CES 2014: AMD Showcases FreeSync

AMD pulled out all the stops for this year's CES in Las Vegas, showcasing everything from 4K high-resolution displays to various software solutions such as the company's FreeSync for implementing "dynamic refresh rates."

Every monitor from CRTs to LED displays (even though they don't need it) feature a technology known as vsync (vertical synchronization), which refreshes the screen image at a fixed rate in conjunction with software's FPS (Frames Per Second). Its purpose is to eliminate a phenomena known as "tearing," which presents a disjointed image of sorts, especially when playing games. This becomes more prevalent when a powerful video card is able to pump out 100 FPS and the monitor is maxed at a 60Hz, which vsync has a hard time handling to maintain a smooth picture.

AMD developed FreeSync, which is able to blend the monitors refresh rate with the number of FPS being generated with the video card, much like Nvidia's G-Sync, to combat this issue.

In a demonstration at its booth, AMD used two off-the-shelf Toshiba Satellite notebooks to demonstrate the effect running a simple animated windmill, with run using typical vsync and the other using FreeSync. The vsync version ran much as you would expect, with noticeable image tearing and roughness, while the other with FreeSync produced a clean, smooth image.

The secret behind FreeSync is that it relies on technology found on almost all AMD GPU and APU chips over the last three generations, which is known as Vblank and is/was used primarily for power-saving options. Using vsync before new images are ready wastes power, which is what Vblank fixes as it sets a dynamic variable refresh rate to compensate for varying FPS.

The one drawback of this technology is that displays have to support it in order for it to function, and there are only a handful of display manufacturers who have adopted the technology. There is a movement, however, to create a VESA standard to rectify the issue, but only time will tell if or when it may be adopted.

FreeSync isn't the only offering from the chip giant to gain attention, as the company recently teamed up with BlueStacks in an effort to bring the Android OS to Windows-based PCs and mobile devices. The idea is to bring the full-fledged Android interface integrated into the Windows OS for extensive application use for entertainment and productivity. This would seamlessly integrate both popular OSs into one inclusive platform, which could be run in either a window or full screen within the Windows environment. Unlike running two distinct operating systems, which can only be run one at a time, the Android OS is run virtually within the Windows platform, allowing both to be used at the same time.

As to when the hybrid OS will be available is currently unknown, however, chances are it will be offered on new mobile devices and PCs sometime this year.

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