Laptop display tearing


I've been playing 3D games quite a bit recently, and I've noticed that my laptop display seems to suffer from tearing a lot. I have just purchased the Orange Box for my PC, and I am noticing this mostly while playing Portal.

I am aware that some tearing is 'normal' at high frame rates above the refresh rate of the monitor screen. However, I have checked the frame rate using FRAPS and it rarely goes above 25-30fps (with VSync turned off), so there should be no tearing at all, right?

VSync does solve the problem if I turn it on, but it also reduces the framerate. My laptop is a Sony Vaio VGN-FW11E and the graphics card is an ATI Mobility HD3470. It's pretty old now, but can comfortably run games that are a few years old.

I have tried to update the graphics drivers, however the package downloaded from the ATI website says my laptop isn't supported. I guess Sony have done some tinkering with the graphics drivers or something.

Can anyone shed any light on why this tearing might be happening? I would turn on Triple Buffering, however the option for this in CCC only applies to OpenGL, for some reason.

Thanks in advance

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  1. "rarely goes above 25-30fps"
    "but it also reduces the framerate"

    V-Sync will only reduce the frame rate to be a max of the refresh rate of the monitor.
    So LCD screens on laptops run at 60Hz which means 60fps max.
    Meaning that it shouldn't effect your frame rate if you are averaging about 30fps. I would keep V-Sync ON.
  2. Thanks for your reply, but the point you've made is basically the reason I asked the question in the first place.

    I'm aware that a game running at 25-30fps should not be slowed down by enabling VSync, nonetheless, it is.

    I'm also well aware that a game running at 25-30fps shouldn't suffering from tearing, nonetheless it is.

    You're correct in that my laptop screen does state a 60Hz refresh rate, though I also read on here that laptop screens don't have a true refresh rate, as they work differently to monitor screens.

    After further investigation, this seems to relate more specifically to Portal. According to FRAPS, playing with VSync off = 28 fps, playing with VSync on = 20fps. On the other hand, Half Life 2 is more graphically demanding, yet runs at 32 fps and is not slowed down by enabling VSync, nor is Tomb Raider Anniversary. In all cases, enabling VSync does solve the tearing issue.

    Is it possible that Portal just doesn't handle synching (and VSync) very well? I know this is occasionally a problem in games, Dead Space being another example (enabling VSync makes the mouse pointer unbearably sluggish to use). Having said this, Portal uses the same game engine as Half Life 2, so I wouldn't expect this to be the case. Either way, it's annoying!

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