Nvidia GSync to boost gaming monitor performance

Nvidia GSync monitor header hardware

Nvidia has revealed GSync, a new monitor technology that will reinvent how monitors work with graphics cards, and offer smooth gameplay no matter which graphics card gamers use.

Nvidia’s CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, was on hand at Nvidia’s Montreal, Canada event on 17 October to run through the demonstration and explain the technology behind GSync.

The GSync module is a replacement monitor scaler that communicates with Nvidia graphics cards. Nvidia says that it wants to get the price down to $100 eventually to entice more brands to adopt it.

GSync has been adopted by several monitor manufacturers and will be implemented in high-end solutions from BenQ, Phillips, ASUS, and Viewsonic.

Monitors equipped with the GSync hardware will be available in Q1 2014 and a Geforce GTX650 Ti is the minimum spec GPU required for GSync to work.

In traditional monitors, the scaler’s job is to run the hardware at a set refresh rate to maintain compatibility between applications and present a similar experience to CRT monitors. Scalers are fixed-function hardware and often cannot be software controlled from an external source.

Instead of monitors running at a constant refresh rate of 60, 75, 120 or 144Hz, the GSync scaler instead drives the monitor’s refresh rate to match the framerate of the GPU. If the GPU is rendering a game at 35 frames per second, the scaler will match the monitor’s refresh rate to 35Hz to maintain smoothness.

Nvidia GSync daughter module

Nvidia GSync daughter module

Current implementations of GSync require a monitor with a Displayport connection and a replacable scaler board. Nvidia has no plans for making GSync work over HDMI or DVI.

This, Huang promised, would not only allow gamers to disable VSync and not have tearing or frame stuttering in games, but it would also allow gamers to run games as fast as their monitors would allow while simultaneously dropping input lag (the time it takes for your movements to be translated to your monitor).

The GSync module will be initially available to modders looking to mod their monitors to accommodate it. While the ASUS VG248QE is the only monitor officially supporting it today, there are also variants of the 27-inch Korean IPS gaming monitors which would also be able to run on a GSync module by replacing the scaler.

The benefits of a variable refresh rate are huge. Images will always be sharp and clear, motion blur is greatly reduced at low frame rates and it opens up several options to game developers to make their worlds more realistic instead of electing to make design compromises to keep frame rates high.

The photo below illustrates a demo Nvidia was showing where they concentrated on the strengths of GSync. Note how the text on the pendulum to the right (on a GSync monitor) is easily readable, while the monitor to the left, running at 50 frames per second, is a mess.

Nvidia GSync  pendulum demo

Nvidia GSync pendulum demo

This is big news not only for gaming, but for mobile graphics as well. Using a GSync monitor with a Geforce graphics card on a laptop would mean that the monitor would only have to refresh itself if a new image is displayed, lowering power use and improving image quality.

However, GSync does have limitations. It only works with modern Kepler-based graphics cards, so you will have to upgrade if you’re still on older Fermi-based hardware. You will also need a new monitor. The scaler won’t work in just any design and also requires an LCD panel that can ramp up to 120 or 144Hz.

It also only works on Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 with Forceware 331.58 or later drivers. If you’re still on Windows Vista or XP, Linux, or Mac OS X, you’re out of luck for now. Support for Linux and OS X may come at a later date.

A boon to the adoption of GSync is that the translation is all done at the driver level. GSync is merely an extension of the Displayport protocol and does not need approval from a standards body, nor is the method patented, leaving AMD and Intel to work on their own solutions or help the industry to shift to this new display method.

Additionally, any game using any API and any engine benefits from GSync and does so without changing any software or requiring patches. It may be the game-changer Nvidia needs to help keep the desktop gaming market alive.

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Nvidia GSync to boost gaming monitor performance

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