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Have you ever noticed the visuals on your display going wayward, like one part going this way and the other going that way? It’s a screen artifact known as screen tearing, and believe it or not; it’s one of the most annoying and widely occurring screen defects of all. While it does resolve in a split second, even that split second of disturbance is detrimental to the overall viewing experience.
While gaming, the glitch could be a matter of extreme annoyance, and for competitive titles, it could be the difference between win or loss. That’s the last thing you want to experience while you are face to face with your foes in a heated battle. But what causes this hotchpotch of visuals? Is there any way to be done with it once for all? These are the questions we are going to address with this post.
You will be glad to know that screen tearing, although quite irritating, is fairly easy to eliminate. But to get rid of it, you have first to understand what screen tearing actually is and what causes this disturbance. Once you understand what goes behind the issue, you will be able to eradicate it effectively.
Table of Contents
- What Is Screen Tearing?
- What Are the Causes Of Screen Tearing?
- How To Fix The Screen Tearing
What Is Screen Tearing?
Screen tearing is a visual defect that occurs when your monitor’s refresh rate doesn’t match your GPU’s frame rate. Whenever this conflict arises, parts of the two frames are drawn simultaneously on the screen. As a result, what you see is a tear or a horizontal line across the display.
Although the defect appears momentarily, it takes away the immersion and potentially downgrades the viewing experience. Furthermore, it can occur multiple times in single gameplay, thereby making it hard to focus.
The distraction could be quite irritating if you are in for some hardcore action gameplay. Also, if you indulge in competitive gaming, screen tearing could be disastrous and may cause you to lose the game.
What Are the Causes Of Screen Tearing?
To understand the reason behind screen tearing, you must have a little know-how of refresh rate and frame rate.
What you see on a monitor is actually a series of fast-moving images drawn over the screen one after the other. It creates an illusion of motion and what we perceive as visuals on the screen. The number of times these images are drawn on the screen per second is known as the refresh rate. It’s one part of the puzzle; the other is frame rates.
Frame rate had nothing to do with the monitor; instead, it’s an intrinsic property of the GPU. It’s the number of still images or frames it can render in a second. This information is sent to the monitor, which then processes the signals and displays them on the screen.
In most situations, the refresh rate of the monitor and frame rate of the GPU works perfectly in sync. However, problems arise when they go out of sync.
This could be due to the frame rate being too high, and the monitor could not keep up, or the refresh rate will be cruising, and the GPU could not render enough frames. When this mismatch of information between the screen and GPU happens, you experience annoying screen tearing.
How To Fix The Screen Tearing
If either of the two, that is, monitor or GPU proves too fast for the other; the screen tearing is bound to happen. So the surest way of permanently eliminating screen tearing is to get comparable hardware for GPU and monitor.
However, for all those lesser mortals like us who could not go on a splurge of money, there are far less radical options to keep the screen tearing at a minimum. These methods are easy to implement and do the trick of clearing the screen tearing just fine. So, let’s check them out;
If you have a Vsync enabled monitor, you can easily troubleshoot screen tearing. Vertical Synchronisation, as it stands for, was the very first technology implemented to address the screen tearing issue. It keeps the vertical refresh rate of the monitor in sync with the frame rate of the GPU. In short, it forces the monitor and GPU to be in line. The result is a smoother display output free from screen tearing.
Up till now, all is good; however, there is a catch. You see, Vsync is designed in such a way that it favors the refresh rate of the screen. So the frame from a GPU is restricted till the monitor is ready with the next refresh. It sometimes results in a far greater input lag.
So, regardless of the power of your GPU, you will be restricting it to produce a frame rate in line with the monitor’s refresh rate. You can see, this could terribly affect the gameplay. Therefore, if you are a competitive gamer, you will be better off with some screen tearing than the bigger screen lag issue. However, for the more generic gameplay, the lagging won’t have a detrimental effect, and you can have a fairly smooth and immersive experience.
Nvidia Fast Sync and AMD Enhanced Sync
Can’t put up with the induced input lag thanks to V-sync? There is another solution available that is Nvidia Fast Sync & AMD Enhanced Sync which can be accessible in the new graphic cards(AMD GCN-based GPUs and NVIDIA GeForce 900 series or higher).
While V-sync limits the frame rate to that of the monitor’s refresh rate, Nvidia Fast Sync & AMD Enhanced Sync work differently. Instead of putting a cap on frame rate, they simply relay the last completely rendered frame from the GPU to the monitor. This way, you can address screen tearing without worrying about any drop in frame rate.
You should note that you will not see any significant improvement in input lag. However, It will be less as compared to V-sync.
NVIDIA G-SYNC and AMD FreeSync
Technological advancements have created new options to check screen tearing. The latest and the most effective solution to eliminating screen tearing these days is the variable refresh rate technology.
Nvidia and AMD offer their own proprietary refresh rate technology, namely the Nvidia G-sync and AMD FreeSync. So the monitor equipped with either of the two VRR technologies can adjust its refresh rate almost instantly to match the GPU’s frame rates.
For example, while playing a game, you get 60 FPS from GPU while your monitor can top 144Hz refresh rate. In such a case, the variable refresh rate will bring down the refresh rate to 60 to match the fps of the GPU, thereby reducing the possibility of screen tearing to a minimum.
You may be wondering about the input lag. Incidentally, you won’t experience any, or the effect will be so minuscule, it will barely be perceivable. It’s just how VRR technology works.
Here, you should note that every Nvidia G-Sync monitor comes equipped with a G-Sync module. AMD, on the other hand, does not have any specific module fitted in the hardware.
Instead, it relies on the monitor’s built-in adaptive sync capability. Moreover, it’s a widely accepted fact that the Nvidia G-sync only works with the Nvidia GPU, and FreeSync is supported by AMD and NVIDIA(G-SYNC Compatible mode and GTX 10-series or newer GPU). However, it’s possible that you may not get the same performance.
So that’s all for our little effort to familiarise you with what screen tearing is and what is the reason behind it. Our guide also includes a couple of troubleshooters to fix the issue in case screen tearing is going out of hand on your monitor.
Technological evolution is a continuous process, and while older technologies are becoming obsolete, newer, more reliable ones are taking over.
That said, Nvidia G-sync and AMD FreeSync are taking center stage as the most effective solution for screen tearing. Therefore you should ensure that your latest gaming monitor must include any one of the VRR technology so you can enjoy smooth and immersive gameplay.