The new Adaptive-Sync performance levels deal with misleading response times and flickering

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So you’re looking at a monitor or laptop that says it has Adaptive-Sync or a variable refresh rate. Maybe it’s Nvidia G-Sync or AMD FreeSync. Perhaps the vendor was detailed enough to include the Adaptive-Sync range, indicating the refresh rate range, as well as response time and overdrive functionality promising exceptionally smooth video playback. But then you see a few other monitors and laptops claiming the same thing. How do you know which display will give you a better multimedia experience?

To help, the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) launched a certification program for computer monitors and laptop displays with Adaptive-Sync on Monday. The Adaptive-Sync Display CTS (Adaptive-Sync Display CTS) Compatibility Test Specification aims to provide better insight into anti-tearing technology.

The program, which has already certified some products, has more than 50 criteria for its two levels: MediaSync Display, which focuses on video playback and requires an Adaptive-Sync range of at least 48 to 60 Hz, and Adaptive-Sync Display, which focuses on games and requires Adaptive-Sync rage of at least 60 to 144Hz.

A deeper look at Adaptive-Sync performance

In 2014, VESA – a non-profit group of hardware, software, computer and component manufacturers that also sets standards for DisplayPort, DisplayHDR, and VESA monitor mounts – added Adaptive-Sync protocols to the DisplayPort video interface. Adaptive-Sync, which includes displays such as the Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync, is designed to make video playback look smoother by eliminating screen tearing, jitter, and flickering. Adaptive-Sync also tries to adapt to lower power consumption and performance when dealing with content played at different frame rates.

Adaptive-Sync is now available on all types of monitors, including gaming and general use. It is also backed by major GPU vendors. Nvidia and AMD provide further optimizations for their graphics cards and may have different image quality requirements depending on the type of G-Sync or FreeSync.

In order to provide a more detailed preview of the expected performance of a monitor or laptop with Adaptive-Sync settings with default settings, VESA – after two years of development with more than two dozen members, including Nvidia, AMD, Intel and display manufacturers, screen drivers, processors and more components run the Adaptive-Sync certification program with more stringent requirements. You can be an Adaptive-Sync, G-Sync, and / or FreeSync display without the new MediaSync or Adaptive-Sync display standards. But getting one of the new logos means the monitor has passed extensive VESA testing, which we’ll move on to soon.

But before that, we should note that monitors require DisplayPort to get one of the certifications. This disqualifies Adaptive-Sync monitors with HDMI only from receiving the new logo. The move becomes more interesting when we consider that HDMI 2.1 introduced variable refresh rates into the standard.

Increased requirements for both tiers

New VESA Adaptive-Sync and MediaSync certification logo.
New VESA Adaptive-Sync and MediaSync certification logo.

VESA

The most basic requirements for the new tiers are the Adaptive-Sync scopes. The MediaSync display layer requires an Adaptive-Sync range that is at least 48 Hz and as high as at least 60 Hz. For the gaming-focused Adaptive-Sync display layer, the range is wider from 60 to 144 Hz.

But that’s just the beginning of what a monitor has to go through to get one with the VESA logo.

Judder tests

To be MediaSync or Adaptive-Sync certified, the display must show less than 1 ms of vibration, which is significantly less than what the human eye should see, according to VESA.

This number must be achieved at 10 international frames per second standards: 23.976 Hz (Hollywood movie); 24, 30 and 60Hz (typically content recorded on consumer cameras such as YouTube videos or something played locally), 25Hz (UK TV), 29.97Hz (US TV), 47.952Hz (which is rare but used in some movies), 48 Hz (also used in a rare film), 50 Hz (British sport), and 59.94 Hz (American sport).

VESA then tests the display with the minimum Adaptive-Sync range of the monitor. For example, if your monitor has an Adaptive-Sync range of 40 to 60 Hz, VESA will test it at 40 Hz, although the MediaSync display level only requires the range, which is 48 Hz, and Adaptive-Sync is 60 Hz. If the monitor’s Adaptive-Sync range has a higher minimum than the certification requires, the VESA Frame doubles those that are slower than the minimum.

One of the most common causes of jitter is 3: 2 pulldown, which is used to display Hollywood movies shot at 23.976 Hz and gives one frame per second lost. VESA certification is designed to eliminate the need to pull 3: 2.

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