Big AMD wins: Capcom embraces Mantle, Samsung plans 4K FreeSync monitor line

Graphics technology has been stuck on the 28nm manufacturing process for a full three years now, but that doesn’t mean AMD and Nvidia have been sitting on their proverbial thumbs.

The hardware giants have each been feverishly releasing game-enhancing software over the past couple of years, and at its “Future of Compute” event in Singapore this morning, AMD announced that two major partners are embracing a pair of the company’s technologies: Capcom is on board with Mantle, AMD’s performance-enhancing API technology, while Samsung announced the first 4K monitors with AMD FreeSync support.

The story behind the story: Both Mantle and FreeSync promise to provide a superior gaming experience—at least on AMD hardware—but neither technology is going unchallenged. Microsoft announced the awfully similar DirectX 12 API shortly after Mantle rolled out, while Nvidia offers a competing G-Sync technology of its own for use with GeForce cards. Wooing Capcom and Samsung to Team Red is a big win for AMD.

Oh, and both Mantle and FreeSync require recent AMD Radeon graphics cards to work—of course. 

More Mantle

Capcom is working the Mantle API into Panta-Rhei, the gaming engine it originally created for use with next-gen gaming consoles. The only “details” come courtesy of this canned statement by Masaru Ijuin, technical director at Capcom:

“Capcom is evaluating AMD’s Mantle technology to help improve the graphics pipeline, and integrate it into ‘Panta-Rhei’ to provide outstanding benefits and impressive performance for gamers as well as the gaming developers.”

Yawn.

But corporate speak aside, Capcom is the latest in a string of big-name publishers to fiddle with Mantle. Two PC gaming stalwart studios, DICE (maker of Battlefield) and Crytek (Crysis and Far Cry), have pledged support for Mantle in their respective Frostbite 3 and Crytek engines. You can already find Mantle support in Battlefield 4, Thief, Sniper Elite 3, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and the recently released gems Civilization: Beyond Earth and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Future games with Mantle support scheduled include Star Citizen, Star Wars: Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge 2, and Battlefield: Hardline, along with whatever Capcom’s brewing up.

Mantle gives developers ‘closer to the metal’ access to hardware, allowing them to increase performance using Mantle versus DirectX 11. That’s done mostly by reducing CPU bottlenecks, though Mantle offers a few other nifty tricks, such as allowing graphics cards in multi-GPU setups to each render a portion of each frame, rather than rendering alternate frames in full, creating a smoother feel with fewer jitters. Firaxis opted to use this “split frame rendering” technique in Civilization: Beyond Earth.

My god, it’s full of pixels

FreeSync, on the other hand, is AMD’s solution for the pesky issue of screen tearing and stuttering.

Displays refresh at a set rate—often 60Hz, though gaming-focused monitors can push that higher. Graphics cards, on the other hand, pump out as many frames as they’re able. If the card sends a new frame to the display while it’s refreshing, then BOOM! Screen tearing—which appears as offset horizontal lines across the image—occurs.

screen tear freesync AMD

An example of screen tearing.

FreeSync (and Nvidia’s G-Sync) force the two pieces of hardware to synchronize their refresh rates, leaving you with buttery gaming goodness.

At the Future of Compute event, Samsung announced that it plans to bring the world’s first FreeSync-enabled 4K displays to market in March 2015, with its UD590 and UE850 monitors. Eventually, the plan is to make all new Samsung 4K displays FreeSync compatible.

It’s a huge win for AMD, but being the first FreeSync-enabled 4K display isn’t quite as momentous as it sounds because, well, there are currently zero, nada, zilch FreeSync displays that you can actually buy available. But at PDXLAN this week, Richard Huddy, AMD’s chief gaming scientist, said that the first models should start appearing in December, according to Hexus.

To be fair, the very first Nvidia G-Sync monitors are only starting to creep into the market themselves. And since FreeSync is an open standard, unlike G-Sync, monitors that support AMD’s screen tear savior tech will likely be cheaper than their counterparts when they do start to hit store shelves.

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