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Battlefield 3 Perfoming Poorly

Last response: in Video Games
November 15, 2011 7:17:54 PM

Okay, so I've been able to monitor my processing power and RAM usage in the middle of a game using the software on the Logitech G15 keyboard.
Consistently, while playing Battlefield 3 (regardless of settings, to a degree) the CPU usage seems to almost top out, and when it does, the game lags. It doesn't hang for very long, but with the CPU staying at around 90% usage, it jumps up to maximum very frequently during fire fights and things of that nature. I am only assuming this is what's causing the issue, going from the measurements that I have available, but it just seems wrong with the specs I have that the same "lag" should be happening with 800x600 resolution on all low settings as it is at 1920x1080 on all medium.

PC Specs
CPU: Intel QX6850 oc'd to 4.0ghz running at ~55ºC under load
RAM: 8GB of Crucial Ballistix 1033mhz dual channel
GPU: 2 MSI Superoverclocked Twin Frozr GTX460 768mb in SLI
Mobo: MSI P7N SLI Diamond
HDD: Western Digital 150gb Raptor X 10,000 RPM
PSU: 850w Thermaltake Black Widow semi-modular

The machine is very stable, it could run prime 95 for days and not have any issues. I haven't played PC games for quite some time, since back when I first built this machine, so it could just be that it's old and out of date. But I feel like a 4.0ghz quad core should perform much better than it currently does.
If you can offer any advice or suggestions on temporary fixes or reasoning as to why I am experiencing these issues, aside from upgrading since I just don't have that kind of money for right now, I would be more than grateful.
Please and thank you.
November 17, 2011 11:49:51 AM

Any additional feedback would be appreciated if anyone could pinpoint a reasoning.
Thanks again for your time.
November 17, 2011 12:03:57 PM

so regardless of resolution your CPU load is topping out, what about GPU load? have you tried any resolution between those 2 extremes?

You're saying CPU is 55C at load, what about that SLI setup?

You say you haven't gamed in a while, have you updated the drivers?
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November 17, 2011 12:44:14 PM

on my quad Q9550, the cpu is running at about 90% on all cores all of the time.

+1 antizig.
November 17, 2011 12:48:29 PM

The drivers are Nvidia's current stable release, 285.62. I tried the new beta ones as well, but it didn't seem to alleviate any issues.

I just monitored GPU use via GPU-Z. The temperature remains steady between 40 to 45ºC, but reached a maximum of 52ºC according to the program.
The percentage of load seems to be between 60 and 70% whenever the CPU is at 100%.
The memory used sits a little high at ~720MB out of the 768, but it still has a little bit of room to shift around.
The clocks are currently at 752/900/1502 for core, memory, and shader.

I also tested it out in windowed mode, as well as several other resolutions. The combination that caught my attention was 1280x1024 in windowed mode, as I was achieving a very smooth 30-40 FPS (compared to what I'm used to) with the CPU and GPU loads running at approximately 60-70%. During heavy action (i.e. explosions + firefights in BF3) the CPU still topped out at 100%, but the GPU was between 80 and 90%.

I've seen some people play this game on dual core i3's better than mine. I mean, maybe I'm overestimating my performance expectations and underestimating the requirements of modern games, but is the 775 socket just that out of date? Even at 4.0, I figured it'd be able to at least keep up.
November 17, 2011 1:26:16 PM

If you're seeing the same behaviour regardless of resolution, then you are right to conclude the culprit is the CPU. The fact that it happens when CPU load hits max lends further support.

A 4GHz Core 2 Quad should be plenty for BF3, given that it runs fine on consoles with much weaker processors.

This suggests the cause lies elsewhere. A background process, perhaps?

It may be that the game is just poorly optimised to work on the PC, meaning that it will run worse on a PC with a similar spec to consoles.

