Yes! Sort of. When FreeSync first launched, it was only compatible with AMD GPUs. Since then, it’s been opened up–or rather Nvidia opened up its technology to be compatible with FreeSync.
Hi, I’m Aaron. I love technology and I’ve turned that love into a career in technology that’s spanned the better part of two decades.
Let’s venture into the thorny history of G-Sync, FreeSync, and how they work together and interoperate.
Table of Contents
- Nvidia developed G-Sync in 2013 to give its products a competitive advantage with respect to vertical sync for Nvidia GPUs.
- Two years later, AMD developed FreeSync as an open source alternative for its AMD GPUs.
- In 2019, Nvidia opened the G-Sync standard so that Nvidia and AMD GPUs could be interoperable with G-Sync and FreeSync monitors.
- The user experience for cross-functional operation isn’t perfect, but it’s well worth it if you have an Nvidia GPU and a FreeSync monitor.
Nvidia and G-Sync
Nvidia launched G-Sync in 2013 to provide a system for adaptive framerates where monitors provided static framerates. Monitors prior to 2013 refreshed at a constant framerate. Typically, this refresh rate is expressed in Hertz, or Hz. So a 60 Hz monitor refreshes at 60 times per second.
That’s great if you’re running content at the same number of frames per second, or fps, the de facto measure of video game and video performance. So a 60 Hz monitor will display 60 fps content flawlessly, under ideal conditions.
When Hz and fps are misaligned, bad things happen to the image displayed to the screen. The video card, or GPU, which processes information for the screen and sends it to the screen, may be sending information faster or slower than the screen’s refresh rate. In both cases, you’ll see screen tearing, which is a misalignment of the images being displayed on the screen.
The primary solution for that problem, prior to 2013, was vertical sync, or vsync. Vsync allowed developers to impose a limit on framerates and stop screen tearing as a result of GPUs over-delivery of frames to a screen.
Notably, it does nothing for under-delivery of frames. So if the content on screen experiences frame drop or is under-performing the screen refresh rate, screen tearing could still be an issue.
Vsync also has its problems: stuttering. By limiting what the GPU can deliver to the screen, the GPU may be processing scenes faster than the refresh rate of the screen. So one frame ends before the other begins and the compensation is to send the same prior frame in the interim.
G-Sync lets the GPU drive the monitor’s refresh rate. The monitor will drive content at the speed and timing the GPU drives content. It eliminates tearing and stuttering because the monitor adapts to the GPU’s timing. That solution isn’t perfect if the GPU is underperforming, but largely smooths images. This process is called variable framerate.
Another reason the solution isn’t perfect: the monitor must support G-Sync. Supporting G-Sync means that the monitor had to have very expensive circuitry (especially prior to 2019) that let it communicate with Nvidia GPUs. That expense was passed on to consumers who were willing to pay a premium for the latest in gaming technology.
AMD and FreeSync
FreeSync, launched in 2015, was AMD’s response to Nvidia’s G-Sync. Where G-Sync was a closed platform, FreeSync was an open platform and free for all to use. It let AMD provide similar variable framerate performance to Nvidia’s G-Sync solution while obviating the significant cost of G-Sync circuitry.
That wasn’t an altruistic move. While G-Sync had lower lower bounds (30 vs 60 fps) and higher upper bounds (144 vs 120 fps), within the range both covered performance was virtually identical. FreeSync monitors were significantly cheaper, though.
Ultimately, AMD bet on FreeSync driving sales of AMD GPUs, which it did. 2015 to 2020 saw a significant growth in the visual fidelity driven by game developers. It also saw growth in the framerates monitors could drive.
So long as graphical fidelity was delivered smoothly and crisply in the ranges provided by both G-Sync and FreeSync, purchases came down to cost. Throughout most of that period, AMD and its FreeSync solution won on cost for GPUs and FreeSync monitors.
Nvidia and FreeSync
In 2019, Nvidia began opening its G-Sync ecosystem. Doing so enabled AMD GPUs to take advantage of new G-Sync monitors and Nvidia GPUs to take advantage of FreeSync monitors.
The experience isn’t perfect, there are still quirks that can hamper FreeSync working with an Nvidia GPU. It also takes a little bit of work to get working properly. If you have a FreeSync monitor and an Nvidia GPU, the work is worth it. If nothing else, it’s something you’ve paid for, so why not use it?
Here are some questions you may have related to FreeSync working with Nvidia graphics cards.
Does FreeSync work with the Nvidia 3060, 3080, etc.?
Yes! If the Nvidia GPU you have supports G-Sync, then it supports FreeSync. G-Sync is available for all Nvidia GPUs starting with the GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST GPU or higher.
How to enable FreeSync
To enable FreeSync, you must enable it both in the Nvidia Control Panel and your monitor. You should refer to the manual that came with your monitor to see how to enable FreeSync on your monitor. You may also need to lower your display framerate in the Nvidia Control Panel since FreeSync is typically only supported up to 120Hz.
Does FreeSync Premium work with Nvidia?
Yes! Any 10-series Nvidia GPU or above supports all current forms of FreeSync, including the low framerate compensation (LFC) of FreeSync Premium and HDR functionality provided by FreeSync Premium Pro.
G-Sync is an interesting example of what happens when two competing market solutions seek to achieve the same goals and create a schism in the interested user base. The competition fostered by opening the G-Sync standard has opened the universe of available hardware for users of both AMD and Nvidia GPUs. That’s not to say the solution is perfect, but it works well and is well worth it if you purchase one set of hardware over the other.
What is your experience with G-Sync and FreeSync? Is it worth it? Let me know in the comments!