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G-sync vs G-sync compatible: Everything you need to know

Is it worth investing in G-sync or will G-sync compatible do the job?

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G-sync monitors have been around for some time now, providing the market with silky smooth visuals thanks to the proprietary variable refresh rate technology they utilize. However, since its arrival, display manufacturers have been developing alternatives to try and manipulate G-sync in order to boost advertising potential. That’s where G-sync compatible comes into the equation.

G-sync vs G-sync compatible is a battle that has only one winner. However, if you’re relatively new to monitor tech – or just don’t know much about G-sync in general – chances are you won’t know the fundamental differences that separate the two.

Thanks to the performance gap between G-sync vs G-sync compatible monitors, it’s definitely worth learning a bit about G-sync before diving into your next gaming monitor purchase. Luckily, we’re here to shed a little light on the comparison, explaining everything you need to know when it comes to ‘G-sync’ vs ‘G-sync compatible’ monitors.

What is G-sync?

Let’s start at the top, what exactly is G-sync?

G-sync is a frame-syncing technology that enables your monitor to adapt its refresh rate to match the framerate your PC is producing. NVIDIA developed this tech to help eliminate the annoying screen artifact better known as screen tearing – a visual blunder where two frames are rendered at the same time.

See picture below for screen tear

Screen tear

Unlike V-sync – which tries to eliminate screen tear by forcing the GPU to wait for the monitor’s render cycle to complete – G-sync allows the monitor to adapt its refresh rate on the fly. Not only is this a more efficient way of reducing screen tear but it also enables your GPU to continually produce the highest FPS possible.

Better still, you won’t experience any judder or increased input lag when using G-sync, mainly because it’s the monitor that is amending its own performance – not the GPU.

What is a G-sync monitor?

To be classed as a true G-sync monitor, a display must feature a dedicated G-sync hardware module.

NVIDIA’s proprietary VRR module helps to deliver the highest levels of performance when it comes to frame matching, allowing the monitor to support quick refresh rates, high resolutions, and low input lag.

g sync vs g sycn compatible resolution refresh rate
(Image source: NVIDIA)

Moreover, a monitor must also adhere to some strict G-sync specification requirements, including; variable overdrive, full support over the monitor’s refresh range, factory color calibration, passing an NVIDIA certification process (which involves over 300+ image samples).

As you can imagine, with a tonne of additional features and benefits, G-sync monitors are more expensive than both FreeSync and G-sync compatible alternatives.

What is G-sync compatible?

An alternative solution for NVIDIA GPU users that sort of does the same thing is G-sync compatible.

G-sync compatible monitors are often FreeSync monitors that allow NVIDIA GPU users to piggyback AMD’s tech in order to sync frames during gameplay. G-sync compatible monitors do not come equipped with a built-in hardware module, instead, utilizing the monitor’s onboard adaptive sync protocols (via DisplayPort 1.2) to reduce screen tear.

While this is great for the general consumer – expanding the market for individuals using NVIDIA GPUs – G-sync compatible tech isn’t nearly as polished as G-sync. Despite NVIDIA stating that over 200 monitors support G-sync compatible tech, many fall victim to unsightly visual artifacts such as flickering, pulsing, juddering, and blanking.

Furthermore, while G-sync offers full variable refresh rate support for the entirety of the monitor’s refresh range (1hz – 240hz, for example), G-sync compatible monitors are subject to the limitations of Freesync – often ranging from 48Hz to the monitor’s max refresh rate).

G-sync vs G-sync compatible: Side by side comparison

Let’s take a closer look at some of the performance-impacting factors that separate G-sync and G-sync compatible technologies.

Nvidia G Sync monitors
(Image Source: NVIDIA)

The image above explains the validation process that both G-sync and G-sync compatible products have to go through before being labeled as one or the other. As you can see from the table above, G-sync compatible monitors offer the lowest level of validation.

