Building a gaming rig in general, especially if it’s your first build, can be a confusing process. When you’re choosing your gaming monitor, you will need to choose an AMD FreeSync or an Nvidia G-Sync. While basic monitors may do the trick for typists or those running limited programs, you’ll need something better if you’re serious about gaming. Screen tearing is exceptionally frustrating, especially in fast-paced gaming. If you’ve experienced it before, then it’s no doubt why you’re considering an upgrade to FreeSync or G-sync. Even if you invest in all your other components, screen tearing can still impact your experience.
If you ask other gamers, you will likely get pulled in different directions. Both are adaptive sync monitors and will produce smooth graphics. That said, each has features that set them apart and make them beneficial for various reasons. You can usually turn on V-sync in-game, but without a proper monitor, you’ll still get stuttering as the monitor tries to keep up. Both companies have identified this issue and have turned to adaptive sync to solve it. They approach framerate preservation in slightly different ways. While one isn’t necessarily better than the other, one will be better for your requirements.
In this guide, we’ll break down exactly what both the Nvidia G-Sync and the AMD FreeSync are. We will describe the features you can expect to find with both technologies as well as the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, we will help you identify which will be the best pick for you.
Long Story Short
At their core, both FreeSync and G-sync are adaptive sync monitor systems. What that means is that they sync up your GPU with the refresh rate produced by your monitor. With the framerate synced up, the games’ images will arrive at the monitor at the proper time. The benefits of this are the reduction of screen tearing and smoother graphics. If your monitor doesn’t refresh fast enough, then it will not be capable of presenting all the frames that your graphics card is producing. It will leave noticeable gaps in the visuals of the game. Let’s dive into the two technologies individually and look at what they can both offer.
What is G-Sync?
G-Sync is the technology made by Nvidia. If you opt for a G-sync monitor, you will also need to have a Nvidia graphics card as they are the only compatible ones. It’s not a massive deal since Nvidia produces some of the best-rated graphics cards on the market anyway. Their graphics cards are consistently among the highest-rated by gamers. The issue is that they come at a higher cost.
Comparative to FreeSync monitors, G-Sync is considerably more expensive. That’s because they need a specific processing unit to function, which adds an extra cost. A Nvidia module must be built directly into the display for the technology to work. As a bonus, though, you are guaranteed a monitor that abides by the highest standard. Each monitor undergoes an intensive series of tests to ensure they meet the Nvidia standard of quality. There are over 300 tests done that measure everything from image quality to compatibility.
Beyond the quality assurance, they also have quite a bit more support capabilities than the AMD FreeSync monitors. Some of the features they support exclusively are:
- Calibration of factory colors
- Full support in both full screen and windowed mode
- Low input lag
- ULMB (Ultra-low motion blur)
- 1-240Hz variable refresh rate compatibility
Because of the full range of feature support, it isn’t feasible to include G-Sync on lower-end monitors. The cost is too high to produce, and therefore you’ll only find G-Sync on high-end models. Although, with the price, you have the assurance of the best standard possible. Since they’ve got such a strict guideline, you know precisely which features you will get when you buy.
G-Sync Ultimate is the newest and most superior technology available from Nvidia. At this point, there are limits to availability, and they are even more expensive than the standard G-Sync monitors. The monitors’ available range from a standard desktop to dedicated gaming screens. There are currently just over ten monitors that support this technology, but we can guarantee this will build in the coming years. The additional specs you will get from a G-Sync Ultimate monitor are:
- Full 4K screen resolution
- DCI-P3 color gamut support
- Higher brightness (1000cd/m2 minimum)
- Increased backlight capabilities
- Even lower latency
What is FreeSync?
FreeSync is the adaptive sync technology made by AMD. They utilize a different protocol to optimize the monitors’ refresh rate, then Nvidia does. It works by using adaptive sync within each monitor’s DisplayPort connection. It can also be enabled through an HDMI connection as well, which makes it much more versatile then G-Sync. There is no specific processing unit required for a FreeSync monitor to work. Another bonus is that there are no hidden fees to have it included with your monitor, either. Sounds great, right? What’s the catch?
The monitors are much more inexpensive and accessible to get your hands on the G-Sync monitors. With G-Sync supportive monitors totaling on about 60, there are over 500 FreeSync monitors on the market. Much like with Nvidia G-Sync monitors, AMD requires all FreeSync monitors to be fully certified to allow them to have the quality stamp. The testing is not as inclusive as G-Sync, and there are no fixed quality standards. Therefore, the experience can vary between monitors, and they don’t all include the same features. For this reason, you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get with a FreeSync monitor.
