We often neglect to get too involved in the discussion of what options people should always enable when they play games. Rather, we tend to focus on what we test with. Honestly, our recommended settings for playing the games we test would be very similar to the settings we use to benchmark with one very important exception: we would enable triple buffering (which implies vsync) whenever possible. While it's not an available option in all games, it really needs to be, and we are here to make the case for why gamers should use triple buffering and why developers need to support it.

Most often gamers, when it comes to anything regarding vsync, swear by forcing vsync off in the driver or disabling it in the game. In fact, this is what we do when benchmarking because it allows us to see more clearly what is going on under the hood. Those who do enable vsync typically do so to avoid the visual "tearing" that can occur in some cases despite the negative side effects.

We would like to try something a little different with this article. We'll include two polls, one here and one at the end of the article. This first poll is designed to report what our readers already do with respect to vsync and double versus triple buffering.

{poll 134:300}

After reading the rest of this article, our readers are invited to answer a related poll which is designed to determine if arming gamers with the information this article provides will have any impact on what settings are used from here on out.

First up will be a conceptual review of what double buffering and vsync are, then we'll talk about what triple buffering brings to the table. For those who really want the nitty gritty (or who need more convincing) we will provide follow that up with a deeper dive into each approach complete with some nifty diagrams.

What are Double Buffering, vsync and Triple Buffering?
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  • CallsignVega - Thursday, November 12, 2009 - link

    Are you people sure that triple buffering is being enabled even with tools like DXTweaker and ATI Tray tools? In theory, shouldn't the card be working just as hard with triple buffering on as it does with VSync disabled?

    I've tested EvE online with my ATi HD5870. With Vsync off, my FPS are of course very high and I can see the high load on the GPU in regards to amperage used and heat produced. If I turn VSync on, it uses very little amperage and creates very little heat only running at 60fps.

    In triple buffer theory, shouldn't the graphics card be working just as hard but only displaying the 60 FPS with Vsync on? I've mad profiles for EvE under ATi Tray tools and forced triple buffering on, but I get the same results as with VSync on, very low amperage and heat increase. This leads me to believe that triple buffering is in fact, not being applied.

    Could all of these so called forcing of Direct3D triple buffering apps really not be doing anything? It could just be placebo effect and people think it's working just because they marked the check-box. Theres no way I could see triple buffering actually working with my HD5870 in Direct3D with such a very very low stress on the card compared to VSync off. Besides polling the stress level of the card, is there any other way to see if triple buffering is ACTUALLY turned on and working?
    Reply
  • Skakruk - Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - link

    From the last page of the article:

    "...they have just as little input lag as double buffering with no vsync at the start of output to the monitor."

    I believe that is misinformation, as in my experience input lag results can vary significantly from game to game.

    For example, enabling V-Sync and Triple Buffer in UT2004 results in input lag so bad that the game is all but unplayable, but enabling V-Sync and Triple Buffer in CoD4 creates barely any input lag at all.

    Although CoD4 was very much playable, neither game exhibited "just as little input lag as double buffering with no vsync".

    NOTE: For both UT2004 and CoD4, I was forcing V-Sync and Triple Buffer via D3DOverrider, and all mouse filtering etc. was disabled in both games.




    Reply
  • griffhamlin - Thursday, July 16, 2009 - link

    hang yourself morron. you didn't understand a single piece of this article LMAO !

    enabling tripple buffering without Vsync ??!!!. tripple buffering IS MEANT FOR VSYNC. for avoid the slowdown due to double buffer.
    And vsync is made for avoid TEARING. GOT IT ? u_o.

    Stop posting crap.
    you want vsync ? go for tripple buffer. dont think , do it...
    you don't want vsync ? whatever you enable tripple or double buffer. it doesn't matter.
    Reply
  • davidri - Sunday, July 26, 2009 - link

    Wow, you're a rude Reply
  • andy80517 - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    LOL good comment XD ! Reply
  • davidri - Tuesday, July 14, 2009 - link

    "So there you have it. Triple buffering gives you all the benefits of double buffering with no vsync enabled in addition to all the benefits of enabling vsync. We get smooth full frames with no tearing."

    This statement is not true. I enabled triple buffering without vsync on a GTX 280/27" LCD @ 60hz and ran Elder Scrolls Oblivion. The vertical tearing was awful.

    I have been running the 280 with vsync and double buffering enabled on because I'll take the performance overhead to alleviate vertical tearing.
    Reply
  • jp777cmoe - Saturday, July 18, 2009 - link

    I read the article but im not sure about vsync and triple buffering..
    would it work well? i use a samsung 2233rz 120hz lcd monitor
    Reply
  • griffhamlin - Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - link

    *Facepalm* Reply
  • davidri - Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - link

    Thank you for the duly and astute feedback. Reply
  • MamiyaOtaru - Thursday, July 16, 2009 - link

    RTFA. DX game has to support triple buffering for you to get the benefit. If you toggled it on in the control panel, you were toggling it on for opengl games only.

    But *if* the game supports it, you'd be better off with triple buffering for avoiding tearing, though I still prefer double buffering with no vsync for responsiveness
    Reply

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