We all know that, unlike consoles, we can interact with the graphics settings of PC games in order to have better performance or better display quality. In the same way, we all know that if a game is not giving us a good performance, we can relax these settings so that it works better and, therefore, we are going to see what each of them does to find out which one should we modify if the game is not performing properly on your PC.
The main graphics settings
We start by looking at the more typical and common settings which, in many games, are actually set aside from the “graphics” and are included within the “screen” menus instead.
The resolution describes the number of pixels present on the screen, and determines the overall quality of the image. You will see this parameter expressed in two numbers, such as 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), the first being the width of the screen and the second number being the height.
The most natural thing here is to set the game to the native resolution of your monitor (that is, if you have a 1080p monitor, set 1920 x 1080) but if you are really having serious performance problems, reducing the resolution is the graphics setting that will have the greatest impact on performance. This is especially important if you have a 4K screen but your graphics is not capable of moving the game to that resolution, since reducing it for example to 1440p or even 1080p will not reduce the quality too much. Below that, yes.
Generally, accompanying the resolution, we can also choose the refresh rate, which as a rule will coincide with the frequency of the monitor. Most standard monitors are 60 Hz, but gaming reaches much higher rates, 144 and even 240 Hz. This number, within the graphics settings of the game, represents the number of images generated per second And, of course, it has a huge impact on performance.
The higher the refresh rate, the more fluid we will see the game, but we will also be forcing the graphics card to work more. This is a setting that you can relax in most games if you have poor performance, especially if your monitor is over 60 Hz.
Most games also allow us to change the screen mode, allowing us to choose between three modes: full screen, window or borderless window. Here you should know that you will always have better performance in full screen mode (a necessary requirement, in addition, for technologies such as FreeSync) since the Windows desktop will remain in the background without consuming hardly any resources. However, if you play in windowed mode, the desktop will also be generating load.
The window or borderless window mode will allow us a more comfortable transition to the desktop without having to close the game (ALT + TAB), but it has a certain performance penalty. So, if the game is going bad for you, try putting it in full screen and you will notice an improvement in its performance.
Specific graphic settings
We are now going to see other graphic settings that we will find in PC games, but more related to the graphics itself than to the screen. In this case, they will almost always be in the graphics section of the game.
Especially on low-resolution screens, the diagonal lines of the in-game figures show so-called ‘saw teeth’, as the pixels are made up of individual squares. Anti Aliasing works to soften these edges so they look more like lines than stairs, and of course it also has its impact within games although it really makes them look much better.
Generally we will find different levels of Anti Aliasing in games, so if you are having poor performance you can always relax this setting to gain a few FPS.
VSync (Vertical sync)
Vertical synchronization is used to synchronize the game’s FPS with the refresh rate of the screen, so as to prevent tearing in games, a phenomenon that happens when the GPU is not capable of generating as many frames per second (FPS) as Hz has the screen, or vice versa, when it generates more than the account.
Especially in games where your graphics card is “spare”, activating vertical sync is good because it will allow the GPU to not be at 100%, saving power and generating less heat at the same time.
Another common graphical setting in PC games is tessellation (Tesselation). Since the textures of game objects are made up of polygons made of triangles, tessellation allows the graph to repeat these polygons many times on a given surface, creating patterns and allowing bumps to be generated in the terrain. In essence, this setting is the one that allows you to see a terrain with ridges and valleys and not totally flat.
Disabling this graphical setting will, of course, have a noticeable impact on performance.
Ambient Occlusion creates more realistic shadow transitions between different objects in the game. It does not have to do with the quality of the shadows, but what it does is to lighten or darken the shadows in relation to the objects that generate them.
In most cases, and except in especially dark games, you will not notice a big difference in quality by deactivating this graphical setting and, however, you will be able to gain a handful of FPS in games by doing so.
In most games, the graphics engine generates better details in the objects and scenes that are around the character, making distant objects have a lower quality of textures to save resources since, after all, they are not paid much attention. Anisotropic Filtering allows the game to make smoother transitions between high quality near textures and low quality far textures.
Anisotropic filtering may appear to reduce the shadow effects of distant objects, and this is because it reduces the blurring effect at the same time, reducing the dark effects created with texture effects such as smoke on distant objects. Turning this graphic setting off or on doesn’t have much of an impact on performance.
This effect seeks to make the lighting within the game look brighter. Of course, your monitor has a maximum brightness and cannot go beyond that, so this effect creates haloes to increase this feeling. A lot of people don’t like it at all.
Disabling this effect has a positive impact on game performance, although not as much as some of the above.
This is a direct graphic effect, also called motion blur. It introduces blurriness in the image by rotating the camera, and like Bloom it is used to create a cinematic effect in the game. Many people dislike it and even feel sick.
Many people prefer to disable this effect as it reduces the quality and adds to the natural blur while we play. In addition, we will also gain performance by doing so.
Field of view (FoV)
The field of view, also called field of view or FoV, is the amount of scenery that we see on the screen. Games are normally 90 degrees FoV but can be zoomed in or out for many of them. Obviously, the higher the angle of the field of view, we will be loading the GPU with more work and the performance will be reduced.