In this article, we’re going to discuss how to optimize both your in-game framerate and networking setup for the most smooth, lag-free gaming experience possible.
Let’s dive in.
Understanding Gaming Performance
Before diving too deep into our tips, we need to make sure that you have an understanding of the two types of performance we’re concerned about, mainly FPS and ping. People will refer to poor examples of both of these as “lag”, because they’re disruptive to how the game responds to your inputs and feels, but they are not the same thing.
In-Game Performance/Frames Per Second (FPS)
First, the one that’s hardware-related: frames per second. Most games, especially multiplayer games, will target 60 FPS as a baseline of expected smoothness. Some console games and console ports will have a 30 FPS cap. With a PC and a monitor with a high refresh rate, however, you can push this metric much farther, and enjoy even more responsiveness as a result.
With FPS, higher is better.
If you’re curious as to how in-game frame and refresh rate may impact your gaming experience, watch the video embedded below:
Network Performance/Ping & Related Metrics
Aside from hardware-tied FPS that can be worsened or improved based on your PC specs or in-game settings, you have network performance. In gaming, this is most often measured with “ping” which measures the time, in milliseconds (ms) that it takes for the server to receive your input.
With ping, lower is better.
Most consider ranges of around 50 ping or under to be great, with 70-80 beginning to show some unresponsiveness and pings in the 100s becaming outright laggy. Once you hit 200 ping and higher, you may even find the experience unplayable.
Obviously, you don’t want this, and if you see these high ping numbers in your games…chances are you’re fighting with a big disadvantage.
How To Get Higher FPS
Now, it’s important to understand this:
Your maximum possible FPS will always be limited by your CPU, not your GPU. Graphical settings can be lowered to reduce strain on the GPU, but your CPU will generally be dealing with the same workload regardless of performance settings. Where you can reduce settings that impact your CPU, like view distance in a battle royale game, you’ll also be putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage due to active parts of the game not being rendered for you.
For instance, if two players are walking at each other across a large and empty field, the one with the higher view distance setting will see the other player first. This will allow them more time to plan, respond, or even kill the other player before they’re able to fight back.
For more on this CPU-GPU gaming performance relationship, check out our article on bottlenecks.
For now, we’re going to list common graphics settings that you can adjust to raise performance or graphical quality in your games.
Note: While this is hardly a definitive list of settings you may come across in the wild, we believe that this should cast a wide enough net for you to make effective changes. Feel free to comment below and ask us or others for advice regarding a setting in a specific game that isn’t listed here!
Turn Down High-Impact Settings
- Real-Time Ray-Tracing/DXR Settings – Extremely demanding, at the time of writing, and often for marginal visual returns. Recommended to disable for most users, but especially if performance is needed.
- [LAST RESORT In Multiplayer Games] View Distance – Fairly demanding, and often moreso on the CPU than GPU. Lowering in multiplayer games like Fortnite can be a competitive disadvantage, but doing so in single-player games shouldn’t be as big an issue.
- Foliage/Grass/ETC View Distance/Level of Detail – Somewhat demanding. Lower when extra performance as needed until it’s too noticeable for you. For competitive games, this setting on low may actually provide an advantage.
- Anti-Aliasing – Fairly demanding, and kind of overkill at super-high resolutions. Lower or disable at 1440p and higher for more performance for little cost. FXAA and TAA are less performance-intensive than proper MSAA, SSAA, or MLAA.
- Tesselation – Somewhat demanding on older hardware. Lower if it having performance troubles.
- HairWorks/TressFX/PhysX/Other Vendor-Specific Settings – These are usually fairly demanding. Lower them if you’re having performance troubles.
- Shadows – Shadows. Higher settings will have sharper, more detailed shadows. Sometimes, High may actually look more realistic than Max, and will often come with a sharp performance increase. Lower this setting at 1080p and lower resolutions for an essentially-free performance boost.
