Gaming Computer Screen Tearing Basics and Solutions

May 14, 2021

At Xidax, our commitment to our gaming and other clients is unparalleled in the computing industry. We offer a lifetime warranty on desktop parts for our custom gaming computers, a theme that’s extremely rare within our industry for components of our quality level, and regularly work with our clients, both within this warranty and outside of it, to improve their setup functionality and deal with any issues that arise within it.

One issue that’s unfortunately somewhat common among gamers using a variety of devices, but particularly those running rigs with especially high frame rates, is known as screen tearing, and there are a couple popular services that can be used to solve this issue – but which of these should you choose if you’re dealing with this sort of issue? Here’s a detailed primer on the causes of screen tearing and why it might be happening to you, plus the solutions available and which you might consider based on your needs and preferences.

Screen Tearing Definition and Risks

So what exactly is screen tearing, and why might it take place on your system? Screen tearing is defined as a video artifact that takes place when the frame rate of a game does not match the display refresh rate, and it causes a section of the next frame to render onto the screen before the previous image is finished refreshing. In most cases, this leads to horizontal lines running across the display in distracting ways.

As we noted above, this is most commonly an issue that we see in gamers who run high frame-rate rigs that don’t match some of the games they play. However, it can also take place within video-oriented services when higher frame rates are involved.

Our next few sections will go over two solutions often used for screen tearing, and also for related themes like frame rate or stutter issues that may impact your display.

G-Sync for Screen Tearing

Created by NVIDIA and serving as their proprietary solution for screen tearing and related issues, G-Sync uses what’s known as adaptive refresh technology. In layman’s terms, this tool syncs up your frame rate and refresh rate no matter which game you’re playing, all the way up to whatever your monitor’s max refresh rate can handle.

It should be noted right away that G-Sync is only compatible with graphics cards from NVIDIA themselves. If you have one of these, however, it tends to be highly effective, working through the embedding of hardware into the monitor that allows NVIDIA control over the display partners that are certified. And because this service is generally so effective across numerous screen tearing and related issues, it’s also the more expensive of the options at your disposal in most cases.

FreeSync for Screen Tearing

On the flip side of G-Sync is FreeSync, developed by AMD as their proprietary solution for screen tearing. Like the G-Sync with NVIDIA, FreeSync is only compatible with AMD graphics cards.

One major difference between with FreeSync compared to G-Sync is the way it limits its technology only to the graphics card. Using the VESA Adaptive-Sync standard, AMD has created a screen tearing solution that does not require a chip or any kind of special licensing to allow the company to take over the display or monitor – rather, the entire solution is contained within the graphics card alone. And while other parts of the technology are pretty similar to G-Sync, this major alteration means that FreeSync is basically open-source – their compatible displays tend to be easier to find, and are usually available at a lower overall cost.

Advantages of Each

Both of these brands and screen tearing solutions have their benefits depending on your needs. G-Sync is the older and more mature of the two technologies, and offers a few specific advantages:

  • Performance: As we noted above, G-Sync tends to be the gold standard for performance when it comes to screen tearing solutions. Both systems perform at similar frame rate ranges, but G-Sync has the advantage at rates below a display’s standard minimum refresh. When these situations are applied to FreeSync monitors, there are often frame stutter issues that most would prefer to avoid.
  • Hardware: G-Sync also requires less hardware power on the PC end of things than FreeSync within the display module. While these differences are relatively minor, they do mean a lower-level NVIDIA graphics card will have the same refresh performance as a higher-level AMD option.
  • Market share: G-Sync only works with NVIDIA cards, as we noted, and gamers are mostly well aware that NVIDIA holds a huge market share advantage over its competitors. This means that it’s simply more likely your G-Sync monitor will be applicable.

At the same time, it’s incorrect to say that FreeSync has no advantages or potential benefits over G-Sync. The primary advantage is one we went over above: Because AMD’s model is so open, virtually attaining open-source status, their compatible displays are easier and often cheaper to find. G-Sync is generally used for the high-end monitors you’ll find, but for mid and entry-level options, FreeSync may be your preferred option.

Brand Preference

For most, the choice here comes down to brand preference. If your graphics system is already using many components from either NVIDIA or AMD, it might be preferable to simply continue with this company due to compatibility factors; if you’re building a system from the ground up, speak to our team about recommendations here if you’ve dealt with screen tearing issues in the past.

For more on dealing with screen tearing, or to learn about any of our gaming computers and related products, speak to the staff at Xidax today.

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