5 Graphics Settings Worth Tweaking in Every PC Game

By Whitson Gordon

PC gaming can be a double-edged sword: Sure, you get better graphics and unparalleled customizability, but most people are hesitant to jump in. After all, what's the point of those amazing graphics if you have to spend a bunch of time tinkering with settings first?

At least, that's the prevailing thought among non-PC gamers. But as numerous and complex as graphics options have gotten, you don't have to do a ton of work to get a good experience. Simple presets like Medium or High will do a decent job of dialing things in, and some automated tools can more precisely tune a game to your hardware in one click. You'll get the perfect balance of performance and graphical quality for your system, without much work.

There are, however, a few settings that are a bit less about quality and a bit more about personal preference. Some people love them turned on, some people hate them with a burning passion … and some may vary in quality from game to game. If you have a few minutes, it's worth looking at these and judging them for yourself, so you can get into the game without distracting visual annoyances.

Vertical Sync

A composite image of what screen tearing would look like with vsync turned off.

Whitson Gordon via Blizzard Entertainment

Have you ever noticed lines in the middle of the screen, where it feels like the games graphics don't "align" properly for a split second? That's called screen tearing, and it happens when your graphics card finishes generating a new frame while your screen is still drawing the previous frame. Part-way down the screen, it'll start drawing the new frame instead, leading to a mismatch that is incredibly distracting.

Vertical Sync, or VSync, aims to fix this by "syncing" your graphics card with your monitor, so that a new frame is drawn at the same time the screen is refreshing. This eliminates screen tearing but has a few disadvantages:

  • It adds a small bit of input lag, since your graphics card may send a frame a few milliseconds after it was drawn rather than as soon as possible. Some hardcore gamers may notice this lag, while others may not.
  • If your frame rate doesn't match the refresh rate of your monitor, it will get cut in half. For example, if you have a 60-Hz monitor but your graphics card can only produce a maximum of 47 frames per second, you'll only see 47 frames with VSync off. With VSync on, your frame rate will drop to 30 frames per second in order to stay synced, which can make motion far less smooth.