One of the highlights of NVIDIA’s CES 2019 keynote was G-Sync. Not only did NVIDIA announce G-Sync Ultimate, it also opened the technology for FreeSync monitors.
To put it plainly, NVIDIA would roll out an update that will enable G-Sync on a FreeSync monitor. It was a huge surprise and one that was met with much applause from gamers on the internet. NVIDIA went as far as to announce that it would test all adaptive-sync displays on the market and certify those that meets baseline VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) requirement.
NVIDIA released GeForce update 417.71 this week which adds G-Sync option. But first let us understand what it is and how it works.
Why G-Sync Matters
Games are rendered by the GPU and displayed on your screen. Your screen works at a certain refresh rate, say 60 Hz, for most monitors out there, but your GPU does not. The GPU keeps pumping frames and the screen refreshes in every 16.67ms (lower for higher refresh rates) and accepts the frame sent by the GPU.
But undesirable things happen if the frame-rate falls below 60 fps (frames per second). Because the screen missed the window on displaying a new frame, you’ll experience stuttering and input lag. Similarly, if the GPU is pumping frames faster than the display’s refresh rate it would draw the next frame when it’s ready while the previous one is still being displayed on the screen – this results in screen tearing.
We’ve all experienced screen-tearing. It’s that split-screen effect where you see partial image of the next frame while the current one is displayed below.
Traditionally, the answer to this was V-Sync (Vertical Sync). It locks the GPU to deliver the next frame only when the display is ready. This eliminates screen-tearing but introduces stuttering and input lag. Competitive gamers prefer playing with V-Sync off because it provides better response.
G-Sync solves this problem by locking the screen to match the GPU. Screen will display the next frame as soon as the GPU can deliver it. You get consistent frames, no stuttering, no input lag, no screen tearing.
Competing with NVIDIA is AMD’s FreeSync technology. The latter is open-source technology which manufacturers have adopted without the requirement of proprietary hardware from NVIDIA. FreeSync enabled monitors cost significantly cheaper than G-Sync monitors. NVIDIA works with manufacturers to meet certain requirements before a G-Sync monitor is shipped out. Hence, the premium price tag.
What is ‘G-Sync Compatible’
It’s NVIDIA’s certification for screens that meet the baseline requirements for a VRR experience. That means that a screen should not exhibit blanking, pulsing, flickering, ghosting or other artifacts while gaming.
The “G-Sync Compatible” logo lets customers know this monitor supports the feature. Thus far, NVIDIA has certified 12 screens out of hundreds in the market, but more will be added. You can take the plunge and test it yourself by downloading the new driver; we’ll get there in a sec.
With that said, this does not replace or overshadows actual G-Sync monitors. NVIDIA says its G-Sync monitors go through 300 compatibility and quality tests and can go as low as 1 Hz. A full list of compatible displays can be found here.
What You Need
There are few things you need to keep in mind. compatible monitors only work if you have GTX 10-series or RTX-20 series. Anything lower does not work, at least not at the time of writing this article.
You also need DisplayPort. Although FreeSync over HDMI works but this compatibility for FreeSync monitor supports DisplayPort 1.2 at the moment. And lastly, you need a FreeSync display capable of displaying at least 60 Hz.
How to Enable G-Sync on Your FreeSync Monitor
First, update your drivers to 471.17. You can use GeForce Experience to check for updates or head over to GeForce driver page here and select your hardware.
Once you’ve updated, follow the steps below:
- Open NVIDIA Control Panel by right-clicking on Desktop
- Click on Manage 3D Settings
- Scroll down the list to Monitor Technology
This setting might be automatically set to G-Sync Compatible if your monitor compatible, else enable it.
- Under Display tab on your left, click on Set up G-Sync
- Under Apply following changes, make sure the Enable G-Sync, S-Sync Compatible and Enable for windowed and full screen mode are checked
Now you have G-Sync working on your display. Fire up some games or check NVIDIA’s G-Sync demo.