FreeSyncs refresh rate will only function between a specific framerate, and it can vary between monitors. Some of them can support as low as 30 frames per second, but most will not go that low. The standard to expect is around 40-48 frames per second. Unfortunately, what this means, is that if the output of your GPU goes below the lower limit of the monitor, then the FreeSync technology will no longer work. You will no longer get any of the synchronized benefits and will end up facing the screen tearing that you’re trying to avoid. It won’t always happen this way as it is dependent on your specific graphics card.
FreeSync monitors are also supportive of LFC, which stands for low framerate compensation. It increases monitor performance with a framerate below its capable threshold. It does this by doubling how many frames are displayed. It will activate this whenever the framerate goes lower than what the monitor is capable of. For example, if the produced frame rate is 30 frames per second, it will double it to 60 frames per second. That said, LFC will need to already be in the monitor you purchase. So, make sure you look out for this feature when choosing a FreeSync monitor as the lower-priced models may not have it included.
FreeSync technology works by altering the refresh rate of the monitor to equal the graphics card output. Since the refresh rate is always changing, this technology can adapt to fluctuations of output from the GPU. Also, the frame rate is ever-changing in-game. Sometimes if you’re viewing a cutscene or the like, it will require higher output. Therefore, FreeSync can adapt to these changes. It’s a simple yet effective system that displays the current frame until it receives the next one from the GPU. It means it will always display images at the exact rate of output and end screen tearing. Though if the frame rate falls too low, it will not be able to sync.
One thing to note is that Nvidia cards are only compatible with Nvidia G-Sync monitors. That means that if you have a Nvidia graphics card, it will not work with a FreeSync monitor. You’ll need an AMD graphics card for it to work.
FreeSync 2 HDR
Similar to the Ultimate version of the G-Sync, AMD has the 2 HDR models of the FreeSync. Since most FreeSync monitors have non-standardized specs, the 2 HDR is made with more strict standards. Beyond the excellent support of a variable refresh rate, AMD has also guaranteed the 2 HDR is complete with the full support of HDR content and lower framerate compensation than standard FreeSync technology.
What Are the Main Differences Between the Two?
Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync are both adaptive sync technologies. Adaptive sync is the dynamic adjustment of the monitors refresh rate to match that of the graphics card output. While both eliminate screen tearing, glitching and stuttering, they do so in different ways. Now that we’ve talked about each one’s specs, let’s dive into some key differences between the way these technologies operate.
1. GPU Limitations
Both monitors have limitations regarding which graphics cards they are compatible with. G-Sync monitors can only be used with Nvidia graphics cards, while you must use FreeSync monitors with AMD graphics cards. That said, it is possible to get a FreeSync monitor that will support a G-Sync GPU, rendering FreeSync the more versatile option.
2. Original Equipment Manufacturer
Both technologies differ in the build of the monitors themselves. While they both use scaler modules, they use different procedures. Nvidia needs its manufacturers to use their specific scalers when building their monitors. It is due to their defined standard that they uphold throughout their whole line. It is one factor that adds to the prices of the monitors since the manufacturer is required to purchase modules from Nvidia directly. There is also licensing required for G-Sync monitors, as well.
For AMD, they do not have specified scaler modules, and therefore the manufacturer can use whatever they like. They are more relaxed and don’t have a defined standard, so the price remains much more reasonable.
3. Low Framerate Compensation
We touched on it above, but LFC support differs in both G-Sync and FreeSync. Both types of adaptive sync have specific refresh rates that they support. The support window will vary based on the type of monitor you have. Let’s suppose, for example, that your monitor can support a refresh rate window from 40 – 144Hz. Whether your monitor offers LFC will dictate how it will perform below the supported frame rate, so from 0-40HZ in this example.
LFC monitors will double the graphics card frame output to achieve a rate that the monitor can support. So, if the refresh rate is 30 frames per second, it will be doubled to 60, and therefore the monitor can support it. If the monitor doesn’t support LFC, you will experience screen tearing when the framerates drop below its support amount.
4. Extra Features
The extra features available from G-Sync are what dramatically set it apart from FreeSync, but AMD is ok with that. FreeSync prides itself on being an accessible solution for gamers who want to upgrade their kit but not pay an arm and a leg for it. They sacrifice the features to provide a high-functioning option that has more versatile compatibility.
G-Sync has some extra features that make them a premium choice for serious gamers not willing to cut any corners.
– One of their most notable features is Ultra Low Motion Blur. It’s a feature that handles black frame insertion and flickering images. This feature noticeably enhances clarity during motion.
– Variable Overdrive is another unique feature to the G-Sync technology. It’s another feature that is used to combat motion blur and does this by altering the overshoot settings of the monitor. While many monitors will have some adjustment to overshooting, it usually turns off automatically when FreeSync is enabled.
Pros and Cons
Taking the differences between the two technologies into account, let’s discuss some pros and cons of each one.
