FreeSync vs G sync – which variable refresh rate is best for gaming?

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We’re comparing FreeSync vs G Sync, to see which variable refresh technology makes the most sense for you.

Variable refresh rates have quickly become a must-have for all serious gaming monitors. These technologies allow the monitor to adjust the speed at which it updates the image displayed. FreeSync and G Sync both synchronize this adjusting with the speed at which your computer’s GPU is rending frames. There are several advantages to this, the main one being that screen tearing, a visual glitch where the screen is showing sections of two frames at once, is eliminated.

The performance of these two technologies is actually pretty hard to separate. Both use VESA’s Adaptive-Sync, meaning that they will eradicate screen tearing, and make for an overall improved gaming experience. That’s not to say there is no difference between the two, however. These differences lie in other areas, such as compatibility and features. These still have an impact on gaming performance, making them important factors to consider.

We’ve broken down our comparison into sections and tried to give you everything you need to know. Rather than crowning an overall winner, we’ve offered an accurate overview so that you can understand the pros and cons of each technology. Let’s get into it.

What is FreeSync?

FreeSync was released in 2015 as an AMD-geared alternative to G-Sync. While it is made by AMD, it can also be compatible with Nvidia GPUs, as well as Intel’s ARc series too. At first, it lagged slightly behind G-Sync in terms of abilities but since then has caught up. There are three versions out there, each with different features.

FreeSync

FreeSync brings you the advantages of an adaptive refresh rate but without too many extra bells and whistles. This means the technology gives you access to the main gaming advantage of screen tearing being avoided. It does this with impressively low latency.

FreeSync Premium

FreeSync Premium increases the frame rates at which FreeSync operates, requiring monitors to be capable of at least 120Hz at 1080p resolution. As a result, is it definitely better to go for if you’re looking for the best 1440p gaming monitor. This minimum does not apply to 4K resolutions, this is because the best 4K monitors focus on visual quality rather than sheer speed.

There’s also low framerate compensation or LFC. This technology acts as a buffer for times when your frame rate has dropped significantly. All FreeSync technology stops working below 30Hz, but LFC gets around this by sending duplicate frames to make up the difference. This maintains smooth gameplay.

FreeSync Premium Pro

FreeSync Premium Pro’s initial name, FreeSync 2 HDR, gives some clues about the advantages it brings. It is not just a question of being compatible with the best HDR monitors but improving their performance. Both the lower tiers of FreeSync may work alongside HDR, but will be in direct competition with it for bandwidth and other resources. With Premium Pro, support is baked in, meaning the two display technologies work together.

As a result, you can get access to the vibrant colours of HDR without having to sacrifice gaming performance. You will need to make sure the games you want to play are compatible with FreeSync Premium Pro, however.

What is G Sync?

G Sync was developed by Nvidia, to work with Nvidia GPUs. Like with FreeSync, it has a few tiers each of which brings with them different levels of support. Nvidia did the same with G Sync designing it for their own GPUs. While Free Sync is open access, meaning that any monitor can incorporate the technology, G-Sync has stringent minimums monitors must exceed before they can use the technology.

As with FreeSync, this technology works with Display Ports, meaning you don’t need the best HDMI 2.1 monitors to make use of adaptive refresh rates.

G Sync

A G Sync monitor will avoid screen tearing entirely. What’s more, any monitor that uses it will have been certified in over 300 tests. This means you can be confident it will have a premium gaming performance, and work perfectly with Nvidia cards. They are also certified for ‘artefact-free’ performance. Artefacts, or ghost images are the outlines of previous frames, which can bleed over. This can occur with adaptive frame rate technologies but is made less likely with G sync.

G Sync Ultimate

G Sync Ultimate monitors will have passed the same tests and received the same certifications as a normal G Sync monitor. The difference lies in HDR performance. A G Sync Ultimate monitor will be compatible with HDR all the way down to the hardware level, ensuring that the increased visual quality HDR brings, doesn’t have to drag down performance.

