What is VSync? Everything You Need To Know in 5 Minutes
Updated · Jul 19, 2022
When playing fast-paced games, maybe your screen images get out of line or tear. Fortunately, in 2010, new tech brought gaming into a smooth operating era. So, what is VSync, and how does it ensure a seamless gaming experience?
Let’s look at what makes this technology tic and its advantages and disadvantages, as well as alternatives.
What is VSync?
Also known as vertical syncing, VSync is synonymous with resolving screen tears. It achieves this by limiting the GPU output to match the monitor’s maximum refresh rate. This, in turn, reduces redundant imagery and creates smooth transitions. It also syncs vertical and horizontal screens to enhance your gaming experience.
VSync tackles screen tearing by freezing the game engine. This allows the computer’s graphics card to render frames in line with your monitor’s capabilities. Additionally, it utilizes double buffering and page flipping to synchronize display frame drawings after completing refresh cycles.
While revolutionary when first introduced, vertical sync has become obsolete with one primary flaw - input lag. Also known as display lag, it results in delayed images. Kind of a game stopper! So perhaps the market offers something better, and we should explore what Vsync is up against.
Nvidia Adaptive Sync
Nvidia’s Adaptive VSync is the natural upgrade to VSync that renders frames using the Nvidia Control Panel. Bear in mind it is only available for system GPUs running a GT 600-series Nvidia graphics card or newer.
This technology effectively eliminates screen tearing and performance stuttering issues at low-end refresh rates. It also improves user experience by disabling screen tearing while maintaining lower input latency. A must for fast-action gaming!
Fortunately, it's easy enough to get your hands on a high-quality graphics card, like the GT 730, to support this technology.
Nvidia has made a name for itself as an innovator, which undoubtedly includes its support to the gaming community. And while its Adaptive VSync made progress, G-Sync takes the gaming experience to the next level.
To combat the miss matching of refresh rates between GPUs and their displays, Nvidia’s technology lines up more accurately the corresponding refresh rates. For G-Sync to effectively boost your gaming experience, it requires the use of a monitor with a specialized module. While this can result in an added cost, it undoubtedly ensures the reduction or elimination of visual artifacts and a marked improvement for rapid gaming action.
Luckily, it's easy to pick up this capable graphics card for under $200.
FreeSync is the AMD VSync variation that effectively eliminates tears during high-speed gaming scenarios. While Nvidia released G-Sync first, AMD’s iteration consistently meets the mark.
Nvidia cards must use a module, while AMD graphics cards do not. A comparative advantage, considering that AMD FreeSync monitors are more cost-effective, hassle-free alternatives to those wishing to enjoy a seamless gaming experience.
Because such monitors use AMD's free module, Nvidia cards can also use them - a real selling point for many gamers. The Radeon 7750 GDDR5 and Asus R7240 are two excellent options for running the latest games within a budget.
AMD FreeSync Premium
At CES 2020, AMD released the successor of their previous VSync solution - the Premium version. Some might be confused with the name, as it often indicates paying extra.
No worries, though, as this is not the case.
FreeSync Premium does, in fact, offer a lot more than its predecessor. Firstly, there is the new low frame rate compensation. For example, if the fps drops below the monitor’s refresh rate, low frame-rate compensation (LFC) will increase it to keep frames smooth. So if a game is running at 20 fps, LFC will set the refresh rate to 60Hz. As a result, the user doesn’t experience any screen tearing.
AMD’s Enhanced Sync simultaneously works with VSync to reduce screen stutter and input lag. While it doesn’t completely solve all VSync issues, it is very effective.
To ensure a perfect gaming experience, it's best to use Enhanced Sync with FreeSync. For instance, it will tackle VSync input lag when above your maximum refresh rate.
However, when you go below your maximum refresh rate, FreeSync will activate. As a result, you won’t experience tearing.
Pros and Cons
VSync is an amazing technology that was a game-changer upon its arrival. But like most tech advancements, it comes with some costs. Let’s break down what makes this tech good and what makes it less than desirable.
VSync benefits gamers in many ways. While a bit dated, there are still some excellent perks.
- Screen tearing - it does a great job if you have an older monitor that cannot match your GPU’s performance. After all, this was the main idea behind vertical synchronization.
- Reduced GPU strain - overheating can occur if your monitor only supports 60fps, but your graphic card runs at 120. Using VSync prevents the GPU from exceeding your monitor’s frames per second. As a result, you reduce the workload and increase the GPU’s life.
- Second life for legacy games - there is an ongoing trend to play legacy games. Unfortunately, many of these games are not compatible with current systems. This is where the use of VSync is advantageous.
While vertical vsync for sure has benefits, it also has flaws.
- Input lag - one of the primary reasons Nvidia and AMD developed improved solutions is how VSync handles this issue. As the tech focuses on matching the display device settings, it inadvertently omits clicks. The result is input lag. And even a 0.1-second lag can be the difference between a win and a loss.
- FPS loss - this might be categorized as an outcome from the previous bullet point. Yet, losing fps is terrible news for every gamer.
How to Turn VSync ON and OFF?
As we have already shared, vertical synchronization is a good option in some instances and a bad one in others. So is there a way to turn VSync on or off? Fortunately, there is!
Step 1: Open your Nvidia control panel by typing “Nvidia control panel” into the search bar or right-clicking on your Desktop.
Step 2: Click on Manage 3D Settings.
Step 3: Under the Global Settings tab, you will see a list of support features by your GPU producer. Scroll until you find Vertical Sync.
Step 4: Click on the dropdown menu in the right corner, select Force On to turn it on, and Force Off to turn it off.
Should You Use VSync?
It depends on your needs. VSync makes your graphics card wait for a frame before displaying it, so you don't get screen tearing. That is especially useful if you are playing older games or your monitor is not up to date.
Unfortunately, using VSync in more demanding games in terms of reflexes, like shooting games, might find the tech limiting.
Consider using vertical sync when your monitor doesn’t match your GPU, and there aren’t many graphically intense moments where you can experience input lag.
VSync was a groundbreaking technology when it first came on the scene. While it is pretty helpful in some situations, it for sure isn’t perfect. VSync problems inspired AMD and Nvidia to come up with new solutions. And to be honest - both graphic unit manufacturers excelled.
Is it better to have VSync On or Off?
Vertical sync can be very helpful when you are playing legacy games or in situations where your GPU is overkill for the monitor. Graphic card overheating is preventable with VSync activated.
Is VSync good for low-end PC?
More affordable PCs often have less than optimal systems, which may result in screen tears when playing fast-action games. VSync will help limit tears and improve your overall gaming experience.
Does VSync Cause Lag?
Yes, VSync tends to cause input lag during fast pace games. Learn more about what VSync is capable of doing to determine its best uses.
Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.
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