2.5 Settings Comparisons and GPU Impact - ED Forums
 


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Old 02-09-2018, 04:30 AM   #1
Sideslip
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Default 2.5 Settings Comparisons and GPU Impact

So 2.5 is here, in beta anyway, and everyone wants to jump in and blow stuff up. But it is not the same engine as 1.5.8, and the Caucasus map is certainly not Nevada even if you are coming from 2.2. With all the new features there are new impacts on FPS and some settings can be a little difficult to understand or changes can be so subtle that you may ask if it did anything at all. So I decided to take the time to try individual settings and take screenshots showing the visual differences as well as the impact it had on my framerate.

The following are a bunch of screenshots taken after changing only one setting, at the exact same locations using recorded tracks, no active AI, cut to be at native resolution and compiled side by side to allow you to judge for yourself if the changes (sometimes insignificant and sometimes non-existent) are worth the cost of performance. These were all taken at 3440X1440 and I selected the area that showed the effect clearest. I wanted to keep these to 1080p so that everyone could view the whole image at once, unfortunately that means there can be limited space when comparing 5 settings, but I did my best.

I have not done every single setting like civ traffic or res of cockpit displays, water, but most of the important ones anyway. I might add to this in the future if I feel motivated enough.

All the comparisons have the lowest setting on the left and highest on the right. MFAA was used when testing AA as it is more efficient. For all tests that did not include AA, FXAA was enabled. For every test all settings were at maximum except for those being tested, Civ Traffic was off, cockpit res was left at 512 (no cockpits) and run in windowed mode to help with collection of screenshots. Framerate was capped to 100. GPU usage is taken into account when determining the performance impact.

Important Update: I read that you should delete the "metashaders" and "fxo" folders from your saved games DCS folder. Doing so reduced my vram usage from 8GB to 5GB. I have not noticed a difference in relative performance otherwise and the visual comparisons should be unchanged, but the vram shown in the images bellow may not be accurate. There may have been a gain of about 5fps, but I'll have to test to verify.

Where I read to delete those folders: https://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=200906




- Anti-Aliasing
Spoiler:

Lets start with the big one. MMMMMMMmmmmmmSAA. Everybody loves it, but it can be costly. Your alternative is FXAA, but that is known the make things blurry. Is it better to go without?

First scene. From left to right; No AA | FXAA | 2XMSAA | 4XMSAA | 8XMSAA:


The best places to look for the differences are the cranes or the street lamp. No AA looks terrible. FXAA looks significantly better and almost as good as 2XMSAA, but you don't get the higher resolution on the thinnest parts causing a rough image around those cranes. The important bit here is the performance impact. FXAA drops us by 5%, 2XMSAA by 19%, 4XMSAA by 44% and 8XMSAA... by 44%?!?!?!?! Yes that's right, and the answer is simple. 8XMSAA doesn't work, it is running 4X. There is not a single pixel of difference between 4X and 8X. This is using the built in AA, your experience might be different if using driver settings. The other impact is vram. Turning on FXAA costs around 200-300MB, MSAA about 600-700MB at 2X and just over 1GB at 4X. Your resolution will no doubt affect this.


Ok, that was easy. How about a challenge for the GPU? Lets add a tree or two:


Now we're talking. Here we can see there is very little difference between the AA levels, but the performance impact is already severe enough before we add AA into the mix. FXAA costs basically nothing here, and the blur is there but almost indistinguishable from MSAA. Performance impact is 2%, 20% and 35% in order.


Here is a more typical scene, a few thousand feet above a small town:



Pretty much the same thing as the first comparison. Looking at the transmission towers you can see the difference between FXAA and MSAA. Do you care enough about a tower 3 miles away to lose the fps? I didn't bother with 8X this time (well I did, but there was again not a pixel of difference). 5%, 35%, 49% in order.

Well I know what I'm going with. No AA is way too rough, but no way am I tanking my framerate for an extra dozen pixels on a tower I didn't even know was there. FXAA it is. If you have a 1080ti on a 1080p screen though, go for it.


- Anisotropic Filtering


Spoiler:
Anusotrolific, Ansitropik, Ansestrophic.... I can never get that one. Anyway, pretty basic setting that has been around for ever and is basically not even thought about most of the time. Very inexpensive and important to keeping textures looking sharp, but whats the actual impact?

The place you will see this most is right there on the runway, so I picked other places to see if you can spot the difference there. From left to right, No AF | 2X | 4X | 8X | 16X:


Not much to say here. 2X makes the biggest difference. Farther away you can see at the Y in the road that 16X does improve over 8X. Performance impact exists, but it's minuscule. 2%, 4%, 6% and 8% respectively. Do you need 2% more fps?????


Back to the performance hogging trees:


There is a tiny difference in the trees between no AF and 2X, but you won't see it unless you can place the images on top of each other. There is a little more work being done by the AF due the trees, even though you don't see any benefit. 2%, 8%, 8% and 10%.


