For most of the time they’ve existed, it’s been difficult to examine FreeSync and G-Sync in a side-by-side equivalent configuration. The problem is, there have been so many variables to account for, making a declaration as to which is the better product has been intrinsically difficult.
A new comparison seeks to answer this question by putting two new monitors from the same company — AOC — head to head. The AOC Agon AG241QG is a new 24-inch G-Sync panel, while the AOC Agon AG241QX is a FreeSync panel.
Both are TN panels running at 2560×1440. FreeSync support runs to 144Hz, while G-Sync runs to 165Hz. Neither support HDR. Aside from a handful of other small differences, they’re basically identical in design and capability.
They differ in two significant ways: The QG G-Sync panel costs $ 600, while the QX is $ 320, and the QX is the absolute and clear winner of the comparison.
This was, the Tom’s Hardware authors note, not what they expected to find. They write,
When we first conceived this experiment, we expected the result to swing in favor of the G-Sync monitor. G-Sync monitors usually have more features and perform a little better in our color and contrast tests. We hypothesized that while you’re paying a premium for G-Sync, those monitors perform slightly better in other areas related to image quality.
Our testing of the AOC Agon AG241QG and AG241QX proved that theory wrong.
While I’ll refer to you to the THG article for the details, the QX panel proved to be far better calibrated out of the box. It also offers a brighter white, deeper black, vastly better contrast ratios, and a much better default experience. That’s important, particularly if you don’t color calibrate your monitor with separate hardware after purchase.
As far as FreeSync versus G-Sync performance, the two were identical. No visual differences could be detected in testing. The dynamic range on the QX panel is nearly 2x larger than the QG, and this also had an impact on game visuals in-testing.
There are valid questions about the benefit of pairing G-Sync / FreeSync with high refresh rates in the first place, given that these technologies make their heaviest impacts at low refresh rates.
Does this mean FreeSync displays are automatically better than G-Sync? It does not. It’s fascinating to see two monitors put head to head like this, but the relative comparison between any two displays is always going to come down to the amount of work put into each panel and how the two compare head-to-head. A single monitor comparison isn’t going to provide that.
But there are two things we can say about this kind of comparison. First, the higher prices on G-Sync displays are clearly no guarantee that these panels are better-calibrated or superior in any fashion compared with much less expensive FreeSync displays. Second, there’s no difference in feature implementation between the high-end G-Sync and FreeSync solutions, once the refresh rate is sufficiently wide to allow for low framerate compensation (LFC) on AMD displays. The QX panel here, with its 30-144Hz range, more than meets AMD’s 2.5x preferred range requirement. And given that the cheaper display is also fully G-Sync compatible, there’s literally no reason to buy the more expensive panel. Despite Jen-Hsun’s comments at CES to the contrary, FreeSync works, has been proven to work, and works just beautifully on Nvidia graphics cards.