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8800 Series and alt-tabbing: Drastic Imporvment in fps?

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  • FPS
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Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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August 4, 2007 1:44:35 PM

Hey all,
I was playing Company of Heroes the other day and I noticed something that I would consider to be very odd. Now I had read the article in the Inquirer discussing a potential memory problem with the 8800 where it runs out of memory due to an error of storing info in the VRam, not that I trust the Inq ;)  . However, I am not sure if this is the case. First off, let me say I don't think this occurs when starting a game, but actually loading an older game. I loaded an older campaign game from the Mortain mission. With max settings and CSAA 8xQ, except for the DX10 options, I started off above the base with an fps of around 40-42 average. I accidentally hit alt-tab thinking I had winamp still up as I was going to shut it down, and then hit it again right after I realized I didn't. I got back into the game and my fps had jumped up to 52-55 average right up above the base. In corners of the map I was now getting even higher frame rates of 60-70, again about 10 fps higher.

I am not sure what happens as a result of loading the map that causes this all to happen. However, I tried a skirmish saved game and it worked there as well. Again, I do not think this happens in new games. Perhaps the game is storing info on the Vram while loading, causing a slow down, and the alt-tab clears it. I am not sure, but I thought I would share this. Could someone else try this as well, please? My specs are in the sig for reference. Also, share your thoughts and whether or not you have encountered this problem in other games. Note: I had just started playing and computer game at all for that day, so it was not the issue of playing for a long time and having the Vram fill up, as seems to be the argument in the Inq article.

More about : 8800 series alt tabbing drastic imporvment fps

August 5, 2007 6:32:32 AM

Disgrading that whooping post you wrote there(sorry)

Let me just tell you, 3 Things affect you "Alt Tabing"

One CPU, Either Single core or Dual core, Dual core being faster.

Two Speed of your CPU, 2.4-3.0Ghz

Thrid amount of Ram installed 4GB will be lighting quick tab speed. 2GB will be the basic, normal not really fast. with 1GB/512MB taking forever.

EDIT: Re-Reading your post, which is strangely titled...
I dont think thats very much possible but hey w/e! if you notice some wacko strange improvement when you Alt-TAB out well then by all means ALT TAB AWAY!
August 5, 2007 4:29:07 PM

Well I dont think it is because of the 8800. I have a x1950xt and whenever I play CoH online I alt tab right as the game starts and get a noticeable fps boost.

This only happens in Company of Heroes though.
August 5, 2007 7:00:29 PM

@Xazax
I have no idea what the heck your response is talking about, but sure. I was not talking about the speed of alt-tabbing based on my graphics card. If you even had read my post at all, which judging by your response you didn't, then you would have realized that what I was talking about was how after alt-tabbing my fps in CoH increased dramatically. I couldn't give a rat's *** about how fast I can alt-tab. Please read next time before you post and make yourself seem foolish.

@TBI
Ah, so this is a general all across the board thing. Judging by your response it works with any graphics card. This still seems unusual to me and I wonder why it works. Anyway, thanks for the response.
August 5, 2007 7:33:53 PM

I think I can clarify this a little.
First off, it is possible ... as you speculate ... that some bug is slowing you down and that alt-tab clears it up. Possible, but I would suggest that you consider it about as likely as getting FPS boosts everytime a mosquito flies into your computer case, lands on the GPU, and bridges two conductive spots. Maybe a little more likely than that.

Instead, consider this: From what I have heard, this is happening for you and the other posting when you have just started a game up. It happens in a somewhat short period after loading a new area. Test and see if it will happen after you have been in a static environment, not doing too much, for 10 minutes ...if it doesn't, then here's what's happening:

When you start a game, often you have loaded into memory (main system memory and/or gpu memory) just enough to display the stuff on the screen. In the background, the rest of the map is being loaded into special memory slots (RAM, GPU memory, or virtual memory on the HDD) for fast access when you need it. You alt tab out, come back, and bam ... after a period of 10 seconds away or so, things are moving faster! This is because in that little bit of time, you've probably finished loading that extra stuff.

Whether or not this is what you are experiencing, this *DOES* happen in many games. I have observed it in more games than I can count. Currently I play BF2 and every time I load up a map, the first couple minutes have X FPS and later, the same situations will have X + 10 or more FPS (very roughly). I don't alt tab or anything to get this boost. I just play, and eventually I notice that where before my FPS was around 45, now, in the same spot, same density of players and vehicles, it's often up to 80 or 90 (pretty big difference!).

