What is Screen Tearing & How can You Prevent It!
In this article, I will explain what screen tearing is and how you can prevent it. The screen tearing occurs most notably while playing games on the PC. It happens when graphics cards and the connected monitor fall out of sync with each other.
Also read our Monitor Buying Guide.
What is Screen Tearing?
The most common display of screen tearing is where the top portion of the monitor shows a different frame than the bottom. This can happen anywhere from once twice or even more times than that.
Here is an examples of screen tearing:
Each monitor has a maximum refresh rate, and most of them operate at about 60Hz. Most games on a PC can be played at a variable frame rate which correlates to the refresh rate of your monitor.
A monitor with a refresh rate of 60Hz can change the frame it displays 60 times in a second. Displaying 60 frames per second can render a new frame 60 times per second, but in reality, it may be more or less. Unless the game you’re playing allows you to cap your frames per second to a specific number.
When the game you’re playing decides to render frames at a higher rate than your monitor can keep up with, tearing occurs. The screen tearing phenomenon mainly occurs in scenes including explosions or multiple moving objects.
Screen Tearing’s Impact on Gaming
Screen tearing occurs when a computer’s graphics processing unit (GPU) renders images at a pace that doesn’t synchronize with the display’s refresh rate. This results in multiple frames being shown simultaneously, causing a visual distortion known as “tearing.” This issue can negatively affect gaming in several ways:
- Visual Distraction: Tearing can be an eyesore, making it harder for players to focus on the game. It creates a disjointed and unpolished gaming experience, which can be particularly frustrating in visually immersive games.
- Competitive Disadvantage: In fast-paced, competitive games, screen tearing can lead to a disadvantage. If crucial information or targets are obscured by the tearing, players may miss opportunities or make mistakes.
- Reduced Immersion: For games that rely heavily on their visual narrative and atmosphere, screen tearing can break the immersion, reducing the overall enjoyment of the experience.
- Motion Inconsistency: Tearing can make in-game motion feel inconsistent and unpredictable, impacting the player’s ability to smoothly navigate or aim during gameplay.
To mitigate screen tearing, gamers can use technologies like VSync, NVIDIA Fast Sync, or AMD Enhanced Sync, which synchronize the GPU’s frame output with the monitor’s refresh rate, providing a smoother visual experience. However, these solutions may introduce input lag, which can also impact gaming performance. Balancing the visual quality and input lag is essential to achieve the best gaming experience.
How to Prevent Screen Tearing?
There are ways to prevent this issue, like VSync (Vertical sync), G-Sync, and Free Sync. VSync is a graphics technology that synchronizes the frame rate of a game with the monitor’s refresh rate.
It stops the graphics card from displaying to the monitor until the monitor has finished its current refresh cycle. This can cause repeated frames but, for the most part, stop or reduce the screen tearing.
However, VSync is not a complete solution, and in some games, it can cause input lag and affect your performance in online games.
Build upon vertical sync is adaptive VSync, which allows for monitors to only use the vertical sync when the game’s frame rate exceeds the monitor’s refresh capability, which allows for even smoother gameplay.
More advanced versions of adaptive VSync include AMD’s Free Sync or G-Sync from Nvidia. These technologies adapt the monitor’s refresh rate as the maximum refresh rate to prevent screen tearing.
You won’t notice a difference while playing since the monitor was only capable of its maximum refresh rate from the get-go. You will require a graphics card and supported monitor for these technologies to work.
So, unfortunately, no mixing and matching. In short, buying a monitor with Free Sync for AMD graphics or a G-Sync monitor for your Nvidia graphics card will yield optimal results.
A little secret for NVIDIA users is that you can use a Free Sync display with your graphics card, but it will only use the adaptive sync capabilities of the curved monitor, which is still better than nothing.
NVIDIA Fast Sync & AMD Enhanced Sync
If you possess a more recent graphics card (such as NVIDIA GeForce 900 series and AMD GCN-based GPUs or later models), you can opt for NVIDIA Fast Sync or AMD Enhanced Sync as alternatives to VSync.
These two technologies do not restrict your frame rate to the peak refresh rate of your monitor. Instead, they display the most recently finished full frame, preventing tearing without causing as much input lag.
Although the input lag is considerably less than with standard VSync enabled, it is not as low as it would be if VSync were turned off.
The greater your frame rate, the less input lag you will experience. Ideally, your FPS should be at least twice your monitor’s maximum refresh rate for a noticeably reduced input lag when employing Fast Sync or Enhanced Sync.
Do gaming consoles support VRR?
Sony recently added VRR to the PS5 console, allowing users to enable or disable it in the settings.
The Xbox Series X and Series S also offer VRR support, making it more convenient for console gamers to enjoy their favorite games without screen tearing. Older consoles like the Nintendo Switch do not support VRR; however, as they are limited to a 60fps frame rate, screen tearing is less likely to be an issue.
Numerous gaming monitors are compatible with VRR, but it’s essential to verify the specifications of any monitor you’re considering. We advise looking for VRR support when selecting a gaming monitor, particularly if you plan to play fast-paced games like Call of Duty: Vanguard or Battlefield 2042, as screen tearing can significantly disrupt online matches.
Check these Monitors under $300.