In the last year we’ve seen a distinct change to NVIDIA’s approach to variable refresh rates (VRR) and their ‘G-sync’ technology. Historically there was a clear demarcation between the competing NVIDIA G-sync and AMD FreeSync options. If you had an NVIDIA graphics and wanted to use G-sync VRR then you also needed a display featuring the added G-sync hardware module chip. If you had an AMD graphics card and wanted to use their alternative ‘FreeSync’ technology for VRR, you needed a screen which supported the VESA adaptive-sync standard. You could not mix and match the two options – so you could not use NVIDIA G-sync on an adaptive-sync display, and you could not use FreeSync from a Native G-sync display. This is all changing …
Step 1: G-sync Compatibility for adaptive-sync screens
In January 2019 NVIDIA decided to open up access to use their graphics cards for VRR from adaptive-sync displays. This opened up a huge market of potential new display options if you had an NVIDIA graphics card, but didn’t necessarily want a Native G-sync module display. NVIDIA decided to test and validate the massive range of adaptive-sync screens, since they have no direct control over quality or performance in VRR situations. This lead to a big range which just “support” G-sync but might have very variable performance, and then a smaller range which they would certify as “G-sync Compatible” which had been verified to perform to certain standards.
NVIDIA also continued to produce a range of Native G-sync displays which would continue to feature the additional hardware module. Despite adaptive-sync screens now working with NVIDIA G-sync graphics cards, the Native G-sync screens still remain popular today for gamers as the hardware module can bring about other sought-after benefits like low input lag, variable overdrive and certified wide and reliable variable refresh rate ranges. Those Native G-sync module screens remained exclusive to NVIDIA graphics cards, and their VRR would not work with AMD or other systems. Until now….
Step 2: NEW – Using Native G-sync screens with AMD and other graphic cards
We started to see hints of further change to NVIDIA’s approach over the last few months. Firstly in September 2019 the Acer Predator X27P appeared, featuring a minor update to the original X27 model, adding VRR support over HDMI for compatible games consoles. This screen features the v2 G-sync module still, but the addition of HDMI-VRR was a new feature and not something possible on any previous G-sync module screen.
Then very recently in November 2019 we saw news of the Acer Predator XB273 X, which in its specs on Taiwanese retail stores suggested that it would support HDMI-VRR (like the X27P advertised previously), and then also adaptive-sync over DisplayPort. We reached out to NVIDIA to understand more about what was happening.
NVIDIA confirmed for us that future G-sync module screens can be capable of supporting both HDMI-VRR and adaptive-sync for HDMI and DisplayPort, as the XB273 X’s specs had suggested. A firmware update is being made to the v1 and v2 G-sync hardware modules for future use which allows these new features.
That means that in the future a display featuring an NVIDIA G-sync module could work with compatible games consoles for HDMI-VRR. It could also work with any graphics card based on the adaptive-sync standard over HDMI and DisplayPort. This means that you would be able to use a Native G-sync screen (with module) from an AMD graphics card for VRR! So if you have an AMD graphics card, you could still enjoy the VRR experience and other additional benefits that the G-sync module brings even from a Native G-sync screen, which was previously out of reach to those users.
This new firmware is being used now for future Native G-sync screens, and the Acer Predator XB273 X is the first we’ve seen advertised with these new features. We confirmed with NVIDIA that it will NOT be possible to update firmware to any existing Native G-sync screen, or request updates to allow your current G-sync screen to be updated so that it would work with AMD graphics cards. The new firmware will only be applied to future G-sync module displays.
This is another positive change and removes a lot of the previous restrictions for gamers wanting to use VRR. Now you will have a free choice in graphics card vendor, and a free choice in display type. AMD cards will work with G-sync screens, and NVIDIA cards will work with adaptive-sync screens.
- You can read more about G-sync and FreeSync in our detailed article