PC gaming is not only known for the best image quality and high framerates but, it’s also known for its scalability. PC video games have a number of graphical options that can be tweaked to achieve a balance of high FPS and image quality. However, in-game graphical options aren’t the only thing that can be tweaked to squeeze performance. Nvidia GPUs come with their own driver and a control panel.
The control panel is there to tweak driver settings to improve performance or image quality without making many sacrifices with in-game graphical options. In this guide, I’ll take you through all of the tweaks that users can perform in Nvidia Control Panel to squeeze performance out of the GPU.
NVIDIA Control Panel
For those who don’t know how to use the Nvidia Control Panel, first install the GPU driver. Right-click on your desktop and then click on “Nvidia Control Panel”.
Click on Manage 3D Settings > Program Settings > select the game from the list that you want to tweak the settings for. If the game is not on the list, then add it by clicking the “Add Program” button and then selecting the game’s exe.
Once the game has been selected, users will have a long list of options that they can tweak. These options serve different purposes and tweaking them can potentially boost performance without sacrificing image quality.
The following are the important Nvidia Control Panel options that players can tweak to boost performance along with what these options do and recommended settings to squeeze the most out of your GPU.
The Image Sharpening option in the Nvidia Control Panel is pretty self-explanatory. Enabling it sharpens the image. This option is best utilized for games with TAA or Temporal Anti-aliasing.
TAA is a commonly used anti-aliasing technique that completely eliminates jagged edges and isn’t that much taxing on the GPU. However, there is one downside to it, it leaves the game looking soft or blurry.
Enabling “Image Sharpening” fixes this. Meaning, users can use TAA and have a clear looking image quality. Setting the intensity of this option depends on the user itself.
Image Sharpening can also be enabled in-game on the fly if players have installed Nvidia GeForce Experience and have enabled the in-game overlay. While in-game, press “Alt + F3” and a menu will open. Select image sharpening and set the intensity. Players will see a clear difference in image quality.
“Ambient Occlusion” is a graphical option that is found within the game’s graphics menu and this option is usually greyed out for most games in the control panel. I recommend that you set it at “Use 3D Application Settings” and use the in-game option.
As for what it does, “Ambient Occlusion” is a graphical effect that calculates how each point in the game is exposed to in-game lighting. Then it draws shadows based on that calculations to make the scene look grounded and realistic.
Anisotropic Filtering is a common graphical option found in PC video games. It is best to meddle with it in-game than in the Control Panel.
As for what it does, if Anisotropic Filtering is disabled, players will notice that textures on the ground are blurred. Enabling Anisotropic Filtering eliminates this blur and makes those ground textures look crisp and clear.
It’s rare that players will have to adjust this setting from the Control Panel for games like Horizon Zero Dawn as the in-game “Anisotropic Filtering” doesn’t work. Wherever you mess with this setting, just set it to 16x as this setting has little to no performance impact.
Anti-Aliasing – FXAA
Enabling this option will force FXAA anti-aliasing for the game you turn it on for. This AA solution isn’t a very good one and should be kept disabled.
Anti-aliasing – Gamma Correction
This Nvidia Control Panel option is outdated which is only useful for video games that use MSAA or CSAA. This option helps in-game objects to blend against contrasting backgrounds. For modern games, keep this setting off.
All modern video games have TAA or Temporal anti-aliasing and that is enough to eliminate all in-game aliasing. Meaning, players don’t need to enable this option and should be set at “Application Controlled”.
Only enable it if players find that in-game AA solution isn’t eliminating aliasing. In that case, set it to ” ‘Enhance application setting” and then the previously greyed out option below will become available and players need to select an option. However, even that won’t do much in-game. So don’t get your hopes up.
If the game totally lacks an AA option then select “Override application settings” but even that won’t help much. These options rarely work for select video games.
Anti-aliasing – Transparency
Anti-aliasing – Transparency is only useful for older video games. What it doesn’t is that it smooths out edges on so-called alpha textures which are textures such as fences and tree leaves.
With this option disabled, these alpha textures shimmer a lot when players move the camera. However, Not every game requires this option to be enabled. Basically, use it on a case-to-case basis.
Every Nvidia GPU has CUDA cores which are parallel compute units. This doesn’t have much impact on the game’s visuals or performance so set it at “ALL”.
Low Latency Mode
When rendering video games, there is a technique used called “Frame Buffer”. This technique renders a few frames for the game in advance to keep a steady experience with smooth FPS and consistent frame time.
However, Frame Buffer introduces slight input latency which can be eliminated which “Low Latency Mode”. When off, the Frame Buffer works as usual. When set at “On”, only one frame in generated in advance reducing input latency to some extent.
Set it to “Ultra” and no frames will be buffered from the game. This improves input latency and is quite useful for multiplayer games.
Max Frame Rate
This option allows players to limit or cap the maximum FPS the GPU can render for the game. This more of a player’s choice and has no impact on performance.
Multi-Frame Sampled AA (MFAA)
This option works only for games with MSAA (multisample antialiasing) solution. Also, it doesn’t work with every game. What it does is that it works on top of MSAA to improve anti-aliasing.