If you want to make the most of the vibrant colours HDR brings, many of the best OLED gaming monitors will also feature G Sync Ultimate, and allow for even more contrast and increased colour accuracy.

G sync compatible

G Sync-compatible monitors have still passed the benchmarks necessary to be compatible with G Sync, but do not use the Nvidia processors found in G Sync and G Sync Ultimate monitors. While this can impact performance, especially for HDR displays, it opens up the possibility of the monitor being compatible with both G Sync and FreeSync.

Is G Sync better than FreeSync?

The most important thing to keep in mind when comparing FreeSync and G Sync is that the biggest factor affecting performance is the make of your graphics card. AMD designed FreeSync to be compatible with their Radeon cards, and G Sync with Nvidia GPUs. While there are complicated workarounds for this, we would definitely advise you get a monitor with the technology that matches your card. Many of the best gaming monitors will actually be compatible with both, so this is an option too.

We asked monitor expert Charlie Noon, from WePC, if he reckoned G Sync outperformed its AMD alternative. He said –

“For me, there is no visual difference when comparing G-Sync to FreeSync. Both reduce screen tearing to a high level and both offer some form of low frame rate compensation – albeit under different names. One area where FreeSync offers a slight edge is on the pricing side. G-Sync monitors require a proprietary module built into the monitor itself, leading to a premium being added to the monitor in question. This, naturally, makes G-Sync monitors more expensive than FreeSync alternatives. Additionally, many FreeSync monitors are also G-Sync compatible – meaning you’ll be able to use an Nvidia GPU with a FreeSync monitor. Unfortunately, that is not the case for G-Sync displays – with users requiring an Nvidia GPU to function with G-Sync.”

As you can see the main differences are compatibility and, of course, price.

FreeSync vs G Sync – price

Price and performance often increase hand in hand and that is certainly true with G Sync monitors. There are several hardware as well as performance requirements for G Sync monitors and part of this includes paying a kind of royalty to Nvidia. This means the inclusion of G Sync will typically see a price increase of around $100.

FreeSync meanwhile, is much cheaper to include, free in fact. This is where the name comes from and is one of the main selling points of the technology. Manufacturers may still add on a slight premium for the technology, but it is overall much cheaper to incorporate. This has the other added benefit of meaning that FreeSync is more widespread.

You can get a better sense of the exact kind of price by checking out our picks for the best FreeSync and best G sync monitors below.


Acer Nitro XV282K

Screen size

28-inch

Resolution

4K

Response time

1ms

Refresh rate

144Hz

Alienware AQW3423DW

Alienware-AQW3423DW

Screen Size

34-inch

Aspect Ratio

21:9

Resolution

1440p

Refresh Rate

175Hz

FreeSync vs G Sync – which one should you go for?

When deciding which variable refresh rate technology you want to include in your gaming monitor, the driving factor should be your GPU. If you already own one from either AMD or Nvidia, you should opt for a monitor with the matching tech.

Many monitors, including several of the best ultrawide gaming monitors, are often actually compatible with both, meaning you can have your cake and eat it. If you haven’t yet settled on which GPU to go for, it is worth keeping in mind that Nvidia’s cards and G sync technology do tend to have superior performance.

On the other hand not only are AMD graphics cards cheaper but the compatible FreeSync technology is too, potentially saving money on two of the most expensive aspects of building a PC gaming setup.

Frequently asked questions

Is FreeSync only for AMD?

FreeSync was designed for AMD graphics cards, but as an open technology can be used for others too. This includes Intel’s Arc series and even some Nvidia GPUs.

Does FreeSync reduce FPS?

No, FreeSync itself has no effect on the FPS produced by your GPU, it just makes sure that the refresh rate of your gaming monitors is keeping up with it.

Is G Sync good or bad for gaming?

G Sync is good for gaming. This is because it eliminates screen tearing which can be distracting and make for a less immersive and smooth gaming experience.

About the Author

Rory Greig

Rory Greig works as a tech writer for Videogamer. He is a writer with a strong knowledge of gaming technology and an eye for detail. He is especially interested in graphics cards and generative AI.