As Fast As Possible
NVIDIA’s G-SYNC technology synchronizes a compatible graphics card’s frame rate (FPS) with a G-SYNC monitor’s refresh rate (Hz). The result is a dynamic, or variable, refresh rate which completely eliminates screen tearing and stuttering.
You’ve probably heard of G-SYNC. You will find it in most high-end gaming monitors. You will also find that G-SYNC monitors are usually significantly more expensive than the gaming monitors without it. So, what exactly does it do and is it worth it?
What Is G-SYNC Technology?
G-SYNC is NVIDIA’s technology that synchronizes a monitor’s refresh rate with a graphics card’s frame rate in order to improve the gameplay performance.
All GeForce GTX graphics cards starting from the GTX 650 Ti Boost support G-SYNC as long as you have a G-SYNC compatible gaming monitor.
Unlike standard gaming monitors, G-SYNC displays have a special module installed in them that enables the variable refresh rate. This also increases the price of the monitor by $100-$400 depending on the model.
Note that you can also use a G-SYNC monitor with an AMD graphics card, but the refresh rate won’t be synchronized.
What Does G-SYNC Do?
Traditional monitors operate at a fixed refresh rate, commonly at 60Hz, 100Hz, 144Hz, etc. This means that the display is refreshing the screen 60 times (if it’s a 60Hz monitor) in a second to create the image.
Naturally, for the image to be created in the first place, the GPU has to render a certain amount of frames and send them to the display.
If the graphics card isn’t powerful enough to keep up with the monitor’s refresh rate, you will experience screen stutter in video games. In case the card sends out more frames than the monitor’s refresh rate, you get screen tearing.
There are several ways to prevent the above-mentioned issues, but none of them are as effective as G-SYNC.
VSync (Vertical Sync)
In essence, G-SYNC is an improved version of Vsync. You can find VSync in the display driver settings or in video game settings.
Enabling Vsync makes the GPU hold the frame until the monitor is ready to display it. This will eliminate screen tearing but will increase input lag. This even happens on the higher refresh rate monitors, but the input lag penalty is much shorter on these displays.
When Vsync is disabled, then the GPU sends frames to the monitor as soon as they are rendered, regardless of whether or not the monitor has finished its refresh cycle and is ready to move on to the next frame. This causes screen tearing if things become unsynchronized.
How Does G-SYNC Work?
G-SYNC allows the display’s refresh rate to change dynamically according to the intensity of the work required by the graphics card.
By doing so, G-SYNC eliminates screen tearing and stuttering for good as long as your FPS (Frames Per Second) rate stays within the range of the dynamic refresh rate which starts at 30Hz/FPS and goes to the maximum refresh rate of the monitor.
Of course, this also means that if your FPS rate suddenly drops below 30, you will experience screen stutter in which case you may want to lower the in-game picture settings if it occurs too often.
ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur)
While G-SYNC provides a smoother gameplay experience by eliminating screen tearing, reducing stuttering and decreasing input lag, it does not affect motion blur.
That’s why most G-SYNC gaming monitors (not all of them!) also have a feature called ULMB available. When enabled, this technology strobes the backlight in order to reduce the perceived motion blur.
Note that ULMB works only at certain given fixed refresh rates such as 100Hz, 120Hz, etc and that it cannot be activated at the same time as G-SYNC. What’s more, enabling backlight strobing reduces the monitor brightness.
G-SYNC HDR can be considered as the second generation of G-SYNC.
Basically, it brings support for HDR (High Dynamic Range) gaming while keeping all the original advantages of G-SYNC.
NVIDIA G-SYNC vs AMD FreeSync
If you have an AMD graphics card, you should look for a FreeSync monitor instead.
FreeSync monitors don’t have a dedicated module inside of the display, so there’s no extra cost involved.
However, FreeSync monitors usually have a more narrow dynamic range. For instance, a 144Hz G-SYNC monitor has a 30Hz-144Hz dynamic range whereas a standard 144Hz FreeSync monitor will have a 48-144Hz range. Of course, there are exceptions.
In short, FreeSync is the best way to go for gamers on a budget while G-SYNC is for those who want a premium quality and are willing to pay extra for it.
G-SYNC System Requirements
NVIDIA G-SYNC requirements:
- G-SYNC capable graphics card – minimum GTX 650 Ti Boost
- G-SYNC capable monitor
- DisplayPort 1.2
NVIDIA G-SYNC HDR requirements:
- G-SYNC capable graphics card – minimum GTX 1050
- G-SYNC capable monitor
- DisplayPort 1.4
See a list of all G-SYNC monitors here.
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.