The FreeSync gaming experience
AMD's FreeSync has been in and out of the technology news headlines recently over issues of ghosting and irregular panel behaviour outside the FreeSync supported range. One of our first tests with the Acer XG270HU was to examine the ghosting more closely. From our results it seems that the magnitude of the ghosting problem isn't as severe as observed on some other FreeSync panels.
The pair of images below were captured on a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera with a 1/400 shutter speed. To our surprise, the ghosting effect didn't vary that much across all the permutations of V-Sync, FreeSync and Overdrive on the Acer XG270HU. From this it's possible to infer that the ghosting effect is still panel-dependent, rather than FreeSync-induced. That said, AMD could benefit from enforcing stricter standards on monitor vendors to ensure that panels with significant ghosting do not drag the value of the FreeSync package down.
In most games, particularly anything fast-paced with motion blur effects, it's difficult to perceive the ghosting unless you know specifically what to look for. The AMD Windmill FreeSync demo exacerbates the issue because of its simplicity and repetitiveness; real games are visually complex and non-linear. In short we don't feel the ghosting on the Acer XG270HU is significant enough to impact the gaming experience.
On the subject of the gaming experience the Acer XG270HU proved to be a solid performer aided by the smoothness of the high refresh rate and wide FreeSync range. The publicised issue of irregular performance below the FreeSync range, 40-144Hz on this particular panel, is something we paid particularly close attention to. We feel, given the resolution of this panel, it is comparatively easy to keep the framerate well above the minimum of 40fps which results in the user rarely experiencing issues.
However, the issue did creep into focus when tackling tougher games such as Assassin's Creed Unity, Crysis 3 and Metro Last Light. There is still a caveat to this which is worth considering for real gaming scenarios. That caveat is that the gaming experience below 40fps in most games is already close to sub-par, so the additional stuttering from FreeSync doesn't present a deal-breaking issue.
The most significant issue pertains the noticeable transition between FreeSync and non-FreeSync zones, particularly if that's a frequent occurrence. In that instance gamers should consider lowering game settings to avoid dropping out of the FreeSync range and hope that AMD presents a driver fix for the issue in the near future. Nvidia's G-Sync deals with this specific issue by implementing a frame-duplication algorithm for low framerates. The Nvidia driver duplicates frames by varying magnitudes, two times for 19 to 38fps and three times for 14 to 18fps for example, to ensure the refresh rate of the panel stays around or above 40 and thus, cleverly, the gaming experience stays smooth.
Moving away from FreeSync the Acer XG270HU doesn't quite deliver the wow factor of IPS-quality gaming. If this monitor were to be presented to a random selection of PC gamers most would identify it as TN since it lacks the vibrancy and viewing angles of IPS equivalents. The main selling point is undoubtedly the high refresh rate and FreeSync support, rather than the accuracy or quality of the visuals.