Variable refresh rate monitors come in a few different flavors. NVIDIA’s implementation is known as G-SYNC, but there are two variations: standard G-SYNC, and G-SYNC Compatible. So what’s the difference?
Native G-SYNC Uses Dedicated Hardware
Native G-SYNC displays use a chip produced by NVIDIA inside the display. Before the introduction of “G-SYNC Compatible” monitors, this was the only way to get variable refresh rate gaming working on your NVIDIA graphics card.
To recap, variable refresh rate (VRR) gaming eliminates unsightly screen tearing by instructing the monitor to wait until the graphics card is ready to send a full frame. The feature has become common in recent years, with most monitors now supporting FreeSync at the minimum, and G-SYNC support finding its way into televisions that are ideal for gaming.
Native G-SYNC has several benefits, including a wider VRR range (down to 30Hz) and lower latency than software-driven alternatives. The use of variable overdrive allows monitors to eliminate problems like ghosting or pixel overshoot, which is tied to the presence of a dedicated G-SYNC chip.
To take advantage of a native G-SYNC display, you’ll need a GeForce GTX 650 Ti graphics card or newer, plus a display with a G-SYNC chip in it. It can be difficult to sift through native G-SYNC monitors and G-SYNC Compatible monitors in marketing materials, so we’d recommend consulting NVIDIA’s list of native G-SYNC monitors before you buy.
G-SYNC Compatible Uses an Open Standard
AMD’s answer to G-SYNC is FreeSync, an open standard that is free to implement that doesn’t require dedicated hardware. While basic FreeSync support lacks some of the more powerful features seen on native G-SYNC displays, the relative ease at which it can be added to monitors has helped AMD establish the technology on a huge range of monitors and televisions.
Enter G-SYNC Compatible monitors. These monitors allow NVIDIA graphics card owners to use variable refresh rates in monitors that lack the dedicated G-SYNC chip. Many FreeSync monitors are also G-SYNC Compatible, but not all.
In reality, G-SYNC Compatible simply means that NVIDIA has tested and certified the monitor. Just like FreeSync, G-SYNC Compatible displays use the VESA Adaptive-Sync standard (read the whitepaper), with the same limitations such as a VRR range starting at 40Hz or 48Hz.
If a monitor isn’t certified by NVIDIA to be G-SYNC Compatible then it may still work with VRR on an NVIDIA graphics card, but it may not work perfectly. The best way to know for sure is to thoroughly research any prospective purchases, thereby avoiding disappointment. Read more about enabling G-SYNC on FreeSync monitors.
Variable Refresh Rate Gaming is Here
Both implementations of G-SYNC require DisplayPort 1.2a or better, though some G-SYNC Compatible TVs (like LG’s C9, CX, and C1 OLEDs) and monitors can use HDMI 2.1.
VRR has changed the game in terms of combating screen tearing and smoothing over performance dips. The Xbox Series consoles both support VRR, with support also allegedly coming to the PlayStation 5 in a later update.
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