With ground textures visible there a better chance of seeing an effect here. I only used No AA, 4X and 16X:


4% and 6% respectively.


- Textures

Spoiler:
The textures setting seems to only effect the textures of vehicles and cockpits. I did not take shots of those, and will update this if I get around to it.

Low, Medium, High:


You can see there is no visible difference here. As expected really. Any difference in fps here is within margin of error. Vram on the other hand, shows a significant increase. 700MB for medium and 1.1GB for high. If you are low on Vram you may want to consider this setting, but be warned it will affect the readability of the cockpit instruments.


Not expecting visible differences here:


Again no performance impact, but now we have 1GB and 2.2GB increases respectively. Note that 8GB is the maximum of my GTX1080.



- Terrain Textures

Spoiler:
Now here we should see differences, right? We're gonna see blotchy ugly terrain of course.

Low | High:


Funny, no change at all here. I mean not one pixel, literally. No performance impact but a 400MB difference in vram.


This time, this time we will see it:


Uhhh, nope. No difference again but we have a good 700MB extra. What's going on? My guess is there are still some old textures from 1.5.8 being loaded, but aren't actually used. Certainly a setting you can lower for more vram with absolutely no downside.



- Shadows


Spoiler:
Next up are those wonder shadows that we can't get enough of in any game, yet they always leave us desiring more. Further away, sharper, softer, more light sources. Unfortunately they have a history of being quite demanding.

First up we have a truck in the center, trees and building all creating shadows. Off | Flat | Low | Medium | High:


Low medium and high affect the distance at which higher resolution shadows are visible, and probably the maximum resolution. Flat shadows are exactly that. Notice how the flat shadow from the tree does not fall onto the building, but on higher settings it does. Flat shadows also look sharper than low shadows, with the obvious downside. One thing you don't see here is that flat shadows means no shadows in your cockpit or on aircraft. Low, medium and high will affect the resolution of those shadows. Moderate performance impact; 7%, 15%, 17% and 22% respectively. Also have about 300MB increase to vram from turning shadows on, but that's it really.


Trees! We should surely see a benefit to high shadows here:


Nope. It turns out that the effect of shadows falling onto other objects only goes for a couple hundred meters, after that they are flat. So the difference between flat and low is barely noticeable. Half way up the image you couldn't even tell the difference between flat and high. There are still tons of shadows sucking performance though, but they are all beneath the trees. 7%, 16%, 21% and 34% performance cost respectively. Ouch!


Now a more common bird's eye view:


Here we can see there is no difference between flat and high once you've gone a certain distance. Fortunately, the performance also reflects this now that we don't have super high resolution shadows being drawn that we can't even see. 5%, 8%, 10% and 11% respectively.

And just to make it clear that all shadows are flat when you get far enough, these are the flat and high images overlaid:




- Terrain Shadows

Spoiler:
Didn't we just cover this? Nope, this only affects shadows caused by terrain objects.

Off | Flat | Default:


So what's happening here is the shadows caused by buildings and trees is being either forced off, forced to flat or left at the default which is whatever setting you chose for shadows. Basically it's letting you have a lower quality shadow on the terrain while still having nice shadows in the cockpit, aircraft surfaces and other vehicles. Has a big effect on performance. Minor increase in vram that may just be coincidence. After all, 90% of the shadows you will see are terrain shadows. 5% and 20% respectively.

Trees again, and we know what to expect this time:


Massive performance gain dropping to flat shadows and you could hardly tell the difference. 5% and 33% respectively. Lots of shadows... lots of hamsters need to be fed.


Back to a town:


And we see again that the default shadows (which are set to high) are no different than flat shadows. 4% and 10% respectively.



- Visibility

Spoiler:
Lets see what results we get here. You see what I did there? Oh my, again!
This is the single most powerful setting there is. It's one of those settings that everyone wants to max out, but it's also one of the first you need to lower.

For this we want some distance. Low | Medium | High | Ultra | Extreme:


Here we see that visibility affects a lot of things. More buildings are drawn farther out, some shadows are drawn farther, tree draw distance is increased, and hard to see here but terrain resolution is also affected (those hills gets rounder the higher the setting). If you look at the 4 tanks at the bottom of the image, you can see that even though everything around them has shadows, it's own aren't drawn until we hit extreme. Different buildings have different shadow draw distances. Significant performance impact here but ED have given us 5 options to choose from for the perfect balance. No effect on vram usage. 7%, 16%, 19% and 26% respectively.


Similar results here, but with the forest in the background, the extreme setting is very pleasing to the eye:


8%, 17%, 21% and 27% respectively. Pretty consistent.
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Last edited by Sideslip; 02-10-2018 at 05:28 PM.
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Old 02-09-2018, 04:30 AM   #2
Sideslip
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Continued...



- Trees Visibility

Spoiler:
This should be significant, lets find out.