Hope that helps.
August 6, 2007 2:48:44 AM

Kinda related. I have a really bad laptop that I use occasionally Centrino 1.6 512 ram i mean bad.... Anyway, I literally can't run anything (starcraft or warcraft 3...it can't run anything else) unless I alt tab. If i dont alt tab, I will continue to spaz out and screen jump everywhere until i do, regardless of how long I wait to alt-tab. When i jump back in, it runs perfectly (well as perfect as the p.o.s can run). May be a funky driver issue. Laptop worked like a normal laptop would, reformatted, reinstalled current drivers, had to do the alt tab dance to do anything. I would try reinstalling drivers (even if yours are current, yes weird things can happen in installations) and see if that changes things.
August 6, 2007 4:20:43 PM

@mattc
I get what you are saying, and yes you are right that playing the game for a while does help things to level out. However, all it ever seems to do for me is to help remove stuttering, and if there is an fps increase from this it it very minimal. I am beginning to think this is a Company of Heroes thing, as TBI posted and said he experienced the same thing in CoH. Also, I was not doing the alt-tabing 10 secs into game, more like 5 minutes. That and the process of alt-tabbing takes me maybe 2 seconds, if that. Again, what you are saying is true and I have seen that effect first hand, but not to this level of a performance increase. To make sure it wasn't just that the game hadn't loaded everything at the start of each map I scrolled around the entire map to get the computer to load everything. Again this helps with smoothness, but not fps.

As far as this being as rare as a fly coming into my case and channeling electricity, I think that's a bit of an overstatement. If it were such a minute chance, why would I be able to replicate it at will, and why would it work even 5 minutes into game?
August 6, 2007 4:47:16 PM

its 100% true and a known Bug with the 8800 (mainly the GTS 320MB version but reports of ever version affected are around)...Nvida is working on fixing the problem and should have drivers out soon

http://techreport.com/onearticle.x/12993
August 6, 2007 5:27:18 PM

That fly analogy was definitely a bit of a reach. The techreport link doesn't mention alt-tabbing ... but hey, I've got a gts 320, I may as well test it and add my results to the mix. And if you've waited 5 minutes to alt tab, it doesn't sound at all like textures and stuff are still loading. Very interesting!
August 6, 2007 6:18:19 PM

i guess when you alt tab back into a game, you reset the vram. the loss of fps would then be due to ur video card bouncing textures in between the ram and back and eventually as you run out of ram the page file.
August 6, 2007 7:01:06 PM

I think it is actually to do with the way windows operates. Its like when you go to load few apps at the same time on a slow pc they load faster if it just shows the desktop rather than the applications loading. If my system is stalling I generally go to show the desktop and it sorts itself out.

I think this due to the way windows allocates the the different loads and memory allocation. So when you alt-tab out of the game it becomes a background load and therefore gets dumped into the memory ready to be loaded again which in turn frees up cpu cycles for any new app to be opened. So when you go back into the game it thinks its a different app so it gives you more resources. However the game is already stored in the memory so not only does it have instant access to that it has also allocated new resources for the game therefore using more of the systems power leading to the increase in fps.

This is only a theory. So dont hold me to it. I dont think its bullshit either its just what I have observed. Their is most likely a more technical reason behind it.
August 6, 2007 11:44:41 PM

UPDATE!!!!
This is very, very interesting. Going on everyone's responses I tried to test this out some more. I concentrated mainly concerning the texture settings, as that is what the article given by FatFunkey seems to point as the problem of the slowdown. If I am correct, and we can debate if I am, I think we have direct evidence of this glitch. I had noted in a few threads earlier that I was surprised that my jump from a Radeon x1950 Xt 256MB to a GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB showed so little improvement in fps, especially on the Ultra texture setting, a setting which should run much better on the GTS due to more memory. However, and this is the real interesting part, I just did a test on my own.

