[HOW-TO] Graphics Settings and Performance Guide (8/18/2020)

Here is a detailed analysis of each setting’s visual and performance impact. I’ve benchmarked the effects of multiple different settings in a sterile scenario.

This guide is supposed to help you make decisions on visual impact versus CPU / GPU impact in the simulator.


System Specifications:

  • i7 6700 BCLK overclocked to 4.55 GHZ @ 1.4v
  • 32GB of 3400MHZ 16-19-19-36 DDR4 RAM
  • GTX 1080 at 2012 / 5481 MHZ @ 1.093v

Windows 10 build 2004.
Nvidia drivers 452.06 with HAGS On.

MSFS Client + Packages is installed on a 7200 RPM drive.
MSFS Rolling cache on a separate 7200 RPM RAID array.


Tests:

Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology
Screenshots are mostly taken at GPU Bottleneck settings with some exceptions.
Framerate numbers are captured by developer mode FPS counter

GPU usage and VRAM usage numbers are taken with a reasonable average through MSI Afterburner

If a setting seemingly requires a restart to take effect, a standardized position will be selected.

CPU and GPU dependency of a setting is determined by comparing CPU bottlenecked settings and GPU bottlenecked settings in the same scenario.

Testing Scenario
Multiplayer: Off (Group Only)
Air Traffic: Off
Weather & Time: Custom, few clouds 12 PM

Camera angles are kept static per each graphic setting.

Test Settings:

Please note that the settings below are not meant to be copied and are only meant as a point of reference for testing. Scroll down to “Settings Analysis” for recommended settings.

Baseline Test Settings:

GRAPHICS

Display Mode: Fullscreen
Full Screen Resolution: 1920X1080
HDR10: Grayed out (in on position)
Global Rendering Quality: Custom

Advanced Settings

V-Sync: Off
Render Scaling: 100
Anti Aliasing: TAA
Terrain Level of Detail: 100
Terrain Vector Data: Ultra
Buildings: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Grass and Bushes: Ultra
Objects Level of Detail: 100
Volumetric Clouds: Ultra
Texture Resolution: Ultra
Anisotropic Filtering: 16x
Texture Supersampling: 4x4
Texture Synthesis: Ultra
Water Waves: High
Shadow Maps: 2048
Terrain Shadows: 1024
Contact Shadows: Ultra
Windshield Effects: Ultra
Ambient Occlusion: Ultra
Reflections: Ultra
Light Shafts: Ultra
Bloom: On
Depth of Field: Ultra
Lens Correction: Off
Lens Flare: On
Use Generic Plane Models (AI Traffic): Off
Use Generic Plane Models (Multiplayer): Off

TRAFFIC

Aviation Traffic

Aircraft Traffic Type: Real-Time Online
AI Airliners Traffic Density: 0 (grayed-out)
AI General Aviation Traffic Density: 0 (grayed-out)
Show Traffic Nameplates: On

Airport Life

Airport Vehicle Density: 50
Ground Aircraft Density: 50
Worker Density: 50

Land and Sea Traffic

Leisure Boats: 50
Road Vehicles: 50
Ships and Ferries: 50

DATA

Data Connection

Online Functionality: On
Bing Data World Graphics: On
Photogrammetry: On
Live Real-World Air Traffic: On
Live Weather: On
Multiplayer: On

Data Bandwith Usage Limit

Bandwidth: 40 Mbit/s

Rolling Cache Settings

Rolling Cache: On
Rolling Cache Limit (GIB): 100

Rolling Cache pathed to separate RAID array

GPU Limited Test Settings:

Following baseline with following changes:


GRAPHICS

Advanced Settings

Render Scaling: 200
CPU Limited Test Settings:

Following baseline with following changes:


GRAPHICS

Advanced Settings

Render Scaling: 30

Terrain Level of Detail: 200

Objects Level of Detail: 200

Foreword:

Fullscreen typically nets you the lowest performance loss as the game does not have to pass through DWM, or in the case of UWP apps, it usually utilizes a different display model.

