AMD may win the adaptive refresh format wars based on what Intel is planning to do. Despite being arch rivals in the desktop x86 CPU segment, Intel appears to be backing the VESA Adaptive Sync protocol, more commonly known as AMD’s FreeSync. This could spell trouble for rival Nvidia’s proprietary G-Sync solution. Supporting Adaptive-Sync makes sense for Intel as their iGPUs are still relatively weak and could use the variable refresh rate to support smoother gameplay.
Chief Graphics Software Architect David Blythe noted that Intel was favorable towards standards-based solutions like FreeSync which has been adopted by VESA as Adaptive-Sync. Intel will eventually support Adaptive-Sync with their iGPUs but there is no timeframe yet for when this feature will roll out.
While a source has indicated that current hardware is not capable of Adaptive-Sync, that might still change. Adaptive-Sync is an optional addition to Display Port 1.2a, which Broadwell and Skylake should support. If Intel’s iGPU hardware is capable of supporting Adaptive-Sync, it is possible that a driver update will enable Adaptive-Sync in the future. Of course, if the hardware is lacking as the source says it is, then we will have to wait till after Skylake.
While both Adaptive-Sync and G-Sync require additional hardware for the monitor (frame scaler or GSync module), Adaptive-Sync is generally cheaper to implement and does not require vendor lock-in to Nvidia. Intel does have a commanding position in terms of total GPU market share and even if Intel doesn’t enforce Adaptive-Sync for say, Ultrabooks, it can still be a huge boon for the standard and AMD, potentially forcing Nvidia to support Adaptive-Sync too.
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