One of the most appealing technologies with new generation gaming monitors and a few Televisions is the ability to sync the display’s refresh rate with the content being played. This is designed to minimize screen tearing caused by frame rate fluctuations, thus enabling a fluid gaming experience. This technology is known as a variable refresh rate (VRR) or Adaptive Sync.
Well, there are two primary iterations of this feature, AMD’s FreeSync and NVIDIAs G-SYNC. They are considered comparable in action but have several distinctions that need consideration when choosing between the two. In this read, we are going to compare freesync vs g sync, paying attention to connectivity and input lag, performance, implementation, pricing as well as additional features. But first;
A Brief History
Games with rendered graphics have long suffered from frame tear artifact, something that every gaming enthusiast dreads. Simply put, visible tearing occurs when the graphics card sends frames out of synchronization with the display’s refresh rate.
For most gaming monitors, that is 60Hz, but even displays that were capable of 144Hz or higher had the same fate. There was a need to sync the graphics card and display so that the frames would just render at the start of the cycle. The solution was to design gaming monitors with Adaptive Sync, and that’s what Nvidia did with G-Sync back in 2014.
The initial iteration was a $200 kit that people needed to install into their displays, but this wasn’t a sustainable solution. In the next generation, manufacturers started to include the necessary components into the screen, and that is how G-Sync comes today.
Well, AMD didn’t want to be left behind, and in 2015, they released something even more revolutionary; FreeSync. The technology featured the same concept but was included as part of the DisplayPort specification. The greatest part is that it was, and still is, free. Now people with Radeon graphics cards can enjoy smooth gaming experiences.
Freesync vs G Sync – Input Lag, Price, Performance Comparison
1. The Implementation
We have already discussed the implementation of both technologies above, but there are a few things to note. NVIDIA uses proprietary hardware to provide G-Sync. That means it only works with the Nvidia graphics card and is disabled when utilized with other sources.
AMD freesync works on conventional off the shelf components, giving the advantage of allowing companies to easily adapt existing designs and also not increase the costs.
While this sounds amazing in theory, in reality, it means that the implementation of FreeSync depends on the manufacturer. In most cases, monitors only support FreeSync within a restricted range and thus making it less useful.
So, while G-Sync might be more costly, it provides a standardized experience across all monitors.
2. Connectivity & Input Lag Comparison
G-Synch screens utilize the same hardware from NVIDIA, designed from scratch to focus on gaming. As such, all displays feature a low input lag. On the contrary, FreeSync displays are in a similar spot as non-adaptive displays.
This does not imply that FreeSync monitors have innately higher lag input, but you will need to go through the reviews for the measurement of input lag before making your buying decision.
However, using non-proprietary hardware has its pros. G-Sync modules just support one to two inputs. Even the new generation ones that feature HDMI as well as DisplayPort 1.2, are still restricted to HDMI 1.4 (which tends to be bandwidth restricted at higher resolutions or refresh rates and ideally does not feature G-Sync functionality).
On the contrary, FreeSync displays can feature as many inputs as possible, including the classic ones like DVI or VGA. However, FreeSync only works on DisplayPort or HDMI. FreeSync, unlike G-Sync, is also supported over HDMI.
The takeaway here is that even though G-Sync gives a low input lag, FreeSync is more versatile, which is ideal if you want to use your display with various devices.
3. Supported Cards
G-Sync, given its proprietary nature, can only be utilized with NVIDIA Graphics cards. FreeSync, however, was released for open use via the VESA consortium as an endorsed component of the DP interface.
This means anybody, including AMD competitors, Intel and NVIDIA can utilize the open Adaptive-Sync standard. You’ll also need a card that supports FreeSync available for only AMD graphics cards and APU’s and consoles like the Xbox One.
In early 2019, NVIDIA rolled out an update to the GeForce driver, which added support for the DP Adaptive-Sync. This means that anybody with a GTX 10/ 20 series card can enable G-Sync while still connected to a display that is FreeSync compatible via the DisplayPort. Here’s a current list of certified monitors.
The winner here again is FreeSync due to the fact that FreeSync monitors are now more versatile.
4. Extra Features
FreeSync technology’s primary aim is just to be a more accessible means for VRR, but G-Sync aims at being an ecosystem for the top of the line gaming displays, thus offering the best gaming experience. This does not imply that a FreeSync display cannot match a G-Sync one, but each G-Sync monitor features some bonus features.
Perhaps the most quintessential one is the Ultra Low Motion Blur feature, which is the company’s term for black frame insertion or image flicker. Its purpose is to improve clarity significantly. It might be impossible to use with G-Sync on, but it is an excellent premium feature that is not found in many FreeSync displays.
Variable Overdrive is another feature you will come across on every G-Sync display. Simply put, it adjusts the overshoot setting for every refresh rate in order to keep motion blur at a minimum.
Most displays come with overshoot settings, but they disabled every time you turn on FreeSync. That’s because they are only meant for a specific refresh rate. Up to date, we have not come across a FreeSync screen that includes such a feature.
Recently, NVIDIA and AMD announced new versions of their VRR technologies, G-Sync Ultimate HDR and FreeSync 2, respectively. Basically, G-Sync Ultimate HDR is a certification process for top tier HDR monitors.
FreeSync 2 includes an API that enables graphics cards to control some tone mapping functionalities that are often handled by the monitor itself. According to AMD, this could help decrease input lag. However, the simplicity of these functionalities doesn’t mean there’s a substantial benefit.
When it comes to additional features, G-Sync is the clear winner.
5. Price & Availability
When comparing these two technologies, chances are you have noticed G-Sync offers a more polished and feature-rich experience than FreeSync, but it ideally comes at a premium.
Ideally, most companies that include G-Sync usually make quasi-identical FreeSync variants utilizing a similar design. This is quite convenient as it makes it easy to make direct price comparisons and know how much the G-Sync feature adds to the price.
When you make a comparison of such monitors, you will come up with an average price difference of $190. This is totally expected as when the initial G-SYNC DIY upgrading kit was first launched, it went for $200. Nvidia lists the compatible options which range from the Titan X and 1080 Ti all the way down 1050, which retails for as little as $150.
Another important thing to keep in mind is FreeSync’s wide support, due to its low cost of implementation. As such, we wouldn’t be reaching to predict that your average everyday monitor will feature some kind of Adaptive-Sync, while NVIDIA’s G-Sync will be reserved for high-end select gaming displays.
Nowadays, you will also come across FreeSync in a wide array of TVs. It will also become a fundamental part of the new HDMI 2.1 displays.
The winner here is clearly, FreeSync. As a result of its minimal additional costs and open nature, FreeSync displays are easier to find and are always less pricey compared to their G-Sync counterparts.
Depending on your tastes and needs, you will quickly realize that there is no clear winner. More often than not, you will have to choose a technology that works best with your PC. Go with FreeSync if you own an AMD graphics card and G-Sync for NVIDIA cards.
When it comes to direct comparison, the most vital feature functions exactly the same. However, G-Sync provides a more consistent and polished experience but for a premium. This means that the best displays are often G-Sync. One the contrary, FreeSync monitors are readily available, but the capabilities can vary, depending on the price.