HDR is known to potentially impact framerates on Nvidia cards, moreso if G-Sync is enabled.

V-Sync is recommended to be disabled unless you can constantly maintain the same framerate as your display refresh rate, otherwise there will be frame pacing issues.

G-Sync reportedly may have issues with MSFS, lowering framerates when the window is in focus.

Some settings were benchmarked at larger increments (eg. AF 0x, 4x, 16x only) to save time.

Always set “Full Screen Resolution” to your native monitor resolution, and tweak rendering resolution with the “Render Scaling” slider. This ensures lowest input lag, and the UI will be as sharp as possible.


Settings Analysis
(right click > view image in new tab, in order to full screen and see effects in full detail)

* - indicates that further testing is required*

Graphics

Anti Aliasing

Off

FXAA

DLAA

TAA

Recommended Setting: TAA

Performance Impact:
No impact on CPU performance.

Off gives 17.2 FPS
FXAA, DLAA gives 17 FPS (1% reduction)
TAA gives 16.8 FPS (2.5% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • FXAA and DLAA seem to have some post processing / coloration issues in current build
  • Geometry aliasing is visible in motion on Off, FXAA, and DLAA, which is not present in TAA.
    – TAA removes this aliasing at the downside of motion artifacts and ghosting.

I highly reccomend using TAA as it helps denoise Ambient Occlusion and Reflections.

Terrain Level Of Detail

Photogrammetry:

10

100

200


Synthesized

10

100

200

Recommended Setting: 100

Performance Impact:
This setting impacts both CPU and GPU performance as it is increased.

Under a CPU bottlenecked scenario,
10 at 105 FPS
100 at 81 FPS (30% reduction)
200 at 68.5 FPS (53% reduction)

Under a GPU bottlenecked scenario,
10 at 24.2 FPS
100 at 22.1 FPS (10% reduction)
200 at 21.4 FPS (13% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • Linear quality increase up to 100, but going past 100 leads to lower framerates with smaller visual impact
*Terrain Vector Data

Recommended Setting: Ultra*

To be tested at a later date.

Buildings

Low

Medium

High

Ultra

Recommended Setting: Medium (low end), Ultra (high end)

Performance Impact:

Under a CPU bottlenecked scenario,
Low at 64.5 FPS
Medium at 61 FPS (6% reduction)
High at 60 FPS (7.5% reduction)
Ultra at 59 FPS (9% reduction)

Under a GPU bottlenecked scenario,
Low at 24.6 FPS
Medium at 22.7 FPS (8% reduction)
High at 22.4 FPS (10% reduction)
Ultra at 21.4 FPS (15% reduction)

Visual Impact:

Main impact on synthesized buildings.

  • Low has very barebones buildings.
  • Medium adds clutter / objects to buildings.
  • High and Ultra improve the shading on the buildings.
Trees

Low

Medium

High

Ultra


Low

Medium

High

Ultra

Recommended Setting: Low (low end), Medium (high end)

Performance Impact:

  • No impact on CPU performance

Low ran at 21.3 FPS
Medium ran at 19.5 FPS (9% reduction)
High ran at 18.5 FPS (15% reduction)
Ultra ran at 18 FPS (18% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • Higher settings increase draw distance
  • Low has higher contrast appearing on the tree textures, and looks flat / billboard like.
  • Medium makes the trees look significantly more lush and 3D, and somewhat fixes the aforementioned contrast issue.
  • Ultra appears to have slightly higher tree density than Medium.
Grass and Bushes

Off

Low

Medium

High

Ultra

Recommended Setting: High

Performance Impact:

  • No impact to CPU performance

Off gave 26 FPS,
Low gave 25.3 FPS (3% reduction)
Medium gave 25 FPS (4% reduction)
High gave 24 FPS (8% reduction)
Ultra gave 23 FPS (13% reduction)

Visual Impact:
The density and render distance of the grass changes as the settings increase.

