Date: Friday , March 30, 2018
If you remember, we did a FreeSync vs G-Sync video about a year ago. That video mostly focused on framerate smoothness and gameplay. Even though that G-Sync system was considerably more expensive than the FreeSync system, AMD held its own and actually pulled ahead with our gamers.
While FreeSync and G-Sync have been very much about stutter-free and tear-free gaming, FreeSync 2 is now bringing HDR support to the table. Recently, AMD announced its Radeon FreeSync 2 technology and now we are seeing affordable displays come to market that support FreeSync 2 and High Dynamic Range lighting. We have all heard the term "HDR" being thrown around for years now, but what does that truly mean in terms of what we see? The slide below, shared by AMD last year when it announced FreeSync 2 HDR support, will probably open your eyes a bit in terms of how much larger in scope HDR10 is when compared to sRGB that we are so familiar with.
For our FreeSync 2 vs G-Sync testing, we chose Forza 7 which was released in October of last year. We used this game because it was one of the first to fully support a great implementation of HDR technology. The list of games that now support HDR is fairly narrow, but surely growing, but after reviewing those games with HDR support Forza 7 very much stands out in terms of visuals.
We used identical AMD Ryzen 1800X PCs for our gaming comparison. Of course our systems have different video cards and displays. Our displays' bezels and housings have been taped off and shrouded so it is impossible for our gamers to identify which system is which. The only instructions they were given was to play the game (twice on each system back-to-back), pay attention to image quality and gameplay, then answer our three questions in our interview. Did you notice any differences in your gaming experience? Rate the system on a scale of 1 to 10. Did you find one system to be $200 worth more than the other? For giving us their Saturday afternoon and answering our questions, we gave them free pizza and beer.
NVIDIA G-Sync System: GIGABYTE AORUS GTX 1080 Ti Waterforce Xtreme Edition (overclocked) - ASUS ROG Swift PG27VQ 27" Curved 165Hz
On the surface, this comparison might seem a bit unfair to AMD. First, the 1080 Ti we are using is a highly overclocked watercooled edition that runs at about 2,000MHz. Second, the ASUS display is overclocked to 165Hz. But let's see how things work out.
The Samsung FreeSync 2 display is $223 less than our ASUS G-Sync display. We did make an attempt to source displays that were very comparable in terms of specs and price, but G-Sync displays are simply more expensive due to those using NVIDIA proprietary hardware logic. As for the prices of our video cards, the Vega 64 was $170 less than our 1080 Ti. This gives us about $400 difference in system cost, with the G-Sync system being more expensive.
Below you can see the video we made that contains the interviews of all our gamers.
I thought the results of our experiment were very interesting. About half of our gamers preferred FreeSync 2 and half preferred G-Sync, and a couple had no preference at all. When questioned as to one system or the other being worth $200 more than the other, none of gamers found enough reason to spend the extra $200. And worth keeping in mind, the actual difference in system cost with the video card figured in was about $400.
I did find a new respect for HDR through our testing throughout the day as explained in the video. After observing multiple gaming sessions side-by-side, it is apparent to me that HDR can certainly deliver a more realistic gaming experience. Currently NVIDIA G-Sync does not support HDR and of course AMD Radeon FreeSync 2 does, and that was at the root of our testing. Can HDR make a difference? Absolutely. Through the day and talking to our gamers, it did become apparent to me that I think we have been wired, after years of PC gaming, to think that games should look like games rather than real life. Of course not all games are developed to look like real life, but if those are, HDR is able to deliver a tremendously realistic gaming experience. HDR supports gaming differences that are subtle, but surely significant.
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Below you can find our initial FreeSync vs G-Sync from last year.