I have fallen off my motorcycle and hit my head, skinned my knee, and broken my arm; the bone is sticking right out of my skin! Ouch! So I go to the hospital and the Doctor examines me. Here is how the conversation goes:
Dr: How does your arm feel?Clearly with a bone sticking through my skin, there is no point in doing a physical examination. My arm hurts so much that I can't tell the Doctor whether I have any other aches or pain. I feel one thing: the arm.
Me: My arm hurts so much! OUCH!
Dr: And how does your leg feel?
Me: My arm is burning and stinging! Please make it stop!
Dr: Do you feel dizzy or light headed?
Me: Please fix my arm!!!!!!!!
What does this have to do with framerate? Well, framerate is just like pain. The low framerate you see is caused by only the one worst problem with your setup. If your graphics card is a little bit overloaded, you are a hair short on VRAM, and your CPU is absolutely being killed, then the low framerate you see is totally because of the CPU. The weakest link decides your framerate. And like the Doctor, if we go trying to deal with the VRAM problem, we will see no change because it's the CPU that hurts the most.
This is what I see over and over: a user is running X-Plane, his framerate is bad, and he has turned some but not all of the settings down. At this point the user is usually pretty grumpy - his visuals now look bad and his framerate is poor.
The problem is that the user hasn't turned down the setting that really matters. This is why the first thing you need to do in order to tune framerate is to turn everything down, so that you are running with framerate at least as high as what you want for your target value. Then you can turn settings up one at a time and watch which one lowers framerate.
(Don't worry, you're not going to stay at the lowest settings. The key is just to always be turning settings up, not down.)
Here are some of the settings I see that need to be turned down but often are not.
- Full screen anti-aliasing. (FSAA) Always turn FSAA down to none. FSAA will kill fps on any graphics card that is fill rate limited.
- Pixel shader effects - every one of these should be turned off to start. And when you do start them, try them one at a time and have the water reflections off - work your way up in small steps. The gap from shaders without volumetric fog, shadows, reflections and per pixel lighting to shaders with all of these effects is huge!
- Turn objects all the way down to default, or even off. If your CPU is the problem, objects could be a factor.
- Leave texture compression on in your "rock bottom" settings. Texture compression improves fps and lowers visual quality, so having the check box be on is the minimal setting.
- Don't run at a huge screen res or FOV. Run 1024x768 and 50 degrees FOV.