As Fast As Possible
If you have a powerful NVIDIA graphics card and want to use it to its fullest potential, getting a gaming monitor with G-SYNC will provide you with the smoothest gameplay experience by completely removing screen tearing and stuttering.
The benefits of G-SYNC won’t be equally rewarding for all games and setups; So, whether it’s worth it depends on the rest of your PC rig and on what type of games you’re playing, at what picture settings/refresh rate, and on your budget.
After seeing that some monitors cost up to $400 extra just for the G-SYNC feature, you’ll certainly be wondering whether it is worth it more than a computer hardware upgrade you could get for that amount of money.
In order to make that decision, you must first know what G-SYNC does.
First of all, we’ll compare a regular and a G-SYNC monitor and how the video card functions in both cases. Regular monitors have fixed refresh rates, usually at 60Hz, 144Hz, 200Hz, etc. The graphics card’s GPU sends that number of frames per second to the screen.
If the GPU isn’t powerful enough to do that consistently, it will repeat the previous frame instead which results in a stuttery performance. In case the GPU is too strong, it will send more frames than the monitor can show and you will get screen tearing.
Vsync (Vertical Sync)
The above-mentioned points can be partially solved by enabling Vsync which is available in some games’ settings. Vsync synchronizes the GPU’s frame rate to the monitor’s maximum refresh rate which prevents screen tearing. However, when the GPU can’t keep up with the required frame rate, you will still experience screen stutter.
Moreover, Vsync adds the cost of input lag. Most people don’t even notice the increased input lag that Vsync creates unless you enable Triple Buffering as well, which is an option sometimes found along with Vsync. Triple Buffering prevents FPS from dropping but causes noticeable lag.
Both G-SYNC and FreeSync can be considered as the next and improved generation of Vsync. Instead of relying on your display’s max refresh rate, G-SYNC and FreeSync allow the monitor’s refresh rate to be changed dynamically to match the GPU’s capabilities which in turn eliminates both screen tearing and stuttering completely without the input lag penalty.
Note that in some rare cases, when your FPS rate suddenly drops by a large amount, you may still experience screen stutter but this is mainly due to the poor game optimization.
When is G-SYNC not worth it?
While G-SYNC can drastically improve the gameplay experience, in some games, you won’t need any improvements whatsoever.
If you mostly play competitive games and have no issues reaching and maintaining the maximum refresh rate of your monitor, for example, 144Hz/FPS, do you really need G-SYNC?
At such high frame rates, screen tearing is barely noticeable though it’s still there. If you’re bothered by it, G-SYNC can completely eliminate it, but you can also limit your framerate to 143 FPS in your drivers’ or game’s settings to prevent this.
On a related note, some of NVIDA’s G-SYNC monitors also offer a feature called ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur) which cannot be active at the same time as G-SYNC since it only works at the given fixed refresh rates.
The ULMB technology uses backlight strobing to increase motion clarity for a more clear and crisp fast-paced action. However, some non-G-SYNC monitors also offer this feature without the added extra cost. So, if you just want a gaming monitor with motion blur reduction, you don’t have to rely on NVIDIA’s ULMB.
On balance, if your GPU doesn’t need any help with the performance, G-SYNC only adds a more fluent feel to gaming which some users prefer and some actually do not as they feel that the added fluidity of G-SYNC interferes with the responsiveness of the otherwise unrestricted frame rate.
When is G-SYNC worth it?
If you want to future-proof your system, getting a G-SYNC gaming monitor is one of the best ways to do it. When newer and more demanding games are released, G-SYNC can make gaming at ~40 FPS seem as smooth as gaming at 60FPS.
Overall, if you just play popular e-Sports FPS games, you most likely won’t need a monitor with NVIDIA G-SYNC and should preferably get a display with motion blur reduction technology (backlight strobing) instead.
In any other case, G-SYNC provides a smoother gaming experience and you don’t have to worry about screen tearing, stuttering, nor input lag.
G-SYNC vs FreeSync
Just like G-SYNC, AMD’s FreeSync synchronizes the GPU’s frame rate with the monitor’s refresh rate, so what’s the difference between the two?
The G-SYNC gaming monitors have a module inside of them which is installed by NVIDIA while AMD’s FreeSync is a free and open standard. This means that some FreeSync monitors will have a very narrow dynamic refresh rate range.
Furthermore, most of the G-SYNC monitors also feature the ULMB feature. But is it all worth the extra $100-$300 depending on the monitor?
If you’re buying both a new GPU and a new monitor, you should consider going the AMD route for a more budget-friendly option with basically identical performance. However, if you want the absolute best high-end gaming experience, you’ll need to pay the premium for NVIDIA, but you will also get an impeccable gameplay performance.
Although opinions on whether G-SYNC is worth the money may vary, you should keep in mind that people have different computer equipment, play differently optimized video games, and don’t perceive things such as the input lag and screen tearing the same way.
The bottom line is that G-SYNC is extremely useful for gaming and future-proofing your system. However, depending on what you are playing and at what picture settings/refresh rate, you may not actually need it though it will certainly come in handy sooner or later.
Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time on writing for DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.