What's certainly true is that BF3 is quite memory bandwidth intensive. Memory bandwidth is precisely the area where the Core 2 Quad performs poorly. This could explain why it performs worse than i3/5/7 setups.
November 17, 2011 3:28:47 PM

^ this man brings up an excellent point. It looks like your quad core CPU even though overclocked is bottlenecking the system. While a quad core would seem to be good enough processor, when you look at memory bandwidth, say 2500k is on a whole another level [link]

one thing I'd check is make sure that your PSU is working properly, I doubt there's an issue, but just in case.
November 17, 2011 3:46:00 PM

what is your processor usage prior to gaming?
November 17, 2011 5:29:29 PM

Background processes could certainly tip me over the scales, just enough to where it causes an issue. I always run some voice chat program, usually teamspeak whenever playing a game, since I always play with my clan. It seems that the "lag" created by the bottleneck is not as prevalent. That lag, from what I can see off FRAPS is running a constant framerate of about 30 but it drops to 0 whenever the CPU tops out, but it does it so quickly and frequently it seems like I'm only pulling 5-10 frames. But without anything other than peripheral software and antivirus running, it doesn't do that as often.
Thank you for noting that about the memory bandwidth, BWR. That could probably be just large enough of a deficit to limit the performance like I'm seeing. Especially if it's so far behind the i-series.
The PSU tested out fine, at least according to the pretty cheap tester I have. Everything but the -5V rail or whichever one it is that they don't have on PSUs anymore is working.
And the CPU is currently idling at 3-4% while I have this webpage up and all the normal background tasks running that I would when in game. Teamspeak, Origin, Steam, Xfire, and CoreTemp. It seems that if I could scrap myself an additional 7-8% CPU usage, I could get by until the next series of processors comes out, but that's what drove me to overclock to 4.0, and it has barely presented benefits over the stock 3.0 speeds.

It seems I am leaning towards the realization that this is, unfortunately, not a solvable issue, but that I'm finally facing a required upgrade to continue, as it is very frustrating to deal with. But of course, I am still open to any suggestions.
November 17, 2011 6:12:08 PM

i don't know why I asked that question, my Q9550 runs it fine, and you've got a fair few Mhz above me. are you sure its not micro-stuttering? Whats your memory utilisation like?
November 17, 2011 6:45:30 PM

If you mean CPU memory bandwidth, I do not rightly know how to check that, but would be willing to if that's what you're referring to and know how.
RAM usage gets to a little over 4GB of usage out of the 8 available. The only other measure I know is Hard Faults/sec from the Resource Monitor, in which it peaks around 70-80 during loading screens and startup, but sits at 0 during actual gameplay when the issues is occuring.
The disk write speed seems to either exceed the cap visible from the resource monitor as well, or it is topping out from this lag I'm experiencing.

And if I'm correct on the meaning of micro-stuttering, it's something that only happens with SLI, but the issue has been giving me trouble even when I only had 1 460, and I got another thinking it would help to resolve the issue, but it's the same thing.
November 17, 2011 7:12:48 PM

I presume you've uninstalled drivers and done a clean install? I did indeed just mean ram usage.
Currently I'm stumped, i'll see if sleeping on it comes up with anything.
November 17, 2011 11:48:44 PM

Yeah, I've tried the beta drivers, the current ones, the drivers before the current one.
I've wiped down to a clean W7 install on a 1TB 7200 RPM drive, and put BF3 on that, same issues.
It's just a bit perplexing, in all. I really appreciate the help from you all.
November 18, 2011 10:21:55 AM

I'm getting roughly 60fps avereage on my Q6600 (@3Ghz) with HD6950. So the 775 platform should be fine. I usually run teamspeak in parallel so again that shouldn't be an issue. I'm afraid I have no suggestions but based on what I see and that you're running higher clocks, you should be OK with your current CPU..
November 18, 2011 11:06:26 AM

All I can think of is the lower levels of Vram that you have causing problems with it streaming textures in, because each card needs its own vram so you still only have 768, but you've tried it at low settings (including textures?) and it still had a problem correct?
Have you added bf3 to the nvidia control panel as a program? (under 3d settings), I had one game where I got a nice bump by doing that, might force the sli profiles so something?
November 18, 2011 12:43:57 PM

Your CPU and GPUs hardware should be fine. Your PSU is high enough to support the load and you've got plenty of RAM. I don't think your hardware is the problem (specialy if all other games run fine).

That said, have your tried the latest Nvidia drivers (285.79)?

Nvidia's notes below:

New in Version 285.79

•Includes several bug fixes and performance improvements for Battlefield 3.
◦Fixes cases of irregular performance (stuttering) primarily seen on DirectX 10 GPUs. The fix improves the performance of both DX10 and DX11 GPUs.
◦Fixes shadow map corruption seen with DirectX 10 GPUs.
◦Fixes cases of black corruption lines/triangles with DirectX 10 GPUs.
November 18, 2011 2:30:53 PM

I will also try those drivers and let you know if they function any better. Perhaps it will be able to solve the issue.

