At CES 2019, NVIDIA announced that it was finally supporting FreeSync. Well, sort of—what the company actually announced was a “G-SYNC Compatible” program. But the rub is this: NVIDIA’s cards and drivers now work with FreeSync monitors for adaptive sync.
The situation is a little confusing. Let’s fix that, shall we?
Adaptive Sync, FreeSync, and G-SYNC
Adaptive Sync, often branded as “FreeSync” by AMD and its partners, is a feature that lets a monitor pause its screen refresh until an entire frame of animation is ready to load. This happens multiple times per second, faster or slower depending on how fast your PC and graphics card can render the frame. If the frame is slower than your monitor’s refresh rate, it will wait. This allows the motion in the game to remain smooth without tearing.
G-SYNC is NVIDIA’s branded alternative to adaptive sync/FreeSync. Unlike FreeSync, which doesn’t need any additional hardware, G-SYNC monitors include a tiny computer module inside them to manage the syncing of frames rendered by the GPU and displayed by the screen. This module is manufactured and supplied by NVIDIA to its hardware partners, which is why G-SYNC monitors are almost universally more expensive than FreeSync monitors.
Here’s a more technical breakdown of G-SYNC and FreeSync.
But for several years, PC gamers with NVIDIA cards have lamented their lack of access to the adaptive sync/FreeSync capabilities on cheaper monitors. As of NVIDIA driver version 417.71, released on January 15, 2019, this is no longer a problem.
G-SYNC Versus G-SYNC Compatible
NVIDIA’s new support for FreeSync monitors is via a program called “G-SYNC Compatible.” NVIDIA GPUs now work with FreeSync monitors with “G-SYNC Compatible” enabled in the configuration tool. Huzzahs and hurrahs all around.
Now, NVIDIA is making it very clear that it thinks the more expensive G-SYNC option, with NVIDIA hardware driving both the GPU and the monitor, is the superior choice. But it’s also selected a few FreeSync monitors that it thinks are worthy of its G-SYNC blessing (if not the official branding). At CES, NVIDIA engineers told us they had independently tested hundreds of FreeSync monitors and found that only twelve passed its rigorous tests for panel quality, refresh consistency, color accuracy, and a gauntlet of other criteria. These twelve monitors are:
- Acer XFA240
- Acer XZ321Q
- Acer XV273K
- Acer XG270HU
- Agon AG241QG4
- AOC G2590FX
- Asus MG278Q
- Asus XG258
- Asus XG248
- Asus VG278Q
- BenQ XL2740
Despite lacking the specialized G-SYNC hardware in G-SYNC-branded monitors, these monitors will automatically have G-SYNC enabled in NIVIDA’s driver if you connect them with adaptive sync enabled by the monitor itself. It’s FreeSync! Only it’s called G-SYNC because you have an NVIDIA card.
This list will grow as NVIDIA keeps testing a wider array of gaming monitors. In fact, at least one FreeSync monitor that’s not on the market yet, the new Razer Raptor, will be certified for G-SYNC before it’s even released.
What if you have one of the hundreds of FreeSync monitors not on the list above? Don’t worry. While your monitor might not pass NVIDIA’s rigorous internal testing standards, you can still try it out with the G-SYNC Compatible program. You might see a noticeable improvement in your games’ smoothness, with the adaptive sync feature eliminating tearing at lower framerates. Check out the next section to see how.
How to Enable “G-SYNC Compatible” Mode on Any FreeSync Monitor
Here’s what you’ll need to enable G-SYNC Compatible mode if your monitor isn’t certified by NVIDIA:
- A FreeSync (adaptive sync) capable monitor
- An NVIDIA GTX or RTX graphics card (laptops with internal discrete cards are fine too)
- A DisplayPort cable connecting them (Mini-DisplayPort is fine)
- NVIDIA GPU drivers, 417.71 or later
Once you’ve confirmed that your monitor is FreeSync compatible and you’re using a DisplayPort cable, check the on-screen menu of your monitor. That’s the one that you activate via the physical buttons on the monitor. Go into the menu and make sure that the Adaptive Sync or FreeSync function is enabled.
Now, in Windows, open the NVIDIA Control Panel by right-clicking your desktop and selecting “NVIDIA Control Panel.”
You can also find a shortcut to the NVIDIA Control Panel in the Start menu or as an icon in the Windows Control Panel.
In the NVIDIA Control Panel, you should see “Set up G-SYNC” under the “Display” menu on the left side. If you don’t see “Set up G-SYNC” as an option and you’re sure it’s enabled by your monitor, you might need to install drivers for your monitor manually.
In the Set Up G-SYNC screen, make sure your main monitor is selected if you have more than one. Click the check mark next to “Enable G-SYNC, G-SYNC Compatible.” Choose whether to enable it for full screen mode only or both windowed and full screen modes, depending on how you display your games.
Click “Apply” to enable G-SYNC/FreeSync. You’re good to go! Enjoy smoother gameplay in your favorite games. Note that some games may work better or worse, depending on whether you run them in fullscreen or windowed mode (“fullscreen windowed” counts as windowed for this purpose). You can come back and change that setting in the NVIDIA Control Panel if you’re having issues.