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How To Enhance Older GPU Efficiency, Since You Cannot Purchase a New One

Proper now, GPU costs are fluctuating between “insane” and “really insane.” The very most cost-effective playing cards should be fairly reasonably priced, however all the pieces above that has been shoved fully past attain for customers. With costs like these, it’s unimaginable to suggest anybody purchase a card for gaming proper now — so what are you able to do to enhance the efficiency of what you have already got?

Earlier than we kick off, a couple of caveats are so as. First, the tweaks we’ll discover, even taken in mixture, will definitely assist however are unlikely to work miracles. Efficiency tuning can enhance body charges and switch a recreation that’s chugging in locations into one which runs noticeably and meaningfully higher, however there’s no option to flip an HD 7970 or GeForce GTX 680 right into a Vega 64 or GTX 1080. Second, as a result of each recreation is completely different, a few of these suggestions could also be kind of efficient relying on the title.

Two miscellaneous suggestions earlier than we begin: First, at all times make sure you’re enjoying video games in fullscreen mode, not windowed, and never borderless (windowed mode, and not using a seen border). Windowed mode is slower than fullscreen, in nearly each title, as a result of your GPU is drawing each your desktop and the sport itself on the identical time.

Second, ensure you’ve dusted each your GPU and CPU. Whereas unlikely to be a serious slowdown trigger, it’s removed from unimaginable for a GPU’s efficiency to drop as a result of the cardboard is throttling below load. Mud is a wonderful insulator and when you’ve received an older card, you’ve received no efficiency to spare within the first place.

Sport-Particular Optimization

The very first thing we suggest doing to squeeze a bit efficiency out of an ageing card is to experiment with recreation settings themselves. Whereas most reviewers and players check titles in keeping with presets (Low, Medium, Excessive, and so on), this can be a sensible time-saving necessity for the previous and a matter of comfort for the latter.

Avid gamers typically know that sure options explicitly tied to AMD or NV GPUs (suppose GameWorks) can incur heavy efficiency penalties on different architectures, however the identical could be true for different options as nicely. It’s common for a recreation’s implementation of ambient occlusion, tessellation, or antialiasing to hit one firm’s GPU tougher than one other, and this may even fluctuate relying on GPU household. Sure, merely decreasing recreation settings or decision can enhance body price, however toggling particular options can get you almost the identical outcomes for a smaller discount in efficiency.

The slideshow beneath reveals the influence of various element ranges within the 2014 Shadow of Mordor, with the non-obligatory HD texture pack put in. You possibly can see variations right here, however they’re delicate. Medium element positively doesn’t pack as a lot eye sweet as Extremely, but it surely nonetheless presents an attractive-looking and fascinating recreation. Even turning off options like ambient occlusion or disabling tessellation doesn’t harm the visible attraction a lot. Totally different video games have completely different “break” factors, some look dramatically completely different at Medium in comparison with Excessive, whereas others “break” at Medium versus Low. Oftentimes the advantages of “Very Excessive” or “Extremely” are fairly small in contrast with their efficiency hit.

Don’t be afraid to climb into the Superior Choices and begin altering varied sliders. As a result of completely different GPUs take completely different efficiency hits from completely different choices, you might must do some detective work, but it surely’s common to spice up body charges by 5-10 % simply from small tweaks.

Should you want a software for checking efficiency in DX11 and earlier titles, FRAPS remains to be a good selection. (DX12 efficiency monitoring is extra sophisticated and a bit past the scope of this text). It’s additionally a good suggestion to make use of presets as tough targets. If a recreation runs acceptably quick on “Low” and too slowly on “Medium,” don’t be afraid to make use of “Low” as a place to begin for tweaking options upwards. It’s possible you’ll discover there’s extra eye sweet accessible to you than you initially thought. Deal with the state of affairs like a buffet dinner — when you don’t see a lot distinction between “Medium” and “Excessive” textures in a title, examine to see if dropping to Medium offers you sufficient headroom to show up a setting you do care about. It’s possible you’ll discover that costly options add comparatively little to the sport, supplying you with house to allow different visible enhancements you need.

