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Nvidia launches G-Sync for notebooks

Tom Morgan
1 Jun 2015
Nvidia GSync Laptop MSI
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Computex announcement for G-sync adaptive display sync technology on laptops, coming this Summer

Nvidia might have focused on desktop graphics cards at its Computex press conference, revealing the GeForce GTX 980ti, but it also gave laptop gamers some attention too; the company officially announced G-Sync for notebooks, laptops equipped with dynamically adjusted display synchronisation that can completely eradicate screen tearing.

G-Sync on desktop monitors allowed a screen to stay in sync with the frames being pushed out by the GPU, rather than letting the display dictate when it was ready to receive the next available frame. However, because of the sheer number of monitors and graphics cards available with the technology, every G-Sync display was required to use a scaler built and supplied by Nvidia in order to provide synchronisation between the display and the GPU. This added to the cost of the monitor and limited the inputs to DisplayPort only. 

That changes with G-Sync for notebooks, as the GPU in a laptop communicates directly with the display panel. The Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) display connections now commonly seen in high-end gaming laptops have variable timing and panel self-refresh functions built into the specification, allowing Nvidia to add dynamic display synchronisation without the need for extra hardware. That being said, Nvidia is still tightly controlling which laptops can support the technology, and will be certifying models on a case-by-case basis. Each one will need to use a panel that responds well to variable refresh, and only a fraction of the panels the company has reviewed so far have been approved for use.

G-Sync equipped notebooks are due to start arriving later this month, with a range of models from Asus, Gigabye's Aurus sub-brand and MSI being demoed at Nvidia's launch event. Specifications vary between models, but Nvidia has promised GeForce GTX 980m GPUs, a choice of 15.6in and 17.3in screens with 1080p and 3K resolutions, notebooks with SLI and even the first laptops with 75Hz gaming-grade displays. We got to see Mobile G-Sync in action on all three laptops, running Grand Theft Auto 5, Dying Light and Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor, with the option to toggle between no sync, V-Sync and G-sync dynamic refresh.

Nvidia GSync Laptop no sync indicator

The 'N' overlay in the top-right corner of the image above indicates there is no sync currently enabled. In Dying Light, this resulted in noticeable screen tearing when rapidly moving the camera. Shadow of Mordor and GTA 5 also suffered when rapidly panning the view, but Dying Light is particularly susceptible to the effect.

Nvidia GSync Laptop G Sync indicator

Enabling G-Sync changes the overlay to 'G', and results in a delightfully smooth gaming experience. 

With no extra hardware required to enable adaptive sync, other than a specifically sourced panel, we're hoping that Mobile G-Sync won't come at a big price premium when it arrives later this Summer. The only downside is that Optimus, Nvidia's battery-saving GPU technology which dynamically switches between dedicated and integrated graphics, won't be available. Because the GPU needs to be connected directly to the display, it can't feed through the iGPU as it currently does on Optimus-enabled laptops. This will likely effect battery life, but it remains to be seen whether gamers are worried about how long their oversized gaming laptops are able to last away from the mains. Either way, we'll be taking a look at the first models as soon as they arrive in the office.

In other G-Sync news, Nvidia confirmed that at least seven new desktop G-Sync monitors were on the way from Acer and Asus. There will be a comprehensive choice of 27, 18, 34 and 35in sizes, 1080p, 2560p and 3440x1440 resolutions, TN, IPS and VA panel technology and 60, 75 and 144 refresh rates. We have yet to see any of the new models, but with availability expected in the next month or so we'll be sure to take a closer look as soon as they launch in the UK.          

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