The Death of Screen Tearing

Hardware is not exactly my forte, but the headlines I’ve been seeing about Nvidia’s new module certainly piqued my interest. Anybody who has played games on the PC has seen the effects of screen tearing and stuttering, and if you’re as captivated by the visuals in many modern games as I am then you know that there is nothing worse.

Nvidia, however, believe that they have conquered this problem.

G-Sync is a module that Nvidia have revealed which will start being seen in the first quarter of next year. Attached to a monitor, it is capable of allowing the GPU to take control of the monitor refresh rate rather than having the monitor do so at a fixed interval. The result is no more stuttering, no more screen tearing and no more V-Sync.

Confused?

A monitor refreshes at 60Hz, and that has been the standard for decades. It works pretty well – the human eye cannot truly distinguish between frame rates upward of 60 frames per second (fps). Some people say that the true number is somewhere in the region of 50 fps, and those people are wrong. Fire up a game with a frame rate monitor and tell me you don’t see a sizable difference from 50 to 60 fps.

The bane of video gaming.

The bane of video gaming.

Monitors refresh at this rate, which is great if games can maintain a constant 60 fps. Only trouble is that in a lot of AAA games being released, that is simply not plausible – constantly evolving scenes with explosions, high movement and (most importantly) the immense graphical demands mean that the frame rate fluctuates. The default way that most PC gamers handle this issue is simply allowing it to do it’s thing and refresh mid-cycle, which in turn can cause the refresh to produce two near-identical (but not actually identical) images at once, and a very obvious ‘tear-line’ appears. That sucks, right? The counter to this is to turn V-Sync on in your settings menu, forcing your GPU to delay the image refresh to be in-line with the monitor’s screen refresh cycle. This results in stuttering, input lag and a host of angry young teenagers playing Battlefield online.

This seemingly innocuous invention is supposed to topple the Stalin-esque tyranny of your monitor’s base refresh rate by instead handing it to the GPU. By allowing it to dictate the refresh rate of the monitor, there is no conflict between what the monitor is trying to do and what your GPU is doing, which in turn gives you super seamless, lag free gameplay.

Dat 'stache.

Dat ‘stache.

If what I’ve said sounds an awful lot like particle physics to you, then there is a video which has been put together to illustrate the problem and allow for comparison. I advise watching it in HD, because watching it in 480 made the differences hard to make out. When he starts making the animation turn around the 9:30 mark, the issues (and subsequent solution) become more pronounced.

No price or official release date has been announced yet, but with endorsements from major vendors such as ASUS, Benq and Philips as well as what seems to be the solution to a crippling problem for many PC gamers, expect to see more of this product in the coming months.

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