FreeSync and G-Sync are two terms that get thrown around a lot, and it seems like most people still don’t really understand what the deal is and whether the technology is useful. The waters are muddied even more with new displays that have higher refresh rates, which tend to affect both of those.
So, ultimately, the question becomes how useful is FreeSync, and do you need it?
What Does FreeSync Do?
Freesync (and G-sync) are two different forms of something called Adaptive Sync. What this technology does is necessarily help stop or avoid things such as screen tearing and other types of visual latency. How does it do that? By syncing the frame rate output by the GPU to the display that you have.
You see, most modern AAA games tend to be incredibly resource-hungry. Unless you have a beefy PC, you might not be able to output a minimum of 60 frames per second. This lag in the number of frames compared to your monitor can cause tearing and visual latency, which is annoying, to say the least. By allowing you to sync frames, Adaptive-Sync technology will enable you to go below the 60 fps point and still not notice any tearing.
So really, if you consistently push more than your monitor’s native frame rate, you should be fine. Otherwise, read one! I should mention that there is an alternative in the form of VSYNC. However, that can have its own issues by introducing input lag to the gameplay, so it’s an imperfect solution.
What Do You Need for FreeSync?
FreeSync is an AMD technology, and so for starters, you need to have an AMD graphics card or APU that support FreeSync. Most AMD cards from the past few years support FreeSync, so if you have a powerful AMD graphics card from the past five years, you should be fine. APUs are a bit more complicated because support for them only recently started, but the Ryzen APUs do have it.
Aside from one of those two, you’ll also need a display that supports FreeSync as well. Thankfully, you won’t have to fumble about looking for these, as most manufacturers offer their screens in variants for FreeSync and G-Sync. I should also mention for those of you interested in G-Sync, Nvidia has begun supporting some FreeSync monitors, although with limitations.
FreeSync vs. FreeSync 2 HDR
Regardless of what the name may suggest, FreeSync can still function with HDR on specific monitors that support it, you just have to make sure they do. With FreeSync 2 HDR though, monitors have to support HDR for AMD to fully license them. So this new categorization removes the ambiguity basically.
As long as you see a FreeSync 2 HDR sticker, the monitor can support it.
FreeSync vs. G-Sync
This is the part where most people are going to get a bit annoyed, because in terms of pure performance, G-Sync, which is Nvidia’s version of adaptive sync, outclasses FreeSync. Compared to FreeSync (when using a quality 144Hz gaming monitor), G-Sync can max out at 144Hz at 4k, whereas FreeSync can only max out to 120Hz at 4k. G-Sync also has a much more extensive dynamic range when it comes to the refresh rates, and generally has much lower input lag.
That’s balanced out by the fact that G-Sync requires manufacturers to purchase a proprietary chip that replaces their own scales, and that increases the price by around $100 or so per monitor. On the other hand, FreeSync doesn’t need that, so it’s much easier to get it on displays. In-fact there are no G-Sync TVs on the market as far as I’m aware, but there are FreeSync TVs.
So, with G-Sync, you get better performance at the cost of price. As compared to FreeSync where it’s generally cheaper, has more options but the performance isn’t as good.
Ultimately though, if you aren’t experiencing screen tearing on the heaviest games you play, you may not need any form of adaptive sync. On the other hand, if you do want adaptive sync technology, then you’ll have to go with the one fits your graphics card.
Luckily, if you want to get your hands on any kind of adaptive sync, there are a few great monitors under $300 that have one or the other. Although if that’s too much money for you and you only care about FreeSync, we can also recommend high-quality gaming monitors under $150 that might work for your budget.