Power Management Mode
This option controls how much power the GPU can use while rendering frames. Players have three options to choose from, Optimal, Adaptive, and Prefer Maximum Performance.
Optimal limits the power usage to a certain extent, which doesn’t allow the GPU to fully utilize itself. Adaptive allows the GPU to automatically reduce or increase power usage depending on GPU load.
Prefer Maximum Performance allows the GPU to keep itself at a higher clock speed and the voltage usage will be maximum all the time even when the GPU is idle.
Adaptive is the best option for most video games. However, even adaptive fails to work sometimes so, when you think adaptive power mode isn’t enough, set it to Prefer Maximum performance.
This Nvidia Control Panel option reserves a certain amount of your HDD and uses it to stream shaders. This improves load times and eliminates stuttering. The best use of Shader Cache is when you have 8 GB or less RAM and you are playing an open-world game.
Texture filtering – Quality
This option controls the other two “Texture filtering” options in Nvidia Control Panel which are “Texture Filtering – Trilinear Optimization” and “Texture Filtering – Anisotropic Sample Optimization”.
This is a way of controlling the overall Texture Filtering quality for a game. Users have four options and here is what each of them does.
High Performance: This option enables both Trilinear Optimization and Anisotropic Sample Optimization and can potentially help improve performance.
Performance: Selecting Performance again turns on both Trilinear Optimization and Anisotropic Sample Optimization but performance gains might be a little less.
Quality: Quality enables Trilinear Optimization and turns off Anisotropic Sample Optimization.
High Qulaity: Turns off both Anisotropic Sample Optimization and Trilinear Optimization. Even if it shows that it’s set to On, the driver will ignore it.
Obviously, if you prefer better image quality, select High Quality or Quality. If you think the game’s performance is not up to par then set it to “Performance” and “High-Performance”.
It’s a personal experience of mine that while my GPU is capable enough but unless I select “Prefer Maximum Performance” for Power Management Mode and “High Performance” for “Texture Filtering Quality”, my GPU doesn’t render games at 60 FPS.
This option should be set at either “Auto” or “On”. This setting allows the game to utilize multithreaded optimization for CPUs with hyperthreading. However, for older games, this option needs to be disabled as it creates performance issues.
This Nvidia Control Panel setting only impacts games that use OpenGL. Since most games are DirectX, set Tripple Buffering to “Off”.
As for what it does, when V.sync and this option this enabled, it allows the GPU to render three frames in advance so that the GPU won’t become idle while it waits for the display to refresh its next cycle. This improves the overall performance and keeps its consistent. But, it can introduce a slight input lag.
Vertical Sync or Vertical Synchronization is a frame synchronization technique that synchronizes frames generated by the GPU to the display’s refresh rate. This eliminates screen tearing.
Here, users have the option to choose from one of these: Off, On, Fast, Adaptive (Half Refresh-Rate), Adaptive.
On: This enables V.syc and caps the FPS to the display’s refresh rate. Meaning if you have a 60 Hz display, V.sync will limit FPS rendered by the GPU to 60 FPS.
Adaptive: This option does the same as “On” but only if the GPU maintains FPS equal to the monitor’s refresh rate. Meaning if you have a 60 Hz display and the GPU is rendering 60 FPS, there will be no screen tearing. If the rendered FPS drops below 60 then v.sync disables and the screen starts to tear.
Adaptive (Half Refresh-Rate): If you have a display with 60 Hz refresh-rate, enabling this option will cap the FPS to 30 FPS. By adaptive it means, it’ll only sync the frames as long as the GPU can maintain 30 FPS. If FPS drops to 29 or below, v.sync is disabled and the screen starts to tear.
Fast: Fast.sync allows the GPU to render frames for the game as much as it can, kind of like v.sync off. However, Fast.sync doesn’t cause screen tear and only displays as many frames as supported by the monitor. Meaning, if you have a 60 Hz display with Fast.sync enabled then only 60 FPS will be displayed even if the GPU is rendering 80 FPS.
Optimized Settings For Best Performance
Now that you understand how each of the Nvidia Control Panel options works and which ones will boost performance, the following are the optimized Nvidia Control Panel settings for maximum performance.
Anisotropic Filtering – “Application Controlled”
Anti-aliasing-FXAA – “Off”
Anti-aliasing-Gamma Correction – “Off”
Anti-aliasing Mode – “Application Controlled”
Anti-aliasing-Transparency – “Off”
CUDA GPUs – “All”
Low Latency Mode – depends on the player.
Max Frame rate – Enable it if you intend to limit FPS. Also, limiting the FPS will reduce GPU Load.
Multi-Frame Sampled AA (MFAA) – “Off”
OpenGL Rendering GPU – “Auto”
Power Management – “Prefer Maximum Performance”
Shader Cache – “On” only if you are using an HDD. Don’t need to enable it for an SSD.
Texture filtering – Quality – “High Performance”
Triple Buffering – “Off”
Vertical Sync – “On”
That is all for our guide on how to squeeze gaming performance using Nvidia Control Panel. If you are facing errors and issues with other PC games or your PC then also see our hub for commonly occurring PC errors and their fixes.