What is G-Sync and is it worth it?
Are you looking for a new monitor? Maybe an upgrade to a higher refresh rate or maybe even just a size upgrade. Could it be you’re wondering why your screen is tearing in-game even with that high priced graphics card? If you are then you have probably come across something called G-Sync before.
G-sync is an adaptive sync technology created by the graphics card giants Nvidia. The technology was created to help prevent screen tearing and it did this by synchronising monitor refresh rates to graphics cards frame rate, ultimately ending in some silky-smooth gameplay. In this article, we are going to look at what exactly G-Sync is, if it can help you and if it's generally worth it or not.
What is G-sync & will it help you?
V-sync was around first to try and help with screen tearing and it did this by capping the frame rate of the monitor to match your GPUs output, but if it dipped you would still witness some stuttering. G-Sync was originally designed to be used with V-sync however Nvidia soon allowed people to turn this option off. The G-sync module allows for a dynamic refresh rate that matches the output from your GPU much like V-sync but it takes care of the dips also.
G-sync updates the screen exactly when the frame is finished and wants to be output by the GPU. The refresh rate is the maximum frame rate used by the G-sync module and with G-sync you shouldn’t get any lag or tearing. The reason for synchronising is down to refresh rates from both your monitor and graphics card, with the monitor working at a fixed refresh rate and the cards refresh rate fluctuating often resulting in a screen tear.
So the bottom line is if your GPU is creating frames at a lower rate than your monitors refresh rate you should experience some stuttering and if it's operating faster then it can show the next frame too quickly resulting in a tear.
Unlike V-sync which caps the frame rate to match the monitors refresh rate, G-sync allows the monitor to work at a variable refresh rate matching the GPU and ultimately eliminating the chance of tearing and lag as it accounts for dips and peaks in performance.
Let's put this into a real-life scenario. So if you are playing a demanding game with G-sync enabled and achieving 100 fps, your monitors refresh rate in real time is matching that frame rate. Let's say you come to a part in the game that is even more demanding on your GPU and you witness a much lower FPS then it shouldn't be an issue as your frame rate is matched yet again by the module.
Being a proprietary technology the G-sync module can be considered an expensive luxury as the G-sync scaler replaces the standard one in a monitor. Other sync technologies such as Freesync are hardware-software solutions too and are normally a cheaper option due to the scaler being manufactured by multiple different companies.
The addition of G-sync can sometimes add hundreds of £/$ to your bill but as of this year (2019), Nvidia began to release drivers that would enable their GPU’s to work with certain Adaptive sync and Freesync monitors. This now makes G-sync a more affordable option and is a brilliant move from Nvidia even if it took them a little while to get here.
Another downside to G-sync is it will not work with AMD graphics cards so if you have AMD or plan on going down this route do not buy a G-sync monitor. G-Sync only works with Nvidia cards but the monitor would still work on your AMD setup meaning you would have paid a premium for no extra features.
AMD graphics cards use a different adaptive sync technology developed by themselves called Freesync. Freesync, unlike G-sync, is open source so monitors don't require a proprietary module which creates a competitive market and reduces the cost. Freesync is often used in more budget monitors which drive the price down and passes on the savings to the consumer(you).
It’s worth noting while G-sync locks the frame rate to the upper limit of the monitor Freesync can bypass this and give you higher frames. This would result in some tearing as your frame rate and refresh rate wouldn't match but would keep input lag very low. Some Freesync monitors are now compatible with Nvidia cards giving yet another option to gamers.
A Quick fix to the tearing issue could be to turn on V-sync in your settings. V-sync is otherwise known as vertical sync and caps your graphics cards frame rate to the refresh rate of the monitor. This may deal with the tearing issue in the same way G-sync and Freesync do however V-sync doesn't deal with the dips in performance and you can still get a ‘stuttering’ effect.
Is G-Sync worth it?
G-sync can be worth it but it does depend on your preferences or your budget. If you have money to spare and want the best ‘future proof’ setup you can get then buying into G-sync is a smart investment as this technology becomes more widely available over time.
On the other hand, you may not want to put up with the input lag V-sync can cause and would prefer a cheaper alternative to G-sync, then Freesync would be your best bet. If going down the Freesync route though make sure to have an AMD graphics card or a monitor with Freesync that is compatible with an Nvidia card.
This sort of technology is great for those that hate tearing and want to run demanding games smoothly but if you're just into hardcore FPS or low spec games then this increase in your budget is probably not needed.