The Journey to Pixel Perfect Smooth Gaming

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Radeon FreeSync™ technology has tremendous momentum in the market today. With over 100 FreeSync-enabled monitors to choose from currently, gamers love the smooth, tear-, and stutter-free PC gaming they enable. I’m a proud owner of a FreeSync display myself, and quite frankly whenever I sit down in front of a rig that doesn’t support variable refresh rate, I immediately notice that something is off.

I can’t go back to non-FreeSync gaming. It’s one of those events that changed my experience so fundamentally that I can’t go back to the way it was, like discovering DVD quality after years of VHS or seeing 1080p for the first time.

Another such revolution is upon us in content quality. You’ve probably heard the term HDR, or High Dynamic Range many times before. There are two definitions of HDR* formats today that are most popular (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), and both use similar specifications. They represent a gigantic leap forward in image quality, defined by brightness, contrast and color volume.

HDR today is primarily driven by TV manufacturers, first and foremost for movies. Today’s televisions are shipping with crazy-high luminance, contrast ratio, and fairly good color gamut support. They are very well suited to display movie content in HDR. The HDR movie-playback pipeline is pretty simple: the content is encoded in an HDR10 or Dolby Vision container, and the TVs process it. Why is this important?

The mentioned formats follow strict specifications for luminance, contrast ratio and color space. Though today’s HDR TVs are very capable, they’re nowhere near the theoretical maximum of HDR10/Dolby Vision. These TVs are also not all the same; some may have higher or lower capabilities for brightness, contrast and color than others, and the content can’t account for all these variations. Some conversion has to be done by the TV’s system-on-chip, where it maps the content to the TV’s actual capabilities. This process is called tone mapping.

So what’s the situation with HDR gaming? It’s not anything new for game developers. Their engines are already capable of increasing brightness, contrast, and to some degree, widen the color space as well to some of the new specifications defined by the SMPTE. There are games, in fact, available for today’s game consoles that support HDR.

hdr10-vs-srgb

What about PC gaming, then? With Radeon FreeSync™ 2 technology, we want smooth gaming and HDR content to go hand-in-hand. So why not use the already existing methods to do so?

One key criterion for PC gamers is to have low latency. We can’t tolerate lag while gaming. Unfortunately, the mentioned tone mapping process in displays can cause a delay —sometimes as high as 100 miliseconds. This is not acceptable for PC gaming. FreeSync™ 2 technology circumvents this issue by taking the burden of tone mapping off the display and moving it to our powerful GPUs. This allows the game engine to map content directly to the display’s target brightness, contrast and color values.

fs2_1
HDR10 vs FreeSync 2 pipeline

FreeSync™ 2 technology will enable an ecosystem of games and displays that bring smooth and brilliant gaming to life. We’re working with game developers to take advantage of our FreeSync™ 2 extension into their games which render in HDR. We’re also collaborating with most major PC display vendors to bring this capability to their products. And, we’re defining a high bar for monitors to qualify for FreeSync™ 2—they will have to have a certain minimum in brightness, contrast and colorspace, and all this at very low latency.

HDR games are the next frontier for PC gamers. FreeSync™ 2 technology is an excellent foundation for an ecosystem of HDR content—and the path to pixel perfect smooth gaming.

 

*: HDR content requires that the system be configured with a fully HDR-ready content chain, including: graphics card, monitor/TV, graphics driver and application. Video content must be graded in HDR and viewed with an HDR-ready player. Windowed mode content requires operating system support.


Antal Tungler is Sr. Manager of Global Technology Marketing for the Radeon Technologies Group at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies, or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

16 thoughts on “The Journey to Pixel Perfect Smooth Gaming

  1. This is an amazing development on your end. I sincerely hope this brings forward the HDR revolution and enables/triggers many PC display vendors to bring their HDR products to market at competitive pricing levels. Can’t wait to use this!

  2. Hot damn AMD. You keep killing it lately. I knew I made the right choice when I got myself RX480 few months back. Anyway, keep them good stuff coming.

  3. Today companies look for any feature, no matter how gimmicky, to add to their existing product, even if it’s at the expense of quality, to try and increase sales. Wireless headphones are incapable of playing even 320kbps bitrate mp3s, RGB goes on all the things, wireless charging, etc. The thing that hardware companies are latching onto today in an attempt to drive their sales are the high demands of VR and 4k gaming, more so 4k though. HDR is one of those . magical technologies that will greatly increase image fidelity and user experience without an increase in hardware needed as you would see going from 1080p to 4k. I’m not going to google for the study, but there was one, that showed most people prefer 1080p/HDR to 4k.
    For me freesync offers an indisputable and currently unchallenged value in the PC gaming market today. Freesync monitors do not cost more than their standard, non-freesync, counterparts. It’s rival technology on the other hand adds almost $300 to the cost of the display in some cases. When I shopped for a new card to drive my games to 144hz the realization that to get this feature from non-radeon GPUs I would need to spend more than the price of the GPU, my choice was clear.
    I hope to see freesync continue to grow and evolve and one day achieve ubiquity, or at least set the example that adaptive refresh rates do not require hardware.

  4. I hope it won’t be all about 4K. It’s the one of otherwise awesome specs that makes the by the UHD alliance defined UHDPremium standard far less appealing. I just want 2560×1440@120+Hz monitors with HDR, DCI-P3 colour space aswell as a latency and blur free experience. Top graphics cards these days are still no way near 120+Hz at 4K so I won’t bother with it. Freesync 2 sounds amazing and I would be disappointed it is “wasted” on only 4K monitors. No need to pay for 4K when 1440p is enough for now. Please consider refreshrate as equally or even more important and offer an as wide as possible arrange of Freesync 2 monitors.

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