Variable refresh rates have been a part of PC monitors for a while now, but mainstream gaming consoles haven’t made use of it. The technlogy is incredibly beneficial for gaming since it can be used to eliminate screen tearing and adjust a diplay’s refresh rate in real-time. Nvidia’s version of the technology is known as G-Sync, while AMD’s is branded as FreeSync. Both companies aim to eliminate screen tearing and provide a better overall gaming experience as a result. Some with lower-end monitors may choose to adjust their VSync settings on their graphics card, but it won’t solve the problem completely as it can introduce input lag.
By synchronizing the refresh rate of the monitor with the refresh rate of your graphics card, you will wind up with smoother gameplay. It’s as 1:1 a frame-perfect solution as possible, and once hte video card moves a new frame out, the adaptive monitor technology will display it. AMD’s technology is cheaper to implement and is compatible with off the shelf display scalers, while NVidia is a bit tougher to implement. NVidia requires those wanting to use G-Sync to work with them on every part of the process, which increases the costs of creating G-Sync monitors and that in turns results in them costing more for consumers. AMD’s technology has been used in lower-cost monitors, and allow more people to enjoy them as a result. G-Sync monitors can run you $350 easily, and that does make them more of a premium product.
On March 10, Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb (aka Major Nelson) announced in a live stream that the Xbox platform will gain FreeSync technology. The Xbox One S and Xbox One X platforms will gain FreeSync 2 support alongside HDR support. However, owners of the original Xbox One will get FreeSync support in its more limited first generation incarnation. It’s still going to work, but won’t work quite as well. The usage of FreeSync should theoretically help get games away from having locked framerates, and should definitely improve graphical smoothness. The problem with moving forward on this technology for many gamers is that very few TVs can support it right now – but those with gaming monitors using FreeSync should be in for some smooth sailing.
Microsoft is certainly far ahead of Sony in this regard, as they have no plans to support VRR. It’s amazing to see how each company is behind the curve in some regards. Microsoft has no VR/mixed reality support on their Xbox consoles – despite the Xbox One X being more powerful than any version of the PlayStation 4. Meanwhile, Sony has VR, but lacks VRR support for displays despite the PS4 still having most of its library on other devices as well and developers opitimizing games for a wider array of display types. While it is a bit of a shame that TV-based gamers won’t see a huge benefit right now, in the future, they should and this could definitely lead to a bigger market for gaming monitors.
Presently, they are generally thought of as something that can only benefit PC gamers. While PC gaming is gaining a lot of mainstream popularity,PC gaming is still hurt in the retail space – where consoles generally dominate compared to PCs. There, PC gaming is usually limited to a scant handful of pre-built rigs, assorted graphics cards, and limited RAM options. With giant monolith stores like Wal-Mart, things are bleaker with PC games as a whole being phased out and generally limited to AAA-level releases that get you a download code and little else. Sometimes, there are benefits to going physical with PC gaming – doing so while using a Best Buy Gamers Club Unlocked membership nets you a game for 20% off. This means that you can enjoy a game on day one and still get a hefty discount on it – something that happens for a lot of smaller PC games in the indie sector, but usually only for launch week.
It’s a small thing, but it does allow retail stores to have a reason to stock PC games physically even if they aren’t in great quantity. For a major retail with gaming rigs to sell, being able to offer games up at a discounted rate can be a fine gateway to getting someone a new gaming PC and open the door to a wider array of gaming options. While consoles are a great way to game, gaming on PC offers up far more variety in terms of genres – with things like simulation games not being all that prevalent on consoles outside of The Sims and Farming Simulator, and the actual “simulation” side of those games is certainly up for debate. Retail stores love adding accessories to purchases, and a gaming monitor is an easy thing to add on when someone is just getting into PC gaming.
FreeSync monitors are fairly inexpensive, with offerings as long as $160 new, far less refurbished and if you’re buying a gaming rig pre-built, adding $120-160 to that isn’t a mjor issue. Now, if you already have consoles and want to also game on a PC, adding a higher-dollar monitor may make a lot of sense that it didn’t before. If you are just buying something for a single device, it can be harder to justify spending more before you will naturally get less use out of it. It might be tempting to go with a lower-end unit to keep costs down, but sacrifice quality in doing so. If you go with a higher-end unit, you will get things like better refresh rates and usually better viewing angles – but possibly even get a curved display or jump up to a 4K model for a more future-proof solution.
Microsoft’s big 4K push began with 4K Blu-Ray playback on the Xbox One S, but their 4K gaming push began with the launch of the Xbox One X and ties into their Play Anywhere game library as well. By offering digital purchases to carry over on both Xbox consoles and PCs, they open up the possibility for someone to jump into PC gaming with AAA-level games to show off on both devices. On PC, players can benefit more from having greater control options, while also benefitting from having more storefronts to buy from. Buying a larger 4K monitor allows for gaming to be a bit easier to see, while also making for a richer overall experience – and if you’re spreading that experience out over two devices, spending $400 on a 4K monitor isn’t a huge deal.
It’s doubtful that Microsoft is bringing FreeSync into the fray just to benefit PC monitor makers – but it’s a move that should greatly expand the audience for them. Instead of people buying a 4K TV alongside a new Xbox One S or X console, they could easily get a gaming monitor and depending on their media usage, get more out of it. If someone is younger or just doesn’t want a lot of regular TV, they wouldn’t really lose much out of going with a monitor if they were just buying something for a single room. Asus and LG make some fantastic gaming monitors and have a solid variety of sizes to suit different tastes.
Some may not want a larger monitor, whlie others seeking an all-in-one solution for gaming and TV viewing may get more out of that. Either way, many people stand to benefit from FreeSync being brought to consoles. Consumers will have a richer gaming experience, while monitor manufacturers should see a healthy boost in sales once the update goes live for everyone later this year and isn’t just limited to Xbox Insider members. With so many focusing on only buying 4K TVs to get a rich 4K experience, having the door opened up to monitors going more mainstream is quite exciting and should help PC gaming even more as time goes on.