Working at a decrease decision can be a helpful option to spot-check efficiency enhancements, although that is title-specific. First particular person shooters are likely to scale higher with decision modifications than a recreation like Civilization VI.

Driver Tweaks

As soon as upon a time (the late 1990s), it wasn’t unusual for AMD and Nvidia to drop drivers that will enhance recreation efficiency by 10-20 %, even in older titles. These days are largely gone, supplied you aren’t putting in a launch-day replace for a brand new recreation. However there are nonetheless a couple of methods you possibly can tweak driver panel settings to squeeze out a bit extra efficiency.


On Nvidia playing cards (AMD has a similar possibility in its personal driver settings), you possibly can set texture filter high quality to “Excessive Efficiency” versus the default “High quality” possibility, drive Ambient Occlusion on or off (if relevant), and drive anisotropic texture filtering off.

Tweaking picture high quality in-driver gained’t achieve you a ton of efficiency, but it surely ought to enhance issues by a couple of %. It’s additionally helpful to examine, to ensure you haven’t used international settings for one title after which forgotten to alter them for one more.

Test for On-line Tweaks and Unofficial Patches

This one, once more, is extremely game-dependent. Some video games don’t assist modding or have small person communities. However in some instances, finish customers take it on themselves to create patches that repair varied elements of a title, together with points that influence efficiency. Video games like Skyrim and Fallout four have typically acquired unofficial patches that may enhance efficiency or optimize recreation textures.

Overclock Your GPU (Desktop Solely)

We’re solely pertaining to the subject right here, not diving into it, however overclocking your GPU is often good for a couple of % of efficiency on the very least. Once more, your outcomes are going to fluctuate primarily based on which card you’ve gotten and the way aggressively the producer tuned it beforehand. Instruments like MSI Afterburner can be utilized to overclock most GPUs.

Observe: Every thing written right here applies to desktop GPUs. ExtremeTech doesn’t suggest making an attempt to overclock a laptop computer GPU.


If you’re planning to check a GPU overclock, we suggest small tweaks (not more than a 5 % improve to reminiscence or GPU clock at anyone time) and gradual going. Keep away from adjusting your GPU’s voltage till you’ve researched the subject and the suitable vary of your card, and don’t inform Afterburner to routinely apply settings at boot till you’ve confirmed the settings you truly need.

Anticipate this course of to result in numerous reboots and/or lockups in case your aim is to squeeze each final drop of efficiency out of your card — you’ll must do some testing to seek out out the place the correct break factors truly are, and it’s totally potential to have ten video games that run rock-solid on a GPU at one clock, however an 11th title that gained’t run at something however inventory speeds. Such is the character of this metaphorical beast.

Should you aren’t overclocking by pushing voltages larger, the possibilities of damaging the cardboard are pretty small, although we suggest you ensure that the followers are dusted earlier than you begin pushing issues. Most GPUs can usually a deal with a 5-10 % overclock with out criticism.

Including it All Up

None of those options are going to work when you’re making an attempt to coax extra life out of a 10-year-old card, however they’ll measurably enhance your general efficiency. Should you can tweak recreation settings for a 7 % enhance, choose up a 7 % overclock, and tweak driver settings for an additional three %, you’ve received a 17 % general efficiency enchancment. In a recreation struggling to hit 30fps (let’s name it 28fps for enjoyable), a 1.17x enchancment will get you as much as 33fps. That’s not a ton, no — however the corresponding influence of every further FPS is bigger the decrease your body price is. The perceived distinction between 28 and 33fps is way bigger than the hole between 60 and 65fps, regardless that each are 5fps sooner than the opposite.

And naturally, these are conservative estimates. In sure titles and significantly if unofficial performance-enhancing patches can be found, you may see considerably bigger good points, particularly when you’re already bumping up towards the VRAM restrict of your present GPU. Decision cuts can assist quite a bit on this case — don’t be afraid to drop to decrease resolutions when you’re seeing heavy stuttering, particularly in case you have an older or lower-end card with a restricted quantity of reminiscence.

No, tuning your current card will not be the identical as having a fairly priced GPU marketplace for upgrades, and affordable GPU costs are what we’d favor. However when you’re caught for the second, hopefully this’ll enable you enhance the general state of affairs.

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