Intel Pledges Support for FreeSync, Where Does That Leave G-Sync?

Looking for something to ponder over this week? Try this on for size: With Intel vowing support for the VESA-backed Adaptive-Sync standard, which is what AMD's FreeSync technology utilizes, where does that leave Nvidia's competing (and proprietary) G-Sync technology?

Before you answer that question, let's back up a moment. Intel Fellow and Chief Graphics Software Architect David Blythe told TechReport last week that Intel plans to add Adaptive-Sync technology to future processors with integrated graphics. What that essentially means is that, in time, Intel CPUs with integrated graphics will play nice with displays that support AMD's FreeSync technology.

In an article titled "Intel May Have Just Killed Nvidia's G-Sync," Timothy Green of The Motley Fool called this a "big win for FreeSync" and wrote that "G-Sync technology may be a lost cause." (Note that Green owns stock in Nvidia and The Motley Fool "owns and recommends Intel").

Green supports his argument by pointing out that even though Nvidia owns the biggest share of the discrete graphics card market, Intel's integrated graphics account for 75 percent of the graphics market as a whole.

"G-Sync certainly isn't dead yet, but a scenario where both G-Sync and FreeSync are widely used now that Intel has backed FreeSync is difficult to imagine," Green writes.

Not so fast. What's missing from a cursory glance at the graphics market share breakdown is how many people are using integrated graphics. Both my primary laptop and desktop are equipped with Intel CPUs with integrated graphics, but both are running Nvidia GPUs -- incidentally, my laptop (Asus ROG G751JY-DB72) is one of a handful of models that support G-Sync.

It's likely the number of integrated graphics users is still higher -- mainstream users tend to outnumber enthusiasts -- but I doubt it's as lopsided as the market share breakdown suggests. That's point number one.

Point number two is that gamers and enthusiasts who turn their noses up at integrated graphics solutions are the ones more likely to be interested in FreeSync and G-Sync technologies. Speaking for myself, I don't care if the graphics in my CPU supports either technology because I play games with a dedicated GPU (or two).

That said, it's an interesting development on a number levels. For one, Intel and AMD are rivals in the chip business, so for Intel to back a standard that AMD uses and actively promotes (under its own FreeSync branding) is no small thing.

Secondly, you can bet that once integrated graphics solutions are in place that support FreeSync, AMD will go nuts touting its technology. AMD will talk up the affordability of FreeSync, since unlike G-Sync, it's not proprietary and doesn't require any licensing fees or special hardware modules -- that's a bonus for monitor makers and consumers alike.

Finally, even though integrated graphics solutions are weak alternatives to dedicated graphics, they're getting faster with each new generation. Gaming on integrated graphics is actually feasible,
depending on which solution we're talking about, and that's only going to improve with time. Should the day come when integrated graphics truly rival discrete solutions, it would been a boon for FreeSync.

What do you think about all this -- should Nvidia be worried that Intel threw its weight behind Adaptive-Sync/FreeSync, or is this only a minor victory for AMD?

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