I ran the same map for three minutes, zooming all around, on High textures and got a steady fps of 53. I alt-tab, come back in and see no difference in performance. Then I closed the program, started up new with Ultra textures. Start the map, zoom all around for three minutes, and I get 37 fps. I then alt-tab, come back into the game and my fps is now 53 fps! 16 fps higher from alt-tabbing!! This seems to fit Nvidia's currently reported problem, as it seems to only be a problem at higher textures. As my little test showed, the Ultra textures had a dramatic impact on fps, but when alt-tabbed, and I assume clearing the vram, and coming back into the game, we see the fps to be the same as High textures. As this was on the campaign map Autry, a small map. I would expect this to be the true case, as a small map like that shouldn't see a huge hit from changing the textures, not with the amount of vram my gpu has. This makes me think that the reported glitch on the 8800s is in fact real, given this occurrence with the texture settings. Hopefully Nvidia will fix this soon, as the article says they hope for a driver fix release date of late August. Again, from my experience alt-tabbing can basically make this problem disappear, so it is not too severe.
August 7, 2007 12:08:11 AM

thats weird....
August 7, 2007 1:10:04 AM

Why dont you guys try this with some other games, other than CoH. Would make for a convincing argument. Right now it just seems like you are blowing smoke.
August 7, 2007 10:23:03 AM

Sounds like that is more likely than my theory.lol.
August 7, 2007 6:02:41 PM

@Trialsking
Why don't YOU try this with some other games?
The point is that it seems to be an issue in CoH. I had just wanted to see if I could find a case of this working in any game at all, as I was not sure the bug was real. If you have other games by all means go for it, I don't have too many games that have high levels of textures. Someone try it in Battlefield 2142 or something.
August 7, 2007 7:00:57 PM

here is a forum post from Nvnews that 1st reported the bug, it also is full of interesting information about there thoughts on the problem
read it if u wish

http://www.nvnews.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=91118

if im not mistake its a problem with how the memory reads alll the textures and gets overloaded so it slows down performance. hints why it affects the 320 more then the GTX or 640MB ram GTS version; however people are reporting it affects all 8800 series. and also apparently in a the 8600 series...so you could actually conclude that it is a bug in the who 8xxxx series architecture.
August 14, 2007 4:09:58 PM

To anyone experiencing this bug, which I believe is everyone with an 8800 series card, the 162.50 quadro drivers have fixed the problem for me in STALKER. :bounce:  I have heard that it fixes it for CoH as well. I was just about to send this 8800gts 320MB back when I stumbled on these drivers. Here's hoping that something like this never happens again. :pfff: 

Correction: Looks like I got a little over excited. These drivers did help, but I still get massive drops going into the bar and a couple of other places. :fou:  It's a little more manageable than it was though.
August 14, 2007 4:23:27 PM

homerdog said:
To anyone experiencing this bug, which I believe is everyone with an 8800 series card, the 163.50 quadro drivers have fixed the problem for me in STALKER. :bounce:  I have heard that it fixes it for CoH as well. I was just about to send this 8800gts 320MB back when I stumbled on these drivers. Here's hoping that something like this never happens again. :pfff: 

I have a 640mb version and I've noticed that GRAW2, BF2142, and R6: Vegas all improve when you alt-tab and come back. I never noticed it really, but after reading this little thread, I tried it out. BAM! 10-15fps difference just from Alt-Tabbing and coming right back to the game. It takes some time to re-load all the textures back into the VRAM on mine (maybe about 15-20 seconds), but then it just kicks into high gear. Nice deduction and observation. Hopefully they'll fix this soon, but in the meantime, at least I have a sure-fire fix. I was always wondering if something in my hardware was slowing down my GTS, now I know what's going on. Thanks.
August 14, 2007 4:34:26 PM

I wonder too if this would affect the benchmarks done by sites such as anandtech, firingsquad, and tomshardware. In their benchmarks the 2900 always destroys the GTS in Company of Heroes. I wonder if alt-tabbing would actually bring it a significant amount closer?

@Homerdog
I think you mean the 162.50 Quadro drivers and I will give those a try.
August 14, 2007 4:42:59 PM

murphy82nd said:
I wonder too if this would affect the benchmarks done by sites such as anandtech, firingsquad, and tomshardware. In their benchmarks the 2900 always destroys the GTS in Company of Heroes. I wonder if alt-tabbing would actually bring it a significant amount closer?

