I Need More FPS!!!
fps stands for frames per seconds, that is how many frames your computer produces in a second. This is the inverse of the frame time, that is, how long it takes to render a single frame. E.g. if it takes 10 ms to render a single frame then you have 1 minute / 10 ms = 100 fps in your game. Let's see what you'd need to achieve higher fps values (that is to achieve lower frame times by producing the images faster).
Do You Really Need More FPS?
First of all, you have to know if you really need more fps. You have to know what your current fps is (minimum, maximum, average). Of course, the fps varies from game to game, and the actual fps varies even within a game. An empty space with the sky is rather easy to render. Now consider players running around in a lush forest with explosions and smoke and fog. That will definitely bring down your fps.
So if you think you would like to have more fps, you should know why that is.
If you experience such a low fps that things do not seem animated anymore just seem like distinct images, you definitely need to improve the rendering.
If your monitors refresh rate is higher than your average fps, and you value smoother movements you may want to get more fps. But going beyond the monitors refresh rate does you no good (besides the placebo effect): even if your rig can produce 300 fps, if your monitor has a 60 Hz refresh rate you won't see more than 60 frames in a second. The rest (80% of the images) will never be shown.
Laggy gameplay can happen even if you have seemingly high FPS. Please, check out this video for more details.
What Needs Improvement?
First, you have to find out why you have the fps you have, what component is holding you back. This is typically either the GPU or the CPU or sometimes the RAM.
If the CPU does not work fast enough it will block the rest of the components. Some programs prefer high single threaded performance. Others utilize multiple cores effectively. There is no one size fits them all.
To test your CPU utilization
- Task Manager in Windows
- select the Performance tab showing the CPU.
- Make sure you enable graphs for all the cores, not just an average. Right-click on the CPU graph and select Change graph to > Logical processors
If any of the cores hit 100%, than that core is fully utilized and may very well limit your performance.
The graphics processor might be working slower than the CPU thus the CPU is waiting for it to finish its job.
If the GPU runs out of VRAM (video RAM), then it has to remove content from the VRAM and load the new content. When the unloaded "old" content is needed again, it will need to reload it. That's slow.
Monitor your GPU's performance and VRAM usage via GPU-Z. If the GPU Load or Memory Used is near 100%, then this component is a limiting factor. With the latest Windows 10 Update, Task Manager has monitoring facilities for GPU usage. Nevertheless, GPU-Z offers more details and I'd still recommend it for a more thorough diagnostics.
If you don't have enough RAM and the operating system has to start moving part of the memory in use to a storage drive to free up some space. That's slow. Moving data to a storage (especially if that's an HDD) is rather slow.
Task Manager shows you how much RAM you use. If it is near 100%, then it's not enough. You would need more. Games nowadays are typically OK with 8 GB and 16 GB is more than enough.
Increased RAM speed affects games differently. It also depends on the processor you have. Most of the time, the performance increment from faster RAM is not that great. If you're on a tight budget, consider upgrading the CPU or the GPU first.
Having an SSD instead of an HDD would make your game load faster, but it should have no effect on your fps whatsoever under normal circumstances.
Measuring & Reporting
It is often useful to make a screenshot of your measurements and show it to others.
- Start Task Manager (showing per logical core CPU Performance tab)
- Start GPU-Z (showing the Sensors tab). You may want to stretch the window horizontally a bit to record more data
- Start your game. Play until you experience the FPS drop. Stay a while (at least 5-10 seconds)
- ALT-TAB to Desktop and make a fullscreen shot that contains both Task Manager and GPU-Z.
- (Optional) Edit the picture removing all the unnecessary part, leaving only the two windows showing diagnostics (i.e. Task Manager and GPU-Z) to reduce the size of the image.
- Upload the image to your favorite picture sharing site.
- Share the link to the image so others can have a look at your performance.
How To Improve?
First of all, you have to have done the tests suggested above to see what needs upgrading. Please note, that if one component is running near 100% (e.g. one CPU Core running at 100%) and the other around 95% (e.g. GPU usage is near 95%), then upgrading that one thing, which most probably results in the other thing getting used at maximum, will give you only a slight edge. You'd need to upgrade multiple components. However, you can do it one by one, no need to start spending money blindly.
While your monitor does not affect your FPS directly, higher resolution displays generally default to higher resolution rendering, which is more demanding, than lower resolutions. So if you plan to switch to a higher resolution display, consider the extra demand on your GPU.
For references, here are some resolutions and how many pixels needs to be rendered:
|name||resolution||number of pixels||relative size|
|Extended Graphics Array (XGA)||1024 x 768||786,432||1|
|High Definition (HD)||720p (1280 x 720)||921,600||1.2|
|Full High Definition (FHD)||1080p (1920 x 1080)||2,073,600||2.6|
|Quad High Definition (QHD)||1440p (2560 x 1440)||3,686,400||4.7|
|Ultra High Definition (UHD)||4K (3840 x 2160)||8,294,400||10.5|
That means, that in the UHD resolution the GPU has to process about 10.5 as many pixels as in the XGA resolution (which is typically the lowest resolution supported in games). This would require just about 10.5 the performance of your GPU to have the same FPS on UHD than you'd have on XGA.
Turn Down Settings In Games
If you are happy with turning down some settings in the game, go ahead. It's free after all. :) Many games nowadays tell you what settings affect CPU performance.
Also, it is a good idea to stop all other running applications (e.g. browser or downloads/uploads, etc).
If your CPU supports overclocking (and your motherboard too), you can overclock it for better performance. That's can easily lead to 20% - 25% performance increment compared to the CPU running always on the Turbo frequency (and more than 35% compared to the base frequency). All you need is decent air cooler. That's the best budget solution.
Buying A New CPU
If you want the best visuals and physics and overall experience and if overclocking is not an option or already overclocked and pushing it more wouldn't give you much benefit, then all you left with is buying a new one. Make sure you buy a processor for your needs (number of cores vs single threaded performance as mentioned before).
Turn Down Settings In Games
If you are happy with turning down some settings in the game, go ahead. It's free after all. :) Many games nowadays tell you what settings affect GPU performance. Also pay attention to GPU VRAM usage, if that's what's utilized at 100%. If you're OK with turning down resolutions, you can really gain a lot of FPS there.
You can overclock your GPU for more performance, but it is more complex than CPU overclocking. With a good cooling, it might be a valid option to squeeze out more performance of it.
Buying A New GPU
So you want the best experience and overclocking is just not good enough, you can buy a new GPU. I wouldn't buy something that overperforms my current GPU just a few percent. E.g. Switching from GTX 1070 to GTX 1080 is not a huge difference, so might not worth the money. Instead, go for GTX 1080 Ti or just wait for the next generation of GPUs.
SLI/Crossfire Or Single Card?
So you already have e.g. an RX 480 4GB. So you could get another RX 480 4 GB and run them in Crossfire. Or you could just get a GTX 1080 Ti. I'd do the latter. Why? Because
- not all the software support SLI and Crossfire
- even if they support multi-GPUs it does not scale linearly (that is you won't have twice the performance of a single GPU /RX 480 in this example/)
- a new GPU has typically more VRAM (especially important, if your GPU runs already close to its VRAM maximum usage)
There is always a component that will hold you back from reaching higher fps. No matter what. But that's all right. You might be fine having 300 fps, right? :)
There could be other ways to improve your performance, not covered here. One could always check if thermal throttling happens due to too high overclocking and/or insufficient cooling.
The most important thing is to know what's going on with your PC, and do not start spending money blindly. :)