Objects Level of Detail

10

100

200

Recommended Setting: 100*

Performance Impact:

  • No major impact to GPU performance

Under a CPU bottlenecked scenario,
10 at 79 FPS
100 at 67 FPS (18% reduction)
200 at 65 FPS (21.5% reduction)

Visual Impact:
This controls the render distance of the LODS of various objects in the world, such as traffic.

Volumetric Clouds

Low

Medium

High

Ultra

Recommended Setting: Medium (low end), High (mid range), Ultra (High end)

Performance Impact:
No impact to CPU performance.

Low ran at 22.7 FPS
Medium ran at 21.7 FPS (4.5% reduction)
High ran at 20.5 FPS (11% reduction)
Ultra ran at 18.4 FPS (23% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • Mainly affects cloud resolution (presumably noise texture resolution)

Low looks terrible, whereas medium is where I’d start to call it acceptable. High and Ultra is where the clouds in this sim really shine.

Texture Resolution

Low

Ultra

Recommended Setting: Ultra*

Performance Impact:
Setting had no impact to CPU or GPU performance.

6606 MB of VRAM was used when on low.
7192 MB of VRAM was used when on ultra.

If you run out VRAM on your GPU, consider lowering this setting.

Visual Impact:

  • Textures on low are generally blurry and pixelated.
  • Textures on ultra more crisp
Anisotropic Filtering

Off

4x

16x

Recommended Setting: 16x*

Performance Impact:
No impact to CPU performance

Off gave 23.7 FPS
4x gave 23.3 FPS (2% reduction)
16x gave 21.9 FPS (8% reduction)

Performance impact will lessen with higher GPU memory bandwidth.

Visual Impact:

  • Removes some of the texture blur caused by mipmapping.
  • Provides noticeable increases to quality up to 16x
Texture Supersampling

AF 16x


Off

8x8

AF Off


Off

2x2

4x4

8x8

Recommended Setting: 4x4

Performance Impact:
No impact on CPU performance.
No impact on VRAM usage.

Off gave 22.3 FPS
2x2 gave 22.2 FPS (0.05% reduction)
4x4 gave 22 FPS (1% reduction)
8x8 gave 21.4 FPS (4% reduction)

Visual Impact:
Almost impossible to distinguish with AF 16x, main difference with AF off
Can result in blurry distant textures when on a lower settings
Ground textures at a distance become sharper / clearer / smoother as setting increases

Texture Synthesis

Screenshots to be taken…

Recommended Setting: Ultra

Performance Impact:
No impact on GPU performance.

Under a CPU bottlenecked scenario,
Low gave 40 FPS
Ultra gave 38 FPS (5% reduction)

Water Waves

Low

Medium

High

Recommended Setting: Medium

Performance Impact:
No impact to CPU performance.

Low gave 25.4 FPS
Medium gave 24.3 FPS (4.5% reduction)
High gave 23.5 FPS (8% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • Low is lower detail but does not look out of place.
  • Medium and High look identical, with higher fidelity waves.
Shadow Maps

768

1024

1536

2048

Recommended Setting: 1536

Performance Impact:
No impact to CPU performance

768 and 1024 gave 25.5 FPS.
1536 gave 25.1 FPS (1.5% reduction)
2048 gave 24.8 FPS (3% reduction).

Visual Impact:

  • Shadows get crisper the higher resolution they are set to
Terrain Shadows

Off

128

256

512

1024

2048

Recommended Setting: 512

Performance Impact:
No impact on CPU performance.

Off gave 32 FPS
128 gave 31.3 FPS (2% reduction)
256 gave 31.2 FPS (2.5% reduction)
512 gave 30.9 FPS (3.5% reduction)
1024 gave 29.7 FPS (8% reduction)
2048 gave 27.2 FPS (17.5% reduction)

Visual Impact:
The screenshots were taken at very similar time of day.

