At this year’s CES event in Las Vegas NVIDIA have announced some exciting changes which will impact the desktop monitor market. Perhaps most exciting is the announcement that NVIDIA will allow support for variable refresh rates from Adaptive-Sync (aka FreeSync) displays when used with compatible NVIDIA graphics cards. Read on for more information.
A bit of background about G-sync and FreeSync
Hopefully you will be well aware of NVIDIA’s G-sync technology by now. This is a propitiatory technology which allows compatible graphics cards and monitors to work together to deliver a variable refresh rate (VRR) for gaming, eliminating issues with tearing and without introducing the lag that older Vsync options introduced. It’s been around now since 2013 and has been very successful in the gaming monitor market, helping to deliver better, smoother gaming experience on systems where frame rates fluctuate all the time. For G-sync to be used, you need a compatible NVIDIA graphics card obviously although it’s been supported on new cards for many years now, but also a monitor which has been certified for G-sync, and has had their G-sync module controller added to it. This has created a fairly simple, easy to use and very effective variable refresh rate experience for consumers. You will see plenty of gaming displays with G-sync support, although one of the key gripes that consumers have is that the addition of a G-sync module to the display to enable this support does add a premium to the retail cost of typically several hundred dollars.
The alternative competing VRR technology on the market is Adaptive-Sync (aka FreeSync) which is the technology backed by AMD. Unlike G-sync this requires no additional hardware module to be added to the screen, and so the displays end up being comparatively cheaper. However, until now if you wanted to use VRR and you had an NVIDIA graphics card, you would need a G-sync compatible display. All those alternative Adaptive-Sync displays out there would not work for VRR with an NVIDIA card. Likewise of course if you had an AMD card (or anything non-NVIDIA) then you could only use VRR from Adaptive-Sync displays, and the G-sync screens would not work on those cards.
What is changing now? Support for Adaptive-Sync displays on NVIDIA cards
NVIDIA are now opening up support for VRR from Adaptive-Sync displays when they are used from an NVIDIA graphics card. This opens up a whole world of new monitor options for users who have an NVIDIA card, but don’t necessarily want a G-sync screen or may be concerned with the additional cost of those models. It’s a very welcome move by NVIDIA!
NVIDIA will allow support for all Adaptive-Sync displays from NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10-series and RTX 20-series graphics cards with a driver update due later this month on 15th January. NVIDIA are splitting these Adaptive-Sync displays up in to two groups:
“G-sync Compatible” certified monitors. They will test monitors that deliver a baseline VRR experience and activate their VRR features automatically in the NVIDIA control panel. Already, 12 monitors that are G-SYNC Compatible, and they’ll continue to evaluate monitors and update the support list going forward. G-SYNC Compatible testing validates that the monitor does not show blanking, pulsing, flickering, ghosting or other artifacts during VRR gaming. They also validate that the monitor can operate in VRR at any game frame rate by supporting a VRR range of at least 2.4:1 (e.g. 60Hz-144Hz), and offer the gamer a seamless experience by enabling VRR by default.
The others. Questionable VRR experience displays – Many displays with Adaptive-Sync offer somewhat limited real-life support for VRR. In some cases there is a narrow VRR operating range, where the VRR feature may only work when the game frame rate is in a narrow, very specific range. Which is often not the case, as game frame rates vary significantly from moment to moment. I n addition, not all monitors go through a formal certification process, display panel quality varies, and there may be other issues that prevent gamers from receiving a noticeably-improved experience. NVIDIA say that they have tested over 400 Adaptive-Sync displays and found that only 12 could be certified under their “G-sync compatible” scheme, which implies that the rest offer a lower level of VRR experience. For VRR monitors yet to be validated as G-SYNC Compatible, a new NVIDIA Control Panel option will enable owners to try and switch the tech on – it may work, it may work partly, or it may not work at all. If you really want to be sure an Adaptive-Sync display will work ok with an NVIDIA card and offer a decent experience, you might want to consider only purchasing a monitor listed as “G-SYNC Compatible” on their site.
“G-sync Ultimate” also announced
For the absolute best gaming experience NVIDIA recommend NVIDIA G-SYNC and the newly certified “G-SYNC Ultimate” monitors: those with G-SYNC processors that have passed over 300 compatibility and quality tests, and feature a full refresh rate range from 1Hz to the display panel’s max refresh rate, plus other advantages like variable overdrive, refresh rate overclocking, ultra low motion blur display modes, and industry-leading HDR with 1000 nits, full matrix backlight and DCI-P3 color. You can see from the image above that this includes the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ (reviewed in full), Acer Predator X27 and new 65″ BFGD HP Omen X Emerium 65 screen. Clearly these are the very expensive, high end HDR displays but these are classified as the ultimate in gaming experience by NVIDIA.