For gamers, squeezing every last bit of performance out of their PCs (and especially their PCs’ graphics card) is critical. In Part Three of our series around improving gaming performance, we’ll show you the most important settings in the NVIDIA control panel and how gamers can tweak them for more appealing graphics in games like Crysis, World of Warcraft, and Call of Duty. (Don’t forget to check out Parts One and Two of our gaming series where we covered the best optimization processes for gaming.)
Note: This guide is for NVIDIA graphic cards only. Check back for a follow-on ATI optimization guide.
Installing the latest ForceWare driver
Notebook users, make sure you click on “INF Modified”, download the nv_disp.inf, and overwrite the original nv_disp.inf in the extracted driver folder.
Open NVIDIA Control Panel
To open up the NVIDIA control panel, right-click on your desktop, and select “NVIDIA Control Panel”. Click on “Adjust image settings with preview”. You can easily change the visual quality of games just by moving the sliders. Click on “Use my preference emphasizing”, and move the sliders to the middle to balance the visual quality and performance of games.
If you move the slider all the way to the left, the preview will appear jagged as the smoothness of curves (also known as anti-aliasing) will be disabled. Anti-aliasing is one of the most performance-hogging features—especially for lower-end graphics cards—but it allows for smoother visuals.
Manual control over all 3D settings
Changing the anti-aliasing level of games is only one way to improve the performance or quality of your games. For settings that will have a positive impact on frames per second (FPS) or visual quality, click on “Manage 3D settings” in the NVIDIA control panel.
Possible Options: On, Off
Description: This setting can enhance realism in some games by improving lighting and shadows. However, by enabling Ambient Occlusion, the FPS will drop significantly in most cases. We advise you to try it out and see if the visual improvement is worth the drop in performance.
Possible Options: Application-controlled, Off, 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x
Description: This filter makes all kinds of textures in games appear more crisp and clean, especially when looking at objects that are far away. But, the higher you set Anisotropic filtering, the less FPS you will get out of your game. If you set it to the standard “Application-controlled” option, games can choose between the levels of filtering. If you choose another option, the games’ settings will be overwritten.
Antialiasing – Gamma correction
Possible Options: On, Off
Description: This setting will allow for improved color quality in games, and its effect on performance is minimal. That’s why we suggest you make sure it’s set to “On”.
Antialiasing – Setting
Possible Options: Application-controlled, 2x, 4x, 8x, 8xQ, 16x, 16xQ
Description: Like the previous setting described, this is one of the most important options for games. The higher the Antialiasing is set, the smoother all images in a game will appear. However, especially if you use Antialiasing 8x or above, you will notice a performance hit. The “Q” modes, only available on GeForce 8000 series or newer, will further improve the visual quality of the anti-aliasing, but this is hardly noticeable – if at all. Again, you should probably test each of these settings to find the right balance of quality and performance.
Possible Options: Off, Multisampling, Supersampling
Description: The transparent anti-aliasing mode adds more realism to curves in games. Try the “Multisampling” option, since it won’t noticeably affect the performance yet will increase the visual quality.
Maximum pre-rendered frames
Possible Options: 0–8
Description: This controls the number of frames that the processor prepares before transferring them to the graphics card. Increasing this value results in smoother game play, but you may notice a lag when using the mouse and keyboard. To eliminate the lag, try the “0″ setting.
Possible Options: “Multiple display performance mode”, “Single display performance mode”, and “Compatibility display performance mode”
Description: If you have only one display, you should select “Single display performance mode”. If you have two or more displays, select “Multiple display performance mode”. If you notice glitches or strange textures on a multi-display setup, go for the “Compatibility display performance mode”.
Power management mode
Possible Options: Adaptive, Prefer maximum performance
Description: Only available on the GeForce 9000 series, the Power management mode is designed to adapt the performance of the graphics card to the needs of the game. If you are on a notebook and only play a lower-end game, you should stick to the “Adaptive” setting. However, if you want full performance at all times, go with the “Prefer maximum performance setting”.
Texture filtering – Anisotropic sample optimization
Possible Options: Off, On
Description: Set this setting to “On” to improve your performance. Keep in mind that, in some games, you may notice a slight decrease in the visual quality of textures.
Texture filtering – quality
Possible Options: Quality, High quality, Performance, High performance
Description: This function specifies how all textures (e.g. wall textures and character textures) will appear in a game. On lower-end hardware, you might want to try the “Performance” or even the “High Performance” settings to get more FPS.
Possible Options: On, Off
Description: This option should always be on “On”, as it allows the support of multi-threaded optimization for modern multi-core processors.
Possible Options: Use the 3D application setting, Force On, Force Off
Description: Vertical Sync (or Vsync) synchronizes the frames that your graphic card renders with the refresh rate of your monitor. If you disable Vsync, you might find that games run more smoothly, however, in most cases, you will notice that some parts of the screen might not be rendered correctly and appear to lag. More explanation is provided over here.
Disable Vsync only if your monitor has a higher framerate (for example 60hz) than your gameplay (for example 40 FPS).
That’s it! We have covered the most important 3D settings in the NVIDIA control panel. Hopefully, this post has helped you find the right balance of gaming performance and visual quality. Is there another option that you didn’t find here? Post a comment, and we’ll explain the setting and give you the right recommendation!
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