As the videos demonstrate, G-Sync has tangible benefits over a fixed-rate 144Hz monitor, with or without conventional vsync. Nvidia says the improvements will be most easily perceptible at lower frame rates, from 40-60 FPS, and that makes quite a bit of sense. After all, that's where vsync quantization is the worst. I tried several things to put this theory to the test.
First, I cranked up the image quality in games like Crysis 3 and Arkham Origins to get frame rates to drop into the range in question. I then compared G-Sync at 144Hz (max) to conventional vsync at 60Hz and 144Hz. G-Sync's benefits were obvious over regular vsync at 60Hz in these cases, even more so than in our Skyrim example with higher frame rates. The difference was subtler at 144Hz, but G-Sync was still an incremental improvement over conventional vsync. Again, the degree to which you'd notice the difference was dictated by the type of movement happening in the moment.
Out of curiosity, I also wanted to see what G-Sync could do for a slower display, like an IPS panel with a 60Hz peak refresh rate, so I used the Nvidia control panel to cap the monitor at 60Hz. At these frame rates and with vsync enabled at 60Hz, frame output in Arkham Origins was often quantized to 30Hz or less. As a result, the game felt sluggish, with somewhat jerky animation. Turning on G-Sync with a 60Hz upper limit was a major improvement. It wasn't quite as nice a G-Sync at 144Hz, of course, but playability was clearly improved. There's a case to be made for outfitting a 60Hz panel with G-Sync control logic, no question.
However, I have to admit that the majority of my G-Sync testing time was spent at much higher frame rates, in Borderlands 2, a glassy-smooth Unreal Engine-based shooter with a frenzied, kinetic feel. This is my favorite game, and it's my favorite way to use a brand-new gaming-focused display tech. I played on the GeForce GTX 660 at frame rates from 60-85 FPS. I played on a GTX 760 with frame rates ranging to 100 FPS and beyond. And I played on a GeForce GTX 780 Ti, where frame rates went as high as 120-144 FPS. Holy crap, it was awesome in every case, and more so with the faster graphics cards.
I tend to have a wee bit of an addictive personality, and playing BL2 with G-Sync's creamy smoothness fed that tendency in wonderful and dangerous ways. That's probably why this G-Sync write-up here is conspiciously late, and it's definitely why my Christmas shopping was a perilously last-minute affair. I played through the rest of the Tiny Tina DLC, burned through the Headhunter packs, and found myself pondering another play-through when I finally had to stop myself and focus on Yuletide cheer rather than looting another bandit. Borderlands 2 offers very immediate feedback; it doesn't use double- or triple-buffering, which is why its FCAT and Fraps results closely correlate. The speed and fluidity of that game on this G-Sync display is like a combo meth/crack IV drip. I could probably make "faces of G-Sync" a thing, if others are affected by it like I am.
I should note that not even a wicked-fast graphics card, a Sandy-Bridge-E CPU, and a G-Sync display can deliver perfectly smooth gameplay all of the time. You will notice the occasional hitch where a frame or two has taken too long to draw. We measure those all of the time in our performance tests, and the really fast, low-latency nature of G-Sync makes those hiccups keenly felt. G-Sync doesn't solve every problem, even though it's a vast improvement in display synchronization.
So I'm a fan of G-Sync as a technology. The questions now are about how the tech gets implemented. At present, you can only get G-Sync upgrade kits from select vendors, for installation in this Asus monitor—or you can pay extra to have the module installed for you. I suspect Asus will start selling a version of the monitor with the G-Sync module already integrated before long.
That will be a good start, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. The Asus VG248QE monitor's LCD panel just isn't very good, even by TN standards. Some TN panels are pretty decent, believe it or not, and if we can't get IPS displays in the first wave, I'm hoping we'll see a few higher-quality TN panels built into new G-Sync monitors unveiled at CES. Nvidia's module is capable of driving everything up to 4K displays, so here's hoping we have a variety of choices as the year progresses.
I can tell you what I'd like to see happen. I'd like to see somebody produce a G-Sync-compatible monitor based on a 27" IPS panel with a 2560x1440 pixel grid at a reasonable price. We already know that folks have had some success overclocking their cheap 27" Korean IPS monitors to 85Hz, 100Hz, or better. An affordable 27" IPS monitor with a peak refresh of 85 or 100Hz would be a very nice thing indeed. In my view, a panel of that sort with G-Sync and a low refresh interval would be a vastly superior choice for gaming than even one of the fancy 60Hz 4K panels here in Damage Labs. You're better off spreading your pixels per second across successive frames than jamming them all into really tight pixel pitches, honestly.
Looking further ahead, one would hope that something like G-Sync could become a standard for computer displays at some point in the non-too-distant future, so the entire industry can embrace this sort of functionality in a broadly supported standard. Because it's very much the right thing to do.
Twitter implements a 140-character low-pass filter on my thoughts.
204 comments — Last by dreamsss at 12:31 AM on 02/21/14
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