Along with its other announcements at CES 2019, Nvidia also announced some updates to G-Sync. One of those updates is G-Sync Ultimate, a new premium tier of G-Sync displays similar to the previously-announced G-Sync HDR. Most likely the more interesting news, though, is that Nvidia is finally going to be offering some support for VESA Adaptive Sync displays.
Both AMD and Nvidia would probably prefer this to not be so public, but AMD's FreeSync is essentially just a brand applied over the free and open VESA Adaptive Sync standard. VESA Adaptive Sync is a technology that allows displays to update at a variable refresh rate (VRR for short). You can read more about it here if you'd like a refresher. Today's announcement isn't exactly "yes, we now support FreeSync", but it's functionally similar.
Nvidia has always maintained that G-Sync is a premium product that provides a premium experience. To that end, the company states that "the [VESA] VRR gaming experience can vary widely." The company says it is testing monitors with support for VESA Adaptive Sync; it claims to have already tested over 400 displays. Monitors that the green giant finds to provide an acceptable experience will be certified as "G-Sync Compatible." The GeForce driver will then automatically identify these displays and enable VRR on them.
Don't fret if your monitor isn't on the extremely short list above. The company says that gamers with monitors the company hasn't tested, "or that have failed validation," will be able to manually enable VESA Adaptive Sync. Nvidia didn't make it clear if this has any practical differences from the automatically enabled mode above, but we expect the actual difference will depend on the display in question. You can check the list of G-Sync displays—including "G-Sync Compatible" displays—on Nvidia's page here.
Meanwhile, folks with demanding tastes and deep pockets are getting another option: G-Sync Ultimate. The new standard comes along with a revised G-Sync processor and mandates the display to reproduce most of the DCI-P3 colorspace, as well as to use a 1000 cd/m² "full-matrix" backlight to display it. Ultimately (heh) it sounds a lot like G-Sync HDR to us, but given that Nvidia is still talking about that standard in the same blog post, they are apparently not one and the same.
If you're itching to enable VESA Adaptive Sync on your GeForce graphics card, you don't have too long to wait. Nvidia says the feature will be coming along with the first Game Ready graphics driver release of the year, on January 15. On the other hand, if you'd like to order up 65" of G-Sync HDR "Big Format Gaming Display", the first one is available for pre-order now.