Which is better FreeSync or Gsync
No matter which of our recommendations for the best gaming monitors you look at, one thing is often noticed immediately. Almost all of them support AMD FreeSync or nVidia's G-Sync technology for variable refresh rates.
But what exactly are G-Sync or FreeSync and why are these technologies so important for gaming? We clarify all your burning questions about FreeSync and G-Sync here. Below you will learn what the two technologies do, how they differ from each other and which one is best for your monitor.
We'll also go into the new "G-Sync Compatible" standard (Nvidia finally supports FreeSync!) And show you what the G-Sync Ultimate and FreeSync 2 specifications bring with them.
TLDR: Freesync or G-Sync (or G-Sync compatible)?
If you get a new monitor with a variable refresh rate anyway (it's hard to avoid it these days), we advise you to use a G-Sync-compatible monitor. In this way you are flexible to be able to use either an Nvidia or an AMD graphics card, which gives you future security. You also have a standardized variable refresh rate and avoid the annoying searching around with pure Freesync monitors. But if you can afford it - get a G-Sync monitor if you want the full package.
Freesync and G-Sync: short definition and function
In short, G-Sync and FreeSync are two different types of adaptive synchronization technology (also known as adaptive frame sync for short). Both synchronize your graphics card with the refresh rate of your monitor (quasi how often the screen updates itself per second) so that the images always arrive on the monitor at the right time.
This makes games feel more fluid and, for example, can reduce the "tearing" of the image. This is the case when your monitor cannot update itself fast enough to process all of the data sent by the graphics card.
Left with Freesync, right without - the picture "tears", as it were (Tearing) (picture via AMD)
Both technologies are similar to the V-Sync options (also known as vertical sync or V-sync called), which you can always find in the graphics options of most games. However, Freesync and G-Sync are much better and go a step further.
Isn't V-Sync the same?
Normal V-Sync forces the GPU to send pictures only at certain times instead of when they are ready. If your graphics card delivers frames even though the monitor is not "ready" for them, your monitor shows a part of the current and the next frame on the screen at the same time.
This can lead to the dreaded frame drop, tearing or juddering. It looks like the image is splitting in two and distorting in different directions.
While V-Sync limits the output of your graphics card to the maximum refresh rate of your monitor (such as 60 FPS for a 60 Hz monitor), G-Sync and FreeSync dynamically adjust the refresh rate of the monitor to the current number of images produced by your graphics card . Not only does this ensure smooth gameplay, but it also helps bypass other V-Sync restrictions. This avoids the following things:
- Choppy, almost stuttering pictures while gaming
- a "forced" 60 FPS issue
- increased input lag
Disgusting tearing on the left - something like that is avoided by G-Sync and Freesync
V-Sync is not enough?
The V-Sync setting for your graphics card is helpful, but it also has some disadvantages: Jerking and input lag, as the technology instructs your graphics card to wait with a new frame until the monitor is ready for it.
So you see: Freesync and G-Sync are more than just a renamed V-Sync. This brief introduction roughly describes what both technologies basically do.
But both offer you a lot more besides "keeping everything in sync". Each has its own strengths and weaknesses as well as peculiarities.
So now let's take a look at what makes each technology different, where it's different, and which one you should consider for your next gaming monitor.
G-Sync is Nvidia's variable refresh rate technology and requires (unsurprisingly) an Nvidia graphics card to work. If you consider how many of us already use an Nvidia GPU according to current Steam numbers, that doesn't seem to be a problem at first. The problem, however, is the price that you tend to pay for G-Sync monitors.
Figures from Steam show: almost 62% of the top 20 most used graphics cards are from nVidia (screenshot via Steam, January 2020)
Monitors that explicitly support G-Sync are often much more expensive than their FreeSync competitors because each G-Sync monitor requires its own G-Sync processor unit. This of course significantly increases the price compared to AMD's license-free FreeSync technology (which makes use of a monitor's integrated DisplayPort 1.2 protocols).
G-Sync is also a well-defined standard. Therefore, according to Nvidia, G-Sync monitors have to undergo more than 300 compatibility and image quality tests before they can be called G-Sync monitors. They also support a much wider range of functions compared to FreeSync monitors:
- Support for variable refresh rates from 1-240 Hz (or up to the maximum refresh rate)
- Low entry delay
- Ultra Low Motion Blur (ULMB)
- Factory color calibration
- G-Sync support in window and full screen mode
As a result, G-Sync is often only found on more expensive monitors as it just isn't cheap enough to include on simpler models. However, since G-Sync is a clearly defined standard, you know exactly what you are getting.
Interesting fact about G-Sync
The G-Sync requirements are very strict. The technology requires display manufacturers to use a proprietary hardware module and Nvidia has a tight grip on quality control. We work together with the manufacturers from the selection of the first panel, through display development, to the final certification.
