What are G-Sync and FreeSync?.
If you’ve spent any time arguing between monitors, you’ve come across the terms “G-Sync” and “FreeSync”. Unless you’re a performance-minded gamer, these terms likely mean little to you.
But knowing what these terms mean and how adaptive sync technology works can help you make the best decision about which monitor to use.
What is Adaptive Sync?
Both FreeSync and G-Sync are forms of adaptive sync. If you’ve ever played a game and experienced screen tearing, sharpening, or other graphical errors, you know how destructive it can be.
These errors often occur because the frame rate of the computer’s graphics processing unit (GPU) and the refresh rate of the monitor do not match. Adaptive sync is the process by which the refresh rate of the monitor matches the frame rate of the GPU.
Monitor Refresh Rates
Most display problems are due to inconsistent refresh rates. Most modern monitors refresh about 60 times per second or 60 Hz. However, there are also monitors at 75Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz, and even 240Hz. These devices can provide better performance if you have a higher frame rate graphics card.
Screen tearing and other graphics issues occur when the refresh rate of the monitor and the frame rate generated by the GPU do not match. You may notice screen tearing like in the screenshot above when the top half of the screen image is out of sync with the bottom half.
Think of it this way: older games usually don’t require graphics intensity, so adaptive sync is not required to match the GPU frame rate to the monitor refresh rate.
On the other hand, more modern games can tire even high-end GPUs. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a good example of this; even a high-end gaming computer can barely play more than 30-45 frames per second.
When the game’s frame rate is higher than the monitor’s refresh rate, the screen will tear and stutter as the display can’t keep up.
FreeSync Vs G-Sync
Both FreeSync and G-Sync are designed to smooth the display of the image on the monitor, but they approach this using different methods. Both technologies also differ at the hardware level. The main difference between the two is that FreeSync is AMD technology and G-Sync is NVIDIA technology.
What is Freesync?
FreeSync is used by AMD graphics cards, so it is not available to NVIDIA users. It is also not available on all monitors. Only displays that support VESA Adaptive-Sync can use FreeSync. Compatible monitors allow their internal boards to handle all the rendering and processing to display the image correctly. FreeSync works over both HDMI and DisplayPort.
However, the FreeSync brand isn’t just casually applied to compatible monitors. Displays go through a series of rigorous tests and must meet certain criteria to be eligible to use the FreeSync trademark.
In terms of cost, FreeSync compatible monitors are generally more affordable than comparable G-Sync monitors. This is primarily because FreeSync uses an open-source standard created by VESA.
What is G-Sync?
G-Sync is NVIDIA Adaptive Sync, an alternative to FreeSync. While FreeSync relies on an open-source program as its basis, G-Sync relies on a proprietary chip for rendering and processing. This makes G-Sync compatible monitors slightly more expensive. Because of this, there is a general consensus that G-Sync is the best technology, but this is not entirely true.
There are three main types of G-Sync technology: G-Sync, G-Sync Ultimate, and G-Sync Compatible. G-Sync is the standard option, while G-Sync Compatible is a more budget option. G-Sync Ultimate is the most expensive choice as the monitor must meet extremely stringent standards.
FreeSync Vs. G-Sync: Which One is Better?
Choosing between FreeSync and G-Sync is harder than it sounds, but there is one aspect that makes it easy. If you have a computer with an AMD graphics card and don’t plan on changing it, FreeSync is your only option.
On the other hand, if you have an NVIDIA graphics card, G-Sync is your choice. If you are building a car from scratch, more variables come into play.
At lower resolutions, the difference in performance between the two technologies is harder to notice. At 1080p and 60Hz, you can see the difference, but it’s often small and not worth the extra cost. If you plan to improve performance but want to save as much as possible, FreeSync is more wallet-friendly.
If you’re after the absolute ultimate in performance, especially with 4K and HDR, choose G-Sync. While FreeSync is fine and works reasonably well in most situations, G-Sync is better at higher performance levels.
G-Sync Ultimate surpasses Freesync every step of the way, and NVIDIA is the current leader in the GPU market. If graphics make or interfere with your work, stick with G-Sync.