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Gypsy Baron

FSX frame rate holy grail

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Though I am a developer, as a user of FSX I am, like everyone else, constantly trying to find ways of squeezing the smoothest performance out of it while also having a reasonably detailed amount of scenery and traffic. I'm particularly fussy about frame rate: Sub 25 frame rates are ok for aircraft where procedural flying is more important than pure flying, but for me anything below 30 fps begins to compromise the aerodynamics and finesse handling with more seat-of-your-pants flying.Over the last two years I've been quietly tinkering away and I thought I'd post my discoveries. I'm a bit reluctant to add to the already vast numbers of claims made about optimising performance, but I hope my modest tweaks might be of some help, so please take these tips as personal views and not an unequivocal guide. Mileage may vary as the cliche goes.First, one thing that is rarely mentioned is that in 16 bit mode I get easily the most dramatic improvement. There are very few sceneries or aircraft where not running in 32 bit makes any perceivable difference to what you see, but I am getting up to a 40% increase in frame rate in 16 bit.I have also installed various addon sceneries and textures over the years, but have now removed some of them and reverted to largely default scenery. The reason is because despite the undeniable eye candy and better topographical accuracy of some really splendid addons, a few of them that I've tried offer sufficiently better views to compensate for the reduction in frame rate they cause. I must add here that this is just my experience, and there might be many environmnental addons which do not affect frame rate at all. My method of optimising frame rate is maybe a little unusual. I start with no scenery detail at all, no autogen and no weather. But I do have 4X AA and Aniso at 16x as a must because this seems to be the requirement to get rid of all but a tiny amount of shimmering.My quest is to start with the highest unlimited frame rate possible and then start tweaking, then adding detail bit by bit. So I begin by trying to establish not 60 fps, not even 100 fps, but anything up to 200 fps, which FSX's red letter readout (Shift Z) will show.150-200 fps might seem impossible but it definitely is possible in these conditions with the current systems and a decent graphics card. The reason I start this way round is because if you are only getting say 55 fps with no scenery and no traffic there is no way you are going to avoid sub 20 fps by the time you start adding things in.At this basic setting I start tweaking the graphics card (Nvidia in my case) settings. I find that letting FSX control AA does give better performance overall, rather than forcing AA. I also run in full screen in Vista but windowed mode in XP. For some reason these two operating systems give opposite results.I ALWAYS run FSX.exe in priority mode (task manager then right click on FSX.exe in the list of processes). This not only improves frame rate but definitely suppresses the worst of any stutters showing.I have tried all sorts of suggested start up and process elimination ideas (apart from setting high priority) and aside from as a precaution eliminating anti virus software and index service I cannot honestly say that any of them show better performance than might be in my imagination! Again, this might be different for others so this is just my personal view.Then I start adding tweaks to FSX.cfg. I think many extreme tweaks here do not match some claims made. If you set Fiber Frame much less than 3 you will probably start seeing a creeping tendency to blur as the scenery textures struggle to catch up with other priorities, but on the other hand if you see no blurries then I see no reason why this should not be lowered to extreme levels. I do see a marked fps increase with 2 or even lower but personally I see marked blurring too.Texture Bandwidth is a controversial area. Some report better performance with over 100 and others see smoother and sharper scenery flow with 20 or even less. I set this to around 60 and frankly do not see much difference wherever I set it.With a healthy minimum 150 fps showing I then set about gradually adding detail and traffic, plus weather and the goal is to degrade the frame rate by the minimum amount for each addition of detail. Weather wise, I find that particular layer thickness make a lot of difference and oddly the worst setting is a thin layer of broken Cumulous which produces an fps drop and curious look mammatus-like cloud formations. I get the best frame rate with the preset "fair weather" default if I want cirrus and cumulous.I find the best balance of scenery resolution is 1m texture detail. It gives sharp scenery but doesn't push the system too much. Higher res does add a little sharpness but perhaps not enough to justfify the decreased performance.I have two different addon traffic programs and both produce a much better performance than the default traffic, which is a huge fps hog. So I would recommend without question a freeware or payware traffic addon.Boats and ferries, as with airport vehicles and road traffic, probably represent in my case the biggest fps hit apart from aircraft traffic so I keep these at sensible levels. I gradually increase scenery and autogen detail and usually end up with both at dense, or autogen at normal, BUT I have already tweaked FSX.cfg to show minimum trees. For me the trees just do not look at all convincing...they look as though they are "stuck on" to the scenery and they are one addition that seems to have a permanent shimmer problem unless you turn AA up to insane levels. So I can do without them. This makes a big difference to overall performance.In conclusion, I add enough traffic and detail so that at altitude I can consistently get 55-60 fps and while landing and taxiing at even the busiest airfields I can still see a healthy 30-35 fps. This might seem an excessive and unneccessary amount but I do this because in my view you need a little "overhead" in reserve for those moments when the fps dips. At mega airports like Heathrow or LAX I turn down autogen a little and reduce traffic and that keeps things smooth. The absolute lowest I like to see at a very busy airport is 20-25 fps which is fine for taxiing and take off. Anything below this and you are going to get perceivable jerking and stuttering.I realise some people can manage ok with as low as 12-15 fps but personally I can't deal with this...the flight model gets completely swamped with unpleasant jerkiness in roll and pitch. The more esoteric the aircraft is the more you need a healthy frame rate to get any pleasure out of manual control.In summary, here is a list of things I set for what I see as the smoothest performance for a given system. Yet again, please don't take this as gospel...I'm just passing on my own observations:SYSTEMEliminate Anti virus and Windows Indexing Service.In Task Manager set FSX.exe to high priority when started.GRAPHICSLet FSX control AA unless you have a huge turbo-exotic video card.Change to 16-bit colour. (Enormous difference on my system).Set 16x Aniso for max shimmer suppression.Try windowed or full screen and stick with the smoothest setting.SIMStart with as higher fps as you can get by switching ALL detail off then gradually adding detail and observing which each does. This will differ from system to system. Get a traffic addon program. Disable default traffic!! This is a huge frame rate hog.Compare addon scenery with default and assess impact on relative performance to eye candy ratio!On high end systems aim for at least 20 fps and preferably 25 minimum at airports. Even better would be 30 fps to alow for occasional frame rate drops.Keep ground traffic and boats low.Set weather for decent eye candy but little impact on performance.Apologies if much of this seems obvious to experienced users, but I thought it was worth a go.Cheers!Rob Young

