvidia's G-Sync technology.
Koduri explained that this particular laptop's display happened to support a feature that AMD has had in its graphics chips "for three generations": dynamic refresh rates. AMD built this capability into its GPUs primarily for power-saving reasons, since unnecessary vertical refresh cycles burn power to little benefit. There's even a proposed VESA specification for dynamic refresh, and the feature has been adopted by some panel makers, though not on a consistent or widespread basis. AMD's Catalyst drivers already support it where it's available, which is why an impromptu demo was possible.