I just purchased Skyrim yesterday as well, so I have that as an available benchmark or reference as well. I can run 1920x1080 with settings on all high, with 4x AA and sustain 60 frames indoors and generally over 40 even outside. Not a trace of the issue at hand.
November 18, 2011 2:42:41 PM

13thmonkey said:
All I can think of is the lower levels of Vram that you have causing problems with it streaming textures in, because each card needs its own vram so you still only have 768, but you've tried it at low settings (including textures?) and it still had a problem correct?
Have you added bf3 to the nvidia control panel as a program? (under 3d settings), I had one game where I got a nice bump by doing that, might force the sli profiles so something?

I wouldn't be surprised if the lack of VRAM is the weakness here as well, as BF3 seems to be very memory hungry across the board. I have been under the impression that with two 768mb cards in SLI, my amount of VRAM is bumped up to 1536mb. But I am assuming that's incorrect from the readings I've been monitoring.
But yes, I've tried the game on absolute minimum settings, even setting everything to as low as it can go from the Nvidia settings and forcing it on the game, textures and all turning to Low and anything that can be turned off set to Off. But still, it runs just the same with all of those on as with all of them off.
November 18, 2011 3:04:58 PM

Just install and tested out 285.79 very briefly, and within minutes of joining the game and hopping into a jet, the game just froze and crashed. However, it seemed to be running remarkably better before that, even though I could have sworn I had tried those exact drivers before with no change at all. It could be a combination of also adding it to Nvidia's 3D settings and a few other minor alterations included as well.

So, temporarily...unless I can figure out why the crashing is occurring, I could just wait until that driver is stable and all my issues are averted.
But it also seems they added a revision to their SLI configuration settings, or perhaps it is a lead on the issue in the first place. I usually enjoy running 3 monitors, but playing games on just the primary one which is 1920x1080, and the other two are 1280x1024. However, before, the option to "Activate all displays" was also an option that had "SLI enabled" in that same box. And now that option is noted as SLI disabled. So I have it set to Maximize 3D performance now, and there seems to be no way to get all 3 monitors activated with SLI enabled.

Not a huge loss, really, one that I can certainly make due with. But I feel like this is an error that stems from the root problem here, unless Nvidia is limiting the number of monitors supported even with SLI to just 2 instead of 2 per card.

Best solution

November 18, 2011 3:31:48 PM

When in SLI, you don't get 768MB x 2....both cards use their own VRAM to process...which means your total available VRAM is in fact 768MB...which is weak if you were looking at playing at High Res with Ultra textures. That said, if you went and set anistropic to high, then you've just killed your chances at playing the game at good frame rates.

Assuming you OCed CPU isn't the problem (which it might), try lowering the graphics elements. In your original post, you were saying that even at 800X600 res you were getting the same sluttering, right? That tells you that it probably isn't your videocards. Skyrim isn't a good benchmark (as it's far less demanding). If you have other CPU demanding games (like GTA4, Crysis CPU test, etc.), you might be able to better evaluate your CPU and how it's doing in comparision.

I feel bad for you, these issues are always time-consumming to troubleshoot.

Good luck.
November 18, 2011 4:33:49 PM

Ah, I see. 768mb is definitely under the curve for modern games and it's starting to catch up to me now with the minimum being set at 512mb.
I'll install Crysis and see how it performs on that, if I can find my CD key for it and I'll post my evaluation as soon as possible. I'll also try removing the overclock and just see how it does with and without that adjustment.

This has been the better extent of my PC gaming experience since about 2001, I don't know if I bring it upon myself or if I'm simply a magnet for complicated problems, but it has never been something simple. So at the least, I am used to it, but this has been one of the first times I've been at a nearly complete loss for what to do to solve the issue on my own.

Thanks again to everyone for all the help, I really appreciate it.

