Limit game frame rates

Phil Iwa­niuk reck­ons you can some­times have too much of a good thing.

APC Australia - - Contents -

with­out V-sync

Coun­ter­in­tu­itive as it may seem to the PC en­thu­si­ast, some­times your frame rate is too high. It might be that your fondly re­mem­bered clas­sic game is run­ning like a VHS tape stuck on fast for­ward, be­cause it was never de­signed to run on those four GTX 1080s you plumped for. It may be that you’re get­ting a vari­able frame rate in a game that doesn’t of­fer its own lim­iter or V-sync op­tion, and you’re sick of the stut­ter, even above 60fps. Or af­ter sev­eral alarm­ingly high elec­tric­ity bills and con­sid­er­able hear­ing loss from lis­ten­ing to your red-hot GPU whine and blow a gale, you might de­cide that, ac­tu­ally, 2,500fps is more than you need in Counter-Strike: GO.

The rea­sons are mul­ti­tudi­nous, and con­se­quently the meth­ods are, too. You’ll want to take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach if you’re frame-lim­it­ing an old game on an Nvidia card, for ex­am­ple, than if your ob­jec­tive is lock­ing out a solid 60 in a DX12 ti­tle with AMD sil­i­con in your PC. Hap­pily, al­though the meth­ods vary, they’re uni­lat­er­ally sim­ple, and ba­si­cally amount to find­ing the right op­tion in the right screen, en­ter­ing a fig­ure and check­ing a box. But, oh, the sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing that un­wa­ver­ing num­ber in the top-left...


It’s a good idea to take V-sync com­pletely out of the equa­tion be­fore head­ing into frame lim­iter ter­ri­tory. How­ever, it’s also a good idea to make sure V-sync isn’t ac­tu­ally the an­swer to your prob­lems. If you’re gam­ing on a 60Hz mon­i­tor, say, and you’re be­ing tor­mented by frame dips above 60fps, turn­ing V-sync on is the best so­lu­tion, be­cause it locks the FPS out­put to an even di­vi­sion of that re­fresh rate. Plus, you get to elim­i­nate screen­tear­ing in the process, which is a nice lit­tle kick­back.

How­ever, when run­ning old games, try­ing to even out dips be­low 60fps, or look­ing to re­duce power out­put and temps caused by un­nec­es­sar­ily high frame rates, lim­iters are the way to go, be­cause they cap menu screens and cin­e­mat­ics, too. Make your call, and pro­ceed. There’s also the world of frame lim­it­ing to im­prove V-sync lag — we’ll get to that later.


For Nvidia cards, head to the Nvidia Con­trol Panel and set ‘ Ver­ti­cal sync’ to ‘Off’ in “Global set­tings” [ Im­age A]. For AMD cards, find the ‘Frame rate con­trol’ header in Radeon’s soft­ware, and dis­able ‘ Wait for ver­ti­cal re­fresh’. Quick and pain­less. You need to visit the graph­ics op­tions screen of the game

“In or­der to check that your lim­iter is work­ing once you’ve set it up, you need a good, reli­able counter over­lay.”

in ques­tion, too, and dis­able all V-sync op­tions there. Leav­ing V-sync on while run­ning a cap might tank your FPS to half the de­sired rate, and has the po­ten­tial to pro­vide any num­ber of com­pli­cat­ing fac­tors that you could do with­out.


In or­der to check that your lim­iter is work­ing once you’ve set it up, you need a good, reli­able counter over­lay. FRAPS once ruled the roost, but doesn’t play nice with DirectX 12, and com­mon al­ter­na­tives from Steam, Nvidia and AMD can be a lit­tle lim­it­ing. For that rea­son, we pick MSI Afterburner.

Don’t worry, it works fine on non-MSI cards of both de­nom­i­na­tions, but it does take a bit more set­ting up than usual. Hit the cog but­ton on Afterburner’s main over­lay, and you’ll find an op­tions screen, with sev­eral tabs at the top. Nav­i­gate to Mon­i­tor­ing, check the ‘Frame rate’ op­tion, then the ‘Show in on-screen dis­play’ op­tion be­low that [ Im­age B]. Do the same for GPU tem­per­a­ture and fan speed, so you can see the ben­e­fits of your lim­iter. In the next tab along, ‘On-screen dis­play’, choose a short­cut key to tog­gle the over­lay on and off.


So your love for In­ter­state ’76 is undy­ing, but try­ing to play it with a frame rate well into the hun­dreds re­sults in un­man­age­able han­dling. We’ve all been there. Set­ting a lim­iter solves your prob­lems, and brings the game back down to a playable speed, but it’s not al­ways plain sail­ing. For ex­am­ple, if the game in ques­tion is so old that it’s us­ing a soft­ware ren­derer, or you’re em­u­lat­ing a 3dfx card to run it in the first place, set­ting a lim­iter in many pro­grams doesn’t work, be­cause the game isn’t try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with your graph­ics driv­ers di­rectly, in the same way as a mod­ern game does.

For newer games, it’s less of a dark art, but in both cases, we’ve found Nvidia In­spec­tor to be the best pro­gram for — you guessed it — Nvidia cards. Lo­cate the span­ner and screw­driver sym­bol in the pro­gram’s UI, and you’ll open a huge op­tions screen. Sim­ply find ‘Frame rate lim­iter’ un­der the ‘Sync and re­fresh’ header, and se­lect your tar­get frames per sec­ond [ Im­age C].

The good news for AMD gamers is that Radeon’s Frame Rate Tar­get Con­trol util­ity, bun­dled into Radeon Soft­ware, is ac­tu­ally pretty ef­fec­tive. Un­der ‘Game set­tings’, find or add the game you want to cap, and scroll the bar along to the de­sired frame rate. And if that doesn’t work, we found Ri­vaTuner Statis­tics Server to be a de­cent con­tin­gency plan for AMD cards, too.


V-sync has a lot to do in a very short space of time. In the process of ar­rang­ing your GPU’s frames and serv­ing them at just the right time for your mon­i­tor’s re­fresh rate, a bit of in­put lag can creep in. How­ever, in­tro­duc­ing a lim­iter can re­duce that lag. Us­ing the meth­ods de­scribed in the pre­vi­ous step, you can set a lim­iter of 58fps to achieve a smoother ex­pe­ri­ence on a 60Hz mon­i­tor with V-sync en­abled, 73fps for a 75Hz dis­play, and so on.


This is where the GPU temp and fan speed read­outs in the Afterburner over­lay come in handy. Load up the game you want to limit [ Im­age D], hit that short­cut key, and ob­serve the over­lay. You should see a lovely con­sis­tent frame rate, and re­duced load on your card. Mea­sur­ing V-sync lag is a less ex­act science, but hope­fully you’ll feel a dif­fer­ence at 58fps.





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