What is G-SYNC?
G-SYNC is an adaptive sync monitor technology created by NVIDIA that matches the monitor's refresh rate to the framerate produced by a user's compatible NVIDIA GPU, eliminating screen tearing and minimizing stutter and input lag.
In other words, G-SYNC eliminates tears and minimizes stutters/input lag because display refresh rates will match frame rates. It's like having a monitor with a built-in FPS counter.
What does it work on?
G-SYNC currently works only on PC and requires NVIDIA graphics cards released after the 600 series, but all G-SYNC devices have been tested to ensure they can consistently maintain framerates above 40 FPS.
In other words, you'll need an NVIDIA card that isn't too old or not too new/powerful--if your hardware doesn't fit that description, then G-SYNC won't do anything for you. This also means you won't see benefits from G-SYNC if your framerate drops below 40fps.
This technology is exclusive to PC; currently, there are no plans for console versions. For Apple/Mac users, there is currently no support for Mac OS.
What is FreeSync?
FreeSync is an adaptive sync monitor technology created by AMD that eliminates screen tearing and minimizes stutter and input lag.
In other words, FreeSync eliminates tears and minimizes stutters/input lag because display refresh rates will match frame rates. It's like having a separate FPS counter for every open window on your desktop.
FreeSync currently works only on PC and requires AMD graphics cards (cards from the HD 5000 series onward). This also means you won't see benefits from FreeSync if your framerate drops below the minimum refresh rate of your monitor (see more info on this in "What is Monitor Freesync Range?").
FreeSync has been implemented for HDMI and DisplayPort; even without an AMD card, some monitors can work with these display options. Although most people will use that feature to enable it only when they're playing games on their AMD cards, NVIDIA users can enable it and get adaptive sync via a custom driver ( NVFreefsync ) and use it with any compatible monitor. This function works with NVIDIA cards from the 600 series onward.
In addition to being available for PCs, FreeSync is also available for consoles--if you have an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4, then you can get adaptive sync on those systems. All AMD cards are "FreeSync compatible," but not all FreeSync monitors are "AMD FreeSync enabled." Be sure to check the description when buying one.
What is the difference between FreeSync and G-SYNC?
Both technologies eliminate screen tearing and minimize stutter/input lag. However, G-SYNC is only for NVIDIA users, so you'll either need an AMD card or a G-SYNC monitor to use FreeSync.
G-SYNC requires your PC's GPU to be able to consistently maintain framerates above 40 FPS (or else it won't do anything), whereas FreeSync works even if your framerate drops below the minimum refresh rate of your monitor.
FreeSync doesn't require any hardware modifications; all you need is an AMD card that supports FreeSync, plus any compatible monitor. On the other hand, G-SYNC requires purchases both in terms of compatible hardware and in terms of licensing fees to NVIDIA.
FreeSync works on PC and console via HDMI or DisplayPort, but G-SYNC does not. FreeSync also supports the variable refresh rate API (VRR API) so you can enable it via software such as NVFreefsync if your card doesn't fit the requirements. G-SYNC does not support VRR API because its hardware configuration requires an entire proprietary module for it to work.
FreeSync monitors have a minimum refresh rate that is around half their maximum--for example, a 40Hz minimum and 144Hz maximum. This means that even when your GPU isn't powerful enough to maintain framerates at least equal to the monitor's maximum, you'll still get an adaptive sync experience.
G-SYNC monitors have a minimum of 30Hz because NVIDIA doesn't recommend using them except at framerates equal to or greater than the minimum--in other words, tearing will be present unless you constantly maintain framerates above 30fps.
Note that while FreeSync monitors are guaranteed to work with AMD cards, G-SYNC monitors may not necessarily work with NVIDIA cards, depending on the hardware configuration required for adaptive sync (which varies between manufacturers).
Why do you need a G-SYNC monitor?
Stutters and input lag can be a huge problems with normal monitors. In fullscreen mode, especially when V-Sync is enabled, stutters will cause the video to jump ahead as if it skipped a frame. This also causes input lag due to a pause before a new refresh cycle starts, which means you will experience a delay between pressing a button or moving your mouse and seeing the corresponding action on screen--and this all depends on how many FPS drops there are per second.
With G-SYNC enabled, stuttering won't appear because of two factors: 1) framerates won't drop below 40fps so there is no need for an additional pause before the beginning of each new refresh cycle, and 2) since display updates will always match framerate updates, the video will never jump ahead.
Input lag is also reduced because each frame going to the monitor will already have been sent by the GPU, which means there is no delay between input and response. In other words, if you press a button or move your mouse, that action will be shown on screen immediately rather than having to wait for a new frame from the GPU to show up.
What is a G-SYNC Compatible Monitor?
A G-SYNC Compatible monitor is a display that offers a "G-SYNC Mode" but does not have NVIDIA's reference design. This mode eliminates tearing and minimizes stutters/input lag just as well as its counterpart, yet it can be implemented in many different ways by the manufacturer of the display.
