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.
The above-mentioned points can be partially solved by enabling VSYNC which is available in your drivers/game settings. VSYNC synchronizes GPU’s frame rates 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 (it’s noticeable in competitive games though) 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 with only a minor (~1ms) 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 poor game optimization or lack of CPU/GPU power.
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 even 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 the monitor’s maximum refresh rate (or a few Hz/FPS lower for even less input lag) 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, a variable refresh rate makes 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 NVIDIA’s G-SYNC, AMD’s FreeSync provides a variable refresh rate for FreeSync monitors paired with compatible AMD graphics cards.
However, while G-SYNC gaming monitors have an extra module inside of them which is installed by NVIDIA, VESA Adaptive-Sync (FreeSync) is a free and open standard, so it does not increase the monitor’s price.
The built-in module guarantees minimal input lag penalty and a wide dynamic refresh rate range but it also affects the cost of the display.
In contrast, FreeSync monitors have a more limited variable refresh rate range though that’s not an issue with FreeSync displays that support LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) i.e all FreeSync monitors with a variable refresh rate range of at least 2.5:1 dynamic range ratio (for example 30-75Hz).
Lastly, unlike G-SYNC monitors, most FreeSync displays don’t support variable overdrive which would allow you to simultaneously use a VRR and the response time overdrive which increases the monitor’s response time speed; not to be confused with the motion blur reduction/backlight strobing technology.
G-SYNC Compatible FreeSync Monitors
As of 15 January 2019, some FreeSync monitors also work with certain NVIDIA cards (GTX 10-series, GTX 16-series, RTX 20-series, or newer).
You can check a list of all G-SYNC compatible/certified FreeSync gaming monitors here.
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.
Ideally, you should get a G-SYNC compatible FreeSync monitor which doesn’t increase the monitor’s price yet it provides you with a variable refresh rate for both AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards.
Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.