NVIDIA results show that G-sync compatible products offer the following features:

  • Adequate variable refresh rate range
  • No Flicker
  • No blanking
  • No artifacts

By comparison, true G-sync products offer the following features:

  • NVIDIA certified
  • 300+ image quality tests
  • Full variable refresh rate range
  • Variable overdrive
  • Factory color calibration
  • ULMB (Ultra-Low Motion Blur)
  • Overclocking

As you can see from the chart above, there is a huge difference in the validation process when selecting G-sync and G-sync compatible products. Each one of the additional G-sync features adds up to create a much greater overall viewing experience.

G-sync vs G-sync compatible: Pros and cons

Like most hardware technologies, G-sync and G-sync compatible come to the table boasting their own unique set of pros and cons.

Let’s start with G-sync monitor pros:

  • Great testing process to ensure the highest visual fidelity
  • Supports the full refresh range of the monitor (1hz – 360hz, for example)
  • Factory color calibration for the highest levels of reproduction
  • Support for motion blur reduction via backlight strobing

The built-in G-sync hardware module allows for some hefty performance increases – as seen above. All the features of G-sync are geared up to help drive a better visual experience, offering not only superior visuals but additional levels of customization too.

G-sync compatible pros:

  • Doesn’t require a G-sync hardware module to operate
  • Often a lot cheaper than dedicated G-sync monitors
  • They often work with both NVIDIA and AMD GPUs

As you can see, G-sync compatible monitors introduce pros such as value and versatility – especially thanks to the prospect of working with both AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards.

How does G-sync work?

Despite the theory behind G-sync technology being fairly basic, the physical delivery of the tech is much more advanced.

Below is a graphic published by NVIDIA to try and explain how the GPU and the monitor interact while G-sync is enabled.

Gsync operation
(Image source: NVIDIA)

This simplified version of G-sync technology clearly shows how the GPU renders the frame, after which the monitor scans for it. Utilizing this formation allows for no tearing, no stutter, and less input lag – all features prioritized by most gamers.

What is FreeSync?

Throughout the article, we’ve mentioned the term FreeSync fairly regularly – but what is FreeSync?

In a nutshell, FreeSync is AMD’s proprietary variable refresh rate technology that works in the exact same way as NVIDIA’s G-sync. Granted, there are some differences – most of which have been displayed above – but overall, the visual experience provided by both FreeSync and G-sync is fairly similar.

Unlike G-sync, FreeSync operates off the back of the monitor’s DisplayPort 1.2 protocol to deliver its dynamic refresh rates. In today’s FreeSync monitors, however, users can also utilize the HDMI port for the same purpose.

Overall, the biggest difference that separates FreeSync and G-sync is FreeSync panels arent’ subject to steep licensing fees – similar to G-sync compatible panels. This is why most FreeSync monitors are cheaper than their G-sync alternative.

G-sync vs G-sync compatible: Which is best?

If you’re looking at this comparison from a purely technical and visual standpoint, G-sync is the clear winner. G-sync monitors offer a better visual experience through pre-calibrated colors, variable overdrive, Ultra-Low motion blur reduction, overclocking, and reduced input lag. It’s no secret that G-sync is a much superior technology.

That being said, there is one factor that makes many individuals think twice about diving headfirst into a G-sync monitor – the price.

Thanks to the built-in G-sync hardware module found in all G-sync monitors, these panels cost a lot more than G-sync compatible alternatives. This, for some individuals, is the main consideration when it comes to a monitor purchase – and one that ultimately makes many individuals consider G-sync compatible alternatives.

Overall, it’s up to you and what you prioritize in your display needs. If you want the best possible visual experience possible, G-sync monitors definitely offer a better experience when compared to G-sync compatible. That said, if you want to save costs and don’t mind some of the small artifacts that come hand-in-hand with NVIDIA’s lesser technology, a G-sync compatible monitor might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Monitor & PC Product Specialist AT WEPC

Charlie Noon

For as long as he can remember, Charlie has always been interested in computers and gaming. It all started with the Sega Mega Drive and then evolved into PC gaming in his early teens. CS 1.6 was his first go at competitive gaming which soon evolved into CS:Source and now CS:GO - a game that he still plays (almost exclusively) today. Throughout that period he has also been a keen PC builder and enthusiast - dedicating a large portion of his time to the craft. My current rig is an ASUS 5700XT with AMD's Ryzen 3600X.

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