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Thanks Rob!Interesting tips here. Must try out the one about 16 bit color!All the best and looking forward to your twin!Regards and God blessAlfred

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Thanks, Rob. Is it possible to add some switch to tell windows somehow to run FSX.exe in High priority? Also, does it work with double and/or quad cores?Thanks.

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Always good to see these types of posts!I have written some of these down, because there is at least one thing (16-bit color) that I have never tried. I intend to try that out in my benchmark flight.RhettFS box: E8500 (@ 3.80 ghz), AC Freezer 7 Pro, ASUS P5E3 Premium, BFG 8800GTX 756 (nVidia 169 WHQL), 4gb DDR3 1600 Patriot Cas7 7-7-7-20 (2T), PC Power 750, WD 150gb 10000rpm Raptor, Seagate 500gb, Silverstone TJ09 case, Vista Ultimate 64ASX Client: AMD 3700+ (@ 2.6 ghz), 7800GT

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hi Robthank you for your personal inputjust few questionsi would like to follow your recommendations but need some specifics1.which default plane should i use2.where should i start - what airport3.on the ground or in the airthank you again, and i have enormous respect for your production aircrafts and contribution to the sim communityBo

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Thanks Rob,Thanks Rob!I cannot find a way to disable the Indexing Service with Vista SP1. The help file states it can no longer be turned off. Does anyone know how to flip a switch? Thanks.

