Variable refresh rate (VRR) technologies like AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync aim to solve one of the most persistent problems in gaming: screen tearing. By synchronizing the refresh rate of the monitor to the frame rate of the graphics card, they can eliminate tearing and provide a smoother, artifact-free gaming experience.
But FreeSync and G-Sync take different approaches, and debates rage online about which offers better performance and value. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll delve into the key differences between these technologies and offer recommendations for choosing the best VRR solution for your needs.
What Are FreeSync and G-Sync and How Do They Work?
Before comparing FreeSync and G-Sync, let‘s briefly explain what they are and how they work to combat screen tearing.
What is Screen Tearing?
Screen tearing happens when the graphics card renders frames faster than the monitor can display them. This leads to visible seams or tears as part of one frame overlaps with another. Screen tearing looks visually ugly and can negatively impact gaming.
How FreeSync Works
FreeSync is AMD‘s implementation of the open Adaptive Sync standard from VESA. FreeSync monitors have a variable refresh rate that dynamically matches the framerate of the graphics card. This syncs up the monitor‘s refresh cycles with the GPU‘s frame renders to prevent screen tearing.
FreeSync works over DisplayPort and is supported by AMD graphics cards and newer Nvidia 10 and 20 series GPUs. It requires no extra hardware in the monitor.
How G-Sync Works
G-Sync is Nvidia‘s proprietary take on variable refresh rate technology. G-Sync monitors have a dedicated G-Sync chip that allows the monitor to dynamically adapt its refresh rate based on frame renders from the GPU.
G-Sync works over DisplayPort and is exclusive to Nvidia graphics cards. The G-Sync hardware module increases costs for monitors.
Now that we‘ve covered the basics, let‘s do a deeper comparison of FreeSync vs G-Sync.
Key Differences Between FreeSync and G-Sync
While FreeSync and G-Sync both aim to solve screen tearing via variable refresh rates, they have some important differences:
|Open Adaptive Sync (VESA)
|AMD, Newer Nvidia
|Monitor Hardware Required?
|Yes, G-Sync chip
|No added cost
|Adds no lag
As this table summarizes, G-Sync is proprietary Nvidia technology that costs more but offers slightly better performance and smoothness based on testing from sources like RTings. FreeSync has wider GPU support and costs less, but can sometimes have minor performance penalties compared to G-Sync.
Let‘s explore some of these differences in more depth:
G-Sync Requires Proprietary Hardware, FreeSync Uses Open Standards
One of the biggest differences between these technologies comes down to open standards vs proprietary implementations.
FreeSync is based on the open Adaptive Sync standard from VESA that any company can implement. This means FreeSync monitors don‘t require special hardware – the tech is built into DisplayPort. AMD GPUs are designed to work with Adaptive Sync displays.
G-Sync relies on proprietary Nvidia technology. Monitors require a dedicated G-Sync chip to manage variable refresh rates. This adds to monitor costs but also gives Nvidia tighter control over the G-Sync ecosystem. Only newer Nvidia GPUs can take advantage of G-Sync.
G-Sync is More Expensive, FreeSync Has No Cost Premium
That proprietary G-Sync module comes at a real cost. Monitors with G-Sync hardware tend to cost $100 to $200 more than equivalent monitors without it. For example, the Asus VG278Q costs $350 with G-Sync but only $270 for the FreeSync version.
FreeSync monitors don‘t require special hardware, so turning on Adaptive Sync support doesn‘t increase costs for monitor makers. As a result, FreeSync monitors sell for the same price as standard monitors.
The premium for G-Sync makes FreeSync much more affordable. But is G-Sync‘s performance worth the extra investment?
FreeSync Supports AMD and Newer Nvidia GPUs, G-Sync is Nvidia Only
When it comes to GPU support, FreeSync has a clear advantage – it works with video cards from both AMD and Nvidia. All AMD GPUs support FreeSync, while Nvidia‘s newer 10 and 20 series cards can also enable Adaptive Sync in the driver software.
Meanwhile, G-Sync requires an Nvidia GPU. It‘s totally incompatible with AMD video cards. If you ever switch from Team Green to Team Red, a G-Sync monitor would lose variable refresh support.
FreeSync‘s wider GPU support makes it a better choice if there‘s any chance you‘ll use an AMD card now or in the future.
G-Sync Offers Smoother Performance, FreeSync Can Have Minor Issues
In practice, G-Sync tends to offer slightly better performance and smoothness than FreeSync monitors:
G-Sync has lower input lag – around 1 ms higher input lag vs non-G-Sync monitors according to RTings testing. FreeSync adds up to 1 ms of input lag.
G-Sync avoids brightness flickering at low frame rates, an issue that can occasionally impact FreeSync monitors.
G-Sync keeps refresh rates perfectly matched with frame rates. With FreeSync, actual refresh rate can be +/-2 Hz from the exact frame rate.
G-Sync is guaranteed to work with officially certified monitors. FreeSync can be more hit or miss depending on monitor implementation.
However, these differences are often quite minor and only relevant for competitive gaming. Both technologies offer huge improvements over non-VRR monitors. But G-Sync‘s strict certification and proprietary hardware edge out FreeSync a bit on guaranteed smoothness and performance.
When is G-Sync Worth the Extra Cost Over FreeSync?
Given the significant price premium for G-Sync monitors, the smoother performance often doesn‘t justify the added cost for many gamers. The exceptions are:
Competitive gamers who demand every bit of performance and play at framerates exceeding refresh rates. G-Sync‘s slightly lower input lag and rock solid variable refresh make it the best choice.
GPU-bound gamers running older graphics cards that can‘t consistently stay above 60 FPS. G-Sync really shines for keeping lower framerates smooth and tear-free.
