Many of you are worried about being able to run the new game, and with the advent of the pre-alpha demo, many of you are discussing plans to upgrade and trying to decide what to buy. Obviously if you find a great deal, and are going to make use of it immediately on other games, go right ahead. Opportunity cost is a thing and if you can get something now for a good price, then do it. For most of you however, this situation is a bit murkier and I sense alot of anxiety around the issue, and rightfully so. GPU prices are inflated, availability is still pretty bad, and the game is still far off without a clear target.
I myself was curious about the performance and wanted to give you guys some guidance, so I took a look at what synthetik 2 was doing to my machine, and to use that as an example so you guys could evaluate the results you were seeing on your computer and put that into better context when deciding if and when to upgrade your gaming rig.
Before we begin, we have a little background - i'm not going to get into all the performance related background you'll need, but you WILL need to understand a few things. Framerate is the speed at which the image on your screen is updated. A full sized image occupying the size of the game window is called a frame. It's measured in seconds. GPU is your graphics card, regardless if it's discrete or onboard. CPU is the processor running your computer. To be XXX bound means that component is the limiting factor on your performance. We will talk about both, but I will point out specifically some instances of CPU bound performance since it has additional relevance for GPU upgraders (confusing, but i'll explain more later).
Setup and Assumptions
FPS: You can see your frame rate through steam even though it's not in the game. Start steam and login. Go to Steam -> Settings ->In-Game and in the drop down for In-game FPS counter pick something.
Windows 10: Press CTRL-ATL-DELETE and open Task Manager. Select the performance tab. If you have a new enough GPU, you'll see a graph for each GPU in your machine. (optional) At the bottom of this tab. click on the link for Resource Monitor. This will disaggregate your CPU so you can see what is happening. This is to show people who claimed the game wasn't multithreading, that it is. You might be running DX11 only or have some other bug, but on my computer the game is heavily multi-threaded.
My computer is a MSI GS65 laptop with a Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-8750H CPU @ 2.20GHz and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design and a 1920x1080 144hz screen. For Synthetik 1 I'm guessing I'm in the upper 25% percentile of users as I get 230-260 fps sustained except during explosions or other super hairy things.
Vsync: always disabled
Level tested: The tutorial. You get higher performance in the tutorial and that lets us show more scaling, performance in the game is much lower and less sensitive to settings. Now you might that that the game is a better representative but not if we're trying to communicate how the game MIGHT perform in the future, since it appears to be less optimized in general. You can argue with me, but I'm not going to rerun everything in game, you're welcome to though.
Here is my baseline performance You can see that the cpu and gpu are minimally utilized.
Here is my performance with max settings (1920x1080, High detail)
CPU and GPU utilization
Notice my cpu is barely above the baseline, at 36% but the GPU 1 is at 83%. This is as close to GPU limited as I can get. The extra headroom might indicate extra performance but don't make too many assumptions, it's possible the internal architecture of my GPU limits throughput. But I can safely say the S2 demo is using the most of my GPU 1 that it's capable of and that performance at this time is GPU bound.
Here is my performance with slightly lowered resolution but High settings (1280x720, High detail)
CPU and GPU utilization By lowering the resolution slight, notice how the GPU load goes down, and the CPU load goes up. My frame rate also goes up quite a bit, from 92-ish frames to like 120 or so. I did have some images with the detail changed but the settings menu is quite buggy and I think did not change my resolution properly at times, so have deleted images where I could not be sure the results were accurate. Are we CPU or GPU bound here? I think we are definitely no longer GPU bound in the traditional sense, but we might still be limited by the GPU's overall speed here
Here is my performance with greatly lowered resolution but High settings (640x480, High detail) Framerate: CPU and GPU Utilization
So at this resolution notice the GPU load goes down even further, to a mere 20%, but the CPU load stays the same. I can confidently say we are CPU Bound here. This is really important to note that even though I destroyed my image quality, that the framerate stayed about the same at 120 for both 640x480 and 1280x720. This is something REALLY important to remember for upgrading people - you might think you can lower settings on your GPU, but you will still be limited by your CPU, and that will prevent you from getting additional FPS that you might think were on the table. And it is these CPU bound situations I want to address with 2 videos by hardware unboxed.
What are these videos about? Well when choosing video cards, in CPU bound situations AMD cards will be 20%-30% faster. Why? AMD uses a hardware scheduler to handle it's GPU calls while Nvidia uses the host CPU. When games are GPU limited and there is ample CPU power, this is not an issue but when performance is CPU bound, you will notice the impact. These means that for those of you upgrading, you will want to make sure both your CPU and GPU are well matched for the settings and framerate you plan to play at.
just looking at the scaling, it's clear to me that alot of optimization is left on the table. The game is relatively insensitive to different graphics settings and while this means the demo runs not so great, it means that there is alot of optimizations left to make the game run better. Am i saying it will run on your potato computer? NO. But what I am saying is that you shouldn't freak out and plan on upgrading based on the demo. Save your money, wait out the current video card crisis, and upgrade when you have the resources to upgrade ALL the components you need to get the performance you want.