Every gamer strives for smooth gameplay. Screen tearing is one of those visual distortions that prevent smooth gameplay aside from ghosting and stuttering.
It plagues the majority of gamers and when it gets out of hand can turn your gameplay into a nightmare.
Worst case scenario unplayable. But, what causes screen tearing in games and how can you fix or eliminate screen tearing?
Understanding the causes and knowing the right solution will help you achieve stellar gaming experience. And if possible the satisfaction you get from games that run smoothly. Here’s what you need to know about screen tearing.
What Is Screen Tearing?
Screen tearing is a visual distortion when two or more frames or images are shown at the same time causing a tear. Your display doesn’t wait for the previous image to go but then goes ahead to display the new image.
This results in two or more different images shown on the display with a noticeable line separating them. Screen tearing is common in games and horizontally moving visuals.
Too much screen tearing can really mess up your gaming experience. It is an eyesore when it happens a lot. Watching screen tearing unfold before your eyes is like looking at different pieces of a ripped image being put together.
Let’s find out the real cause of screen tearing.
What Causes Screen Tearing, How Does It Happen?
Screen tearing happens because the display is not able to keep up with images the GPU produces.
Screen tearing becomes bothersome especially when your CPU and GPU are powerful but the display is weak. This causes both hardware to be out of sync resulting in not only screen tearing but screen stuttering and ghosting.
There are three things that determine the severity of screen tearing and why it happens to you. They are:
- Refresh rate
- Response time
- Frames per second
Understanding these and how they work together will help you better understand screen tearing.
Let’s get dive into it.
The refresh rate is the number of times a display refresh an image. It is measured in Hertz (Hz).
Anytime a display refreshes a new image or screen is drawn. It is because the display refreshes itself that you are able to notice changes when an action is performed. Not all displays have the same refresh rate.
Majority of the displays out there have a 60Hz refresh rate. This means that they are able to refresh at a rate of 60 times per second. There are displays with higher refresh rates with some being 144Hz and above.
Response time is the time taken for a display to receive an image from the GPU. It is measured in milliseconds (ms).
It is also a measure of how quickly a pixel can change from one colour to another. The lower the response time the less time it takes for a display to appear and vice versa.
Frames or commonly known as frames per second (FPS) is the number of images displayed on the screen in a second. You can think of it as a slideshow. The more pictures it shows in a second the higher frames per second the slideshow has.
Now let’s get into the heart of the matter.
In a normal gaming session. Your GPU is doing its job – processing the data and sending it to the screen for it to be displayed. Your display which has a 60Hz refresh rate and a decent response time also receive the image.
You notice that you get between 50-90 FPS on your game. Demanding areas of the game cause the FPS to drop into low 50s.
This is where screen tearing is almost non-existent. What you should know is that if there is a massive quick drop in FPS screen tearing will occur.
But as you move to less demanding areas, FPS increases to 70-90s. This is where screen tearing becomes common. The display doesn’t refresh itself fast enough to show new frames.
Pixels don’t also change themselves quickly enough. And so the new frames are drawn on top of each other resulting in the display showing more than one image at once.
This is how screen tearing happens. Because your display doesn’t have a high enough refresh rate and fast response time. It is not able to keep up with high FPS.
How To Fix Screen Tearing
There are a few ways to eliminate or fix screen tearing.
Running Games On Very High FPS
If you are able to achieve a high amount of FPS on the games you play i.e. 180 FPS+ on a low refresh rate display. You can get away with screen tearing. 180 plus frames in a second is a lot.
The more frames per second you are able to achieve the reduced chances of screen tearing happening. This is because frames change so fast screen tearing becomes barely noticeable.
The screen tearing forms but goes away quickly because the images are updated at a very fast rate. It doesn’t eliminate it completely but it will reduce it drastically.
Unfortunately, this is hard to achieve in AAA title games. Even if you have the most powerful set-up.
Balancing Your Game Settings
This depends on the game. You have to find that sweet spot depending on your display. By monitoring your gaming performance you can tweak the settings in such a way that the FPS is not too high to cause any screen tears.
Also, the FPS doesn’t drop isn’t too much when certain scenes and areas of the game become demanding. Though a drastic drop in FPS can cause screen tearing because the frames are not changed quickly enough.
- Reduce the resolution
- Increase or decrease the quality of textures
- Set or don’t set an FPS cap
- Enable/disable VSYNC
Are some of the settings you should try out. That’s why finding the right balance is important.
So that no matter how demanding the games becomes the FPS doesn’t increase or decrease by a lot. This eliminates the chances of screen tearing happening. Also, make sure to update your video drivers.
Get A New Monitor Or Laptop
Sometimes you just need to get a new monitor or a laptop with a better display. If you truly want to eliminate not only screen tearing but stuttering and ghosting. Don’t skip on monitor hardware because it is also an important part of your PC setup.
Get a monitor or a laptop that has a high refresh rate and fast response times. In addition to that, try to get an NVIDIA G-SYNC or Freesync display. They are not really deal breakers but they help prevent screen tearing even in the event of massive FPS drops.
Screen tearing is a god awful visual distortion that can negatively impact your gaming experience. Think about the last time you saw different ripped pieces of images put together. Was it a pleasant sight?
I think not.
Hopefully, with the solutions provided, you can eliminate screen tearing. If not reduce it considerably your gaming experience is not ruined.
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