  • The shadow sharpness and therefore accuracy increases as the setting increases.
Contact Shadows

Off

Low

Medium

High

Ultra

Recommended Setting: Ultra

Performance Impact:

Off gave 27.4 FPS.
Low, Medium, High, Ultra gave 26.6 FPS (3% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • Trees and grass are get SSRT shadowing when enabled
  • There seems to be less noise at higher settings.
Windshield Effects

Low

Medium

High

Ultra

Recommended Setting: High

Performance Impact:
No impact on CPU performance.

Low gave 22.5 FPS
Medium and High, gave 21.4 FPS (5% reduction)
Ultra gave 20.5 FPS (10% reduction) with a noticeable increase to quality.

Visual Impact:

  • Raindrops become more dense and smaller at higher settings.
  • Low seemingly renders no raindrops on windshield.
  • Ultra adds SSRT reflections to windshield.
Ambient Occlusion

Off

Low

Medium

High

Ultra


Off

Low

Medium

High

Ultra

Recommended Setting: High

Performance Impact:
No impact on CPU performance.

Off gave 27 FPS
Low gave 26 FPS (4% reduction)
Medium gave 25.5 FPS (6% reduction)
High gave 25.2 FPS (7% reduction)
Ultra gave 22 FPS (23% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • No ambient occlusion is present at off setting.
  • Resolution increases at higher settings.
  • The amount of ambient occlusion increases at higher settings.
  • Ghosting / Artifacting may be present without TAA.
  • Ghosting / Artifacts more severe on lower settings.
Reflections

Off

Low

Medium

High

Ultra


Off

Low

Medium

High

Ultra

Recommended Setting: Ultra

Performance Impact:
No impact to CPU performance

Off gave 23.4 FPS
Low gave 22.7 FPS (3% reduction)
Medium gave 22.5 FPS (4% reduction)
High gave 22 FPS (6% reduction)
Ultra gave 21.6 FPS (8% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • No screen-space reflections are visible when setting is turned off.
  • Reflections artifact at lower settings.
  • Resolution increases with higher settings.
  • Maximum reflection length also increases with higher settings.
  • Reflection resolution / quality scales with rendering resolution.
Light Shafts

Off

Low

Ultra

Recommended Setting: Ultra

Performance Impact:
No impact to CPU performance

Off gave 22.5 FPS
Low and Ultra gave 21 FPS (7% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • No light rays when turned off.
  • Seemingly an on-off switch,
    – No difference between low and ultra
Bloom

Off

On

Recommended Setting: On

Performance Impact:
Off gave 20.7 FPS
On gave 20.5 FPS (1% reduction)

Visual Impact:

  • Adds a “blur / distortion” effect to exceptionally bright areas
    – Usually employed when bright areas cannot be displayed in a monitors color display range.
Depth of Field

Off

Low

Ultra

Recommended Setting: Ultra

Performance Impact:

No impact on CPU performance.

Off gave 23 FPS
Low, Medium, High, Ultra, gave 22.7 FPS (1.5% reduction).

Visual Impact:

  • Depth of field seems to only be visible in drone camera and in main menu hangar, meaning it is pointless to have it on anything except ultra.
  • Depth of field is not present when setting is off.
  • No noticeable difference between Low and Ultra
Lens Correction

Off

On

BUGGED AS OF 8/18/2020

Recommended Setting: Off

Performance Impact:
No visible impact to CPU or GPU performance.

Visual Impact:

  • Removes fisheye distortion caused by high camera FOV in certain situations.
Lens Flare

Off

On

Recommended Setting: On

Performance Impact:

  • No visible impact to CPU or GPU performance

Visual Impact:

  • Simulates a camera lens artifact when looking at bright objects such as the sun.

Wishlist to Asobo:

  • Comparison images between Low and Ultra built directly into the sim (see Ghost Recon Wildlands, Watch Dogs 2)
  • Ability to adjust post process shaders currently applied in the sim (such as sharpening, eye adaptation, bloom strength)
  • Tips on CPU / GPU impact on performance (see Forza Horizon 4)
  • Better denoising / accumulation on SSR and SSAO
  • Clearer image with TAA

(Feel free to add suggestions in thread replies)


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