Buying the top-shelf GPU and CPU on the market in order to run the latest games for the best possible performance apparently isn’t enough these days. The will to play buttery-smooth games on a beautiful screen has driven NVIDIA and later on AMD as well to develop technologies that eliminate or at least drastically decrease the so-called input lag, screen tearing and stuttering.
So what do screen tearing and stuttering mean? It’s possible that you have already experienced one of those annoying issues but don’t know anything about them.
Let’s first talk about the screen tearing. It occurs when you have for example 60 Hz monitor meaning it can reproduce 60 frames per second, but your GPU isn’t all that powerful or the game you are playing is just an eye candy masterpiece that needs the extra horsepower. The result from this is the GPU going under the 60 fps borderline at some point or on some particular scenes, mostly depending on the surrounding in-game environment, drawing less frames than the monitor supports and you are left with a jagged-looking image. Teared apart. This means that the number of frames the GPU draws is out of sync with the number of frames the monitor scans. Basically, the panel is waiting for a full frame, but the GPU draws only a portion of that frame and a mixture of an old and new image appears on the screen as you can see from the image below. Right under it, you will find a graphic explaining the issue.
Luckily, there’s a technology called V-Sync that most of you might already know. The V-Sync feature, that can be found on most games, if not every game, works towards syncing every frame that the GPU draws and the panel scans. So if your GPU can support 70 fps on a particular game, for example, the V-Sync feature will limit it to 60 fps. Again the GPU can’t deliver the needed performance and the fps drops down to 45 for example, but since the V-Sync is turned on you get full frames every second without that annoying tearing effect. In other words, the monitor waits for the GPU to draw a full frame and then displays it. However, the V-Sync feature has its own drawback called stuttering or lag. This is due to the GPU not being able to deliver that last frame and the panel displays the last frame again resulting in a missing frame. This is called stuttering and some gamers find it even more frustrating than the screen tearing.
So NVIDIA takes on this issue in a slightly different way – by implementing a dedicated chip inside the monitor. The controller inside is used to establish a two-way connection between the GPU and the monitor and allowing the graphics card to adjust the refresh rate of the panel in real time. This way every frame is synced with the GPU and the monitor resulting in a smoother gameplay. With that being said, your GPU can now freely dip under 60 fps and this will not result in any real life performance decrease because the scenes will appear buttery-smooth as they should. In addition, the controller inside integrates 768MB DDR3 memory with the main purpose of storing the previous frame and comparing it to the next one for greatly decreased input lag.
This, however, is quite expensive and adds an extra few dollars on the normal monitor, but luckily the G-Sync technology now has a competition. It’s developed by AMD and VESA consortium making it more available to the end consumer, because it doesn’t integrate an expensive chip but uses the DisplayPort 1.2a standard. In other words, every GPU and monitor that supports DisplayPort 1.2a standard is FreeSync-enabled.
To sum things up, the G-Sync and FreeSync technologies offer better experience for those of you who don’t own a massive powerhouse GPU, but want to play the latest titles without ruining the gaming experience. Also, the smoothness of the gameplay is more noticeable when playing first-person shooters due their “precise” nature. Nonetheless, eye candy users will surely love the technology behind G-Sync and FreeSync allowing them to play at settings maxed out and taking advantage of the full visual experience.
We will have to do some more testing on both technologies (G-Sync and FreeSync) to better understand the differences and which one is superior to the other. Either way, we are living in exciting times that simple technologies like this make a big difference in some areas and in this case – gamers benefit the most.
You can also check out our article on which gaming monitors suit your favorite gaming genre. We’ve also included some of the best G-Sync and FreeSync-enabled monitors on the market: