Will capped FPS always look smoother than uncapped FPS? Or, does it just depend on the game?

Discussion in 'Videocards - NVIDIA GeForce Drivers Section' started by BlindBison, Jun 30, 2020.

  1. BlindBison

    BlindBison Master Guru

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    I often hear it said that frametimes are more important than framerates or that consistency is paramount in gaming (where uncapped FPS is "less consistent" in frametimes or general game "feel").

    I watch a lot of Digital Foundry content where they seem to know their stuff and a typical sentiment I hear there is that they strongly prefer games that cap their framerates to a locked 30 (or 60) as opposed to a variable FPS -- from what I gather, this is preferred for the better frametimes/framepacing and general consistency of feel and appearance on screen.

    Now, there is some confusion I have for this though -- mainly, if that general premise/idea is still true for G-Sync or Freesync panels or if it only really matters with traditional refresh (non-G-Sync) panels because consoles output using double or triple buffering and as such have restrictions that modern G-Sync panels would not for example.

    All I can say personally is that I've noticed different behaviors in a couple different games where "some" games appear quite smooth to my eye with totally uncapped FPS while others do not.

    For example, the recent DOOM Eternal (or its predecessor DOOM 2016) are very smooth to my eye with uncapped FPS on my G-Sync panel. Though I haven't tested it on my current PC, Overwatch was also very smooth to my eye with totally uncapped FPS as well (this was on a traditional/non-G-Sync panel where I just let the game output frames as fast as possible and screen tearing was present -- so, this was quite some time ago that I'd tested this). To be fair though, these games were running at pretty high framerates (more or less always above 100+) so perhaps any frametime inconsistencies were there, I just didn't perceive them -- I can't really say whether or not those games would actually be "smoother" or feel better with capped FPS instead I suppose (which is part of why I'm asking here).

    On the otherhand, I recently started playing through Hitman 2 in DX12 mode (on a G-Sync panel) and though frametimes with uncapped FPS are "typically" good enough that I don't usually perceive microstuttering without looking for it, I can tell sometimes and capping to a consistently achievable value did seem noticeably smoother looking to my eye.

    In the end, I suppose what I'm trying to determine is with G-Sync, should I just do the ole' "G-Sync ON + Nvidia Control Panel V-Sync ON + RTSS (or in-game) cap ~3 beneath monitor refresh" or should I instead be trying to cap FPS to a consistently obtainable value? Or, does it just depend game by game where some games do fine with uncapped FPS while others don't? I'm pretty out of my depth here so I figured I'd ask -- thanks for your time,

    EDIT: Also, Digital Foundry has talked about how being CPU limited with uncapped FPS can result in microstuttering behavior. From what I gather, uncapped FPS typically appears rather smooth assuming that you are fully GPU limited and many people are CPU limited when they don't "think" that they are since their CPU metrics will say it's not maxed out in Windows while in reality this can be because most of the threads are only lightly being used or not at all while the main render thread or some such is getting totally maxxed/hammered hence the microstuttering. I could be wrong in my understanding there, but perhaps this is why I see some microstuttering with totally uncapped FPS in certain games? In DF's 2080S review they did find that even at 1440p, sometimes they were CPU limited in games with an 8700K which appeared to cause some stuttering iirc.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
  2. Cyberdyne

    Cyberdyne Ancient Guru

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    The main reason you would limit to a "consistently obtainable value" is to avoid jarring frame pacing issues with Vsync. An issue Gsync doesn't have.
    Most of what DF has to say should have the addendum "unless you have Gsync" (sometimes they do mention this, but this info doesn't really pertain to their core audience).
    You're already doing the right thing. The issues you are talking about are much more specific, the curse of using expensive computers and high expectations.
    For me, Gsync can only help a game so much at lower FPS. And capping the FPS doesn't help for me, just now it feels sluggish all the time. Some games only feel right above 60 (most games) or 90 (hitman 2), some can go as low as 45 (rdr2) and feel ok. The solution for me is to lower settings until that min FPS can be hit.
    Despite that, if capping helps you, I don't see an issue with that. With your method, you still benefit from Gsync. For example, if you cap to a random FPS like 64, you essentially have a 64 HZ monitor, with no tearing, input lag similar to no vsync, and no stuttering if you drop a FPS or two below every so often.
    So do what you feel works best.
     
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  3. BlindBison

    BlindBison Master Guru

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    Thanks for your comment, that's helpful
     
  4. MrBonk

    MrBonk Ancient Guru

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    It makes sense because time for display on a fixed refresh is at fixed intervals.
    Ideally this should be a straight line
    ___________________________________________________________
    If frames are delivered in the proper intervals at the right times for display motion moves consistently and feels smoother.
    Even something as low as 30FPS.(As the display intervals are set properly apart so you are always getting a new frame every other refresh on time).

    With a variable framerate or bad frame pacing without Gsync your line now looks like this

    ^^^~~~~_-----_______-~~~~^^___^^^^^^___^^^~-~-~~~~___---

    The display is still expecting a new frame properly sent at 16/33/8/4 depending on your refresh. And now it isn't. Some frames are displayed too long and some too short leading to movement or motion that is inconsistent and doesn't feel right.
    Hence why you can have a game that is even properly locked to the right framerate but the frames aren't delivered correctly leading to the same effect as a variable framerate with stutter and inconsistent movement.

    Variable refresh helps a ton. But I hope we don't see it used as a crutch with new consoles to further excuse badly optimized games to continue to have issues like this. With all the CPU/GPU power they have now it should be a non issue but i'm sure we will see it continue.
     
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  5. Darren Hodgson

    Darren Hodgson Ancient Guru

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    I concur with what has been said.

    I have a 165 Hz G-SYNC display, mainly because I was fed up of experiencing judder/stutter/hitching in games on my previous non-G-SYNC 60 Hz display every time the game dipped below 60 fps. Capping the framerate cannot fix sub-60 fps framerate drops unless you cap at 30 fps, like console games, but that means more sluggish controls and slower perceived smoothness in motion. I can get used to it - I certainly have on consoles - but going from 60 fps to 30 fps and back can be quite jarring. Once you experience 60 fps then you want to always have 60 fps if possible. That said, a locked 30 fps can be enjoyable in my opinion with a controller (which is my preferred way to play most games) once you adjust to it. It is certainly less distracting than a game where the framerate varies wildly from 35 fps to 165 fps in my opinion. Even G-SYNC cannot hide that.

    However, some games just do not play nice with G-SYNC in my experience (a problem exasperated by the use of borderless window modes over exclusive fullscreen in many game engines such as Unity) and uncapped they can be prone to stuttering. If this happens then I use RTSS to cap the framerate to 120, 90, 60 or even 30 fps in some cases where the game cannot stay above 60 fps. The reason for this is that even with G-SYNC I can *feel* when a game dips below 60 fps. It still looks smooth but the silky responsiveness of 60+ fps is no longer there and I can feel the difference. Capping can fix this and gives a smoother, more consistent feel and look to the motion in the game. I suspect some of the stutters may be due to the age of my hardware (built in June 2013 with the exception of the graphics card and a boot SSD) and the fact I run most of my games from 7,200rpm SATA3 hard drives. A lot of games stream and if not done well then this can introduce hitching into games with high framerates, at least in my experience.

    I am finding that I have to cap more games these days, usually at 60 or 120 fps to make them feel smoother with G-SYNC and get rid of the odd stutter. I still play a lot of games uncapped with G-SYNC though as some engines run better than others, e.g. DOOM Eternal runs phenomenally well at 100+ fps maxed out on my PC even though the game is installed to a hard drive and has no stutters or hitching.

    60 fps is perfectly fine though for me for every game I've played (I do not play online shooters) and above that I really cannot feel or see any real difference. Using caps, I would say that 99.5% of my games run smoothly without any stuttering and I can also use DSR to downsample games from 1800p or 4K to 2560x1440 to reduce aliasing. At least having G-SYNC gives me more options for a smooth gameplay experience than I would have otherwise on a fixed 60 fps display. It's definitely very nice to have.
     
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  6. AStaUK

    AStaUK Active Member

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    @BlindBison I don’t know if you’ve seen any of Battle(non)sense’s videos but probably worth a watch. He has a very good explanation of GSync/Vsync and their affects on games.



    Personally I now enable GSync/NULL/Vsync ON via NVCP disable Vsync/Triple Buffer in games, cap frame rate in game otherwise I use a custom profile and cap in NVCP. I’ve also disabled Game Mode in Win10 and all my games feel very smooth, except Battlefield 5 in DX12 mode, but I suspect this is the game engine.
     
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  7. aufkrawall2

    aufkrawall2 Master Guru

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    BFV with DX12 has shader compile stuttering from hell, yes. Though 11 isn't perfect either (BF4 had 0 shader compile stutter, even with Mantle...).
    Triple buffer option in most games is generally phony and it shouldn't make any difference with VRR + LFC.

    In the end it's only about frame time consistency, lag and, without VRR, perhaps tear line position.
     
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  8. Astyanax

    Astyanax Ancient Guru

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    DX12 is supposed to pre-generate the shaders on the first start or within the level load process, not when you're already playing.

    New DX12 features allow background optimizations so that the driver has native architecture shaders for subsequent runs to further improve performance.
     
  9. aufkrawall2

    aufkrawall2 Master Guru

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    It tells a lot that EA still screws this up (just like their dumb 2 frames prerender with DX12...).
     
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  10. BlindBison

    BlindBison Master Guru

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    @Astyanax BFV in DX12 Mode definitely seems to have shader compilation stutter for some weird reason. In my local tests in DX 12 Mode the the first time I play a level it stutters a lot but then the second time the stutter is gone. Tested this a ton awhile back so what @aufkrawall2 is saying appears to be true despite DX12’s feature set. Really bizarre.
     

  11. BlindBison

    BlindBison Master Guru

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    Thanks for your helpful replies everyone!
     
  12. aufkrawall2

    aufkrawall2 Master Guru

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    Btw. thumbs up for your polite way to discuss things. It's really a nice change vs. often annoying and heated "discussions".
     
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  13. Astyanax

    Astyanax Ancient Guru

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    This wasn't always the case, early BFV and BF2 had no shader stutter, its subsequent updates that brought it back because they haven't brought their new content into startup flow.
     
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  14. BlindBison

    BlindBison Master Guru

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    @Astyanax Huh, that’s really interesting — well, hopefully BF6 will fix it up then, eh? I bet it’ll just be DX12 without a DX11 mode by that point. Good to know, thanks for explaining that — I remember BF2 being so awesome back in the day.

    @aufkrawall2 Thanks mate, ditto :)
     
  15. CalinTM

    CalinTM Ancient Guru

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    I must say, yes. I'm using for more than 6 years fps cap in my games, with RTSS. I cap at 75 fps all the time and it tends to be solid 75 fps with my 1080p and 1080 Ti. I don't like fps variations even if they are big like 90-120-160 fps. Capped it's always better. Now I've got a gsync panel and it's even better with capped frames.
     
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  16. aufkrawall2

    aufkrawall2 Master Guru

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    Well, without VRR or scanline sync, you have the tear line mostly fixed to an annoying position with fps cap. Maybe the steady input lag is what mostly contributes to your experience?
    I'm not able to tell minor standard deviation (i.e. frame time graph is a bit "fatter" then it ideally should be) with VRR.
     
  17. CalinTM

    CalinTM Ancient Guru

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    I don't think so, regarding fps cap and tear line. Before I've had a xl2411z BenQ with 144hz regular. And I've capped at 75fps like on my gsync one and I didn't saw a very obvious tear line, of course there is tearing but they were small due to using 144hz.
     

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