Stuttering and tearing will eventually be a thing of the past for desktop monitors, with the addition of Adaptive-Sync for the DisplayPort 1.2a video interface standard.
The Video Electronics Standards Association announced Adaptive-Sync on Monday, saying it will make for smoother gaming in desktop PC monitors. It should also reduce power consumption for basic computing tasks and watching movies.
The problem with current computer monitors is that they refresh at fixed frame rates, while the frame rate of a PC game can change at any moment (taking a dip, for instance, when you’re being overrun by dozens of zombies). Because the monitor and graphics processor refresh rates aren’t in sync, the image may stutter or tear.
Adaptive-Sync solves that problem by matching its refresh rate with the rendering rate of your graphics card. It can also lower its refresh rate for static content, such as reading an e-mail or viewing a PowerPoint presentation, thereby using less power. The underlying technology isn’t new—it first rolled out for laptops using the embedded DisplayPort (eDP) specification in 2009—but it hasn’t been available for external displays until now.
As is often the case with standards, Adaptive-Sync will be beaten to market by a proprietary solution. In this case, it’s Nvidia’s G-Sync, which uses a special circuit board to keep refresh rates in sync. AnandTech reports that the first G-Sync monitors should arrive this quarter, though it’s already possible to mod your own or purchase a pre-modified Asus monitor from select vendors.
Meanwhile, the first Adaptive-Sync compatible displays won’t be available for six to 12 months, at least according to AMD, which plans to use Adaptive-Sync in conjunction with its own FreeSync solution. Unlike Nvidia’s G-Sync, FreeSync doesn’t require any special circuit boards. It’s basically just AMD’s way of making sure Adaptive-Sync works properly with the company’s chips. The question, as Tech Report points out, is whether display scaler and control chip makers will work to support the new standard in a timely fashion.
If AMD’s and Nvidia’s estimates hold true, Nvidia could have a year of being the only solution for synchronized refresh rates on desktop PCs. It’s unclear what will become of G-Sync once a wide selection of Adaptive-Sync monitors hit the market, but users will certainly benefit from having more than just one proprietary solution available.
Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.