What is VSync, and Should I Turn It On or Off?

In the beginning, VSync synchronized graphics cards (GPUs), video games, and monitors. VSync remains an essential option for many gamers, despite new options like G-Sync or FreeSync. What does it do, and is it still worthwhile?

What is VSync Technology?

Screen tearing can occur at any time. It is most severe during fast motion, particularly when a game runs at a higher frame rate than the monitor can handle. Especially when the frame rate changes dramatically and the monitor cannot keep up.

It is particularly evident in fast-paced games with vertical image elements, such as trees, entrances, or buildings. Those lines will quite clearly not line up correctly, which can ruin the immersion and make a beautiful game look ugly.

VSync, or vertical sync, is a graphics technology that synchronizes the frame rate of a game with the refresh rate of a gaming monitor. Developed by GPU manufacturers to combat screen tearing, when your screen displays portions of multiple frames at once.

This can result in something like the image above, in which the display appears split along a line, usually horizontally. Tearing occurs when the monitor’s refresh rate (the number of times it updates per second) is not in sync with the frames per second.

VSync does a few things to help alleviate this. By limiting the graphics card’s frame rate to the monitor’s refresh rate (60Hz, unless you have a high-refresh-rate monitor), you can avoid displaying more frames than the monitor can display.

By doing so, it prevents the GPU from doing anything to the display memory until the monitor has finished its current refresh cycle – effectively not letting it receive any more information until it’s ready for it. Using double buffering and page flipping, VSync synchronizes the drawing of frames onto the display only after it has completed a refresh cycle. When VSync is enabled, you should never see any tears.

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Does it Make a Big Difference?

Like HDR, VSync cannot improve your resolution, colors, or brightness levels. It is a preventative technology that seeks to stop a specific problem rather than make improvements. It also tends to harm performance. VSync only helps with screen tearing, and it accomplishes that by limiting FPS when necessary. If your monitor can’t keep up with the fps of a special title, it can make a big difference.

By forcing frames to be rendered entirely before being displayed, your frame rate can suffer, and at best, your frame rate is limited to the refresh rate of your display. A higher frame rate may reduce input lag in some games, but it can also affect your competitive performance.

You should fine-tune your settings to the max if you want to make the most of your PC’s gaming capabilities. Visit our guide on the best NVIDIA Control Panel settings, and if you’re into Call of Duty, we have a game-specific guide for Call of Duty: Warzone to help you push your computer to its limits.

What do I Need to Enable VSync Technology?

VSync can work with any display – it’s designed to work with all kinds of displays. A graphics card that supports it is required, but most recent generations of products do. VSync has been around for many years, and both AMD and NVIDIA have options to enable it in their drivers for all games.

If you’d rather do it individually for each game, most games offer it in the graphics settings menu.

Does VSync have any Problems?

Because of this, enabling VSync might not be worth it if you’re serious about playing these types of games. Another setting, called triple buffering, can help reduce some of VSync’s problems, but this doesn’t come with any guarantees.VSync is far from a perfect solution and can negatively affect your gaming experience, even if it is useful and working as intended.

If a monitor and a game are having trouble syncing, you can lower your frame rate significantly to try to find a point where they can. This can cause input lag and stuttering to increase, which decreases the gaming experience. In fast-paced games like shooters and fighters, screen tearing is more noticeable, but it can affect all sorts of games.

What are Adaptive VSync and Fast Sync?

Adaptive VSync: This is an NVIDIA improvement that monitors the maximum refresh rate. If the FPS of the game is equal to or higher than the refresh rate, VSync is enabled. The input lag is prevented if the FPS falls below a certain threshold.

Here’s where things get a little more complicated. VSync’s potential problems were well known by GPU companies when it was first released, and they have been working on fixing them ever since. That’s why, when you go into your GPU control panel, you might see different syncing options. More advanced forms of VSync include:

  • Fast Sync: Fast Sync is a more advanced form of Nvidia’s Adaptive VSync that enables VSync when it is necessary and uses automatic triple buffering to select the best frame rate. It takes a lot of power to use but helps fix a lot of VSync issues as well.
  • Enhanced Sync: This is AMD’s version of Fast Synchronization. In order to prevent related problems, VSync is disabled when the frame rate drops below a monitor’s refresh rate.

Is VSync better than G-Sync or FreeSync?

Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync aim to enhance VSync. Both GPU technologies sync refresh rates and data to your GPU’s frame rate. Companies wanted to fix issues with VSync, such as image precision and uniformity, and tears. G-Sync and FreeSync are more effective versions of VSync. Try them out if they are available to you. G-Sync and FreeSync provide quality features. While VSync works, it offers the minimum features.

These technologies, however, are compatible with your graphics card and monitor. There’s minimal support for G-Sync or FreeSync on most monitors. Due to their competition for software, it will be difficult to find a monitor that uses both. In the end, you will likely have to try to match your monitor’s capabilities to your GPUs. As long as you know the technical specs of both units before purchasing, this should be relatively simple.

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Who can use G-Sync and FreeSync?

Modern NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards support either G-Sync or FreeSync. VSync, on the other hand, should be available to almost everyone – if your PC can handle games, it can support them.

For Nvidia users, a GTX 650 Ti Boost GPU is required for basic G-Sync compatibility, and a GTX 1050 or higher for G-Sync HDR. This means that if you own one of the best graphics cards, such as an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, you will definitely have access to G-Sync. However, keep in mind that your monitor also matters, as only some monitors support G-Sync. Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11 all support G-Sync.

AMD FreeSync is also fairly accessible. It is not only available to AMD GPU owners, but some NVIDIA GPUs also support it. If you want to run AMD FreeSync on a Radeon graphics card, you will need at least an AMD Radeon RX 200 series GPU. AMD Ryzen APUs are also compatible with AMD FreeSync.

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