In other words, a G-SYNC compatible monitor allows for G-Sync to work with varying tech used in the implementation. It doesn't need to look like an official reference offering from NVIDIA, even though most do stick to similar designs. Because this tech remaps what the monitor displays based on the framerate sent from the GPU, how exactly manufacturers achieve this can vary. What they choose to do will affect how well G-Sync works (if you want it to work as intended, that is).
What monitors have a native G-SYNC?
NVIDIA's reference design is the only way to guarantee a monitor will function 100% as intended with G-SYNC.
The "G" in the logo above indicates that this is an officially certified and licensed product from NVIDIA. You can find out more information by clicking on the logo above, but be warned that you'll lose your place in this article if you do!
Native G-SYNC monitors are the only ones that will offer identical performance across all compatible NVIDIA GPUs, which means you can be confident your G-SYNC experience is unaffected by who made the GPU.
The downside to this seal of approval is that these monitors tend to carry a hefty price premium because they are aimed at enthusiasts, not casual gamers.
What sets the G-SYNC Compatible monitor apart from a regular one?
G-SYNC Compatible monitors differ from their counterparts in three key areas:
- They contain an additional module and control board. The control board synchronizes data between the GPU and the monitor's built-in controller--basically removing screen tearing and minimizing stutters/input lag but not requiring V-Sync.
- The design of these monitors eliminates display stutter/tearing without any sort of framerate capping or dynamic adjustment at all .
- Some also come with ultra-low motion blur modes that further add to the experience.
In other words, G-SYNC compatible monitors should offer a better overall gaming experience than regular ones because they have the additional module and control board which basically come together for an even smoother gaming experience. Moreover, all these displays can be overclocked without any issues whatsoever.
As a side note, keep in mind that all G-SYNC compatible monitors will also have a regular mode that can be activated through either a DisplayPort cable or the monitor's OSD/menus. This allows users to still benefit from what G-SYNC has to offer even when using older GPUs.
What is the difference between G-SYNC Compatible and Native G-SYNC monitors?
With G-SYNC Compatible monitors, NVIDIA is allowing manufacturers to create new models that are not necessarily based on the reference design.
Because of this, there is no telling specifically what features will be available with G-SYNC compatible displays. Some may have ultra-low motion blur modes while others may not offer them at all. Furthermore, whether or not these monitors include ULMB also varies by manufacturer.
Also, one more difference is that NVIDIA is allowing manufacturers to use a variable overdrive solution. Moreover, G-SYNC compatible monitors may perform differently than official G-SYNC monitors. For example, the overdrive solution used might not be as effective.
The main highlight of this is that NVIDIA is allowing manufacturers to use a variable overdrive solution for these displays, which means they won't all look the same; you'll get various implementations depending on what the manufacturer wants to do with its products. This can present an issue if there are drastic differences between models (e.g., some may exhibit more ghosting than others).
At the same time, native G-SYNC monitors will all offer the same exact performance across all compatible NVIDIA GPUs.
In other words, G-SYNC Compatible monitors are from companies that either didn't have a chance to use the reference design or simply skipped it. This is fine with NVIDIA but not something that enthusiasts want with their expensive products. In fact, they'll often pay more for an officially certified and licensed product to avoid issues like these (i.e., don't always trust brands).
So, what is better?
For gamers who want the best experience, native G-SYNC is the way to go. If you have a compatible NVIDIA GPU and don't mind paying a premium for quality, I highly suggest going with either ASUS ROG Swift PG278QZ or Acer XB271HU monitors since they are among the best on the market. Also, keep in mind that these monitors should be available for sale soon.
On the other hand, if you're looking for something more affordable and still get what you pay for but don't care about ULMB or overclocking features, then perhaps G-SYNC Compatible displays might pair well with your budget (if you get one of the good ones).
Moreover, these monitors are often available with value bundles that might make them quite attractive. In fact, some users still prefer ASUS ROG Swift PG278QR even after the new models have been released. G-SYNC Compatible or Native G-SYNC? It is up to you.
If you want the best, get native G-SYNC; if not then get G-SYNC Compatible monitors that are proven to be great (e.g., ASUS ROG Swift PG278QR). This way, you'll enjoy either experience without compromise and without any issues whatsoever (provided your GPU supports NVIDIA's latest drivers).
For those who don't know, "adaptive sync" is basically a superior version of VSYNC since it allows the monitor and graphics card to each send variable frame signals instead of fixed ones, which leads to much smoother animations and lower input/display lag.
Overall, G-SYNC Compatible monitors are better than regular ones because they offer additional features which can provide a more fluid/smoother gaming experience across all supported NVIDIA GPUs. However, not all manufacturers may implement these features so there is no telling what other effects could come into play.
If you don't care about overclocking features or ULMB, then perhaps G-SYNC Compatible displays will work well too. On the other hand, if you want an officially licensed, quality product with no issues and performance that matches the reference design 100%, then we highly suggest going with G-Sync compatible ones (specifically PG278QZ and XB271HU).
Note: if you're interested in learning more about variable refresh rate displays like G-SYNC, make sure to read about VRR is a very important technology for both gamers and hardware enthusiasts (including those who want the best input lag for competitive gaming).