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G-Sync vs. FreeSync FAQ: How variable refresh rate displays make PC games super-smooth

Jason Evangelho | Aug. 31, 2015
Imagine games without stuttering or tearing. Games without ghosting. Two rival technologies both promise that—learn more about them here.

screen tear freesync AMD

Another example of screen tearing. Gross.

Ready for yet another symptom of V-Sync? The dreaded “lag.” Let’s go back to Battlefield 4 and imagine you just pulled the trigger during a gunfight. Guess what happens if you do it right before the monitor “accepts” the corresponding onscreen visual? That precious bullet doesn’t fire at the exact millisecond you need it to. It can be infuriating.

G-Sync and FreeSync elegantly eradicate these problems by giving your video card complete control over the display. If your game is bouncing between 40 and 75 frames per second, for example, then your monitor is going to follow suit, its refresh rate constantly changing to keep pace with the video card. Screen tearing, stutter, and input lag all go away. 

What are the differences between G-Sync and FreeSync?

Nvidia's G-Sync deserves credit for being first solution on the scene. Aside from the bragging rights, however, a couple of key differences distinguish this variable refresh rate technology from AMD’s.

gsync monitor key visual

Nvidia invented G-Sync to address both sides of the problem—the GPU and the monitor. Every monitor box emblazoned with a G-Sync logo packs a proprietary module. Nvidia understandably won’t divulge too many details, but it allows Nvidia to fine-tune the experience based on its characteristics like maximum refresh rate, IPS or TN screens, and voltage. Even when your frame rate gets super low or super high, G-Sync can keep your game looking smooth.

Nvidia points to ghosting as a key advantage G-Sync has over AMD’s FreeSync. Its G-Sync module prevents ghosting by customizing the way it operates on each and every monitor. With AMD, these adjustments are made within the Radeon driver itself, while the display's firmware is in charge of other parts of the mix. One of Nvidia’s loudest arguments is that AMD may or may not keep pace with those changes on the driver level. With Nvidia’s G-Sync module, because each monitor is physically tweaked and tuned, keeping up with all the panel variations is part of the job. Only time will tell if that argument rings true.

I have seen ghosting in AMD FreeSync panels like the Acer XG27OHU, but never in a G-Sync monitor, though the ghosting issues in some earlier FreeSync displays have since been corrected via monitor firmware updates. PC Perspective created this video to compare the ghosting effects in early FreeSync monitors against the Asus ROG Swift, a G-Sync monitor.

AMD based FreeSync on a royalty-free, industry-standard spec known as DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync. The indisputable fact here is that monitor manufacturers don’t need to implement a proprietary hardware module, meaning the cost to them is cheaper. Ideally, that savings gets passed on to you, the consumer. In fact, across the board, FreeSync price tags trend a bit lower.

 

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