V-Sync is the natural remedy for the feared and infamous phenomenon of screen tearing. Shorthand for visual synchronization, V-Sync is a process that works with your GPU and monitor in-tandem to resolve the problems created by screen tears, notoriously during gaming.
The main culprit here is something called the refresh rate. However, even the best 1440p monitors with very high refresh rates are not immune to screen tearing since it’s not just the monitor that’s the bigger link here.
Screen tearing is an artifact of the mismatch between the high-quality graphics the game has and the monitor’s inability to handle them. Knowing how to calibrate a monitor can often go a long way in eliminating this problem, but not always.
So, what does V-Sync do, and what is V-Sync?
What Is V-Sync?
In a nutshell, V-Sync works by eliminating the differences between the monitor’s refresh rate and the frame rate of the graphics processing unit, or GPU. It synchronizes them together by limited the frame rate and increasing the input lag. It helps to get you the most out of the best ultrawide monitors as well, that are famous for screen tearing.
Graphics are rendered in a particular way that can be one of either in a computer; from independent graphics cards or integrated graphics from the processor. These create the visuals you see on the screen. It happens as quickly as a blink of the eye: the processor renders a scene via frames and hands them over to the monitor to process them.
Think of any animation style of quick-moving drawings as we traditionally understand them. The rate at which the drawings or frames are moving is known as the frames per second that are being output – with more frames in a second, the smoother the “slideshow” you’re seeing with your eyes will be, with rapid and unobstructed movement.
Just as your eyes can immediately pick up on and observe these frames as an actual moving living reality, your screen has a hard time picking up the slack. The screen’s limit for the maximum frames it can show you is known as the refresh rate.
The refresh rate is the frequency, essentially, of the frames being displayed on the screen. This means that if a monitor is 60Hz, the frame rate is 60 frames per second.
What Does V-Sync Do?
Vertical Synchronization works by essentially managing the flow of the frames to the monitor. The GPU usually sends as many frames as it generates and it can, but with V-Sync it only sends as many frames as it is ready to display them.
This means that there’s no possibility of screen tearing: if there’s a 120Hz monitor, the maximum FPS you can get is 120.
At the same time, however, while this eliminates screen tearing, it introduces something called input lag. This happens because of the limit placed on the graphics card – a word we introduced before. This puts the graphics card in the waiting line and forces it to wait. The monitor thus overpowers the GPU. Additionally, wherever it doesn’t have the necessary power, it fails to render the frames needed and only displays the last full-frame, introducing screen stutter.
Generally, the higher the refresh rate, the lower the screen tear that you’ll notice.
The question is one of input lag versus screen tearing. Most serious gamers prefer screen tear over input lag, especially where the monitors are of 144HZ and 240HZ. You can turn it on and off to see what works for you.
Disabling V-Sync in-game makes screen tearing apparent in a super-observable way. The frame rate overtakes the refresh rate and the tearing can be seen across the screen horizontally, especially when movement happens across the screen. This causes both vision problems, headaches and of course, distracts.
Adaptive V-Sync solves all of these problems by being, well, adaptive. The frame rate stutters when the frame rate is low, and the screen tears when it’s high. Using Adaptive V-Sync, the frame rate is unlocked under the V-Sync cap. This reduces both screen stutter and locks the frame rate when the performance gets better. No screen tear, no screen stutter.