P.S. I'd also like to note that at that 800x600 resolution I tested it at, I turned all of the settings available to low or off, running it at the bare minimum.
November 18, 2011 7:14:32 PM

cmd_prompt said:

P.S. I'd also like to note that at that 800x600 resolution I tested it at, I turned all of the settings available to low or off, running it at the bare minimum.

if it weren't for that bit i'd say that the vram was the issue, but not with that symptom. Its like an episode of house. How about low resoution without SLI?
November 18, 2011 8:55:20 PM

Tested out Crysis on maximum settings (albeit not Extreme settings) and it seems to run quite smooth. CPU sits at around 80% but doesn't go over 90%, and the video cards are at about 65%. Pulling about 60 constant FPS. Didn't attempt it without overclocking, since it probably would be the active bottleneck without the 4.0Ghz cap.
Low resolution without SLI seemed to alleviate the CPU issue or maybe it just hadn't gotten to that point yet, as the frames are actually limited by the single GPU and I get 10-20 instead of the bouncing 0-60.
So, I guess it's rational to say that the problem exists when using SLI, but would also be encountered with a higher end video card. Returning the issue right back to the CPU or RAM, or some combination of everything together.

Lol, I was hoping I might get a House on here that would just know the answer, but real life doesn't work like the scripted TV shows :p 
But the issue only exists with the only game I really want to play, and on Metro 2033, but that one's above and beyond what I feel like is in my performance range.
November 19, 2011 5:21:31 PM

Just another status update, new drivers do seem to alleviate the issue, I do still crash for no apparent reason, or at least one that I am currently unable to see as nothing it overheating or topping out and there are no warning messages.
CPU sits at around 80-85% but if I ever alt+tab out of the game, by choice or by another program doing so like windows update, it never seems to recover when I open it back up. The cpu stays at 100% and there's a solid 2-3 seconds of lag between my movements and when it actually happens. The only thing that resets it is the ending of a map/loading a new one.

Still very bizarre, I guess it is a compromise I can live with at least until I have enough cash on hand to rebuild.
This may be regarded as an opinion based question, but would it be advantageous (given all the results above) to upgrade the mobo, cpu, and RAM? Or should I wait until I have enough to also upgrade the video cards as well?
I'd be moving up to some SLI mobo, a 2500k, and 8GB of Gskill sniper series RAM or something along those lines.
November 19, 2011 6:40:43 PM

I think, in fact I know that your base platform is fine (unless there is an actual hardware issue, which we don't really know), I'd just upgrade the GPU, a 570 would be nice or a mid range 6XX when they are out.
November 19, 2011 9:16:45 PM

I'm having a similar experience to you .I think you really are having a bottleneck issue and possible vram limitation
I'm running BF3 with an E8500 dual core overclocked and 560ti's in SLI.
It plays fine for awhile and gets over 60FPS, but sometimes it drops right down, lags and freezes. I checked my cpu usage and its 100 %, so its definately the culprit in my experience.
November 20, 2011 4:38:09 AM

We're probably facing the exact same issues, Monsta. Mine may be a tad more complex, or a combination of limitations to end up having the same result in the end.

But it is rather frustrating, and borderline infuriating to try and play the game under these conditions, isn't it?
I certainly don't meet the recommended settings to run the game on maximum, but I feel like what I'm working with and yours as well should at least be capable of getting a steady 20-30 frames on medium settings. It really shouldn't be that performance intensive with the way it looks under those settings either, barely having a leg up on the original Frostbite engine on maximum.
November 20, 2011 6:51:22 AM

It is very frustrating, I found that turning off the AO - Ambient Oclusion in the games Video option Menu helps somewhat. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
November 20, 2011 10:21:34 PM

I could have sworn that I'd turned that off earlier without a noticeable difference. It drops the idle in-game cpu load from 80% all the way down to 55% and keeps the clocks running at 85% even under stress. Of course, that's still with low settings, and both GPUs running at like 40% during this, but at least for the small bit of testing I did with that setting off, it was highly successful.

I'll update later whether or not the problem persists without Ambient Occlusion. Hopefully it wasn't just a coincidence that it was running smoothly and doesn't rear its head in the near future.
November 20, 2011 11:26:29 PM

it seems to me that a lot of these performance problems tend to come from the fact that people don't know what a lot of the settings do and what kind of impact they have on the performance of their particular system
November 21, 2011 2:08:58 AM

Makes a big difference with the AO off , try it out some more , should see you through till they release a patch for the game and when the nvidia drivers get another update. Hopefully things will get better with these updated.
November 22, 2011 5:37:53 AM

They are releasing the EA Battlefield game patch in a few hours , this is good news as it will bring in a bundle of fixes , I'm really hoping it will make a big difference for us and make the game playable without all the problems we are all experiencing.
November 28, 2011 11:24:57 PM

Best answer selected by cmd_prompt.