Monitor Sync’ing – Let’s Figure It Out

Having looked at monitor refresh rate, another aspect to consider when selecting a monitor is deciding what type of synchronization works best with the system’s graphics card.

There are three major offerings for sync’ing the video signal output of a give GPU to the monitor: V-Sync, G-SYNC and FreeSync (they will also be dropping a dope album in 2019).

V-Sync (vertical synchronization) has been around for a long time, going all the way back to CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors. V-Sync was devised as a technology that attempted to match (synchronize) the frames per second of the video card with the refresh rate of the monitor. The biggest hurdle to getting this to work was that a given GPU’s frames per second are in constant flux, making this synchronization difficult. New frames would be available before the monitor had finished drawing the previous frame. This fluctuation leads to the phenomenon known as screen tearing, where the refresh rate is slower than the GPU output and the monitor can’t keep up, drawing half of one frame and half of the next. The V-Sync technology evolved to use a buffering system so that it only grabs frames that are complete (if the video card is faster than the refresh rate of the monitor, drawing frames faster than can be displayed, it will put a frame in a buffer and start working on the next frame while the monitor displays the current frame in the buffer). This works well when the GPU fps is outpacing the monitor refresh rate. It breaks down (as most of these technologies do) when the frames per second drop below the refresh rate. It is also limited to refresh rates that are multiples monitor refresh rate (60 fps, 30 fps, etc.) (This post on HardForum really gets into the nitty gritty of V-Sync).

NVIDIA’s G-SYNC and AMD’s FreeSync look to alleviate the problems plaguing V-Sync in two different ways.

NVIDIA’s G-SYNC solution is hardware based, meaning work is done both on the GPU side and the monitor side. A G-SYNC capable monitor has an NVIDIA chip that communicates with the NVIDIA GPU and syncs the refresh rate of the monitor with the fps of the GPU. This obviously caps the possible fps to the monitor specs, but the ability to modify the refresh rate dynamically provides a noticeable image quality improvement. Screen tearing and input lag (the time between moving the mouse or hitting a key on the keyboard) improves due to the increase in screen refresh. (This probably only applies to high-level professional gamers, but we all think we’re Pros, so…) It does increase the price of the monitor given that the monitor manufacturer has to include extra hardware. (As stated earlier, as frame rates drop, the syncing technology suffers.)

AMD’s FreeSync technology is GPU-only and therefore doesn’t require any extra hardware on the monitor end (but does require that the DisplayPort input be used). FreeSync takes advantage of “Adaptive-Sync” that VESA has built into the standard DisplayPort standard. From the VESA website: “DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync enables the display to dynamically match a GPU’s rendering rate, on a frame-by-frame basis, to produce a smoother, low latency, gaming experience.” An AMD Radeon GPU is required to utilize FreeSync capabilities, (just like NVIDIA and G-SYNC) but FreeSync offers a wider range of monitors able to take advantage of the adaptive synchronization.

When making a final decision on which monitor is the best option, cost and technology preference are the two deciding factors. By most accounts, NVIDIA’s G-SYNC offering edges out FreeSync in terms of performance, especially at the high end. That performance comes at a price, however, as the extra hardware that is added to G-SYNC monitors increases its price. Without first-hand experience, I am not in a position to recommend either. I started the process of researching components for a new PC with the intention of using an NVIDIA GPU but now I am being swayed into AMD’s camp with the cheaper, more diverse FreeSync monitor options.

Either way, the current setup and future plans for your setup will dictate your monitor choice.

November Releases

Normally, I dread doing the Monthly Release post for November. Every publisher crams their best stuff the first couple of weeks of the month to be on the shelf for Black Friday, but this month was surprisingly light. Besides Fallout 76 (which I will be picking up on PC, even though it’s not on Steam), there’s not much that sets my pants on fire. On to this month’s releases:

Microsoft Xbox One

Week of November 5th

Week of November 12th

The Shapeshifting Detective
MechaNika

Week of November 26th


Nintendo Switch

Week of November 5th

Week of November 12th

Week of November 19th

Week of November 26th


Nintendo 3DS

No new releases for the Nintendo 3DS this month.


PC

Week of November 5th
The Shapeshifting Detective

Week of November 12th
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
Underworld Ascendant
HELLGATE: London
HITMAN 2
Fallout 76

Week of November 26th
X4: Foundations
Artifact
Darksiders III


Sony Playstation 4

Week of November 5th

Week of November 12th

Week of November 19th

Week of November 26th


Sony Playstation Vita

No new releases for the Sony Playstation Vita this month.


What are you picking up this month?

(Note: As always, all Amazon.com links have our affiliate code embedded in them. If you purchase something through our link, we get a little commission. It’s appreciated.)

Diablo 3 on the Switch

I’m still working through the next monitor research post, but I just wanted to complete a quick side-quest to say how pleasantly surprising it is to read that Diablo 3 on the Switch is actually pretty good. I am proud of that little Switch machine and I get a little defensive when its horsepower is questioned but I’m also a realist — I know it has limitations. I am currently playing through Season 15 on PC as a zoo keeper Necro and it sure seems like the game would suffer on the Switch, but apparently that doesn’t seem to be the case. A smattering of reviews:

IGN calls it “amazing” and gives it a 9/10:

And though we tried like hell to bring Diablo 3’s 60fps framerate to its knees on the Switch, it not only didn’t break, it didn’t even flinch. With four players setting off crazy special attacks amidst dozens of monsters onscreen, Diablo 3 on Switch stayed buttery smooth.

