There are three versions of G-Sync, one of which is simply G-Sync. This version enables VRR functionality and reduces the occurrence of visual artifacts. Offering the least features compared to the advanced version of G-Sync, it still does what it takes when it comes to removing unwanted visual artifacts from your screen.
FreeSync vs. G-Sync
If you’ve ever experienced screen tearing in a PC game, you know how annoying it can be – otherwise a properly rendered frame, ruined by thick horizontal lines and stuttering. You can enable V-Sync, but it may have a negative effect on system performance.
Nvidia and AMD have taken steps to fix this problem while preserving the frame rate, and both manufacturers turned to adaptive refresh technology for a solution. This often leads to a very obvious recommendation: if you have an Nvidia GPU, use G-Sync. If you have an AMD GPU, use FreeSync.
But if you have a choice in monitors or graphics cards, you may be wondering what the differences are and which synchronization technology is best for your setup. Let’s break it down to discover which option is better for you.
G-Sync and FreeSync are designed to smooth gameplay, reduce input lag, and prevent screen tearing. They have different methods of achieving these goals, but what sets them apart is that the former stays close to the vest while the latter is freely shared. Nvidia’s G-Sync works through a built-in chip in the design of the monitor. FreeSync uses the functionality of the graphics card to manage the refresh rate of the monitor using the Adaptive Sync standard built into the DisplayPort standard – the result is a performance difference.
Users have found that enabling FreeSync reduces screen tearing and stuttering, but some monitors show a different problem: ghosting. As the objects move across the screen, they leave behind shaded images of their last position. It’s an artifact that some people don’t notice at all, but it upsets others.
Many fingers point at what might cause this, but the physical reason is energy management. If you don’t apply enough power to the pixels, your image will have gaps – too much power and you’ll see ghosts. Balancing adaptive refresh technology with proper power distribution is difficult.
Both FreeSync and G-Sync also suffer when the frame rate doesn’t sync consistently in terms of monitor refresh. G-Sync can exhibit flicker problems at very low FPS, and while the technology usually compensates for this, to fix this, there are exceptions. Meanwhile, FreeSync has issues with stuttering if the frame rate drops below the minimum refresh rate specified for your monitor. Some FreeSync monitors have an extremely narrow adaptive refresh range, and if your graphics card cannot deliver frames in this range, problems arise.
Most reviewers who compared the two side by side seem to prefer the G-Sync quality, which shows no stuttering problems at low frame rates and therefore smoother in real-world situations. It should also be noted that updates to sync technology (and GPUs) slowly correct these issues with both technologies.
NVIDIA G-Sync is a technology licensed by the GPU manufacturer to display companies that produce the best computer monitors and laptop displays. In short, it provides a silky-smooth, tear-free gameplay by allowing communication between the monitor and GPU.
What Is G-SYNC?
G-SYNC is a special chip installed in the G-SYNC monitor that provides variable refresh rate (VRR) and variable clipping if you have a compatible graphics card.
There are three generations of G-SYNC modules:
- v1 module with DisplayPort 1.2
- v1 module with DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4
- module v2 with DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0 and cooling fan (some newer modules may have two or more HDMI 2.0 ports)
How Does G-SYNC Work?
G-SYNC allows you to dynamically change your monitor’s refresh rate (Hz) according to your GPU’s frame rate (FPS). As a result, any screen tearing is eliminated up to the maximum refresh rate of the monitor with no noticeable input delay (~ 1ms).
So, if you have a 144Hz gaming monitor and you have 60fps in the game, G-SYNC will dynamically change the display refresh rate to 60Hz to deliver 60 full frames per second without tearing apart.
Meanwhile, the variable overdrive will provide adequate adjustment of the pixel response speed, thus preventing pixel overshoot at low FPS and ghosting at high FPS.
Another advantage of the G-SYNC module is that it replaces the regular scaler in the monitor, so you will have a bit less input lag.
The main disadvantage is the price, as well as limited connectivity options, as G-SYNC modules do not have VGA, DVI or USB-C ports (for DP Alt Mode.
Picture in Picture and Picture by Picture modes are also not supported on G-SYNC monitors.
As the regular scaler has been replaced, older G-SYNC monitors do not support display scaling, although modern graphics cards support GPU scaling without any extra delay, so this won’t be a problem for most users. Newer models support display scaling, but manipulation with the CRU is required for the option to appear in NVCP.
G-SYNC vs FreeSync & G-SYNC Compatible
Unlike G-SYNC, FreeSync and G-SYNC Compatible monitors do not have dedicated modules.
Instead, they rely on the free and open VESA Adaptive-Sync protocols in DisplayPort and / or HDMI connectors for variable refresh rates.
A G-SYNC compatible monitor is essentially a FreeSync or “Adaptive-Sync” monitor that has been verified by NVIDIA to function without any problems when using compatible cards.
So what exactly makes G-SYNC unique?
First, G-SYNC monitors usually have a wider VRR range than FreeSync and G-SYNC Compatible displays.
For example, a 144 Hz G-SYNC gaming monitor has a VRR range of 30-144 Hz, while a similar FreeSync monitor typically has a dynamic range of 48-144 Hz.
So if the frame rate were to drop to 40 FPS, the G-SYNC monitor would change the refresh rate to 40 Hz, while the FreeSync monitor would have to take advantage of LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) and multiply the refresh rate to 120 Hz (40 FPS x 3) in order to prevent tearing.
Triggering the LFC is slightly stuttering, so the overall gaming experience on a G-SYNC monitor will be more enjoyable in this case.
As previously mentioned, since the G-SYNC module replaces the regular monitor scaler, G-SYNC monitors have less input lag, although most FreeSync monitors have an imperceptibly low input lag anyway.
Advantages of not having a G-SYNC module include lower cost and more extensive connectivity options.
To use G-SYNC, you need a G-SYNC monitor and a compatible NVIDIA graphics card (GTX 650 Ti Boost or later) connected via DisplayPort.
Now, newer G-SYNC monitors such as the Dell AW2721D, LG 38GL950G, and Acer XB273X also allow G-SYNC to be used with AMD graphics cards via DisplayPort, and also offer HDMI-VRR for consoles.
For G-SYNC Ultimate, you need a GTX 1050 or newer graphics card with DisplayPort 1.4.
You can use our G-SYNC monitor list to find all the G-SYNC and G-SYNC Ultimate monitors available.
All monitors certified by NVIDIA as “G-SYNC compatible” can be found in the list at the bottom of this article.
ULMB & Reflex Analyzer
Finally, remember that NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer and NVIDIA Reflex are two different things.
NVIDIA Reflex does not measure input lag, but rather reduces it in supported games.
To use it, you will need an NVIDIA GTX 900 series or newer graphics card and enable Reflex in the settings of your compatible game, which includes:
- Apex Legends
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare
- Call of Duty: Warzone
- Purpose 2
List of G-SYNC Compatible FreeSync Monitors
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