- Ambient Occlusion – Impacts shading and provides a sense of objects being a part of their environment. Higher settings can be performance-intensive.
- Effects/Particles – Flames, sparks, lightning bolts and etc are usually tied to these settings. Lowering to Medium often provides a good performance boost with little visual cost.
- Motion Blur – Can make motion look smoother, but also obscure visual information in fast-paced games and lower performance. Unless you really like it, can generally be disabled for a free performance boost.
Other Settings and What They Do
- [LAST RESORT] Resolution – Match this to your display’s native resolution, as this has the greatest impact on your visual quality.
- [LAST RESORT] Resolution Scale/3D Resolution – Same as above. Reduce only as last resort, and reduce this instead of actual resolution if it’s available.
- Model Detail – The detail, in polygons, of the models. Heavier load than texture detail. Difference between High/Ultra should be minimal, reduce to High before reducing texture detail.
- Texture Detail – Nowadays doesn’t tend to have much performance impact, so long as you’re using a modern GPU with plenty of VRAM to spare. If you’re VRAM constrained, reduce this setting to medium or low.
- Post-Processing Settings (Bloom, Color Correction, Sharpening, Chromatic Aberration) – Generally low performance impact, with some exceptions (especially to effects like Depth of Field) depending on the game. Largely personal preference whether to use these or not, but sharpening can help with lower resolutions/AA settings.
- V-Sync and Buffering Settings – If you have a FreeSync or G-Sync monitor, you can keep these disabled without worrying about anything. If you don’t have a monitor with these technologies, V-Sync and buffering with reduce screen tearing at the cost of increased input latency. Recommended to disable in multiplayer games for best results.
- Frame Rate Cap – Helpful for staying within VRR ranges on G-Sync and FreeSync monitors without enabling V-Sync and hurting input latency.
How To Get Lower Ping and Less Lag
Now that you have your in-game performance in check, it’s time to make sure that your network performance is up to snuff. Running at 240 Hz won’t matter if you have high ping, choke, or frequent lag spikes!
Use Ethernet whenever possible
First and most importantly, try to use an Ethernet connection if you can. A consistent wired connection ensures the fastest speed and the most reliability since you don’t need to worry about other wireless devices interfering with your signal at inopportune times. An ethernet connection will always provide lower latency and a more consistent speed than Wireless.
If Ethernet is unavailable, use AC/AX Wi-Fi or high-speed mobile data
If you must use wireless, try to opt for one of the faster Wireless standards. 802.11 AC Wi-Fi and 802.11 AX Wi-Fi (also called Wi-Fi 6) provide far lower latency and higher speeds than older Wi-Fi technologies, albeit at the cost of some range. 4G LTE and 5G connections with reputable cell service providers may offer decent or even great ping times, but will still be less reliable and generally slower than a proper home Ethernet connection. (For those concerned about data caps: don’t be! You’d be hard-pressed to exceed 150 MB per hour gaming on mobile data. Downloads are another story, though.)
Close other applications that use bandwidth on your system
This may go without saying for some of you, but make sure you aren’t running any big downloads while gaming, especially on a slow connection! Big downloads on a slow connection can cause ping times to balloon to nigh unplayable levels. If other people are on the network and running downloads or streaming services, you may also experience increased latency on a congested connection. If you have 5mbps down or lower, try to minimize streaming media or downloads on your network whenever you’re playing games.
Change router settings
Particularly helpful with a congested network but good for any network are good QoS settings. If you have a modern router, you should be able to find a setting for QoS in its settings. QoS stands for Quality of Service, and it prioritizes certain types of traffic over others. QoS prioritizes real-time applications (like voice and gaming) over stuff like streaming media and downloads. This doesn’t have a negative impact on overall download times, but it does have a very positive impact on any latency-sensitive application, especially gaming.
We hope all that helped!
Any lingering questions? Feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you.
Until then, we hope you enjoy your games!