G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate
G-Sync Ultimate extends the whole thing with HDR support. You still get all of the above, but every G-Sync Ultimate screen also gives you the following specifications:
- At least 1000cd brightness
- Extremely low latency
- 4K resolution
- 384 dynamic backlight zones
- DCI-P3 color space support
At the moment there are only a handful of such monitors and these are of course even more expensive than a normal G-Sync monitor. This includes normal desktop monitors like the Acer X27 * or the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ *, as well as a 65-inch giant part like the HP Omen X Emperium *.
So only reach here if you really have some spare change. Because these things are extremely expensive - at least you now know what G-Sync Ultimate means.
What exactly is AMD Freesync?
Now that we know about nVidia's technology, we of course want to let Team Red have a chance.
FreeSync is AMD's interpretation of variable frame rates and is based on the built-in adaptive synchronization protocol of a monitor's DisplayPort connection to deliver its dynamic frame rates. Since its inception, it can also be activated via HDMI and Freesync does not require a special processor unit. This means that there are no license fees, which means that the prices for Freesync monitors are often much lower.
Unsurprisingly, FreeSync monitors are both much cheaper and far more common than their G-Sync counterparts. While Nvidia only offers around 100 G-Sync capable desktop monitors, the range of FreeSync monitors available includes more than 500.
Freesync is available for PC monitors, on laptops and on some gaming TVs
Although a FreeSync monitor must be certified by AMD in order to have a FreeSync sticker on it, the standard is not set like G-Sync. That means your FreeSync experience may vary from monitor to monitor and not all FreeSync monitors offer exactly the same functionality.
So For example, FreeSync technology only works within a certain range. Some monitors only support frame rates of 30 FPS, but FreeSync is only activated if your frame rate is above 40 or even 48 FPS. Accordingly, FreeSync no longer works properly if the performance of your graphics card falls below the lower FPS limit of your monitor.
Be sure to take a look at the AMD website, there you will find the values for the entire frame rate range of each FreeSync monitor: https://www.amd.com/de/products/freesync-monitors.
The frame rate ranges for each FreeSync monitor are available on the official AMD website
A big disadvantage with Freesync
Buying a FreeSync monitor is challenging compared to buying a G-Sync display. FreeSync monitors only support adaptive synchronization within a specified frame rate range: for example 40 to 75 Hz on many inexpensive models. Each monitor supports a different range, and some are actually quite restrictive.
You will also find that some FreeSync monitors also compensate for low frame rates (Low frame rate compensation or LFC). This improves the performance of a monitor below the minimum frame rate threshold by essentially doubling the number of images displayed on the screen when the frame rate is too low.
For example, 30 FPS would be raised to 60 FPS. However, this function must be integrated on the monitor in question, so that you may not find it in cheaper FreeSync models. Without this feature, however, your FreeSync experience will be a lot worse, so you should take a closer look to see whether this is also supported by your desired model.
A The advantage of FreeSync is the connectivity. By using a standard display scaler, FreeSync monitors typically have a full choice of ports. G-Sync monitors are largely limited to DisplayPort only. And while both FreeSync and G-Sync originally only worked over DisplayPort, AMD introduced FreeSync over HDMI to bring the technology to even more monitors. This adds to the versatility of FreeSync, but is another point to consider before making a purchase.
FreeSync vs. FreeSync Premium vs. FreeSync 2 HDR
Similar to G-Sync Ultimate, FreeSync 2 HDR is AMD's FreeSync + HDR standard. Fortunately, while regular FreeSync monitors are common, FreeSync 2 HDR is a bit more defined. In January 2020, however, AMD launched another classification, Free Sync Premium, and quickly renamed FreeSync 2 to FreeSync Premium Pro (for whatever reason). Here are the most important differences according to AMD:
- No tearing
- Low flicker
- Low latency
AMD Freesync Premium
- No tearing
- Low flicker
- Low latency
- At least 120 Hz with FHD resolution
- LFC technology
AMD Freesync Premium Pro
- HDR support
- At least 120 Hz with FHD resolution
- LFC technology
- No tearing
- Low flicker
- Low latency in SDR and HDR
Unfortunately, the HDR support is a bit opaque and vague. For example, every FreeSync 2 HDR screen (or now Freesync Premium Pro) conforms to the lowest HDR 400 standard. However, there are also FreeSync 2 HDR monitors that also meet the VESA criteria DisplayHDR 600 and DisplayHDR 1000.
Therefore, you can't be completely sure about FreeSync 2 either, as you will find some monitors that are much more powerful than others. Even though they are all supposed to be better than regular FreeSync.
In addition, only a few games currently actually support FreeSync 2 HDR. These are:
- AC Odyssey
- Far Cry 5
- Borderlands 3
- COD Black Ops 4
- Resident Evil 2
- Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
What does G-Sync compatible mean?
Monitors labeled "G-Sync Compatible" were born out of necessity. Namely precisely because you have probably noticed that many have an Nvidia graphics card, but hardly anyone is willing to buy a suitable G-Sync monitor.
The fairly new G-Sync compatible standard from Nvidia is practically a stripped-down version of the G-Sync specification, so that Nvidia graphics card owners can still enjoy a variable refresh rate on cheaper AMD FreeSync monitors. So really practical for us more frugal gamers!
