Last update 14JAN16
Time to update this post, it's been a year since it was last done!
New settings screenshots using the current 220.127.116.11 version of Inspector including a new 4xS setting and a discussion of the new frame rate limiter feature have been added!
===========DX10 WARNING - AA does NOT work in FSX's DX10 preview mode, it never has. You should not run in DX10 mode basically ever - it is slower and buggy.
Step 1 - Get the latest Nvidia Inspector version here: http://www.guru3d.co...r-download.html SURE YOU EXTRACT ALL THE FILES! The program needs more than just the exe, there's a file called CustomSettingNames_en-EN.xml that defines the names of all the different settings - if you're seeing cryptic feature names and hex values, you didn't put that file in the same folder as the exe.)
Here are three possible ways to set it for FSX and FS9 - one uses the 4xS mode, one uses 8xS and the other uses 8xSQ. I added the 4xS version because it was my own personal experience with the NGX that running a ton of texture resolution intensive addons like the NGX, REX, Orbx sceneries etc all at once massively increased the load on the video card and caused stuttering, particularly in spot view. The work required of the GPU to perform supersample AA is affected by the resolution of the textures and with everything using 4096 textures, I found this a better solution on my particular card (GTX 570). It's definitely possible that the next generation of cards will not be affected in this way even when using a ton of 4096 textures. The 4xS option is probably best for people with older video cards in a general sense as well. 8xSQ reduces shimmering a bit more than 8xS does, but it comes at a performance cost and may look a bit more blurred due to the higher level of supersample AA used.
To make these settings - run Nvidia Inspector and click the icon to the right of the driver version (it looks like a wrench and screw driver in an X shape) - that will bring up the profile editor. Click in the Profiles dropdown box and type "MS" - this should make the FS9 and FSX profiles visible - click (you can't use the arrow+enter keys for some reason) the one you want and that will make it active for editing. The settings are the same for both FS9 and FSX - I'm only showing FSX here.
Now - go through and change the settings that are in bold in the screenshots below - anything that is greyed out should be left at the default, which is inherited from the main global profile.Inside FSX, uncheck AA and set filtering to Trilinear. These in-game settings actually do not matter, but I've seen NickN bring up a good point that if they're set this way it acts as a way to warn you if something isn't working right in the driver - for example, say you update your drivers and suddenly see blurry textures - that would tell you that the forced AF mode is no longer working because your profile got wiped or the driver is bugged etc. That's good advice that makes sense to me.
Now...In the interest of furthering everyone's understanding of GPU technology and settings, here's the explanation of what Nvidia Inspector itself is and explanation for what you're doing with each of these settings:
Nvidia Inspector:There's been some confusion over what Inspector (and any similar program like the old nHancer we used before the 2xx.xx drivers) actually does. Inspector is a front-end for editing the Nvidia driver's application profiles. Application profiles determine the video card image quality settings get applied when you run a particular game. The profiles are stored in a binary file that's usually edited using the Nvidia Control Panel's "Manage 3D settings" page, Program Settings tab. That's all Inspector is, an alternate way of editing that file - it does not make the video card do things it and the driver are not already capable of doing. It's not a "hack" or anything like that. What it does do however is allow access to some AA modes that Nvidia considers experimental because they don't always work with every possible game out there. The 8xS mode that works best for FS is one of these modes that isn't normally accessible in the Nvidia Control Panel.The other big reason to use a tool like Inspector is that Nvidia predefines the way certain programs act with respect to the card's options. For some reason they set the FS profiles to "Enhance only", which does not allow you to totally override what FS tries to do on its own as far as AA and AF settings. Inspector lets you clear those "flags" so that you can set whatever you want in the application profile and FS will get exactly those settings applied to it without any modification. Most modern games do not require this - they have settings in the game itself for all these options and you just leave the application profile set to "Use the 3D application setting" for everything.
Antialiasing - Behavior Flags:
By setting this to none, we are disabling Nvidia's predefined flags for FS that force it into "Enhance" mode that I mentioned above - you can see what the default is before you change it to None.
Antialiasing - Mode:
By setting this to override, we're telling the card to ignore anything FS itself is telling it to do and apply strictly what we have specified.
Antialiasing - Setting:
This is the full scene antialiasing (FSAA) mode. FSAA is what provides the main AA effect on all the terrain, buildings, the edges of the planes etc. These particular "combined" modes that work best in FSX are a combination of a multisample FSAA algorithm and a low-level supersampling FSAA algorithm. Multisampling and supersampling are two different ways of doing FSAA. Multisampling AA works by looking at the edges of polygons and the surrounding color pixels. It adjusts those colors at the pixel level to smooth the jagged lines. It's very fast to the point of being "free" in terms of performance on modern video cards, but it has a couple of drawbacks, most importantly that it doesn't AA inside polygons or on alpha-test textures. Supersampling AA works in an entirely different way - it actually renders the scene internally at a higher resolution than the monitor is displaying and uses that image to create the AA "map". Supersampling is very hard on performance at higher settings - for example to run at true 4x4 supersampling AA on a 1920x1200 monitor requires the video card to actually render every frame internally at 7680x4800. That's a huge amount of data and even the top of the line cards today will choke on it. That's why the combined mode is there - it gets you close to the image quality that pure supersampling offers, but without the massive performance hit. 8xS is a 4x multisampling AA combined with a 1x2 supersampling AA (this means only the vertical component of the screen is rendered at twice the resolution internally.) 8xSQ is a 2x multisampling AA combined with a 2x2 supersampling AA. It has a bigger hit on performance because it's using true 2x supersampling in both dimensions of the image. I would not use this unless you have a late model video card.
