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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  • DerekWilson - Friday, June 26, 2009 - link

    In game options for DX games are what we need to rely on right now, as there is no control panel option in a driver for this.

    It is possible to force triple buffering in some DX games through other means, but what is needed is game and driver developer pressure to get this feature into every game.
  • ukbrainstew - Sunday, June 28, 2009 - link

    You'd be surprised the amount of games D3DOverrider works with, I find compatibility is easily over 90%.

    That developers don't include the option is really rather frustrating, though I just thank the PC community for coming up with a very good workaround as they invariably tend to do.

    Another setting that I'd like to become standard is the ability to choose a framerate cap. Plenty of engines allow it (though its often locked away) and it can work wonders for increasing the smoothness and playability of games on older hardware.

    Even sub $100 parts could maintain a damn near constant 30fps in most games at 720p resolution but they very well may struggle trying to hit 60fps often resulting in wild variances. Would it not be to the benefit of Nvidia and AMD's marketing if they could produce a driver level setting that caps games at half your refresh rate? A setting that would suddenly making their budget parts capable of maintaining a steady framerate in so many more games thus making them much more attractive products.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the article, triple buffering has been something of particular interest to me as I really can't bear a game with any appreciable amount of tearing and I'd really rather not suffer increased input lag and as much as a 50% reduction in my framerate when a simple setting can do away with it all in one fell swoop.

    Could I suggest a mention of D3DOVerrider in the article? Surely giving readers advice on how to benefit from triple buffering in more games would be a worthy addition and something many may be craving now that they're armed with knowledge of its inherent benefits.
  • erple2 - Sunday, June 28, 2009 - link

    I think the reduction in frame rate is to an even multiple of the maximum frame rate - You'll get 1 (refresh rate of monitor), 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6 etc. and nothing in between with vsync on.

    I've noticed that in games that allow me to show the frame rate, I get exactly 60 FPS (I have an LCD monitor), 30 FPS, 20 FPS, 15 FPS, 12 FPS, or 10FPS (and so on) and nothing in between. But that's the way the vsync operates with double buffering.

    With triple buffering, I can get more or less any FPS rate lower than 60.
  • fiveday - Friday, June 26, 2009 - link

    Yes. D3DOverrider is a utility that (as the name implies) overrides certain D3D calls and forces a few of its own settings. Specifically, it can force Triple Buffering and VSync (on or off) in any Direct 3D application. It comes with RivaTuner, but is a seperate app - you won't find it in RT's settings, but in it's installed folder as a standalone program.

    So yeah - download the latest RivaTuner (which you don't even have to run, tho it's useful!) and use D3DOverrider to force triple buffering in Direct 3D.

    This saved my experience with Dead Space... and I've been singing it's praises ever since.
  • toyota - Friday, June 26, 2009 - link

    I have to go ahead and laugh at the people that turn triple buffering on from the standard control panel and claim they see a difference. that setting has NO effect on DX games and is for OpenGL only. of course you have to use a third party app like rivatuner nhancer to actually force triple buffering on. its nice that some games like L4D have it built right into the game options though so that it is very convenient to enable from within the game without any third party crap to fool with. Reply
  • leexgx - Saturday, June 27, 2009 - link

    Why is there not an Pole option for triple buffer with Vsync on and off or is the pole option ment for Vsync on with triple if so its Not what most of us would of picked

    i allways run the games if i can with triple but No Vsync as the lag is to much

    Vsync on has always made input lag be it 3 buffers or 2
  • Hrel - Monday, June 29, 2009 - link

    pole is supposed to be poll, the way you mean. Confusing the way it is. Reply
  • The0ne - Friday, June 26, 2009 - link

    For now, I just check the games to make sure there's an option for it. If not then I don't bother trying to find a way around it. Derek has it right, developers has to see the benefits and implement it if video card mfger's or MS doesn't implement it. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, June 26, 2009 - link

    This is the reason the last line of our article is focused on the developers.

    They definitely, like Valve, need to start including triple buffering in in-game options.

    And it would be nice if NVIDIA and AMD could build something into the driver to make it work for everything. They put a lot of time into making AA work in most games, why not do the same for triple buffering?
  • GourdFreeMan - Friday, June 26, 2009 - link

    I was under the impression that if you set VSync to "Force On" and Tripple Buffering to "On" in the nVIDIA control panel under the "Global Settings" tab you effectively force triple buffering on for all aplications, except those specifically excluded by their individual profiles. Is this not the case? This option has been available for years... admittedly I have never attempted to capture frames to verify that triple buffering is actually occuring.

    I don't see why this shouldn't work universally for applications -- as far as the application knows the only thing that has changed is the size of the pool of available graphics memory.

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