Hello! I've been benchmarking recently and here's my guide to maxing out image quality and performance.
My benchmarking right now is in the A-10 flying in the Caucasus and Vegas, singleplayer only. I'll include Strait of Hormuz and Syria later. I will update this thread with more information as I encounter new situations causing performance issues. Here's what you can expect in the end:
(After having played all included A-10C Caucasus scenarios, I consistently get 60 FPS +/-15 at worst.)
Step 1: Set all the graphics options to absolute minimum.
Step 2: Set anti-aliasing to match your desired initial performance, ideally about 50% above your desired final performance. For instance, if you currently have 144 FPS on minimum, set the level of anti-aliasing that matches the desired initial performance of 90 FPS if your desired final performance is 60 FPS. You can measure this in any appropriate scenario. It's all you gotta do on your own!
SSAA 1X MSAA 1X (-0% performance)
SSAA 1X MSAA 2X (-10% performance)
SSAA 1X MSAA 4X (-20% performance)
SSAA 1.5X MSAA 1X (-30% performance)
SSAA 1.5X MSAA 2X (-40% performance)
SSAA 1.5X MSAA 4X (-50% performance)
SSAA 2X MSAA 2X (-60% performance)
SSAA 2X MSAA 4X (-70% performance)
Finally, in the NVIDIA Control Panel set "MFAA" to "On" for significantly improved anti-aliasing (-2% performance)!
Note: the performance values above are based on how they affect your final, not initial, performance.
Note: I intentionally skipped SSAA 2X MSAA 1X. I recommend never using it as performance matches the superior image quality SSAA 1.5X MSAA 4X.
Alternate method: if you set "Antialiasing - Mode" to "Enhance the application setting" and "Antialiasing - Transparency" to 2X, you substantially improve anti-aliasing at substantial performance change, which is interesting as it allows you to use SSAA 1X with image quality comparable to SSAA 1.5X and +16% performance; however, the image may not appear as sharp. Also, screenshots will appear aliased for technical reasons.
Step 3: Set all graphics options that don't affect performance.
Civ. Traffic: Personal preference
Heat Blur: High
Resolution: Personal preference
Aspect Ratio: Personal preference
Monitors: Personal preference
Res. of Cockpit Displays: 1024 Every Frame
Lens Effects: Personal preference
Preload Radius: 100
Chimney Smoke Density: Personal preference
Messages font scale: Personal preference
Scale GUI: Personal preference
Rain Droplets: Personal preference
Vsync: OFF (Use NVIDIA Control Panel)
Full Screen: Personal preference
Cursor Confined to Game Window: Personal preference
Step 4: Set the graphics options that are extremely situational.
Depth of Field: Personal preference (Affects performance greatly only in third-person view, -50%?)
Clouds: Ultra (Still searching for situation where it makes difference)
Clutter/Grass: 1500 (Affects performance weakly in cockpit, -2.5%/-5% at 750/1500)
Forest Visibility: 100% (Affects performance greatly in woods, I recommend 67-80%)
Forest Details Factor: 1 (Still searching for situation where it makes difference)
Scenery Details Factor: 1 (Still searching for situation where it makes difference)
Step 5: Set the graphics options that measurably affect performance. Upgrade the graphics options in any order until you're at your desired final level of performance.
Textures: High (-1% performance)
Terrain Textures: High (-1% performance)
SSLR: ON (-3% performance)
Cockpit Global Illumination: ON (-3% performance)
Shadows: High (-3% performance)
Water: Medium (-5% performance) or High (-10% performance)
Motion Blur: ON (-10% performance)
Anisotropic Filtering: 2X (-2% performance), 4X (-4% performance), 8X (-8% performance), or 16X (-12% performance)
Terrain Objects Shadows: Flat (-5% performance) or Default (-15% performance)
Visib. Range: Extreme (-17% performance)
SSAO: ON (-25% performance)
There's also one option in the gameplay menu:
Mirrors: ON (-10% performance)
My recommendation (click to view graphics options, Imgur): I have a 3070 graphics card and these graphics options give me an image quality matching the maximum graphics options with generally 60+ FPS. If you have set all of the above and want higher performance I recommend setting these in order until you achieve your desired final performance: Anisotropic Filtering 8X, 4X, or even 2X, Motion Blur OFF, Mirrors OFF, SSAO OFF, Terrrain Object Shadows Flat, Water Medium, Water Low, SSLR OFF, Cockpit Global Illumination OFF, and Shadows Low.
Comparison screenshots: All Minimum, My Recommendation, All Maximum. My recommendation has about 4X the performance of all maximum and you can hardly tell, right?
A few of my key insights here are:
Performance should always be objectively measured in %!
There are graphics options that don't affect performance and for that reason should always be on.
Ideally for performance you should have 95%+ GPU usage, 95%- CPU usage, and 95%- VRAM usage. I recommend checking this on occasion using Afterburner.
The anti-aliasing combination SSAA 1.5X MSAA 2X MFAA On is extremely effective at reducing aliasing artifacts. MSAA reduces aliasing of 3D objects (e.g. houses) and SSAA reduces aliasing of sprites (e.g. trees). These are examples of spatial aliasing, while MFAA reduces temporal aliasing only observable in moving images.
It's generally a good idea to set Visib. Range Extreme and Forest Visibility to 80% (matches Visib. Range Ultra), 67% (matches Visib. Range High), 45% (matches Visib. Range Medium), or 35% (matches Visib. Range Low) instead of lowering Visib. Range, at least if the forest is causing the performance change such as in the Caucasus terrain. This significantly increases the geometric quality of objects.