Those with budgets for high-end gear who want the very best variable refresh experience money can buy.
Nvidia loyalists who won‘t even consider AMD graphics cards. These gamers need G-Sync for variable refresh.
For most other gamers, FreeSync monitors offer incredible value. Unless you fit the profiles above, saving money with FreeSync makes more sense than paying the G-Sync premium.
FreeSync vs G-Sync: General Recommendations
Based on their differences, pros, and cons, here are some general recommendations for choosing between FreeSync vs G-Sync:
- On a budget, choose a FreeSync monitor
- With an AMD GPU, go with FreeSync
- If you may switch between AMD and Nvidia, get FreeSync
- For competitive gaming, get G-Sync
- For a high-end system, get G-Sync
- If you only use Nvidia GPUs, get G-Sync
As a quick rule of thumb:
- FreeSync provides the best overall value for most gamers
- G-Sync offers slightly better performance for high-end users
But there are many monitor-specific factors beyond VRR tech alone. Keep reading for additional guidance.
Choosing the Best FreeSync or G-Sync Gaming Monitor
Variable refresh rate technology is important, but gaming monitor choice ultimately depends on your specific needs and setup.
Here are some tips for picking the right FreeSync or G-Sync monitor:
Look at the refresh rate. Higher is better, with 120Hz or 144Hz ideal for gaming.
Consider the resolution. 1080p is still the norm, 1440p offers a balance, and 4K is best for visuals.
Know your GPU power. Aim for refresh rate + resolution combos your graphics card can actually hit.
Decide monitor size based on screen real estate needs and viewing distance.
Compare response times – 1ms is ideal, 4ms or less is good for gaming.
Check for HDR support if you want higher dynamic range.
Read reviews for real-world FreeSync and G-Sync performance results.
Find your budget sweet spot between features and price.
Prioritize refresh rate and resolution first. Then choose between similarly specced FreeSync vs G-Sync models based on reviews and pricing.
Here are some of the top gaming monitors offering either exceptional FreeSync or G-Sync performance:
Outstanding FreeSync Monitors
- LG 27GL850 27" QHD Nano IPS – 1440p, 144Hz, 1ms response time
- AOC CQ27G2 27" QHD Curved VA – 1440p, 144Hz, 1ms response time
- ViewSonic VX2758-2KP-MHD 27" QHD IPS – 1440p, 144Hz, 1ms response time
Top G-Sync Monitors
- Asus ROG Swift PG279Q 27" QHD IPS – 1440p, 165Hz, 4ms response time
- Acer Predator XB273K GP 27" 4K IPS – 4K, 144Hz, 1ms response time
- Alienware 25 AW2521HFL 24.5" FHD Fast IPS – 1080p, 240Hz, 1ms response time
Use the criteria above to determine which screen best fits your gaming needs and budget.
Tips for Enabling and Optimizing FreeSync or G-Sync
Once you have a compatible monitor, here are some quick tips for enabling variable refresh rates and getting the most out of FreeSync or G-Sync:
- Enable FreeSync in the monitor‘s on-screen menu
- Turn on FreeSync in the AMD Radeon graphics settings
- Enable VRR support in game settings if available
- Use DisplayPort for FreeSync over HDMI
- Enable G-Sync in the monitor‘s on-screen menu
- Enable G-Sync in the Nvidia Control Panel
- Select G-Sync certified mode if available
- Use DisplayPort and cap framerates below max refresh rate
Experiment between enabling VRR modes like fullscreen, windowed, or G-Sync certified to find what works best for each game.
Using the right cables and connections, enabling VRR support in games, and capping framerates can help maximize smoothness.
FreeSync vs G-Sync: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about AMD FreeSync versus Nvidia G-Sync:
Can you use FreeSync with Nvidia GPUs?
Yes, Nvidia 10 series and up GPUs support FreeSync. However, performance may not be as robust as native G-Sync.
Does G-Sync work with AMD graphics cards?
No, G-Sync requires an Nvidia GPU. It‘s totally incompatible with AMD cards.
Is G-Sync worth it over FreeSync?
Only for competitive gaming and high-end systems. For most gamers, FreeSync provides better overall value.
What happens if I use FreeSync on a 60Hz monitor?
FreeSync can still help smooth out framerates between 30-60 FPS. But you won‘t benefit above 60Hz.
Why does FreeSync cause stuttering or flickering sometimes?
Issues are often tied to sub-par monitor implementations. Quality FreeSync monitors have excellent performance on par with G-Sync.
Can I use HDMI for FreeSync or G-Sync?
FreeSync works over HDMI, but some monitors limit features. G-Sync requires DisplayPort. For best results, use DisplayPort for both.
Should I limit FPS with FreeSync or G-Sync?
It can help to limit FPS to 2-3 frames below max refresh. This reduces stuttering and screen tearing at high framerates.
Have more questions? Let us know in the comments!
The Case for G-Sync Over FreeSync is Limited
While minor performance differences give G-Sync the edge, FreeSync offers almost as good variable refresh at a much lower price point. For the majority of gamers, FreeSync delivers incredible value.
The G-Sync premium is hard to justify for most users. Only competitive esports players, 4K enthusiasts, and devoted Nvidia fans need to pay extra for G-Sync displays.
For everyone else, FreeSync monitors provideadaptive sync technology that massively improves gaming experiences at virtually no added cost.
AMD FreeSync strikes the better balance for most between performance and affordability. But some hardcore gamers still swear by the smoother experience provided by G-Sync. Hopefully this detailed comparison helps you decide whether it‘s worth paying more for Nvidia‘s solution or if FreeSync will meet your needs.