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A good, helpful thread! These are easy, manageable tweaks that sim pilots of every rank can try.I don't agree with all of these tweaks, but every system is different, so I can see where a tweak that works for one person might not work for another. Still, overall, it's a good base for working on FSX.For instance, I recall trying 16-bit (before SP1, though, and a different graphics card), and not getting much difference in my results. If your system is already pushed to the limit, I don't think that 16-bit will give you much difference. If your system has some overhead, though, then 16-bit might give you better frame rates.I very much agree with starting off with minimum detail and working your way up from there. I feel that most users try to start with max detail and then lower the settings to make them useable. If you do that, you might miss a setting that doesn't affect you in low-detail areas, but then all of a sudden it bites you on the rump on high detail areas. You have to be vigilant with experimenting: only one variable at a time. And >save your config. files as you go!!< You can have dozens of them! Use one for IFR, and a different one for VFR, one just for the Extra or the Mustang, and one for the 747, and so on. You can even load them for different phases of one flight.Traffic... ugh. I have reviewed and tried a number of traffic add-ons. They truly are a matter of taste. To be honest, I just stay with the default FSX traffic, but I keep it dialled down quite far. I find that it's easier to deal with default traffic rather than to periodically have to tweak and control my add-on traffic. But, there's no arguing that the default traffic is frame-rate hungry: they use the same models as the flyable aircraft, and that's not at all efficient (although it is very pretty).Finally: my biggest and most reliable way to gain a guaranteed frame rate boost...... fly in Saskatchewan, Canada, especially the south or central regions. Try Moose Jaw, where there is a sizeable runway for the airbase and then not much else. Jeff ShylukAssistant Managing EditorSenior Staff ReviewerAVSIM

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Good, sensible analysis, Rob. Thank you for some helpful reminders. Couple of observations: Indexing Service is called Windows Search service in Vista, I believe; and, WRT "run in full screen in Vista but windowed mode in XP. For some reason these two operating systems give opposite results", I have seen little difference between Windowed and Full screen modes in Vista 32-bit, but I NEVER run with a maximized window and I reduce the window size, making certain that no part of the FSX main window or any undocked windows touches the taskbar at the bottom of the screen.Regards,Rick

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Very intresting...Could you give better explanation of how and where this is done please...In Task Manager set FSX.exe to high priority when started.I'm looking at task mgr. now under processes and see no FSX.exeThanks...

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Nice write up. Defintely gives food for thought..Not sure how many are aware of this but I'll mention what I discovered the other day.Concerning Framerates in Windowed Mode on Vista:I could not for the life of me figure out why the framerates took such an extreme hit when running in windowed mode(maximized) as oppsed to fairly decent framerates in full screen mode. As you say, the opposite of XP. I searched around the forums and discovered through others posts that if you ran in windowed mode, but did not let the FSX window touch the windows vista taskbar, frame rates stayed pretty much the same as fullscreen mode. So I tested this and it was true. Even hiding the taskbar (using autohide) did not make a difference. Using the Aero them or the non-aero theme made no difference either. To make a long story short, I got rid of the Vista Theme all together, thinking something about the way it's drawn could be an issue and went back to the Windows Standard theme. Problem solved :)Larry

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Hi Larry,That's a very good tip. I'll try the task bar removal in windowed mode and see if that makes a difference.In answer to some of the questions above: First I do not know how to produce a permanent high priority for FSX.exe and usually do this each time I start up. I think this works with all cpus.As for what scenery or aircraft to use for these tweaks or experiments, your guess is as good as mine. I personally start up with a known frame rate friendly aircraft. That way I know any tweaks I do will show up obviously without the aircraft stress on the system showing up. So the default C172 is as good as any.Cheers,Rob Young

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interestingly enough, I always used your own SF260. I've always found it to be not only easy on the framerate, but really consistent too...but I'm still flying FS9 only so that's a moot point with this discussion.Just a question though regarding the 16 bit suggestion - do you not find that theres noticeable "banding" in the sky in 16 bit. Particularly in dawn or dusk situations I seem to recall you don't get smooth color transitions...maybe I'm wrong though.

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I'm still using Ken Salter's FSAutoStart to start FSX and it has a drop down box which allows you to set the priority of FSX. I also believe that you can start FS9 using a command line, as from a *.bat file, and add a command line option; IIRC, it is:fs9.exe /start highI'm not sure that is the correct command line and I don't know if it works in FSX. Perhaps someone else will add some detail. In the meantime FSAutoStart will do the trick and I assume that Ken's new program offers the same feature.R-

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Good sound advice and nice starting point Rob. From there it should be no problem for folks to tweak to taste as it were:-)

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