If you've ever experienced screen tearing in a PC game, you know how annoying it can be – an otherwise properly rendered title ruined by rough horizontal lines and stuttering. You can enable V-Sync, but if you don't have a high-end system, it can take a massive toll on your performance.
Both Nvidia and AMD have stepped up to solve the problem while maintaining frame rates, and both manufacturers have turned to adaptive updating technology for the solution. But let's round it up to find out which option is better for you.
Related Black Friday sales
G-Sync and FreeSync are designed to smooth gameplay, reduce input lag, and avoid screen tearing. They have different methods of achieving these goals, but what sets them apart is that the former keeps its approach close to the vest while the latter is freely shared. Nvidia's G-Sync works via a built-in chip in the monitor construction. 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 difference in performance.
Users find that enabling FreeSync reduces tearing and stuttering. However, some monitors have another problem: ghosting. As objects move on the screen, they leave shadowy images of their last position. It's an artifact that some people don't even notice and annoy others.
Many fingers point the cause, but the physical reason is power management. If you don't get enough power to the pixels, your image will have gaps – too much power, and you'll see ghosting. It is difficult to balance adaptive refresh technology with proper energy distribution.
Both FreeSync and G-Sync also suffer when the frame rate is not synchronized consistently within the update range of the monitor. G-Sync can have issues with flickering at very low frame rates, and while technology usually compensates for this, there are exceptions. FreeSync, meanwhile, has stuttering problems when the frame rate falls below the specified minimum refresh rate of a monitor. Some FreeSync monitors have an extremely narrow adaptive update range. If your graphics card cannot deliver frames within this range, you will have problems.
Most of the reviewers who compared the two side by side seem to prefer the quality of G-Sync, which has no stuttering issues at low frame rates and is therefore smoother in real life situations.
Along with the general rivalry between AMD and Nvidia, one of the first differences that people with adaptive update technology talk about is the difference between a closed and an open standard. While G-Sync is a proprietary Nvidia technology and requires company permission and collaboration to use, FreeSync is free to use. Users who make use of it are a goal of the program and not a means of making money. As a result, there are more monitors available with FreeSync support.
G-Sync has been around for a while and is managed by Nvidia, the current leader in GPU manufacturing. This may prevent AMD's lead in compatible monitors from expanding, but it still has the upper hand for now.
In most cases, you cannot combine the two technologies. While the monitors themselves work regardless of the brand of graphics card, the FreeSync and G-Sync functions specifically require an AMD or Nvidia GPU. Choose whether you want to work with Nvidia or AMD, then buy a monitor to match.
If you take the Nvidia route, the monitor module does the heavy lifting that goes with adjusting the refresh rate. The price you pay for the monitor reflects that decision as every manufacturer has to pay Nvidia for the hardware. The upside is that the technology has been available since early 2014, so it can be found on monitors starting at $ 350 .
The G-Sync module also does most of the heavy lifting. As long as your monitor is compatible, you can use cards in the lower price range. Nvidia lists the compatible optionsfrom the Titan X and 1080 Ti to the 1050, which retails for just $ 150.
With FreeSync, you don't pay much more for a monitor. In contrast to G-Sync, there is no premium for the manufacturer for the inclusion. FreeSync mid-hundreds often has a 1440p display and 144Hz refresh rate (where G-Sync may not). Monitors without these features can cost up to $ 160.
You also need a card that supports FreeSyncThese have traditionally only been AMD graphics cards, as well as APUs and consoles like the Xbox One that uses an AMD APU. However, that traditional separation between G-Sync and FreeSync has become fuzzy with Nvidia cards that support FreeSync. This blurring is thanks to a driver update that allows the GeForce GTX 10 series, GeForce GTX 16 series and GeForce RTX 20 series graphics cards to work with FreeSync monitors. It works in general, but there is a catch: it is guaranteed to only work on FreeSync monitors certified as Nvidia G-Sync compatible. The cards have been rigorously tested and approved by Nvidia to ensure FreeSync works smoothly across the card range. Here is a current list of certified monitors.
With no other components in place, you'll need to spend at least $ 450 on a 1080p G-Sync monitor and GTX 1050 graphics card. much more if you want a setup that supports 4K gaming. For just under $ 300, however, you can step into the basic level of FreeSync compatibility with the aforementioned VG245H and a card like the Radeon RX 550 that pulls out 1080p games with decent performance. The good news with AMD is that up to the RX 580 (a great card for 1440p gaming) the price points are on par with Nvidia cards. That means you can get an equally powerful GPU without the G-Sync bonus.
Given the price gap, you might be wondering why someone would prefer G-Sync. The answer is simple – it is superior. Nvidia's adaptive update technology provides more consistent overall performance. It's also worth noting that Nvidia graphics cards are currently the king of performance for high-performance and 4K gaming. If you choose FreeSync and buy an AMD Radeon card, you may have to buy hardware that costs less money.
Fortunately, the new G-Sync Compatible program offers buyers many new options. If you already have a Geforce GTX 10 series and higher card, you can buy a cheaper FreeSync monitor that is certified for use with your Nvidia card. Then use this handy guide to enable G-Sync on a FreeSync monitor.
Ultimately, both technologies mostly achieve their goals and provide an experience that is superior to V-Sync. Your choice depends on whether you prefer a good or premium gaming experience.