Polygon gives it high marks:

Being able to run through rifts at your desk, sitting on the couch while watching a movie or while traveling is great. Unless you’re really trying to push the limits of your current character, Diablo 3 is about as chill as it gets, and having it detached from big screen and ready to play whenever you are is reason enough to pick up the Switch port.

God is a Geek comes in with an 8.5/10 score and reports that couch co-op isn’t all that bad:

The Switch version offers 4-player couch-co-op (if you have enough controllers), which is incredibly fun but can be frustrating when you’re all trying to micromanage your character’s gear and the menu screen blocks everyone else’s game, forcing them to sit and wait until you’re done. Played online it’s easier, but of course you lose the undeniable magic of playing together on the same screen.

While I don’t think Diablo 3 on the Switch is in my future, it’s nice to see it’s continuing the streak of great games on the Switch.

Monitor Refresh Rate – Let’s Figure it Out

(I am in the process of doing the research before building a new PC. As I work through this research, I’m going to post some of the more useful/interesting tidbits I find along the way. This is the first of a series of quick posts.)

The plan is to build a moderately beefy computer. I’m not going the budget route, but I’m also not going the all-out, 4k-capable, 100fps ultra-settings PC, either. I think I’ll use the monitor as a starting point to build the system around. I’m selecting a 1440p monitor and will select components that will give me the flexibility to upgrade to the 4k realm if I so desire down the road. For now, I think 2560×1440 will be plenty of pixels.

It’s been a long time since I’ve bought a new monitor (I am still rocking this solid but definitely long-in-the-tooth Lenovo ThinkVision 24″ beauty pictured above) so I haven’t done any serious monitor research in over eight years. As you can see, the refresh rate on my ThinkVision is 60Hz. Back when I got it, no one fretted over refresh rates. It was all about resolution, and I specifically chose that model for its 1920x1200 resolution. Those extra 180 pixels turned me into a resolution snob. Oh you play at 1080p? That’s cute. My monitor eats 1080p’s for breakfast.

So since I’m not going for those ultra-high 4k settings, I’m going to look for a solid 2560×1440 monitor with a good refresh rate.

In simple terms, the refresh rate is how many times per second the monitor is able to change each pixel on the screen. While it is not tied to frames per second (that’s how many graphical images [frames] your graphics card can pump out), you need a monitor that can at least keep up with the power of your graphics card. If your graphics card is easily humming along at 100 fps, that old 60 Hz monitor isn’t going to keep up and you’re losing graphical “quality”. Having a monitor’s refresh rate be as close to the frames per second being pumped out by the GPU is essential to making the most of your system’s power. How fast you need is really a personal preference. This article I found at Digital Trends sums up what the majority of my research has shown:

In short, if you’re a gamer, we’d argue that you would see a greater, more obvious benefit from switching to a high-refresh rate monitor than you would in upgrading to 4K — as doing both can get inordinately expensive and taxing on your hardware. 120Hz or 144Hz displays make for smoother, tear-free gaming with less input lag.

The way it looks is this: the jump from 60Hz (where I’m currently at) to anything over 100Hz is going to be markedly improved. The sweet spot seems to be around 144Hz. There are newer screens coming out that top out at 240Hz, but now we’re in the realm of diminishing returns. The difference going from 60 to 120Hz is drastic. The difference from 120 to 240 is only going to be perceptible to the trained eye (that means not me).

So we’re looking for a monitor with a 144 Hz refresh rate, but that’s not all. There’s still things like response rate, sync’ing, and if curvature is all it’s cracked up to be.

October Releases

This is the moment Red Deadheads have been waiting YEARS for (I’m one of them). All other publishers are playing with fire by releasing anything the week of the 22nd, but here we are. Throw in a new Assassin’s Creed, Forza Horizon, Black Ops, and Mega Man and this month is chocka-block full of solid titles, something for everyone.

On to this month’s releases:

Microsoft Xbox One

Week of October 1st

Week of October 8th

Chronus Arc

Week of October 15th

Week of October 22nd

Week of October 29th


Nintendo Switch

Week of October 1st

Splash Blast Panic
Soulblight
Revenant Dogma
oOo: Ascension
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story

Week of October 8th

The World Ends with You: Final Remix
Child of Light Ultimate Edition
Mark of the Ninja: Remastered

Week of October 15th

Starlink: Battle For Atlas
SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption
DARK SOULS: REMASTERED

Week of October 22nd

Week of October 29th

Transistor


Nintendo 3DS

Week of October 8th


PC

Week of October 1st
Mega Man 11

Week of October 8th
Mark of the Ninja: Remastered
WWE 2K19

Week of October 15th
SOULCALIBUR VI
The Jackbox Party Pack 5
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2
LEGO DC Super-Villains
WARRIORS OROCHI 4

Week of October 22nd
Disgaea 5 Complete
Eternum EX

Week of October 29th
Call of Cthulhu
Project Hospital


Sony Playstation 4

Week of October 1st

Week of October 8th

Week of October 15th

Week of October 22nd

Week of October 29th


Sony Playstation Vita

Week of October 1st

Week of October 29th


What are you picking up this month?

(Note: As always, all Amazon.com links have our affiliate code embedded in them. If you purchase something through our link, we get a little commission. It’s appreciated.)