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NVIDIA's G-SYNC Has Problems, but Intel's Supporting FreeSync Isn't One

By Ashraf Eassa - Sep 1, 2015 at 8:00AM

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Intel's recently announced support of AMD's FreeSync technology probably doesn't mean much for NVIDIA's competing G-SYNC technology.

My Foolish colleague Timothy Green recently published an article suggesting that NVIDIA's (NVDA -4.40%) G-SYNC technology might not last against what rival graphics maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD -4.11%) calls FreeSync.

As Timothy notes, FreeSync doesn't require any proprietary hardware, unlike G-SYNC, which requires a specialized hardware "module," known as a G-SYNC module, to be included as part of any monitor that supports G-Sync.

Green argues that now that chipmaker Intel (INTC -0.79%), which commands overwhelming PC graphics market segment share through its integrated graphics solutions, has publicly announced that it will support FreeSync, the chances that "G-SYNC will ultimately win out against FreeSync are slim."

Although I am bullish on NVIDIA, and even though I am thrilled with my G-SYNC powered display, I agree with Green that G-SYNC probably won't last over the long term. Here's why.

G-SYNC seems to significantly increase display costs
The first issue with G-SYNC is that it seems to lead to a significant increase in monitor pricing relative to comparable FreeSync panels. To illustrate this point, let me show you two gaming-oriented monitors. They are from different manufacturers, but they use the same underlying display.

The ASUS MG279Q, which is a FreeSync-capable monitor, goes for $580 new on Newegg.com. The Acer XB270HU, based on the exact same panel, sells for $799 -- a $219 price difference. Although, according to Tom's Hardware, G-SYNC has some advantages over FreeSync, $219 represents a substantial price premium. 

A lot of FreeSync monitors have been hitting the market lately; where are the G-SYNC variants?
Although NVIDIA had a head start on AMD with G-SYNC, it would seem that many attractive displays have recently launched with FreeSync support, with G-SYNC models expected to come later.

For example, the G-SYNC counterpart from ASUS to the MG279Q -- known as the PG279Q has yet to become available. Another example would be Acer's 34-inch curved display. The FreeSync variant is available for purchase today, while the G-SYNC capable model isn't expected until later. And, of course, it will probably be even more expensive than the currently available FreeSync variant.

FreeSync-style variable refresh will probably win out in desktops, but does Intel's support really matter?
With FreeSync monitors seemingly coming in ahead of their G-SYNC-based counterparts and at substantially lower prices, I tend to agree with the notion that FreeSync-type technologies will ultimately win out over G-SYNC in desktop gaming monitors over the long term.

I would argue, though, that whether Intel supports the standard or not probably isn't all that important to this battle. As far as desktop PC gamers go, I doubt that users unwilling or unable to purchase discrete graphics cards will buy premium gaming monitors with either G-SYNC or FreeSync support.

In the laptops, where Intel's integrated graphics are probably more often used by gamers than in desktops, G-SYNC doesn't require any proprietary hardware such as the G-SYNC module to function correctly. Indeed, according to AnandTech, G-SYNC in mobile devices needs only embedded DisplayPort, which the site says is a "common fixture in high-end notebooks these days."

It would seem to me that in the fast-growing market for gaming notebooks, the FreeSync versus G-SYNC debate is fairly moot, strengthening the argument that Intel's support for FreeSync is ultimately irrelevant to the success or failure of NVIDIA's G-SYNC. 

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