After trying to research and finding only opinions with little-to-no evidence one way or the other, I decided to test this morning, to try and establish what affect, if any, the Windows feature “Game Mode” and “Hardware Accelerated GPU Scheduling” (HAGS) have on MSFS 2020.
CAVEATS: This is not a rigorous test, I am certainly not professional at this kind of thing. Also, this is obviously only one my single PC I use to play, and don’t have the opportunity to test it on better or worse hardware . I have my settings basically on Ultra across the board, with LODs reduced to about 150. I do still get stutters sometimes just like everyone else, and would love some better performance, but I do typically get stable 40+ FPS while playing, so 1 FPS up or down here is maybe 1-2% difference, and therefore if you’re normally around 30 FPS, you may see literally no difference at all - your mileage may vary!
SYSTEM: AMD 5900x CPU, MSI Suprim X RTX 3090, MSI X570 Tomahawk motherboard, 64GB RAM, 2TB m.2 SSD. I also have attached Alpha yoke, Bravo throttle, TPR Rudder, Next Level Racing v3 motion platform, SRS Wind simulation, 6 Saitek FIPs. This test is being done on a 4k 60Hz 27" Dell monitor, using the latest (at the time) nVidia drivers of 465.89.
PROCEDURE: Load into London Heathrow (EGLL) at Runway 27. Cessna 172 G1000. Set weather to clear skies, set time/date to April 11th, 11am, no mutiplayer traffic, Live AI traffic on. Ready to fly, then wait 1 minute for FPS to settle, and then 1 minute capture with Riva Statistics while idling on the runway. Between tests of Game Mode on/off or HAGS on/off, I would fully restart the system.
I wanted to test the affects the affect of various background tasks. I tested with my usually-loaded background tasks on reboot (which includes a bunch of ‘unnecessary’ things, including both Razer Synapse and Corsair iCue for RGB, a Dell monitor manager software, and some other bits). I would then do the test, close everything non-essential, restart/reload the ‘mission’ (i.e. using Esc, then Home, then Enter), again hitting ready to fly, waiting a minute to settle, then 1 minute bench. Finally I would then start up some extra software I usually have running while playing the sim (e.g. the motion platform software, SPAD.next for the FIPs, and SRS for the wind) and do another test. These are reported in results as BG, No-BG, Sim-BG
Values reported are average FPS, and 1% lows in the format Av/1%.
Game Mode on + HAGS on:
Game Mode off + HAGS on:
Game Mode on + HAGS off:
Game Mode off + HAGS off:
I must say, I was surprised by these results. Mainly in that the differences were pretty minimal, and until stepping back to really look at it, I wasn’t sure if it even had any beyond run-to-run variance. I will also say that I think MOST people have the attitude “yeah, turn that ■■■■ off”, with seemingly no reasoning behind it, having read about what these features actually do, I was kind of hopeful that they’d actually have a positive impact.
What I found however, is that whilst the impact is pretty insignificant, I will be leaving HAGS off, as I think it’s fair to say that in any scenario I tested, there’s a 1 or maybe 2 FPS increase in performance. Take this with a pinch of salt, since I cannot explain why when I closed background tasks, most of the time performance dropped slightly - this could indicate a problem with my method!
As for Game Mode, I think this possibly made a very small positive impact when HAGS was on, but with HAGS off, made no difference to average FPS, but potentially hurt 1% lows slightly … somehow … for some reason.
It probably makes no difference one way or the other for most people. I’ll be leaving HAGS off, and I’m on the fence about Game Mode, I like the idea that it stops Windows from doing update downloads and other irrelevant stuff in the background while a game is running, but the data seems to suggest it has a tiny negative impact. Perhaps it would help with a longer test where you fly around streaming new data, and perhaps Window has just happened to download an update at the same time. I will probably just leave it off for now and possibly retest at a later date.
Please let me know if you interpret anything different from my results, or if you have done similar tests with contrary/complimentary results. Also, feel free to ask me to test something else - having said that, I’d rather spend a few hours flying than testing, so … you know, don’t ask me to redo the whole thing
Hope it helps someone!