Antialiasing - Transparency: (there are two settings - Multisampling and Supersampling)
Transparency AA on Nvidia cards can be one of two types - multisampling or supersampling, just like FSAA. Transparency AA singles out objects like trees and power poles that can't normally be antialiased by FSAA methods. FSAA works on the edges of polygons, but objects like trees in FSX are actually a larger invisible box - the shape of the leaves/needles on the trees are a texture that is placed onto that invisible polygon. (These are also called "alpha test textures" technically) TSAA modes are able to AA those textures, the driver figures out where they are and performs something akin to what FSAA does, but ONLY on the objects that use transparency textures. Supersample TSAA is higher quality than multisample TSAA, just as it is with the full scene versions.You have to choose one or the other, you can't have both multisampling and supersample TSAA active at the same time. I'm not sure why the author of Inspector has it as two separate settings. It's totally normal though for the Transparency Multisampling setting in Inspector to be disabled when you have a supersample mode selected.I've actually had the TSAA setting slightly wrong here in the past. The card actually cannot do a higher level of TSAA than what the base FSAA level is set to - in this two examples above, it's limited to 4X with 8xS FSAA because that's the base FSAA mode in 8xS. (8xS is not true "8X" anything, so 4X is the max TSAA that will work with it) 8xSQ is limited to 2x TSAA because 2x multisampling is the base AA level in it.It is a combination of this setting and the supersampling component of the FSAA setting that massively reduce the shimmering in the trees, power lines and another other similar objects in the sim.
Texture Filtering section
Anisotropic filtering mode:
All we're doing here is putting the driver into the mode that lets us set this manually instead of letting FS set it itself.
Anisotropic filtering setting:
This is setting the actual level of anisotropic filtering (AF). AF is an effect that blends texture mipmaps into the distance while correcting for angle and perspective. A texture in a 3D game engine contains bunch of different resolutions called "mipmaps" - this cuts down on memory usage and processing work for the card because distant textures that shouldn't have much detail to them anyway can be drawn with the lower resolution mipmaps. Close up they'll be the full high resolution mipmap. AF blends the transition points between these mipmaps in an extremely smooth and convincing way. It should never be set to anything other than 16x in any game on a modern GPU. This operation is "free" like multisample AA is on cards today.Here are examples of the same scene in FSX that demonstrate the huge difference AF makes:
Trilinear filtering (not AF):
The difference there should be immediately apparent.
Texture filtering - Negative LOD Bias:
This setting prevents the FS engine from moving the mipmap transition points further into the distance. It does this in an attempt to sharpen the textures, but that creates massive texture aliasing (aka texture "crawl"). Anisotropic filtering does not need negatively biased mipmap transition points, in fact it's designed to work without them and not create aliasing. This setting should basically always be on in any game when you're using AF.
Texture filtering - Quality:
The Nvidia driver has various optimizations it does to the texture filtering process to speed it up. At the "High Performance" setting, all these optimizations are active and you trade image quality slightly for performance. At the other end, "High Quality", all of those optimizations are disabled and a slight amount of performance is traded for the best possible image quality. This is very very slight, I see no noticeable difference in performance between the settings, but High Quality does cut down on the texture shimmering slightly vs. the others.Common section:
Frame rate limiter: (requires Nvidia driver 290.xx or higher)
FSX performs differently when the sim's internal target framerate limiter slider is set to unlimited instead of an actual framerate. For a lot of people with high end systems it produces a smoother experience. The problem with doing this however is that the sim can wildly fluctuate and you can actually get stuttering from the sim pumping out far more frames than the monitor can handle. Externally limiting the framerate solves this problem. Up until very recently simmers had to use one of two dedicated frame rate limiting utilities to do this - no longer! This setting is an Nvidia created and approved framerate limiter that is built right into the driver itself. 30FPS is a good starting point - if you have a very powerful machine, you may be able to raise it up to 40 or so. I suspect within another year or so we might actually be able to lock this to 60 realistically.
Power management mode:
This stops the card from underclocking itself when it feels the load isn't enough to warrant the maximum clock speed. It just makes sense to me to have it going full speed while I'm flying. There's probably no harm in leaving this at Adaptive, but I'd rather be safe knowing all the card's power is instantly available.
That's the gist of it all - hopefully this gives you all a better understanding of what we're actually doing when we set up our video cards for FS.