Have you experienced screen tearing when playing games on your PC, especially those 3D and first-person-shooter games? Screen tearing looks like your screen has been torn apart since your GPU is sending more FPS (Frames per second) than your monitor’s refresh rate can handle. In these situations, the next question would be whether to play your PC game with Vsync on or off?
What is Vsync? And What is Screen Tearing?
Vsync is short for vertical synchronization that lets you synchronize the frame rate of the game you are playing with your monitor’s refresh rate. Most monitors out there are at 60HZ, which means it can only refresh 60 new frames every second. So games with 120/144 HZ display may have screen tearing on your monitor.
Screen tearing is evident, especially in first-person shooter game where the screen moves quickly as your character rapidly looks in a different direction. Sometimes, there is a line in the middle of the screen that looks like two half screens are put together in one image. There are worse cases where there are multiple lines and tears on a screen.
Screen tearing doesn’t necessarily damage your monitor or your graphics card. It only shows the limitation of your monitor when receiving frames from your graphics card since the two are out of sync. If you play a game that has 120FPS on your graphics card and your monitor can only handle 60HZ, your monitor can only refresh 60 frames in one second, while the rest of the 60 frames from the 120 FPS become overlapping frames, intensifying the screen tear.
Enabling Vsync makes the graphic card wait for the monitor’s signal that it is ready for another frame before bringing in a single whole frame. This makes the graphics card limited to the demand of the monitor, which leads to one major set back. It can reduce your overall framerate to an FPS as low as only 50 percent of the monitor’s refresh rate.
When this happens, it will take longer for the graphics card to bring in new frames than the time it takes for the monitor to refresh. This means the graphics card will miss to complete a whole frame during the second refresh. The graphics card has nowhere to put those late frames, which means they have to wait for the next refresh before it can bring in the completed frame.
So, enabling the Vsync may fix the screen tearing problem, but could sometimes lead to input lag or stuttering. But the input lag is not really that noticeable to most, which is makes screen tearing the worse distraction between these two issues.
Rule of Thumb in When Playing with Vsync On or Off
For those who own a 60 Hz display, which majority of people does, then here are guidelines you should follow to simplify the Vsync on or off dilemma:
If you are a hardcore first person gamer who value speed over screen input and/or your monitor can’t sustain 60 FPS on certain games, then it would be better just to turn the Vsync option off. And if you are also benchmarking your graphics card to really enjoy the stunning graphics of a new game (especially if it’s a first-person game), then it would be better to disable your Vsync.
Here is a good guide when it comes to choosing the best software to benchmark your graphics card.
If you are not benchmarking your graphics card, if you are not a hard-core first-person-shooter gamer, and fixing the screen tearing is more important to you than experiencing input lag, then turning on Vsync would be a good idea. If you are not sure which among these preferences you fall into, then it would be wise to just leave the Vsync off.
Setting Vsync and Triple Buffering
If your FPS drops to as low as 50 percent due to turning your Vsync on, try solving it by enabling Triple Buffering on your graphics card. Here is the example on enabling Triple Buffering and Vsync:
For Nvidia Graphic Cards
Step #1: Open Nvidia Control Panel. Make sure you are using the advanced 3d settings.
Step #2: Now, head to the “Manage 3D settings” tab, and scroll the Global Settings list down, you can see Triple Buffering and Vertical Sync (Vsync) options.
Step #3: After all, press on the “Apply” button to apply the settings. Done.
For the AMD Radeon Cards
Step #1: Open AMD Radeon Setting. Then click on “Gaming” button.
Step #2: Select “Global Settings“
Step #3: You can see “Wait for vertical refresh” and “OpenGL triple buffering” options there.
If you are still not sure to whether play with Vsync on or off, it would be best to set your Vsync to “Application Preference” on the control panel of your graphics card.
Your graphics card may use another term, but look for something similar to “Application Preference.” Vsync is ideally set on a game-to-game basis and using the in-game settings is more preferable.
Basic Things to Consider About Vsync
With all of the information about playing games with Vsync on or off, it would be best to keep in mind certain basic things. Older games can usually run easily on your system. Meanwhile newer games need more complicated graphics configuration, which is when enabling Vsync is more preferable.
In general, if the game you play is not above 60FPS, then it would be best to disable Vsync. You may still encounter only minor, unnoticeable screen tearing since your monitor and graphics card are not in sync with the Vsync disabled. If the screen tearing is very distracting, especially for newer games with more than 60 FPS, then it would be best to turn on your Vsync. Just remember to also use Triple Buffering on your graphics card to solve input lag problems.
If you have any question, please leave a comment below, thanks so much.