Nvidia’s G-Sync technology is currently what most people know when they look into variable refresh rate tech, which Nvidia has a big stake in because they control just about every aspect of the display chain with it. Continuing with their rapid rollout of compatible monitors and constant software updates, Nvidia today has announced more monitors shipping with their G-Sync scalers from their partners, as well as updates to the software that make it far more user friendly.
New monitors for 2015 from ASUS and Acer
ASUS and Acer are the two biggest vendors of G-Sync monitors today, with both having high-end 144Hz TN displays on offer in the 27-inch range. While there is a shift to using IPS instead of TN, most monitors making use of IPS are running panels clocked at sensible speeds, while a handful are running highly overclocked. That changes things for buyers because now you need to make a choice – use a high-clocked IPS panel and accept the tradeoffs in colour accuracy and white balance, or use a lower-clocked panel and try opt for on with a higher resolution. Even with FreeSync displays now available, Nvidia and its partners have no intentions of simplifying things with G-Sync.
The landscape for the new monitors this year is a little mixed, but still decidedly high-end. Only one TN display has been announced for 2015, which is a 4K display from Acer, running at 60Hz. The pixel densities of these 4K panels tend to change how it displays colour, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell it is a TN panel without moving from side to side to view it at extreme angles. Acer also has a VA display in the works at 144Hz with a native resolution of 2560 x 1080 (a 21:9) aspect ratio, but the Z35’s 35-inch display doesn’t sound too appealing (with DPI scaling at default, text and graphics may look somewhat blocky). However, the other 21:9 monitor, the X34, has a higher resolution with a lower refresh rate, which is a decent compromise.
ASUS also has three new displays coming this year, one of which is a 4K IPS 60Hz panel. Its long been considered the “I must have this!” holy grail of displays, although I suspect that we’ll see the first 120Hz 4K monitors before the year is over. ASUS also has an update to the ROG Swift in the form of the PG279Q, which is an IPS display with 144Hz refresh at a 2560 x 1440 resolution. Very nice, and very expensive.
Prices for these displays haven’t been finalised yet, but you can expect most of these here to fetch over $650. That G-Sync scaler is still a large part of the bill of materials (BOM) of these products, so unless Nvidia makes it into an ASIC to bring down costs, G-Sync will remain a high-end option for a long time.
Windowed support and capping options for refresh rates
One of the main issues with G-Sync is that it only worked with full-screen applications in the past, so you couldn’t run games in windowed mode, or borderless windowed. Well, that’s a thing now, if you make your move to downloading the latest version of the Geforce drivers today.
There are no caveats to playing your games this way, but consider how it changes things for the rest of your desktop. If you’re one of those people who plays in windowed mode while also having a Youtube video open in a browser, keep in mind that the variable refresh rates will probably introduce some stutter in to the stream. Video is not variable in its refresh rate at all, so a monitor running at something odd like 97Hz while you’re playing a game will result in hitching in the video in the background, since most Youtube stuff is still running at 30fps. Some applications also require that the Desktop Windows Manager be running at a set refresh rate, so you’ll also run into some issues there.
Nvidia is also fixing some of the lingering issues of the G-Sync module. Starting with the Geforce 353.xx drivers, you’ll be able to toggle some settings of your monitor without launching the OSD and using the terrible buttons they sometimes put on there. Instead, the drivers directly interface with the G-Sync scaler and tell it what to do, whether that is enabling G-Sync, setting a particular refresh rate, or enabling/disabling Ultra Low Motion Blur (ULMB, which cannot be run at the same time as G-Sync). ULMB benefits you if you’re running at a set refresh rate anyway, and helps minimise ghosting issues on faster displays.
G-Sync users can also now tune a setting which tells the scaler and GPU what to do when the refresh rate runs above the monitor’s maximum. In the past, V-Sync was forced on when you ran above the monitor’s refresh rate, which obviously isn’t ideal. Now, you can turn it off, removing any mouse lag induced as a result of using V-Sync (just like the default on AMD FreeSync-compatible displays). The input is minimal in any case, but if you own one of these monitors today, its worth playing around with it to see how it works for you.