Forested hills will certainly show us the difference. 0% | 30% | 60% | 100%:


Man, what a difference having trees makes. Of course it looks best having the trees disappear over the far hill, but the spotting of the terrain textures helps to blend in as they fade into the distance. The further the slider in increased, not only the further the trees are drawn, but the higher quality trees are drawn a little further out and the density increases a little too. The biggest hit to performance is the first 30% as that's where the higher resolution trees live, after that you get more bang for your buck. A whopping 40%, 50% and 58% impact. Yikes, but so worth it. But remember, a whole lot of that performance cost is actually coming from those high quality shadows.

This will take us away from the costly shadows. 30% | 60% | 100%:


Now that we have flat shadows due to distance, and a little less trees, the impact is much smaller. I omitted 0% because really, who wants 0% trees? 6% and 15% performance loss to increase from a measly 30% trees.


This is to show how you can adjust the trees to maintain the same distance as you change visibility settings. High Visibility with 100% trees | Extreme with 66% | Extreme with 100%:


If you want shadows and building drawn further out but you are happy with the tree draw distance on the High setting, you can lower trees to 66% on Extreme and have exactly the same appearance. This can get you back about half of the FPS that you lost from the increase in view distance.



- Grass/Clutter

Spoiler:
This setting only matters on the ground basically. We have 0 | 750 | 1500:


The draw distance isn't very far, but it gets the job done. It will disappear before you can even get your gear up. Turning it down half way is about as effective as putting your computer in the fridge to reduce the friction on the electrons moving through your CPU so you can haz moar framez. Either turn it on or off. MSAA will probably have a little more work to do with all those blades of grass though. 8% and 11%, if you can count 1fps as a change.



- Smoke Density

Spoiler:
Sounds important. 5 top | 10 bottom:


It isn't. It effects the number of smoke columns, not their density. However, this may also be relevant to the dust from explosions and warrants more testing.


- Cockpit Global Illumination


Spoiler:
For this, we will be looking at trees
Left is off, right is on:



Normally, the world has a certain color of light, and everything is illuminated by that shade of light to a certain extent. What Global Cockpit Illumination is doing is looking at the the color of the world around you, and using that to light the cockpit. So in this case we are on a grey runway, so we get the light reflected off the runway to illuminate the cockpit a bit brighter and make it a little grey. If you are inverted flying over a field, it should give you a hint of green. Costs a small amount of performance, about 7%.


- My Recommended Settings

Spoiler:
Everyone is going to have different ideas of what is good performance and what is good visual quality, but these settings are what I consider to be the best balance between performance and quality on my system. I am playing at 3440X1440 on a GTX1080 which is actually not going to be far of most experiences. I'm running 5MP and 1080p is about 2MP. The 1080 is about 75% faster than a 1060, so my setup is equivalent to a GTX1060 driving 2.85MP, or an RX580 driving 2.24MP.

My Settings. I also have FXAA enabled in the Nvidia Control Panel. You will likely want to lower terrain textures if you need the vram due to our findings:


I was asked to share my Nvidia Control Panel settings as well. There is nothing too special about it. Gsync is obviously not something everyone has access to. Vsync is somewhat a matter of preference, but I found that screen tearing is less desirable than the micro-stutter from Vsync bellow max refresh rate (it's obviously not an issue with Gsync). I also use Riva Tuner's framerate limiter set to 100fps.




My Performance. Left is Max settings with 4XMSAA, right is the above:


My performance. Again Max on left, recommended settings on right:


If you have the extra power available then the first thing to probably turn on would be 2XMSAA.


Oh my that took a while. First time making such a large post, hopefully I didn't screw it up. Hopefully someone finds the information useful. If I find the time, there are still more things to add and test like textures in the cockpit and vehicles, Civ traffic, explosion smoke, res of cockpit displays etc.
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Last edited by Sideslip; 02-14-2018 at 12:41 AM.
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Old 02-09-2018, 06:13 AM   #3
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I cannot see the pictures in the spoilers.
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Old 02-09-2018, 07:23 AM   #4
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*Sigh* I knew something would get screwed up. The annoying thing is that I can see them on my computer. I'll get it sorted out.
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Old 02-09-2018, 07:33 AM   #5
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Great job. Thanks for doing that.

I guess you fixed the pictures as I can see them.
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Old 02-09-2018, 07:39 AM   #6
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Great! I just finished fixing it.
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Old 02-09-2018, 07:52 AM   #7
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Looks like all the pictures except "Shadows" and "Terrain Shadows" are fixed. I can't see the pics in those two spoilers.
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Old 02-09-2018, 08:22 AM   #8
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According to such a detailed comparison, you can easily optimize the performance. Very useful thank you very much. Pet
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Old 02-09-2018, 09:01 AM   #9
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Very nice, thanks
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Old 02-09-2018, 09:08 AM   #10
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Great post! however, if I turn MSAA off, I don't get any AA even if I force it through the nvidia CP. (override any app settings)
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