The Bottom Line
AMD is at a disadvantage because it doesn’t have the variable refresh range coverage currently enjoyed by Nvidia. If you spring for the QHD/FreeSync/IPS display we tested with and run a game like Borderlands on a 390X, it’s going to fall outside of 35-90Hz almost exclusively, even if you dial in the most taxing settings possible. Conversely, the QHD/FreeSync/TN screen we could have chosen instead would have likely run into issues with the quality settings we used in The Witcher, which averaged in the 40s, but also dipped lower.
Theoretical similarities between G-Sync and FreeSync aside, we also cannot ignore the fact that a number of our event participants chose the Nvidia solution in games where both FreeSync and G-Sync should have been inside their respective ranges at all times. This happened at a rate of 2:1 in Crysis, and almost 3:1 in Battlefield 4. Those are discrepancies we’d have a tough time attributing to variable refresh. Something else is going on there—a situation made stranger by the fact that both games were picked for their AMD Gaming Evolved affiliations.
Of course, FreeSync is relatively young compared to G-Sync, and we understand that there are hardware and software improvements planned that’ll address some of the technology’s current weaknesses. Technical individuals within AMD and Nvidia acknowledge that, inside the variable refresh range, FreeSync and G-Sync should be equally enjoyable. While our experimental data actually gives Nvidia an edge where one wasn’t expected, paying an extra $150 or more for it may sway certain enthusiasts the other way.
As for us, we’re just glad both technologies exist. Nvidia should be commended for its innovation, which set us on this path almost two years ago. AMD is taking a different approach, and it’s progressing much more slowly. But viable—nay, successful partner products are available, as evidenced by the MG279Q. No doubt FreeSync's lower barrier to entry will be appreciated by more gamers as the line-up of compatible components grows. Might the same sort of experiment held a year in the future yield different results? It’s hard to say. But based on the enthusiasm we saw at Newegg’s Hybrid Center, we’re confident we have the crew for whatever testing is needed.