Skip to Content

What Is Adaptive Sync? (EVERYTHING You Need To Know!)

When buying a gaming monitor, you’ll come across a host of terms that sound very similar and all include the word “sync”.

One of the most common terms you’ll come across is “Adaptive Sync”. Here’s what Adaptive Sync means, and how it improves your gaming experience.

What Is Adaptive Sync?

Adaptive Sync is a standard for gaming monitors that certifies a monitor is capable of adjusting its refresh rate to match the FPS output of your PC’s graphics card. Gaming monitors with Adaptive Sync are significantly less prone to tearing and stuttering, two problems common in monitors with static refresh rates.

Adaptive Sync is a technology standard maintained by VESA, the group that sets manufacturing standards for PC displays and flatscreen televisions.

VESA’s Adaptive Sync technology allows your monitor to adjust its refresh rate (measured in Hz) to match the framerate of your PC’s graphics card (FPS).

When your graphics card outputs video at a framerate (FPS) that is higher than the refresh rate (Hz) of your monitor, you may experience screen tearing or stuttering.

These onscreen artifacts occur because your monitor is attempting to render two frames at once, resulting in an onscreen image that is the combination of multiple frames, and not a single, clean frame.

Through Adaptive Sync, your monitor becomes perfectly synced with the output of your PC’s graphics card. It will only refresh its onscreen image at the exact moment your graphics card renders a new frame.

In effect, Adaptive Sync allows your monitor to match its refresh rate to the framerate of your graphics card, resulting in a smoother image without unsightly tearing.

This technology is enabled through the DisplayPort interface, so monitors with the tech onboard don’t need additional hardware in order to communicate with your graphics card.

Importantly, Adaptive Sync is a standard, and not a particular implementation. In other words, it is possible for any company’s proprietary variable refresh rate technology to meet the criteria to be considered Adaptive Sync.

For example, FreeSync is a variable refresh rate technology created and licensed by AMD, but it is considered an Adaptive Sync technology since it meets all the requirements of this standard.

To receive the Adaptive Sync logo and certification, a display only needs to pass the specific tests set forth by the standard.

The test for a monitor to become Adaptive Sync certified requires a monitor to perform at a certain level of performance on default settings and at normal room temperatures.

Adaptive Sync was created so that consumers know a monitor is capable of variable refresh rates and they aren’t being swindled by clever marketing techniques that misrepresent a display’s capabilities.

Prior to Adaptive Sync, it was common for display manufacturers to test their monitors under extremely favorable conditions and with the monitor’s settings tweaked into overdrive.

VESA’s Adaptive Sync certification has leveled the playing field for gaming monitors, and has empowered consumers to make informed decisions when comparing two displays with variable refresh rate technology.

Still, it’s worth asking: should you have adaptive sync turned on?

Should You Have Adaptive Sync Turned On?

You should have adaptive sync turned on if you’re gaming or running video applications that are GPU intensive. In fact, some games will not run if you don’t have the technology. It’ll help sync your monitor’s frame rate with your graphics card’s refresh rate and eliminate display issues.

Turning on the feature is also okay if you’re not playing high-end games. However, you need to have a compatible setup to use Adaptive Sync. 

You can turn on adaptive sync by following the steps below:

  1. Turn on your PC and find the NVIDIA/AMD settings or control panel.
  2. Open the menu by selecting the “display button.”
  3. Click on “Setup G-Sync” if you’re using NVIDIA or “Setup FreeSync” if it’s AMD.
  4. Choose your computer model from the option list.
  5. Click the “Enable settings for the selected model” checkbox.
  6. Press the “apply settings button.”

Monitors with adaptive sync are always automatically on, so these steps will activate the setting on your GPU.

Now that you know you should turn adaptive sync on, let’s see which is better between FreeSync and Adaptive Sync.

Which Is Better: FreeSync or Adaptive Sync?

Adaptive sync is better than FreeSync since there are several stringent guidelines for the technology. Still, FreeSync’s open-source nature and relative affordability make it a great choice. That being said, the concept behind the two technologies is nearly identical, so you’ll get similar results from both.

While not all Adaptive Sync monitors are FreeSync monitors, nearly all FreeSync monitors are Adaptive Sync monitors. The two labels are not mutually exclusive, in other words.

Adaptive Sync is a standard/certification for variable refresh rate monitors. As such, it’s possible for any monitor meeting the standard to be branded an Adaptive Sync display.

In contrast, FreeSync is AMD’s implementation of the Adaptive Sync standard. FreeSync’s competitor is G-Sync (by NVIDIA), and both of these technologies generally adhere to VESA’s Adaptive Sync standard.

So, does adaptive sync hurt FPS?

Does Adaptive Sync Hurt FPS?

Adaptive sync does not hurt FPS in any way. And while the technology does cause monitor frame rates to vary continually, the image displayed will be smoother and less prone to stuttering and tearing. However, even with Adaptive Sync, your display can only display FPS as high as its maximum refresh rate.

Enabling Adaptive Sync will not negatively affect the FPS of your graphics card. Simply put, Adaptive Sync allows your monitor to adjust its own refresh rate to perfectly match the output of your graphics card.

Importantly, the technology works by fluctuating your monitor’s refresh rate, and not by adjusting the output of your graphics card.

Your graphics card will continue to output its highest possible FPS, and Adaptive Sync allows your monitor to follow its lead. But your graphics card will set your monitor’s refresh rate, and not the other way around.

Speaking of games: is adaptive sync good for gaming?

Is Adaptive Sync Good for Gaming?

Adaptive sync is good for gaming. It was initially designed to help gamers overcome display issues caused by discrepancies between graphic cards and monitors, so you’ll benefit from the technology as a gamer.

For some gamers, screen tearing and stuttering are major issues. Some people have even reported getting headaches from these annoying visual artifacts.

On the other hand, some people don’t notice screen tearing and stuttering or aren’t bothered by it. If you play slow-paced games, for example, then these issues are less likely to bother you or affect your gameplay.

Whether Adaptive Sync will make a difference to you comes down to personal preference. If you want the smoothest gaming experience available, then Adaptive Sync will only benefit your display’s performance, and not hamper it.

But does the technology work with NVIDIA?

Does Adaptive Sync Work With NVIDIA?

Adaptive sync works with NVIDIA G-Sync enabled displays. In fact, NVIDIA G-Sync is the most common implementation of the Adaptive Sync standard on the market today.

As an open standard, any display can be certified as an Adaptive Sync display. The display only needs to pass certain tests that certify it meets performance standards for variable refresh rate displays.

Today, the most common implementations of the Adaptive Sync standard are NVIDIA’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync.

👋 Hey There, I'm Eric!

Since 2018, I've been making streams come true.

I like gaming, streaming and watching other people stream. I created this website to help streamers, viewers, and gamers answer questions they have regarding live streaming, gaming, and PCs. I am a Twitch affiliate and currently stream on Twitch 3 days a week. I also have a Youtube channel where I make videos about streaming. I hope you find my content helpful. Feel free to stop by one of my streams to say hi.