Short Answer

V-sync eliminates screen-tearing by synchronizing the number of frames rendered by the GPU with the maximum number of frames that your monitor can display.

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If you’re new to PC gaming, then you are undoubtedly confused about all the graphics options found in nearly every PC game’s options menu.

Among those options is usually a checkbox with “V-Sync” written next to it.

So, what exactly is V-Sync and what does it actually do? How does it work? Will it hurt your frame rate? Read on and find out!

What Does V-Sync Do?

V-Sync has a single purpose: to eliminate screen tearing.

v-sync explained

When does this happen? Essentially, screen tearing can happen whenever the in-game FPS is higher than your monitor’s refresh rate. Most mainstream gaming monitors refresh at 60 Hz, meaning that they can only display 60 frames per second. Anything higher and screen tearing will begin to manifest.

Of course, there are monitors with higher refresh rates of 120 Hz, 144 Hz, and even 240 Hz, but not even they are immune to screen tearing – whenever the FPS overtakes the refresh rate, tearing is bound to happen.

How Does V-Sync Work?

The way V-Sync works is rather simple. All it does is impose a framerate cap, limiting the maximum FPS to the equivalent of the monitor’s refresh rate. Obviously, this will prevent screen tearing from occurring because your GPU won’t be rendering more frames than what the monitor can display.

Does V-Sync Affect FPS?

The FPS cap aside, can V-Sync actually reduce your maximum FPS even further?

The short answer is, unfortunately, yes. V-Sync can limit your framerate to as low as 30 FPS in the case that your GPU fails to consistently render a stable 60 frames per second.

This problem is easily rectified via triple buffering, although it may cause some issues of its own.

V-Sync Alternatives

Fortunately, there are two alternatives to V-Sync that bring none of its downsides: Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync.

The two abovementioned technologies are both owned by their respective companies and can fully eliminate screen tearing without adversely affecting the in-game FPS.

The downside is that both the GPU and the monitor must support the technology in question. FreeSync can be found in numerous monitors, both the entry-level and the high-end ones, while G-Sync is usually only found implemented in the more expensive displays.

Should You Use V-Sync?

In the case that you don’t have a G-Sync or FreeSync-capable monitor, the question remains: should you use V-Sync?

Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question. Our advice is to see for yourself how your GPU performs in certain games. If it consistently achieves over 60 FPS in a game with no dips, then there is absolutely no harm in using V-Sync.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a framerate that frequently swings from sub-60 to over 60 FPS and you don’t want that 30 FPS cap imposed on you, then you should:

  1. Try enabling triple buffering. If this feature is not supported or if it doesn’t fix your problem but actually creates more problems of its own, then you should see number 2 below.
  2. Tweak the graphics settings around a bit and see if you can get the game to run at 60+ FPS consistently.

Ultimately, if neither of the above works, then it’s best to just settle for the lower FPS. After all, a clean 30 FPS experience is better than a 60+ FPS one that’s riddled with constant screen tearing. In this scenario, you are also free to ramp all the settings up to maximum and enjoy the eye candy, in the case that you might have kept some of them reduced in order to achieve a framerate in the 60 FPS range.

If you want to avoid all the hassle that comes with V-Sync, we recommend getting a FreeSync of G-Sync monitor, whichever goes with your GPU. You can see our list of the best gaming monitors right here.

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