Since 2013, there have been two competing Variable Refresh Rate technologies: FreeSync, developed by AMD, and G-SYNC, developed by NVIDIA. Since the two technologies are not interchangeable, up until now, it has been important to choose a monitor that uses the same technology as your graphics card. This changed on January 15th, 2019, when NVIDIA released version 417.71 of their driver that enables FreeSync on NVIDIA G-SYNC graphics cards.
This update enables FreeSync support on any 10- and 20- series NVIDIA graphics card, but only over DisplayPort. While developing the new driver, NVIDIA tested over 400 different FreeSync displays, and identified 12 monitors that meet their implementation standard.
The new driver allows you to enable FreeSync with any FreeSync display, even if it isn't officially supported. According to NVIDIA, the unsupported monitors displayed a range of FreeSync issues, ranging from minor tearing and blur, to screen blanking or motion duplications. But, also according to NVIDIA themselves, the monitors displayed these issues on AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards. Another issue is in NVIDIA's requirements, as they require FreeSync to be enabled by default on G-SYNC Compatible monitors; since most monitors require you to enable FreeSync in the monitor's OSD, they are automatically disqualified, even if there were no issues.
Note that this driver technically implements the VESA Adaptive Sync standard, not FreeSync. FreeSync is the proprietary AMD implementation of the VESA Adaptive Sync Standard. Since both use the same standard, this allows NVIDIA cards to work with FreeSync monitors. In this article, we use FreeSync instead of Adaptive Sync for simplicity's sake.
If you have an NVIDIA 10-series, or 20-series graphics card, and would like to buy, or already own, a FreeSync monitor. This will allow you to enable FreeSync, even though your NVIDIA card doesn't natively support it. Enabling FreeSync delivers a tear-free gaming experience, great when the frame rate drops below your monitor's native refresh rate.
We test FreeSync on a custom built PC, with an NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB. Each monitor is connected via DisplayPort, as NVIDIA's FreeSync implementation does not currently work over HDMI. We use NVIDIA's Pendulum G-SYNC demo to test for tearing, stuttering, screen blanking, and other artifacts. We start at the monitor's standard refresh rate, and gradually decrease the sliders until we could see any issues. From there, we gradually increase the sliders until we start seeing tearing or other issues. The results of both of these tests give us the effective variable refresh rate range. We repeat the test at least twice to confirm our findings.
We use the results of this test to subjectively assign a result, based on how well the monitor supports NVIDIA's FreeSync implementation. The possible results are:
In order to use the new mode, you must have an NVIDIA 10-, or 20- series graphics card, and it must be connected to your monitor with a DisplayPort cable. Depending on your specific monitor, you may need to enable FreeSync from the on-screen display.
To enable FreeSync, you must first select "G-SYNC Compatible" from the Monitor Technology setting under NVIDIA Control Panel. Once this setting has been enabled, you should see a new option, Set up G-SYNC, appear under the Display menu. From there you can enable G-SYNC for either full screen mode, or both full screen and windowed mode.
As of March 25, 2019, 17 monitors have received official G-SYNC Compatible certification. They are:
Unfortunately, this update only enables FreeSync over DisplayPort, it is not currently possible to use this with an HDMI cable. This means, unfortunately, that it does not work with the few TVs on the market that support FreeSync over HDMI, including the Samsung 2018 QLEDs, NU8000 and NU8500, or with FreeSync monitors that only have HDMI ports.
This test is by no means exhaustive, and your results may vary depending on the specific games you are playing, and your specific graphics card. On most monitors, we did still observe some tearing, especially during rapid refresh rate changes. This could cause a few seconds of tearing when changing from pre-rendered cutscenes in games, to the in-game engine, or if the game suddenly slows down significantly.
On all monitors, the screen would usually start tearing within 1-2 fps of the monitor's maximum refresh rate. The exact same behavior was observed when testing the monitors on an AMD Radeon card, and is caused by the refresh rate very briefly exceeding the display's maximum refresh rate.
We hope to expand this test in the future, let us know in the discussions down below if you have any suggestions on things we could check.
The addition of FreeSync to NVIDIA's drivers is a welcome change, and represents a significant policy shift at NVIDIA. So far, the implementation seems to work well with the majority of FreeSync monitors currently on the market, and we hope that it will only improve in the future. It remains to be seen whether NVIDIA will support FreeSync over HDMI, which would be wonderful news, given the influx of HDMI-VRR TVs expected to hit the markets in the coming months.