Input latency (the time between when you move your best gaming mouse and when the cursor moves) during fast-paced video games and games is a result of AMD FreeSync, a technology found on specific gaming monitors, gaming laptops and TVs.
AMD introduced FreeSync in 2015 as a replacement for Nvidia G-Sync and requires an AMD graphics card (including third-party branded graphics cards). As of June 2022, more than 2,000 FreeSync-certified displays are available. There are three levels of FreeSync: FreeSync, FreeSync Premium, and FreeSync Premium Pro.
What is AMD FreeSync?
AMD FreeSync is the synchronization technology intended to reduce stuttering and tearing caused by misalignment between the refresh rate of the screen and the frame rate of the content. It is supported by LCD and OLED displays with a variable refresh rate.
Monitor refresh rates can be controlled by AMD’s graphics cards and APUs with FreeSync. Most monitors work with a 60Hz refresh rate, but others work with 75, 120, 144, and even 240Hz.
Timing is largely responsible for screen tearing. The GPU may render frames faster than the display can update the screen, causing the latter to compile “strips” of different frames. Typically, “ripping” artifacts appear when the view moves horizontally. You’ll also experience stuttering if the GPU cannot output at the display’s refresh rate.
As long as FreeSync is enabled, the display dynamically updates in sync with the GPU’s output. If the GPU’s output drops, the display’s refresh rate will be reduced accordingly.
FreeSync isn’t really necessary if your GPU consistently outputs high frame rates, such as in the original Half-Life. High refresh rates do the most to eliminate screen tearing, and adaptive sync technologies are largely unnecessary.
The average frame rate of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey at 4K will fall below the monitor’s refresh rate if you’re playing it on a powerful gaming desktop at 4K.
AMD FreeSync allows the monitor to scale its refresh rate up or down to match the frame rate, so that the monitor never refreshes mid-frame, and that tearing doesn’t occur.
In this case, FreeSync will probably not be compatible with your build, as AMD GPUs use similar syncing technology, while Nvidia uses G-Sync, which is the primary alternative at the moment, since it works with their GPUs.
How Does FreeSync Work?
(See photo above) Screen tearing makes the image on screen appear disjointed, an unwelcome effect. As a result, the frame rate of the game does not match the display’s refresh rate (frequency with which it redraws the screen), resulting in this issue.
The FreeSync display features a dynamic refresh rate (also called a variable refresh rate or VRR), which allows it to match its minimum and maximum refresh rates to the AMD Radeon graphics card’s frame rate.
FreeSync is a refresh rate range that can go up to the monitor’s maximum refresh rate. However, you may still experience some tearing if you seek maximum frame rates higher than the refresh rate of your monitor.
The FreeSync protocol is based on VESA’s Adaptive-Sync protocol, so it works on both DisplayPort (which also supports USB Type-C) and HDMI ports. As part of AMD’s testing process, displays must pass a series of tests to determine whether they support Adaptive-Sync, brightness, color range, etc.
Some gaming monitors use FreeSync or G-Sync. Other monitors, especially laptops and televisions, also support these types of Adaptive-Sync.
How do you use FreeSync?
For FreeSync to work, you need a compatible AMD graphics card or an integrated APU, like AMD’s recent Ryzen-branded all-in-one chips. Most modern Radeon cards — from budget offerings up to the super-powerful Radeon VII — support FreeSync. If you’re unsure, check the specifications.
You also need a compatible monitor or TV that supports VESA’s Adaptive-Sync. AMD began supporting this technology as FreeSync via its software suite in 2015. It essentially builds a two-way communication between the Radeon GPU and off-the-shelf scaler boards installed in certified Adaptive-Sync displays. These boards do all the processing, rendering, backlight control, and more.
The DisplayPort 1.2a spec added support for variable refresh rates in 2014, followed by HDMI 2.1 in 2017.
But manufacturers don’t simply slap on AMD’s “FreeSync” branding and move on. According to AMD, these panels endure a “rigorous certification process to ensure a tear-free, low latency experience.” Nvidia does the same thing with its G-Sync certification program.
Typically, FreeSync monitors are cheaper than their G-Sync counterparts. That’s because G-Sync monitors rely on a proprietary module, ditching the off-the-shelf scaler. This module controls everything from the refresh rate to the backlighting. However, Nvidia is currently building a list of FreeSync-class monitors that are now compatible with its G-Sync technology on the PC side.
Despite their lower price, FreeSync monitors provide a broad spectrum of other features to enhance your games, like 4K resolutions, high refresh rates, and HDR. Our favorite gaming displays have many of these technologies, though not all of them are FreeSync compatible. AMD has a list of FreeSync monitors on its FreeSync site.
What is Use of FreeSync
AMD’s recent Ryzen-branded all-in-one chips, which are compatible with FreeSync, are compatible with AMD graphics cards or integrated APUs. Most Radeon cards — including budget versions and the super-powerful Radeon VII — support FreeSync. Check the specifications if you’re unsure.
In 2015, AMD began supporting VESA’s Adaptive-Sync as FreeSync through its software suite. It requires a compatible monitor or TV that supports VESA’s Adaptive-Sync. Radeon GPUs communicate with off-the-shelf scaler boards installed on Adaptive-Sync displays in a two-way fashion. They process, render, control backlights, and so on.
2014 saw the release of DisplayPort 1.2a, while 2017 saw the release of HDMI 2.1. Both specifications support variable refresh rates.
However, manufacturers don’t simply slap on AMD’s “FreeSync” branding and move on. According to AMD, these panels undergo a “rigorous certification process to assure low latency and tear-free display performance.” Nvidia does the same thing with EVGA’s G-Sync technology.
It’s typical for FreeSync monitors to be less expensive than G-Sync monitors. G-Sync monitors, however, rely on a proprietary module to control everything from refresh rate to backlighting, instead of an off-the-shelf scaler. On the PC side, Nvidia is, however, building a list of FreeSync monitors that are now compatible with G-Sync.
Although FreeSync monitors are cheaper, they come with a wide range of other features like 4K resolutions, high refresh rates, and HDR to enhance your gaming experience. AMD has a list of FreeSync monitors on its website, but not all of them are FreeSync compatible. Our favorite gaming displays have many of these technologies.
FreeSync vs. G-Sync
The AMD FreeSync technology is AMD’s take on Adaptive-Sync and this technology is similar to Nvidia’s G-Sync.
One of the key differences is that in addition to DisplayPort (which also works over USB-C), FreeSync supports HDMI as well. Except for LG’s G-Sync Compatible TVs, which work over HDMI with a supported PC, G-Sync is available only via DisplayPort. For an analysis of which port is better for gaming, please visit our DisplayPort vs. HDMI analysis.
According to our tests, the performance differences between FreeSync and G-Sync are negligible. For a detailed comparison of the two technologies, please refer to our FreeSync vs. G-Sync article.
AMD does not charge display manufacturers a licensing fee or hardware modules to incorporate FreeSync because it is based on an open standard. In contrast, to use G-Sync, monitor makers have to purchase Nvidia’s proprietary chip, which replaces the scaler they would usually purchase.
Due to this, FreeSync monitors are usually less expensive than G-Sync monitors. As a result, Nvidia has responded with G-Sync Compatible monitors, which are certified to run G-Sync even though they do not have the same hardware requirements as standard G-Sync monitors.
In addition to G-Sync Compatibility, many FreeSync monitors are also G-Sync Compatibility-certified, and we have discovered that numerous FreeSync monitors are also G-Sync Compatibility-compatible.
How to Enable FreeSync?
Make sure that you download the latest AMD Catalyst drivers from AMD’s website after connecting your computer to a FreeSync-enabled monitor.
Your card or APU can be manually selected with the Manually Select Your Driver tool — please be sure your version of Windows matches your card or APU. If you are uncertain, you can also use the auto-detection tool.
For FreeSync, you don’t need an additional driver. It’s included in this download. If required, reboot your computer after installing the driver.
After you’ve completed the installation, you can open AMD Radeon Settings by right-clicking on your desktop and selecting AMD Radeon Settings. From the top menu, choose Display and turn on Radeon FreeSync. Your monitor settings may also need to be turned on to enable Radeon FreeSync.
Make sure you manage your drivers well and update them regularly to keep your GPU and FreeSync running correctly.
FreeSync vs. FreeSync Premium vs. FreeSync Premium Pro
You can choose from FreeSync, FreeSync Premium (announced in January 2020) or FreeSync Premium Pro (renamed from FreeSync 2 HDR in January 2020).
|FreeSync Premium Pro
|At least 120Hz at FHD resolution
|Low framerate compensation (LFC)
|At least 120Hz at FHD resolution
|Low framerate compensation (LFC)
|Low latency in SDR
|Low latency in SDR and HDR
What is FreeSync Premium?
The original FreeSync service prevents tearing, flickering, and latency. However, there are more advanced versions of the FreeSync technology, including FreeSync Premium. To provide extra features, devices and content must be certified for FreeSync Premium. Adding this certification — and a compatible GPU — to the Premium version adds important advantages:
- SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) latency prevention has been expanded.
- FHD (full HD) resolution should maintain a refresh rate of 120Hz or higher.
- In the event that the display has difficulty maintaining a frame rate, low framerate compensation (LFC) is available.
It’s possible to use these extra features to improve the quality of your gaming experience, but they’re not required to benefit from FreeSync’s original features.
What is FreeSync Premium Pro?
This new version of FreeSync, which was previously known as FreeSync 2 HDR, targets users with HDR content (for recommendations on the best HDR monitor, check out our article on choosing the best HDR monitor).
It also promises over 400 nits of brightness with HDR, and a lower input latency by allowing games to tone map directly to the monitor.
When the game’s frame rate dips below the monitor’s refresh rate, FreeSync Premium Pro automatically activates LFC.
There are some games that do not support FreeSync Premium Pro, so gamers should be aware of that.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Does FreeSync work with Nvidia GPUs?
If you owned an AMD GPU, then FreeSync monitors were not compatible. Instead, you had to go with G-Sync monitors that were compatible with Nvidia GPUs.
Nvidia announced in 2019 that Nvidia GPUs would be able to utilize AMD FreeSync. Using a DisplayPort and installing the latest Nvidia drivers are the only limitations, but otherwise it works just as well as it does with an AMD GPU, just with a few minor restrictions.
A list of all G-Sync compatible monitors can be found on the Nvidia website.
Which devices support AMD FreeSync?
AMD FreeSync compatibility is available on over 950 monitors and 50 TVs, so you have plenty of options.
On AMD’s website, you can find a complete list of FreeSync-compatible monitors and TVs, as well as a guide to gaming laptops with FreeSync displays.
Samsung’s QLED TVs, LG’s OLED TVs, plus Vizio TVs over in the US, are included in the collection. Our personal favorites are the Samsung Q95T, Q80T (55-inches and up) and LG 48 CX OLED model.
When you are checking out your next gaming display, look out for the AMD FreeSync logo that is usually printed on the box or displayed on the retailer’s website.