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.
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, there is usually a checkbox with “V-Sync” written next to it.
So, what exactly is V-Sync, and what does it do? How does it work? Will it hurt your frame rate?
Find out in this guide! Let’s start with the basics.
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What Does V-Sync Do?
V-Sync has a single purpose: eliminating screen tearing.
Screen tearing usually occurs 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. With anything higher, screen tearing will begin to manifest.
Of course, there are monitors with higher refresh rates of 120 Hz, 144 Hz, and even 240 Hz. Yet, not even those 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 to impose a framerate cap, limiting the maximum FPS to the equivalent of the monitor’s refresh rate. 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?
FPS cap aside, can V-Sync reduce your maximum FPS further?
The short answer is yes, unfortunately. V-Sync can limit your framerate to as low as 30 FPS in the case that your GPU fails to render a stable 60 FPS consistently.
This problem is easily straightened out via triple buffering, although it may cause some issues of its own.
Fortunately, there are two alternatives to V-Sync that bring none of its downsides: Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync.
These two technologies, both owned by their respective companies, can 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 various 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 case 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 no harm in using V-Sync.
Otherwise, if you’re coping 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:
- Try enabling triple buffering. If this feature is not supported or if it doesn’t fix your problem, or creates more problems of its own, then try the next suggestion.
- 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 lower FPS. After all, a clean 30 FPS experience is better than a 60+ FPS one that is riddled with constant screen tearing.
In this scenario, you are also free to ramp up all the settings to the max and enjoy the eye candy – in case that you kept some of them reduced to achieve a framerate in the 60 FPS range.
If you want to avoid all the trouble that comes with V-Sync, we recommend getting a FreeSync or G-Sync monitor – whichever goes with your GPU. You can see our list of the best gaming monitors right here.