Nvidia's G-Sync variable refresh technology was introduced almost two years ago. AMD wasted no time letting us know it had an equivalent capability planned. Many months later, we got our first taste of what came to be known as FreeSync. And now enthusiasts are asking whether to put their money behind AMD or Nvidia. Rather than answering that largely subjective question in our own unilateral way, we took it to the community by setting up a blind taste test of sorts. The experiment was a great success, and we're ready to share our results.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that reviewing PC hardware is a fairly solitary occupation. Sure, you sit in on Skype calls and answer a seemingly endless stream of emails. But it becomes easy to forget that there are millions of enthusiasts around the world looking for guidance. They don’t want every new technology to receive a soft recommendation delicately worded to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. Rather, they pledge allegiance to hard info and rely on technically-minded writers able to distill hundreds of data points into a conclusion: buy this or skip it.
Sometimes that’s an easy call to make. More often it’s not, even with benchmarks illuminating the path. But when a technology can’t be easily put through a suite of quantitative metrics... well, then you’re making a purchasing decision based on our good word. And no doubt that makes both of us just a little bit uncomfortable.
When Nvidia introduced its G-Sync technology, we published G-Sync Technology Preview: Quite Literally A Game Changer. In that piece, we covered technical details, features, configuration and early subjective impressions. But we were off the hook, in a way. Our sample was pre-production. Compatible monitors still weren’t selling yet. And we had the word preview right in our title. Still, we knew Nvidia was onto something, even if we couldn't predict G-Sync's uptake.
The market is so much different today. Not only is G-Sync all over the place — available in 24-, 27- and 28-inch form factors, using TN or IPS panels — but screens with AMD’s FreeSync technology are starting to become more popular, too. We count seven compatible models on Newegg as of this writing, and Filippo, who co-authored the G-Sync launch with me, is working on his deep dive into FreeSync. Really, it’s time to take a stand.
Despite Nvidia’s staunch defense of its proprietary approach and AMD’s evangelizing of a standardized tack, both require a commitment to one company’s hardware or the other. There is no mix and match. AMD can't support G-Sync, and Nvidia won't capitulate on FreeSync. So which deserves your investment, G-Sync or FreeSync?
There is no easy way to benchmark the differences between them, making it perplexingly difficult to drench you in data. And we’ve been doing this long enough to know that any proclamation based on one individual’s experience will become a punching bag for the comments section. Clearly, this needed to become a group project.