Nvidia clarifies its updates to G-Sync Ultimate – Was it really downgraded?

Nvidia lowers its standards - The G-Sync Ultimate Specification has been Downgraded

Nvidia clarifies its updates to G-Sync Ultimate – Was it really downgraded?

On January 18th, we reported on a change on Nvidia’s website which highlighted a change on Nvidia’s G-Sync Ultimate technology, noting that the company changed its “Best HDR 1000 Nits” comment on their website and replaced it with the phrase “Lifelike HDR”. This change, and the addition of DisplayHDR 600 monitors to Nvidia’s G-Sync Ultimate display lineup at CES 2021, prompted allegations that Nvidia had downgraded their G-Sync Ultimate standard. 

Since the release of our article, Nvidia has contacted us to clarify the changes they made to G-Sync Ultimate in late 2020, providing us with the following comment. 


    Late last year we updated G-SYNC ULTIMATE to include new display technologies such as OLED and edge-lit LCDs.

All G-SYNC Ultimate displays are powered by advanced NVIDIA G-SYNC processors to deliver a fantastic gaming experience including lifelike HDR, stunning contract, cinematic colour and ultra-low latency gameplay. While the original G-SYNC Ultimate displays were 1000 nits with FALD, the newest displays, like OLED, deliver infinite contrast with only 600-700 nits, and advanced multi-zone edge-lit displays offer remarkable contrast with 600-700 nits. G-SYNC Ultimate was never defined by nits alone nor did it require a VESA DisplayHDR1000 certification. Regular G-SYNC displays are also powered by NVIDIA G-SYNC processors as well.

The ACER X34 S monitor was erroneously listed as G-SYNC ULTIMATE on the NVIDIA web site. It should be listed as “G-SYNC” and the web page is being corrected.

Thanks to this comment, we now know exactly why Nvidia updated their G-Sync Ultimate standard. As we said in our prior article on this subject, Nvidia has updated their G-Sync Ultimate standard to release a larger quantity of G-Sync Ultimate displays onto the PC market.

Three Takeaways from Nvidia’s comment

Nvidia has been very transparent about why they altered their G-Sync Ultimate technology. Everything is made clear from the first line of Nvidia’s comment, Nvidia wanted to “include new display technologies such as OLED and edge-lit LCDs.” Nvidia also made it clear that G-Sync Ultimate never required compatible screens to have a VESA DisplayHDR1000 certification. While Nvidia heavily marketed the specifications of their early 1000 nits G-Sync Ultimate displays and their FALD (Full-Array Local Dimming) backlights, alternative technologies can deliver similar or better results; most notably OLED. That’s takeaway number one.

Secondly, Nvidia’s main downgrade allegations came thanks to ACER X34 S erroneously being listed as a G-Sync Ultimate monitor. This display features a lowly VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification, a far cry from the 1000 nits peak brightness that Nvidia previously advertised. Since Acer’s X34 S display isn’t a G-Sync Ultimate monitor, this display cannot and should not be used to allege that Nvidia has downgraded their standards.     

Finally, Nvidia has stated that its G-Sync Ultimate displays are defined by their G-Sync processor, not their overall brightness. With G-Sync Ultimate, Nvidia advertises a “fantastic gaming experience including lifelike HDR, stunning contract, cinematic colour and ultra-low latency gameplay.” While Nvidia has dropped its old “Best HDR 1000 nits” marketing line, it is the whole package that defines G-Sync Ultimate, not peak brightness alone. 

Has Nvidia downgraded their G-Sync Ultimate standard? 
As we have discussed previously, peak brightness is not a great way to judge HDR performance. HDR support is about higher contrast levels, a wider colour gamut and higher levels of image quality. While higher peak brightness levels can increase the contrast ratios of screens, high contrast ratios also require deeper black levels. Brighter isn’t always better in the world of HDR. Brighter highlights are meaningless if your darks are over-brightened. 

While Nvidia has abandoned their old “Best HDR 1000 nits” marketing on their G-Sync Ultimate webpage, it is worth noting that most OLED screens do not offer peak brightness levels of over 1,000 nits. As Nvidia’s comments point out, most OLED screens can only deliver “600-700 nits”. OLED screens are amongst the best HDR screens available today, a factor that makes it silly not to include them within Nvidia’s G-Sync Ultimate standard. 

The addition of OLED screens to their G-Sync Ultimate lineup is a positive change for Nvidia, and we feel that Nvidia has made the right decision to update their G-Sync Ultimate standard to include them. That said, the addition of “edge-lit LCDs” to G-Sync Ultimate is a little more contentious. Edge-lit LCD screens are generally considered inferior to the FALD backlight tech used in Nvidia’s earliest G-Sync Ultimate monitors, as they tend to provide lower contrast overall levels. 

Ultimately, G-Sync Ultimate is about gaming and Nvidia’s use of their G-Sync module and their ability to offer their users low latency gaming that’s tear-free and offers high levels of image quality. While HDR is part of that mix, Nvidia’s changes to G-Sync Ultimate do a lot of good for the standard when you consider the big picture, even if baseline G-Sync Ultimate screens feature lower specifications than Nvidia’s original G-Sync Ultimate displays. 

While we could argue that Nvidia has downgraded G-Sync Ultimate, the addition of OLED support is a clear upgrade. The addition of edge-lit LCDs will also allow G-Sync Ultimate displays to ship with lower price points, giving gamers a wider selection of monitors to choose from. Nvidia’s changes to G-Sync Ultimate delivers more consumer choice, and that is not a bad thing. Accessibility matters. 

Nvidia clarifies its updates to G-Sync Ultimate - Was it really downgraded?   

Closing Thoughts

While Nvidia has undeniably altered its G-Sync Ultimate standard, it is hard to argue that their changes aren’t good for the G-Sync ecosystem as a whole. That said, Nvidia’s lack of transparency regarding these changes is not what we’d call a consumer-friendly action.

Had Nvidia given us a press release in 2020 about their updates to G-Sync Ultimate, there would be no allegations of downgrades today. The news would be “OLED G-Sync Ultimate monitors are coming”, and “Nvidia’s making G-Sync Ultimate more accessible with lower-cost models”, not allegations of dishonest marketing. Nvidia should have told gamers about these changes to G-Sync Ultimate at the beginning, not after third parties uncovered their changes.  

Nvidia’s main mistakes here were to market their 1,000 nits FALD display specifications so heavily with their initial G-Sync Ultimate monitors, and their failure to inform consumers about their changes to G-Sync Ultimate in late 2020. 

Ultimately, Nvidia has changed its G-Sync Ultimate standards to cover a wider range of display types that can deliver higher or lower HDR quality levels than its early G-Sync Ultimate models. With these changes, Nvidia can deliver more G-Sync Ultimate screens to consumers, and all of these screens will use Nvidia’s latest G-Sync modules to deliver smooth, tear-free, low latency gameplay.   

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