If there’s one technology that will fundamentally change the way PC enthusiasts experience their games, it’s adaptive sync that allows video card frame output to match monitor frame display. Sounds complicated, but really, it makes perfect sense. The monitor only displays a new frame when a new frame is ready, rather than half a frame here and there (causing tearing) or duplicate frames (as in when using V-Sync, which causes lag). Unfortunately, we have two competing standards, one officially a proprietary standard (Nvidia’s G-Sync), and one officially an open standard (the AMD-backed A-Sync, called Freesync by AMD). Unfortunately, Nvidia is self-segregating here, so now enthusiasts must really choose between Nvidia and AMD for both video cards and monitors.
Making matters worse is that a lot of the first entrants in the arena have been plagued by bugs. We’d bet that half of all Asus ROG Swifts, the first 1440p 144Hz G-Sync monitor, were returned, and the new Acer XB270HU (codenamed Predator!) debuted on the U.S. market on March 31st, immediately sold out, and then disappeared. We’d bet that Acer is working out the finer details of pushing the very first 1440p, 144Hz, G-Sync, IPS monitor out the door without it failing by the time the user plugs it in. IPS may make all the difference image quality-wise, but running IPS at 144Hz is definitely uncharted territory. Are manufacturers biting off more than they can chew?
Perhaps – and that’s not good when the prices are high – both the aforementioned monitors retail at $800. Enter the new BenQ XL2730Z 27″ 144Hz Gaming Monitor, pictured above, currently available only from Newegg for $600 plus $8 shipping. It’s basically the ROG Swift but with BenQ’s well-known gaming magic applied, G-Sync dropped, and Freesync added. Given that it easily matches the build quality of the ROG Swift, we can say that the G-Sync tax is about $200. So, score one for AMD? Not so fast. To truly push this screen to the max, you’ll need a lot of graphics power, and no single AMD card can do it. But wait, there’s Crossfire, right? Well, the first Freesync drive was released in mid-March, with a promise of a Crossfire-enabled version by April. We’re at the end of April with no sign of that. Frankly, we’d be all over this monitor if users of 290 CF, 290X CF, and AMD’s crown jewel, the 295 X2, could actually take advantage of it. We’ll be coming back to this topic as soon as an update is available, because we bet plenty of folks would switch to (or stay with) AMD if they could pair a couple of bargain-priced 290s with the gorgeous BenQ XL2730X and skip the G-Sync tax entirely.
April 30, 2015 Update: Well, AMD has finally come clean about its Freesync/Crossfire drivers. In a word, they’re not coming any time soon. Disappointing to say the least. Until they arrive, our opinion is that the G-Sync tax is worth paying for, and the good news in the G-Sync world is that the Acer XB270HU is in stock at Newegg and ready to rock!