On January 15th, nVidia released a driver update that made its proprietary adaptive sync technology called G-Sync compatible with FreeSync monitors. The announcement, which effectively removes the need to buy one of a select few (expensive) monitors to achieve the full benefits of the leading chipmaker’s GPUs, was expected never to come.
What is G-Sync? What is FreeSync?
For years, nVidia has used custom display chips that allowed monitors to produce a variable refresh rate, which prevented screen tearing and stuttering as frame rate varied during gameplay, allowing for a maximally smooth experience in-game (even when the frame rate falls below the native refresh rate of the monitor). The result of this chip and software being proprietary was that G-Sync monitors were usually priced at a noticeable premium.
AMD developed its own royalty-free adaptive sync technology called FreeSync in 2014, which was free for monitor manufacturers to use and therefore generally cheaper. But until this month, G-sync-capable nVidia Graphics cards provided exactly no added benefit when hooked up to a FreeSync-capable monitor. Those dark days are over…
The Catch with “nVidia FreeSync” – There’s Always a Catch!
In their announcement at CES, nVidia said the majority of FreeSync-capable monitors don’t meet nVidia’s testing standards. CEO Jensen Huang said the company has tested over 400 monitors and just 12 made the cut. Those 12 “G-Sync Compatible” monitors are:
- Acer XFA240
- Acer XG270HU
- Acer XV273K
- Acer XZ321Q
- AOC AG241QG4
- AOC G2590FX
- Asus MG278Q
- Asus VG258Q
- Asus VG278Q
- Asus XG248
- Asus XG258
- BenQ XL2740
If you own one of these monitors, and have one of the necessary GeForce GTX 10- and RTX 20-series cards, G-Sync will be available by default.
Other FreeSync monitors will still technically “work” with G-Sync, but early reports suggest mixed results. In a post about the driver update, nVidia notes, helpfully, “It may work, it may work partly, or it may not work at all.” Some incompatible monitors have shown to have severe ghosting or screen blackouts, but overall early reports suggest most quality FreeSync monitors work with the new update to some degree. nVidia says it still has 100 monitors to test.
To test it yourself:
- Connect your FreeSync monitor to a GTX 10- or RTX 20-series card using a DisplayPort cable (HDMI won’t work)
- Make sure the Variable Refresh Rate function is turned on in your monitor’s settings
- In the nVidia Control Panel, go to “Display”
- Click on “Set up G-Sync”
- Check the “Enable G-Sync, G-Sync Compatible” box
- Check the “Enable settings for the selected display model”
- Click “Apply”
What this Means for PC Builders
Rejoice! No longer are PC builders tied to to certain monitors due to their GPU choice (at least—if that GPU choice is an nVidia card). This likely means G-Sync-branded monitors will eventually come down in price, although nVidia seems adamant about maintaining their grasp on the gamer monitor market with its tiered system of “experiences.” The best experience, according to nVidia, will be reserved for the monitors that come with the G-Sync chips—not merely the “G-Sync Compatible” FreeSync and Adaptive Sync types.
Moreover, nVidia seems to be carving out a new portion of the high-end monitor market with its “G-Sync Ultimate” branding, which have all the benefits of the G-Sync experience alongside high dynamic range (HDR) and larger formats (think 65 inches).
Regardless, this change means that there are now more monitor choices and broader feature compatibility for PC builders than ever before, and that’s a good thing.