G-Sync vs. Freesync – this is a battle between 2 giants – NVIDIA and AMD. It is much more than a war over the fractions of a frame per second. It is basically about the adaptive refresh technology and how it will impact your games to make it much smoother. There is not much of a huge difference between the two. The gap is really small. It is such that one would not even notice it unless you are consciously looking out for the differences. Many people still ponder over the question as to which one to go for. Before answering this question, one must actually understand why these two solutions came in to being.
What is screen tearing?
Screen tearing happens when the graphics card interacts with the monitor and tells it what to display. It sends the images, and these images are rendered at a refresh rate which is predetermined. Refresh rate is the rate at which the monitor renders a new frame after asking the graphics card for it. The speed of display depends on the power of the card.
Generally, regular monitors have a refresh rate of 60 Hz, which means 60 frames per second. High performing gaming monitors can manage up to 144 Hz, or 144 frames per second.
When the graphics card tries to push an extra frame to your display when it is not ready, screen tearing is caused. There is a setting called “Vsync” which solves this problem from the software side. It could be enabled in any game to lock the frame output to the refresh rate that is expected by the monitor. This is usually 60 Hz. If you have a graphic card that is capable of adapting to this setting, then you are good to go. If not, then Vsync starts throwing numbers, and some random number taken up. It could be anywhere between 45 Hz to 10 Hz. This affects the performance of your game considerably. As such, it is not a really effective solution.
Our Exclusive Guide: Best Gaming Monitor
VESA Adaptive Sync
AMD’s FreeSync solution uses the “adaptive sync” technology which is a legacy solution that works effectively. It is the first hardware based solution to control the problem of screen tearing. It is an open source technology which maintains a consistent layer of frames and the screen is refreshed in sync with one another. It is ridiculously cheap to implement given the fact that it is open source. As such, AMD is a low budget option for all the gamers out there.
Nvidia has its own solution known as the ”G-Sync”. It is their version of the adaptive sync. Here, there is a chip used in the monitor which is specifically designed to communicate directly with the other Nvidia based graphic cards.
As you see, both the solutions do the same thing. There are 2 separate pieces of hardware created inside the monitor and the graphics card to control the problem of screen tearing.
G-Sync vs. FreeSync explained
The first difference you will hear when it comes to adaptive refresh technology is that of having closed and open standard. G-Sync is Nvidia’s proprietary technology. As such, you would need the company’s permission and cooperation to use it. On the other hand, FreeSync is open source and free to use. Implementing it is a goal of the program, and it is not for making money.
Given the price factor, you would assume that FreeSync is more widely adopted. However, both are equally used as of now. The main reason or this could be that G-Sync has been in the market for a longer time and it is also managed by Nvidia which is known to the leader in GPU manufacturing currently.
Let us see how both the solutions fare based on the other factors:
G-Sync and FreeSync Price Range
When you implement a refresh management technology, there is a cost on both sides – the monitor and the GPU.
If you select Nvidia, there will be a lot of heavy lifting required by the monitor to adjust the refresh rate. This will be reflected in how much you will have to pay for the monitor. Each manufacturer has to pay Nvidia for using the hardware. As such, the impact will be on your pocket. Since the technology has been available for a really long time, it should not be that hard. For the G-Sync module, since the monitor does the heavy lifting part, you could go for cheaper graphic cards. This will cover up for the cost you paid for that monitor.
As for FreeSync, you will not have to pay as much for the monitor. The manufacturer does not have to include a premium on it. When you get a graphics card, you will need to select one that supports FreeSync. This might be a tad bit on the high side.
There are performance differences between both standards. When using FreeSync, many users have said that even though tearing and stuttering are reduced, there is another problem of ghosting. This happens when the objects move on the screen and they leave a bit of the image behind at their last position. This seems like a shadow or something. Though some people might not even notice this effect, it really annoys a few others.
The main reason for ghosting is power management. If enough power is not applied to the pixels, then image gets gaps in it, too much power, and this causes ghosting. Balancing the adaptive refresh technology with efficient power distribution is a tough call.
When the frame rate is not consistent with the refresh range for the monitor, both the systems start to suffer. G-Sync reacts by showing problems by flickering when the frame rate becomes too low. Even though the technology has ways to fix it, exceptions are found usually. FreeSync causes stuttering problems when the frame rate drops to a value below the stated minimum refresh rate for the monitor.
Most avid gamers prefer to go for G-Sync as it does not show stutter issues when frame rates drop. As such, it is smoother in real world scenarios. G-Sync does not have a minimum refresh rate. It could work all the way up to 240 FPS and down to even 1 FPS. This works great for people who have high powered systems. Some of the FreeSync monitors come with rally narrow adaptive refresh range. This is generally between 20 FPS to 144 FPS. As such, if the video card is not able to deliver the frames within that given range, it causes problems and affects performance.
One more point to be noted is that Nvidia is currently the only company that supports the best gaming laptops. AMD has not announced any plans to import FreeSync to mobile gaming. So, this is a place where Nvidia has a strong grip.
Mix and Match?
Given the bitter rivalry between AMD and Nvidia, mixing and matching is totally out of question. Both are different technologies that work mutually exclusively.
There is definitely a huge price gap between choosing G-Sync and FreeSync. G-Sync is way more expensive. Even then, it is hugely popular given the one reason that it is superior. G-Sync will not cause any issues of ghosting and gives a much more consistent performance overall. Currently, Nvidia is known to be the performance king. Going for FreeSync would be much cheaper, but what you get in return is not as superior either. If you are on a tight budget and can manage a little delay here and there and small image issues, then FreeSync is the one for you.
Also, check our latest article comparing the best 4k gaming monitors of this year.
In the end, both technologies accomplish their goals and give the users a seamless gaming experience. They are way superior to V-Sync. Whichever you choose to go for is definitely going to give you a better experience than traditional solutions.