In theory, it can be activated on any FreeSync screenby downloading the latest driver update from Nvidia. However, since everything is done at the software level, the variable refresh rate depends to a large extent on the particular monitor.
Some monitors can handle it without any problems, others can be disastrous and show signs of flickering, flickering, and other nasty artifacts while gaming. In fact, out of the 500 or so monitors Nvidia tested, at least 200 have fallen victim to these types of image quality issues.
That's why Nvidia has created its own certified list of official 'G-Sync Compatible' monitors, which they claim to offer the best variable refresh rate of any G-Sync Compatible FreeSync monitor they've tested. Just go to the official website here: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce/products/g-sync-monitors/specs/ and filter for "G-Sync Compatible".
But keep in mind: All G-Sync-compatible monitors only work in the same variable refresh rate range as their original FreeSync monitors. This means that you can neither take advantage of Nvidia's 1-FPS limit nor the other advantages of G-Sync mentioned above.
Basically, you can simply use the variable refresh rate function of your monitor without the need for an AMD graphics card.
For a better overview, here are the differences between Nvidia's sync technologies and names:
- No tearing
- No jerking
- No artifacts
Normal G-Sync (Premium)
- No tearing
- No jerking
- No artifacts
- 300+ quality tests, Nvidia certified
- Fully variable refresh rate
- Ultra-Low Motion Blur & Overclocking
G-Sync Ultimate (HDR)
- Everything else
- 1000 nits of brightness
- Ultra-low latency
- Multi-zone lighting
- Wide color coverage
- HDR support
Conclusion: FreeSync vs. G-Sync: what is better now?
Both are good technologies with advantages and disadvantages. FreeSync is simply much cheaper, but less reliable and annoying when searching for the "right" monitor. G-Sync certainly offers you a smooth experience (from 1-240 Hz +) and a bit more features, but you put down a lot more money. The new G-Sync compatible FreeSync monitors are arguably the perfect middle ground for many.
From a purely technical point of view, it is clear that G-Sync does a lot more for your gaming experience than what you get on a FreeSync monitor.
Even so, there are many good FreeSync monitors out there, but unfortunately, many are also just gambling. Because some come up short in terms of image quality, while others have too narrow a variable refresh rate range (we read above that you "lose" the advantages of FreeSync if your graphics card frames are not in this range). The biggest advantage of FreeSync is definitely the lower price.
G-Sync, on the other hand, is relatively direct and works according to the motto "you pay for performance and convenience". We'd say the biggest benefit of G-Sync is a consistent, high-quality gaming experience. Because every G-Sync monitor has to go through a stringent test process before it is allowed to wear the badge.
In addition, every G-Sync monitor supports an equivalent to AMD's Low Framerate Compensation and thus guarantees a smooth gaming experience. All G-Sync monitors also support the frequency-dependent "overdrive". Without going into too much detail - the technology prevents ghosting on G-Sync monitors, which hit the early FreeSync panels badly, although the problem is now less common.
The problem with G-Sync is (as always) that it's so damn expensive. In addition, you can find test reports such as the one from Tomshardware on the Internet that show that both technologies practically take nothing.
Two 24 inch AOC screens were tested (both in gaming and with test programs): The AOC Agon AG241QG (G-Sync) and the AG241QX (FreeSync). Both were TN panels with a QHD resolution (2560 x 1440). The FreeSync monitor ran at 144 Hz and the G-Sync monitor overclocked to 165 Hz.
We quote the guys here analogously:
In our experiment, the two AOC screens showed the same frame rate, control response and a no-tearing gaming experience. We said it before: Both technologies do the same thing. And if everything else is the same (monitor properties), you won't notice any difference.
The only real difference is that you just have to pay the G-Sync tax. Often difficult to justify for our tastes and prices get really high if you want bigger G-Sync monitors.
Of course, some of you want to pay the extra cash so you don't have to spend your time reading reviews about FreeSync monitors or searching the AMD website for each monitor's individual variable refresh rate ranges. Or just "play it safe" with a G-Sync monitor and its "perfect" coverage from the minimum to the maximum refresh rate of the monitor.
This is a real problem and we wish AMD's FreeSync standard were stricter in this sense, so that it would always be 100% clear what you actually get with the purchase of a FreeSync monitor (especially if LFC is in it!).
That means, if you don't care about Ultra Low Motion Blur, or you've never had a problem with the latency of your monitor, then everything speaks for a G-Sync-compatible FreeSync device. Then save money and buy a thicker graphics card.
Freesync or G-Sync for gaming?
We cannot stress the importance of your graphics card enough. Regardless of whether you choose Nvidia or AMD: Buy as much computing power as you can afford. Nothing affects the gaming experience more than your FPS values. Your favorite games won't be fun if they're only running at 30 FPS or at low details. Ultimately, tearing problems are less and less perceived at higher frame rates. If your system gets more than 100 FPS, you won't have a problem with it anyway, even if G-Sync or FreeSync are not used.
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