As a gamer, getting the best pieces of equipment to work together is difficult. You choose a hardware manufacturer, finding out which components work best together and eventually you have a complete build. You would think that your work is done. However, when it comes to game time, you suffer with frame tearing and shuddering.
Firstly: don’t panic. It’s not your build, it’s your monitor. Monitors run at a specified refresh rate which, in short, means how many times the monitor checks for new images every second. This is measured in in Hertz or Hz. Monitors generally come in three variations, which are 60Hz, 120Hz or 144Hz. So a 144 Hz monitor will refresh the image displayed 144 times per second, for instance, even if no pixels are changed.
When your GPU (graphics processing unit) processes images, it passes them to your monitor, which displays the image. If you are experiencing image tearing or shuddering, it is because your GPU is passing new images to your monitor faster than it can refresh the previous image. From here, you have two options: you can enable VSync or leave it off.
With VSync off, your GPU will continue to pass on new image frames, regardless of your monitor being ready to display a new image or not. With VSync off, however, it doesn’t place any additional load on your graphics card to try and match up with the monitor.
With VSync enabled, your GPU will prevent new images being passed to the monitor until the monitor is ready to render a new image. However there is still a downside, as it will increase GPU load and will also create a new issue called input lag. With input lag, you will see a small delay in performing an action, like inputting the command to run and actually seeing your character running, for instance. With higher refresh rate monitors and better GPUs, this lag is hardly noticeable, but still can be an issue when making split-second decisions to save the virtual world.
So you can never actually have your cake and eat it. Or can you? AMD released a solution called FreeSync. With this technology, you are able to enjoy gaming without frame tearing or input lag.
The FreeSync feature is available via a display port on specified monitors, coupled with a compatible AMD graphics card, of course. But what good is just knowing the name of the technology?
AMD FreeSync Explained
What FreeSync does is negotiates the refresh rate with the monitor before frames are handed over from the GPU. It constantly scales the refresh rate depending on the amount of images being handed over. And there is no software needed to do this, aside from the supported AMD catalyst that you would install with your graphics card. And it is completely plug-and-play.
AMD has not stopped there. This is scalable up to 240Hz and even supports high resolutions aside from 1080p like QHD and UHD. You are not limited to the type of display either. When choosing a monitor, the TN panels generally offer better refresh rates and response times, but lack in the image quality department. IPS panels have better image quality but don’t offer high refresh rates and struggle to go lower than a 5 millisecond response time. But with FreeSync being compatible with both makes of display, your choice is that much easier.
At this point we would like to point out that Nvidia has a similar feature available called G-Sync which is similar to FreeSync. There are, however, a few key points that make FreeSync-enabled monitors the better option. Firstly, AMD have charged no license fees for the manufacturers to adopt this technology so the FreeSync monitors are cheaper and this lower price tag is not due to inferior quality. They also don’t have any proprietary hardware models, and, lastly no communication overheads.
This means that manufacturers the likes of BenQ, Asus and Acer, just to name a few, lining up to add the AMD FreeSync feature to their monitors.
So if you are in the market for a new monitor and you are tired of having to choose between the lesser of two evils when it comes to your refresh rate and don’t want to rely on VSync, look for a monitor that supports FreeSync from AMD and you will have a smooth clear image, no matter how action-packed the game you are playing is. You can select support models from your preferred manufacturer and the monitors vary in price so you can get a monitor that suits your pocket.