Gamers spend hours assembling the perfect system so that they can play new games at the right resolution and frame rate. However, far too many of them fail to ensure that their monitor is also up to par.
A monitor can bottleneck your performance just as a CPU or GPU can. This will prevent you from reaching the frame rates you should be.
Nvidia’s G-Sync technology is a solution to that issue, along with AMD’s competing Freesync, which Nvidia has recently started supporting on their new drivers.
In this guide, we’re going to explore what G-Sync (and the competing Freesync) does, and how it can improve your gaming experience.
Refresh Rates, V-sync, and Screen Tearing
Every monitor has a refresh rate that operates at a certain frequency.
This refresh rate determines how often the monitor scans for a new frame. Refresh rate and frame rate are separate because a monitor can refresh multiple times while on the same frame.
If the refresh rate is too high or too low, then you’ll get what is known as screen tearing.
Screen tearing is something that all PC gamers are likely acquainted with. It’s when two frames don’t quite line up and you can spot the tear in between them.
Screen tearing occurs for one of two reasons. The first reason for screen tearing is because the GPU is creating frames faster than the refresh rate can catch them.
On the other hand, if you have a slower GPU, you may also experience screen tearing. This is when the monitor tries to show the next frame before it’s been rendered.
Traditionally, screen tearing has been eliminated through the use of v-sync. This is a graphics option that synchronizes the video card’s max frame rate to the monitor’s refresh rate.
Unfortunately, v-sync doesn’t have that great of a reputation with gamers, and many of them choose to just deal with screen tearing instead.
The issue with v-sync is that it can diminish performance and result in lower frames per second, which further reduces a game’s responsiveness. This can put you at a disadvantage in competitive games.
Another common issue with v-sync is stuttering, which is like a short loss of responsiveness while playing.
Stuttering occurs when a video card can’t keep up with the refresh rate of the monitor. As a result, the screen ends up refreshing while waiting for the next frame to come through.
This is a common issue with less powerful cards running more demanding games, and it can put you in a tough position.
So, What is G-Sync and What Does It Do?
Nvidia’s G-Sync technology has taken the concept behind v-sync and made it work better. This is similar to what AMD’s Freesync does, but G-Sync does it a little bit better.
Instead of forcing the GPU to operate at the monitor’s refresh rate. G-Sync instead modulates the refresh rate so that it can match the fps output of the GPU.
This ensures that you’ll never have a situation where the GPU is trying to send the next frame to the monitor, but the display is too slow to pick it up.
To give you an idea of how it works, if your GPU is outputting 68 frames per second. G-Sync will try and bring the refresh rate to 68Hz so that the screen can refresh while the new frame is coming through.
Since you won’t have to worry about stuttering while using G-Sync, you can eliminate screen tearing without having to sacrifice responsiveness.
The Downsides of G-Sync
While it may sound like the solution that gaming needs, you’ll find that G-Sync has a few major problems.
The two biggest issues are the high cost of the displays and the restriction of G-sync to Nvidia GPUs.
G-Sync is Expensive
The main problem with G-Sync is that it’s a lot more expensive than AMD’s Freesync. A lot of gamers have decided to opt for the latter due to its lower price.
Many players wonder why G-Sync is so much more expensive than Freesync if both technologies do the same thing. However, it’s due to how they’re implemented.
Freesync is a software-only solution that varies the refresh rate of the monitor through a program.
This makes it less reliable because the displays were often not designed to have their refresh rates varied in such a way.
G-Sync monitors, on the other hand, are designed around the technology itself.
G-Sync is a hardware-based solution, and every G-Sync monitor contains a controller module that allows for the refresh rate to be varied.
Since these models are made for the task, they will be more reliable and far easier to set up.
Thankfully, Nvidia has recently decided to allow their cards to be used with Freesync monitors (something that is likely due to Nvidia’s precarious financial position after the release of their RTX line).
As long as a Freesync monitor meets Nvidia’s standards, it will be allowed to work with G-Sync.
G-Sync Will Not Work With AMD GPUs
One of the main problems with G-Sync is that it only works with Nvidia GPUs. Which doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider that it’s their proprietary technology.
The problem with this is that AMD GPUs will often provide you with better value for money. Therefore, G-Sync will usually be reserved for high-end systems.
If you’re looking to put together a budget build, you’d be far better off opting for an AMD video card coupled with a Freesync monitor.
Freesync is a little less useful than G-Sync because AMD is a lot more lax in their directives to manufacturers. They won’t work directly with them to ensure maximum performance.
While this results in displays that are much more affordable than G-Sync screens. It also means that Freesync may not be as effective as the Nvidia alternative. For example, some models will only feature a certain frame rate range in which they can use Freesync. As a result, tearing is possible outside of that range.
The main advantage of Freesync is that you can spend less on both your monitor and your GPU. So, you will allow you to create a better system for less money.
Whereas most G-Sync monitors will cost you at least 300 dollars. But, you can get your hands on an adequate Freesync gaming monitor for under 200 dollars.
Similarly, graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD are also more expensive if you opt for the former manufacturer. You can expect to pay about 50 dollars extra for your GPU as well.
Are G-Sync Monitors Worth It?
Whether or not a G-Sync monitor is the right choice for you will mainly depend on your budget and how much screen tearing bothers you.
If you can deal with screen tearing to a certain extent and you’d rather save as much money as possible. Then we’d highly recommend opting for a Freesync display.
On the other hand, if you have a huge budget to create a monster of a gaming rig, then feel free to splurge on a G-Sync enabled display, as it will provide superior performance.
Many will argue that the added support for certain Freesync displays makes an Nvidia card a more attractive proposition. But, you have to keep in mind that Nvidia tightly controls which screens are approved.
While many hoped that many more low-end displays would be supported when the driver update was announced.
, Nvidia’s strict standards have largely kept G-Sync on the more advanced Freesync screens.
As with anything else in PC gaming, you have to decide just how much of your budget you want to allocate to improved performance and quality.
Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of running an advanced gaming rig on an outdated display that has terrible response time. See our guide about what to look for when buying a monitor.