Pro- The main benefit of the AMD FreeSync technology is the price and accessibility. With so many monitors on the market offering this technology, you have a lot of options to choose from. Not only are the monitors themselves more affordable, but so are the graphics cards that go with them.
Con- A common problem with FreeSync is its minimal range of support for framerates. The manufacturer will specify the window of support a monitor will offer, but it may be slightly low if you’re running a high-power GPU. With a lack of quality control standards, you never really know what you’re going to get with FreeSync.
Pro- Nvidia’s high level of quality control, including extensive testing, guarantees you know exactly what you are getting with each purchase. You know there will be no restrictions on framerate, and all features will perform how they should. Their list of features goes above and beyond that offered by the FreeSync. It reduces motion blur, allows overclocking of monitors, and completely removes ghosting.
Con- All the fancy features come at a price. A G-Sync monitor will run a much higher price tag than a FreeSync. On top of that, you will need a compatible graphics card, and Nvidia cards are not cheap.
Do You Need Them?
Is it essential to have an adaptive sync monitor for gaming? What about Vsync? In general, it is necessary to have Vsync capabilities for gaming. VSync is short for vertical synchronization. It will help with screen tearing and create a more streamlined visual experience. If you’ve got powerful gaming components that deliver a high frame output, then you’ll need the Vsync. You may be wondering, though, if you already have Vsync, then why do you need adaptive sync?
Vsync differs from adaptive sync in that it oppositely approaches the synchronization. Adaptive sync matches your monitors refresh rate to that of your graphics card. VSync aims to match your graphics card output to the same as your monitor. The issue with this is that if you have a high-powered graphics card, you are obviously looking for that level of graphics quality. The Vsync will lower that quality to match the refresh rate your monitor is capable of. It’s okay if you have a low-quality monitor as it will reduce screen tearing. If you want your graphics card to perform to its highest potential, though, you’ll want a better-quality monitor.
Whether you choose a more affordable FreeSync or high-quality G-Sync, it’s going to cost more than just a basic monitor without those technologies. The benefits of the investment will depend on a couple of factors. These include the gaming rig that you have, including all components and what types of games you play most often.
If you tend toward fast-paced games like first-person shooters, fighting, or racing games, then the lag that is present, even in VSync, is going to be a significant problem. In any game where glitching or stuttering can be the difference between losing and winning, you’ll need more then what VSync can offer. Adaptive sync will benefit any gamers in this category.
If you’ve got an older graphics card and aren’t planning on updating anytime soon, then it may not be a huge problem. The reason is that your card is likely not delivering more frames then what your monitor can handle anyway, and therefore, you won’t experience much screen tearing. If you are operating any graphics card that is newer or more then basic, you will need adaptive sync to avoid dreadful screen tearing or loss of performance.
Which Is Better?
But which technology is ultimately the best? Since both have their own benefits, the best will be dependent on what you are looking for. G-Sync will, without a doubt, offer you better gaming experiences. If you are serious about your gaming and won’t settle for anything less than the best of the best, then it has to be a Nvidia G-Sync. While you can get amazing FreeSync monitors, they aren’t consistent. G-Sync guarantees consistent output at all times with no sacrifice on gaming quality. It’s just a bit annoying that they have to cost so much. Comparative to FreeSync monitors, they can be double or even triple the price.
Since the market is smaller for G-Sync, it will also save you time. With over 500 FreeSync options, you could spend weeks pouring over reviews to try to find the best fit for you. Even when you do locate the right choice, it’s hard to know for sure what you’re getting.
With all that said, if you haven’t experienced any major latency problems with your current monitor and just want an upgrade, then FreeSync is going to be the best bet. It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles, but you may not need that. You can also seek out a FreeSync monitor that is G-Sync compatible. It will offer you flexibility in terms of upgrades other components in your kit and getting a high-power Nvidia GPU. It would be our biggest recommendation as it will save you a ton of money in the long run, and you can still run the best components. That said, a Nvidia G-Sync will always run a Nvidia GPU better than a FreeSync monitor. It will also allow your monitor to be future proof as technology progresses, and you will undoubtedly want to upgrade parts of your kit.
All in all, you will get what you’ve paid for. Revisit your budget and see how much flexibility it allows. It will come down to personal priorities, and if gaming is essential to you, then G-Sync is going to provide the best experience overall. FreeSync is available for every price range, and there are some fantastic AMD monitors out there that will offer great value for money. Your personal needs and preferences will dictate, which will be the best choice for you. If you’re basing it off your current components, then the decision is easy. FreeSync if you’ve got an AMD GPU and G-Sync if you’ve got a Nvidia GPU. If you’re starting from scratch, use our guide to narrow down what features, you just can’t do without to decide which technology will be most beneficial to your rig.