Say Goodbye to Game Screen Lag and Tearing: NVIDIA G-Sync AND AMD FreeSync

WRITTEN BY Paul Hanks

Posted on August 06 2018


When playing video games, in addition to realistic and refined game graphics, a smoother frame rate is an important factor impacting the thrill level of your gaming experience. A subtle lagging or tearing can render the game unplayable to gamers. In the past, V-Sync (vertical sync) technology has been able to resolve game screen lagging issues, but when it comes to results, there is still room for improvement. Now, the two major graphics card manufacturers have launched their respective synchronization technologies—NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync— to make games run much smoother in terms of graphics.
 

When the Display's Refresh Rate is Not In Sync With the Graphics Card

Why do game screens lag or tear? It's because while the refresh rate for computer monitors is fixed at 60Hz for typical models (which means the screen is updated 60 times per second), the frames per second (FPS), as presented by the graphics card when running video games, is not constant—it fluctuates up and down. So when the monitor refresh rate is not in sync with the graphics card's frames per second output, there will be tearing or lagging of the game screen, impacting the gaming experience. Considering that performance of graphics cards nowadays keeps getting better and better, the frames per second has become higher—even under high resolution settings. Meanwhile, refresh rates for most monitors remain fixed at 60Hz. The result is monitor refresh rates that aren't on par with the improved performance of the graphics cards, leading to more screen misalignment and tearing issues.
 

V-Sync Technology

In the past, in order to provide a smooth picture when playing video games, we would turn on V-Sync (vertical synchronization). In simple terms, V-sync is a function that prompts the graphics cards to output 60FPS videos at 60Hz frequency, so as to avoid screen tearing issues. However, this limits the performance of high-end graphics cards. Also, if the performance cannot reach 60FPS due to a particular in-game scene being too detailed, the graphics cards will be forced to run at a lowered 30FPS until the game reaches a point with less demanding picture quality. At this point, the frame rate will be raised back to 60FPS, but because of the magnitude of FPS fluctuation being too large, this excess switching between 30FPS and 60FPS frame rates leads to screen lagging issues.
 

NVIDIA G-Sync Technology

The two major graphics card manufacturers, NVIDIA and AMD, are both trying to make in-game pictures run more smoothly. They have accomplished the same goal of syncing the refresh rates for graphics cards and monitors, but have chosen different paths for doing so. NVIDIA launched their G-Sync technology first: a hardware solution that adds a chip directly to the monitor. This chip has an integrated buffer memory that communicates with NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards. The G-Sync chip will read the newest frame number from the graphics card, and automatically adjust the timing of monitor refresh rates in accordance with the performance of different graphics cards, in order to sync and match up with the picture output of the graphics cards. As long as the monitor refresh rates are supported, it can be adjusted dynamically from 0 to 240Hz in real-time, so that while you’re playing video games, you won’t experience any issues such as tearing, stuttering, flickering, or artifacts.
 

AMD FreeSync Technology

Although AMD FreeSync was launched later, it has been updated to the current FreeSync 2 version. The FreeSync function also provides dynamic monitor refresh rates, simultaneously adjusting monitor refresh rates in accordance with the changes in frame rates of Radeon graphics cards. This resolves the jittering issue that is still present in traditional V-Sync technology, and makes the gaming picture run more smoothly.

Unlike NVIDIA G-Sync's method, which requires the adoption of discrete chips, FreeSync focuses on the link interface standards. It has integrated the DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync industry standard, which allows real-time adjustment of refresh rates through the DisplayPort interface. The newest HDMI interface specification also supports FreeSync. Although FreeSync synchronization technology does not require adding extra chips to the monitors, it must be matched with DisplayPort or HDMI compatible monitors and Radeon graphics cards in order to function.

On top of being able to maintain a smooth gaming picture performance, the newest generation of FreeSync 2 technology has also further enriched the picture quality detail. Among all, Low Framerate Compensation (LFC) technology has expanded the range of FreeSync monitor refresh rates, keeping the picture smooth even when the frame rate of the graphics card drops to below 30FPS. In addition, FreeSync 2 provides doubled sRGB color gamut and HDR (High Dynamic Range), which makes allows for even more detailed picture quality. Additionally, it has an improved HDR imaging process, so the HDR picture is presented even more smoothly.
 

Conclusion

Both NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync synchronization technologies achieve a certain degree of performance results. Gamers are sure to notice the difference before and after turning these functions on, especially for games with complex scenes and fast-moving pictures, such as first-person shooters, racing games, and sport games. There will be significant improvements in screen misalignment, tearing, and smoothness. However, it is actually very difficult to compare the results or performance between the two technologies based on quantitative data. We can only depend on our eyes to observe the subtle differences, and everyone is entitled to their own perception, which may not entirely accurate and objective.

Between the two, the obvious difference is the cost of setup. Excluding compatible graphics cards from each manufacturer, NVIDIA G-Sync monitors have extra discrete chips and licensing fees from NVIDIA, which is reflected in the cost and price of their products; NVIDIA G-Sync monitors are pricier than their AMD FreeSync competition. This accounts for there being many more choices for AMD FreeSync monitors as compared to NVIDIA G-Sync monitors. However, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for: G-Sync monitors are usually higher-end in terms of specifications, and, coupled with the high frame rate output of the high-end GeForce graphics cards, their picture smoothness is undoubtedly great. But when it comes to the price gap, the AMD FreeSync monitors and Radeon graphics cards have adopted an affordable pricing strategy, and are sure to provide a gaming solution with the highest value for your money.

See more about how to set up multi-monitor with FreeSync: https://www.msi.com/blog/how-to-setup-triple-curved-gaming-monitors

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