Stutter, lag, and tearing are "the bane of the existence of PC gamers," explains Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. Even with a powerful graphics card in your computer, you won't necessarily get a smooth image because that GPU and the monitor will rarely be in perfect sync. Today, the company's announcing a solution: Nvidia wants to put a new board into your monitor, called G-Sync, to handle the relationship.
"'It's like using an iPhone for the first time."
Right now, when the GPU takes too long to display a frame, the monitor might have to show you an old picture while it waits for the new picture to catch up, which leads to stutter and lag. When the GPU is too fast, you might see two partial frames on screen that don't line up, and appear to "tear" horizontally across your display. According to Nvidia, both things are due to the fact that the monitor samples at a fixed rate, while video game framerates are variable. With a G-Sync monitor, though, the GPU is in charge: it manages the monitor's refresh rate in real time to match the frames that are coming out, giving you a smoother image even at lower framerates.
During a staged hands-off demo, Nvidia showed a G-Sync monitor side-by-side with what was described as a "traditional Asus gaming monitor," and the differences were indeed noticeable. The first example shown was a basic tech demo featuring a three-dimensional swinging pendulum. Nvidia reps played around with the settings, switching the V-Sync on and off, and the traditional monitor suffered the tearing and slowdown you would expect. The G-Sync monitor, meanwhile, maintained a steady 60 frames per second with no graphical issues. The same was true during a demo of the recent Tomb Raider reboot. Though the game wasn't actually being played — reps simply panned the camera around — there was again very noticeable slowdown on the standard monitor, while the G-Sync ran smoothly.
Not requiring high framerates to get a smooth experience could have an important side effect: the GPU's power could be used to display higher quality graphics instead.
Instead of FPS, GPU power could be used to display higher quality graphics instead
Some of Nvidia's partners seem pretty excited about the technology, too. "It's like using an iPhone for the first time," says Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games and the Unreal Engine. "It's just a better experience. Almost every single game can benefit from this," says John Carmack, founder of id software and CTO of Oculus VR.
We don't know what G-Sync will cost yet, but Asus, Benq, Philips, and Viewsonic will all be producing PC gaming monitors using the new technology starting in Q1 of next year.
Andrew Webster contributed to this report.