What Is V-Sync? And Should You Use It?


If you’re new to PC gaming or just want to plug and play as you would on a console, there aren’t many technical things to learn. But there’s one thing you may have seen a lot but don’t know what it is: VSync.

You can find the VSync option on pretty much all PC games’ options menu, but tinkering with it without knowing what you’re doing could lead to frustration.

So what exactly is VSync? Do you need to turn it on? Does VSync hurt your frame rate? We’ve prepared this VSync guide for you to answer all your questions.

What Is VSync or Vertical Sync?

If you know about frame rates, then you can easily understand the concept of Vertical Sync. VSync or Vertical Sync is a technology that synchronizes your game’s frame rate with your monitor’s refresh rate. Furthermore, you might even find the VSync option in 3D applications.

Let’s take a look at an example to understand what it is. If you have a monitor that refreshes at 75Hz and a game that can play at 100FPS, then VSync synchronizes the frame rate of your game to match that with your monitor. The output of your game will be capped at 75FPS, which is the same as the refresh rate of your monitor.

Why Do You Need VSync?

VSync was created by graphic card manufacturers. This technology was developed to reduce the screen tearing that occurs when playing games or doing graphically intensive tasks.

Screen tearing happens when your screen displays multiple frames at once. It can also result in something that looks like this.

screen tearing and input lag in a game

In the above example, you can see that the display splits the frame when switching to another structure. This results in a weird line that goes between the screens. As such, screen tearing occurs when your monitor’s refresh rate does not match your game’s frame rate.

A screen tear can often occur if you see fast motion on the display, particularly if the monitor can’t handle a game running at higher frame rates. Usually, you won’t notice the difference unless you’re playing a fast-paced game with lots of motion.

Related: Common PC Gaming Problems (And How to Fix Them)

When the scene contains trees, buildings, and complex graphics, the squares/frames don’t line up. As a result, you would see stutters here and there, which breaks your experience.

What Does VSync Do?

For problems like screen tearing, VSync locks the frame rate of your game to the refresh rate of your monitor. If your monitor has a standard refresh rate of 60Hz, then your frame rate gets locked at 60FPS.

This makes your game more smooth due to minor screen tearing and constant frame rates.

By default, VSync prevents your GPU from displaying memory until and unless your monitor has finished the current refresh cycle—which means that your monitor will not receive any more information until the refresh cycle is complete.

Vertical Sync uses a combination of two processes—Double Buffering and Page Flipping. The processes synchronize the frames until your monitor refreshes. When you have VSync enabled, you won’t see any other screen tearing on your monitor.

Does VSync Make Any Difference?

Using VSync will cap your frame rate of the game if your monitor cannot handle a higher refresh rate. You will notice a big difference if this is the case.

However, VSync does not improve the calibration, brightness, contrast, colors, or HDR capability of your screen. There may be a slight increase in brightness, but you can still reduce it.

boy wearing headset playing computer game

Occasionally, VSync tends to degrade performance rather than improve it. It depends on the game and the graphics card. A limited FPS can actually cause your game to suffer in the worst-case scenario.

The frame rate, however, will be constant rather than unstable. In some games, higher FPS can reduce input lags, which is necessary for competitive play. Therefore, you should do a little trial and error before affecting your competitive performance in gaming.

Related: Frame Rate vs. Refresh Rate: What’s the Difference?

Does VSync Have Any Problems?

Any technology isn’t perfect, including VSync. The use of VSync can often negatively affect your gaming experience if your monitor has trouble syncing with your game.

As a result, VSync can lower your frame rate, and will find a point where it syncs up lower than your current FPS. Your game may also experience input lags and stuttering as a result.

Screen tearing is most noticeable in fast-paced games like shooting and fighting games. Regardless, you can still spot it in different games. You should avoid VSync if you’re serious about gaming at a competitive level.

VSync vs. G-Sync vs. FreeSync: Which Is Better?

As time passed, companies like AMD and NVIDIA developed their own vertical synchronization options. With the release of FreeSync, AMD has made some improvements to their GPUs, while NVIDIA has released G-Sync. These two technologies aim to fix the problems VSync has.

Simply put, FreeSync, and G-Sync are improved versions of VSync that work best with their respective GPUs. If you own an NVIDIA GPU, opt for G-Sync, or try FreeSync if you own an AMD GPU. The problem with these solutions is that they rely on your GPU and display being compatible. You can try them if you have them installed on your PC.

While there are a few key differences between the technologies of the two VSyncs, they both essentially accomplish the same thing. If you understand VSync, G-Sync, or FreeSync, you can choose your products carefully before building a PC from scratch or replacing its components.

Related: How to Build Your Own PC

Understanding VSync Is Easy

Hopefully, now you’ve got the meaning of VSync, also known as vertical sync. If you’re going to turn it on or off, make sure that your monitor is compatible with it. You may also experience poor gaming performance if you have a bad VSync.

If your monitor and GPU are compatible with these technologies, you can also try NVIDIA’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync. Consider using them instead of the standard VSync feature, since they are much more efficient.

AMD FreeSync

What Is AMD FreeSync and How Does It Differ to Nvidia G-Sync?

Struggling with screen tearing? One solution is AMD FreeSync, but how does it work and is Nvidia G-Sync better?

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