G Sync – everyone’s talking about it, everyone wants it, but does everyone know what it actually is? Nvidia’s not-so-secret weapon in the gaming arms race is cheaper to get your hands on now than it was a couple of years ago, so it’s a good time to do a little reflecting and ask whether it’s finally worth investing in.
Here’s everything you need to know.
How Does G-Sync Work
To understand G-Sync, we must first understand V-sync and its limitations.
You’re probably familiar with a little something called V-sync. (We wrote a whole article about it.) What this does is limit the frame rate of a game to the refresh rate of your monitor. So if you have a 60hz, 75hz, or 120hz monitor, frame rates on a game will max out at those. This is crucial to prevent screen tearing – choppy lines that appear on your screen during gaming when the GPU is rendering frames at a different rate than the monitor buffering them.
But there is a tradeoff for V-sync. Computers these days line up images to send to the monitor using double- and triple-buffering – essentially preparing one or two frames while another is displayed on the screen. To prevent screen tearing, v-sync causes tiny delays in the buffering process to make sure that the monitor is ready for the next frame, which can cause input lag.
Additionally, if you’re only using double buffering (as is the case with most games), then you might witness big FPS drops. (This is only an issue if your graphics card isn’t powerful to output at a constant high frame rate in a given game.)
So … G-Sync
Well, that was a long preamble, but it makes explaining G-Sync much quicker.
A G-Sync capable monitor is capable of outputting VRR (variable refresh rate), constantly adapting to your (Nvidia) GPU’s frame-rendering rate. This completely eliminates screen tearing because the frame-rendering rate of the GPU never exceeds the refresh rate of the monitor, negates the kinds of sharp FPS drops you see in vsync, and reduces input lag because the monitor is no longer holding up the buffering.
Is G-Sync Worth It?
First, it depends on how hardcore a gamer you are and what kind of gaming you do. G-Sync creates a perfect marriage of low input lag and more consistent, tear-free performance, but it’s possible you’re not really suffering from these issues anyway.
If you have a top-end graphics card with regular vsync enabled, then you’ll get the performance and stable frame-rates you want even on a non G-Sync monitor. You may suffer from increased input lag/latency, but the extent of this depends on your monitor. Manufacturers tend not to advertise input lag for their displays, but this handy website may help you find out the latency on your monitor.
If you have a powerful graphics card with a high-end monitor whose refresh rate you’re happy with and you aren’t too bothered about those milliseconds of input lag (important mainly for online gaming), then it’s probably not worth forking out a minimum $300 for a G-Sync-capable monitor. This especially applies if you have an AMD GPU because they’re incompatible with G-Sync (they use a similar tech called FreeSync), and you’d need to buy a G-Sync capable nVidia GPU and G-Sync monitor. It’s a big expense.
On the other hand, if you already own a Nvidia GPU (if it’s a GeForce GTX 650 Ti or later, it has G-Sync) and are finding that either a) Vsync causes stutters to your gaming when you drop below 60fps or b) your GPU is so powerful that it causes input lag (and it actually bothers you), then a G-Sync monitor is well worth considering.
If you have a G-Sync capable GPU and are thinking of upgrading your monitor anyway, then a G-Sync monitor is an absolute no-brainer.
The question of whether G-Sync (or its AMD cousin, FreeSync) is worth it will be a moot point for gamers in a couple of years time. All new GPUs made by Nvidia now have the tech onboard, and monitors that feature the tech are getting cheaper and cheaper.
In the short term, however, it depends on how happy you are with the current performance of your GPU monitor combo and how much factors like slowdown in games, screen tearing and input lag are currently affecting you. If you’re a committed Nvidia owner and want to improve these quality-of-life issues, then now’s a perfectly affordable time to jump onboard.