At a gaming event in Montreal, Nvidia announced a new product they have been working on with several monitor partners that will finally resolve the issue of screen tearing. This technology is called G-Sync, and its basic function is variable refresh rates.
Screen tearing occurs when the frame rate of a game does not match up with the pixel refresh rate of a monitor. A typical monitor refreshes at a rate of 60 Hz. If a game is running at exactly 60 FPS, they match up, and everything looks great.
However, if a game goes above or below that, they go out of sync, and you get screen tearing.
If the scene above looks familiar to you, then you have experienced screen tearing.
The solution to this has been Vsync – the game engine buffers a few frames, and only sends them out at a rate that matches the screen’s refresh rate. There are a few problems with this. One is stuttering – sometimes an odd number of frames get left out in order to output at 60 Hz. This can lead to awkward controls, and non-smooth animation even though it is outputting at a steady rate. Another is when the frame rate goes below the 60 Hz range. During intensive scenes, the frame rate can drop, and you are back to having screen tearing. And of course there is the issue that many people would like their games to run at a higher rate than 60 FPS. This can be achieved with high refresh rate monitors, but the other issues may persist.
Nvidia’s solution to this is called G-Sync – it effectively replaces Vsync, but will only work with their video cards.
G-Sync is a module that can be used by monitor manufacturers to allow for adaptive refresh rates. It communicates with the video card (only Nvidia Kepler based cards will be supported at first) to determine what refresh rate to use. If a game is running at 55 Hz, the monitor’s refresh rate will match. If the game suddenly spikes at 120 Hz, then drops to 70 Hz, the monitor will accommodate. This will effectively end screen tearing.
Nvidia listed partners such as Asus, Benq, Philips, and Viewsonic as having a G-Sync product in the works. The first announced price is a G-Sync version of the Asus VG248QE. This will be priced at $399 when it comes out, about $120 more than the monitor currently sells for. You will also be able to buy a G-Sync kit for the the standard version of this monitor, for about $175. That is quite a big leap in price to get rid of screen tearing, but may well be worth it.