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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.

Let’s take a quick look at two gorgeous FreeSync monitors from Acer. Both of them are sexy, curved UltraWide displays with an IPS panel at 3440x1440 resolution. Both have a 4ms response time, and both include HDMI and DisplayPort inputs. They’re nearly identical, except that the XR341CK supports FreeSync and costs $1099. The G-Sync version—the Predator X34—costs $200 more. Granted, it rocks a slightly higher 100Hz refresh rate, but the G-Sync markup is obvious. That’s an expensive example, but it doesn’t hurt AMD’s argument that FreeSync is the more affordable solution.

Can I mix and match this stuff? Is the card in my PC compatible?

As you can imagine given the frequently bitter rivalry between AMD and Nvidia, your GeForce GTX video card won’t support FreeSync, and your Radeon video card won’t give you that buttery smooth experience on a G-Sync monitor. Yes, Nvidia has the option of adopting the FreeSync/Adaptive-Sync standard—as Intel plans to do one day —but if you’d invested millions into developing a technology to exclusively benefit your users, would you?

evga 980 ftw asus strix fury 2 Brad Chacos

Most—but not all—of the AMD and Nvidia graphics cards released in the previous 2 or 3 years should be compatible with FreeSync or G-Sync.

Worries about brand lock-in aside, let’s say you want to take the plunge. Is your beloved graphics card compatible? On the Nvidia side the answer is simple: Every GeForce GTX card since the 650Ti will do the trick, including every 700 series and 900 series desktop graphics card. With AMD the support is a bit scattershot, because some of the company’s offerings are based on older GPUs. For example, the Radeon 360 is FreeSync compatible but the Radeon 370 isn’t. The Radeon 260, 260x, 285, 290, and 290x are ready for FreeSync, but the 270 and 270x aren’t. And so it goes.

Here’s something cool though: A strong handful of AMD’s affordable APUs (an all-in-one CPU and GPU) also support FreeSync, which opens the possibility of building a cheap 1080p gaming box and still getting a smooth gaming experience courtesy of FreeSync.

Wait, can I get this awesome stuff on a notebook?

Yes, but only from Nvidia. A handful of G-Sync powered notebooks are on the market right now from ASUS and MSI, with more on the way from popular manufacturers like Clevo and Gigabyte.

gsync laptop

Unlike desktop monitors, notebook displays won’t require that proprietary G-Sync module, but to ensure quality, Nvidia is pretty stingy with its approval process. For example, all of the current G-Sync-enabled laptop displays top out at 75Hz, not the standard 60Hz. As for supported mobile GPUs, right now it’s just the 965M, 970M, and 980M. Nvidia is dedicated to the G-Sync cause, so expect to see a proliferation of G-Sync gaming notebooks in the near future.

 

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