Leading GPU manufacturer Nvidia is looking to change the way you see your computer display with their new G-SYNC technology. Unveiled in a press release last October, we took a closer look with a hands-on preview of it at PAX East 2014.
Computer monitor technology hasn’t changed much since the switch from cathode ray tubes to LCD. Pixels are powered to deliver colored light line by line, and a certain number of times per second they refresh to show different colors. However, as many computer users (especially gamers) know, this is not always a perfect, fluid process. A common issue in graphics processing is “tearing”, where information from two frames of animation appear on screen at once, causing edges to not line up on-screen. The visual artifact appears when the graphics processor or monitor can’t keep up with the refresh rate, meaning that the display tries to draw
One option to eliminate tearing is to set the GPU to process at exactly 30 frames per second (FPS) or 60 FPS via “vertical synchronization” (V-sync), which forces the monitor to not update until it finishes its refresh cycle, but this is an imperfect solution that creates problems of its own. Since the display refreshes at an irregular rate, and the GPU processes graphics at a different, fixed rate, occasionally users will see “stutters” in the video, as the monitor skips frames of animation to catch up with the GPU’s FPS rate. This is something that can be very bad for gamers in high-action games.
The new G-SYNC monitors from Nvidia use a special chip embedded in the display that syncs the update interval of Nvidia graphics processors to the refresh rate of the screen through their GeForce Experience software. This allows the graphics to render buttery-smooth throughout even difficult video processes, with no stutters and no tearing. One of the demos shown to us at PAX featured a 3D model of a swinging pendulum with reflection and dynamic shadows. The current GPU speed and display refresh rate information were shown on the left. Even as the GPU worked harder to process the reflections as the pendulum swung, the animation was still smooth and fluid, matching the frames of animation with the refresh rate. In a more real-world test, the graphics of Titanfall looked beautiful and smooth at 60 FPS, even when the bullets started flying, with no clipping or stutter.
G-SYNC requires users to have any GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST or higher Kepler-based GPU installed, as well as the GeForce Experience software, running on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, and require DisplayPort technology. The only currently available G-SYNC monitor is a modded ASUS VG248QE 1920 x 1080 display (available from various sellers as listed on Nvidia’s GeForce website for $499), though a do-it-yourself kit is available for modding existing ASUS VG248QE’s as well for $299. Companies such as BenQ, ASUS, Phillips and ViewSonic are planning G-SYNC monitor releases starting in Q2 2014, in resolutions up to 4K x 2K.