Well I wouldn't be surprised if it did, but it wouldn't really be fair to give a card special treatment in a benchmark because its drivers are broken.
August 14, 2007 5:38:14 PM

@homerdog
I think you had meant the 162.50 quadro drivers, not 163.50 because I don't think those exist. Anyway I just tried those and they did NOT fix the problem in Company of Heroes on the Ultra texture setting. Alt-tabbing seems to be the only way to do it. Thanks for the tip though.
August 14, 2007 6:49:02 PM

If memory serves me right, this sounds vaguely similar to something that was discovered with Supreme Commander. It was found that Alt-Tab would smooth out gameplay in a long running game and after some investigation by one of the game community's more talented individuals, the reason seemed to be thread/load balancing and distribution across cpu cores. It seemed that by default and despite SupCom being designed for multiple cores, the threads the game created were not terribly well assigned to the various CPUs, resulting in a bottlenecked performance. Ultimately, a very slick little utility was created that automatically redistributed the threads across cpu cores for smoother performance.

If these games are multi-threaded this could be something similar. By Alt-Tabbing you might be triggering Windows to automatically reassess and reassign one or more threads the game uses to a different cpu core.

I don't play CoH or know much about it, but as I said, this sounds awfully familiar to the SupCom discovery. That said, perhaps it a video thing as the others are speculating.

-dolynick
August 14, 2007 6:53:35 PM

murphy82nd said:
@homerdog
I think you had meant the 162.50 quadro drivers, not 163.50 because I don't think those exist. Anyway I just tried those and they did NOT fix the problem in Company of Heroes on the Ultra texture setting. Alt-tabbing seems to be the only way to do it. Thanks for the tip though.

Yea I meant 162 not 163. Edited. And you're right they don't fix the problem. It does seem like it happens less frequently in STALKER now, but that could just be my misguided optimism.

As for the theory that it is a fatal flaw in the 8 series architecture, I don't think it is, because this has been around for a while. There were reports of this happening way back with the 6800. I speculate that the reason we are all so aware of it now is because the 8800 is so powerful that it makes this bottleneck really noticeable.

All speculation aside though this is really annoying, and I doubt it will get any better with future games that use even more texture memory :( 
August 14, 2007 7:45:00 PM

This isn't specific to the 8800s or nvidia. In Halo 2 for vista I first discovered this with my 1950 pro, I'd get a 20 fps increase.... same with my friends gts... I have no idea what it does, but it works.
August 14, 2007 8:13:41 PM

in lost planey it helps my 8800gts go from 30fps to round 45 on max 1280x1024(only shadows on medium)
August 14, 2007 8:53:13 PM

Anyone try this for a synthetic benchmark like 3dMark06?

Might see a good kick to your numbers there as well..... My MB is being rma'd now or I would try my GTX and see.
August 14, 2007 9:02:40 PM

its possible what dolynick said is right as coh is multithreaded, could be the same thing as in supcom.
August 14, 2007 9:20:33 PM

Everyone's talking about brand and version of graphics card and drivers... could this be an OS issue too?

Does this issue occur in both XP and Vista or just one or the other?
August 14, 2007 10:05:59 PM

vertigo_2000 said:
Everyone's talking about brand and version of graphics card and drivers... could this be an OS issue too?

Does this issue occur in both XP and Vista or just one or the other?

This happens in XP and Vista. I'm not ruling out an OS issue though, both Vista and XP could be screwed up. But it's not a multithreading issue, it's a texture management issue. Nvidia has already admitted to the problem and is working on it.

These may have been posted before but here you go:
http://techreport.com/onearticle.x/12877
http://techreport.com/onearticle.x/12993
August 14, 2007 10:09:21 PM

See what did I say before with my long theory. Its windows ppl. Like I said I think its to do the way windows allocate its resources. As has been mentioned with the allocation of threads. I think their are also some large flaws with the memory management in xp. Havnt used vista enough to notice them.

Something that I just realised. All the games where this is an issue are games that are known to break the 2GB addressing limit.

Read this
http://www.anandtech.com/systems/showdoc.aspx?i=3060

And all the related parts.

Is this a 32bit OS problem or does it also affect 64bit OS?
August 14, 2007 11:16:01 PM

Well then, Alt-Tab away! I wonder if it'll be the same when hitting the windows key or ctrl-alt-delete...
August 26, 2007 12:28:39 AM

I just tried the World in Conflict demo; it's awesome. Fortunately the pause button allows you a break in the action so you can alt tab and not get slaughtered in the process. Frame rate goes from ~5 to ~50 on my 8800gts 320. I can't wait for this issue to get fixed so I can start gaming for real again! :pt1cable: 
August 26, 2007 5:54:16 PM

@gpippas
I am pretty sure it is not a windows error, but maybe it is, idk. That and your argument that it is an xp problem is false, because it is known to happen in vista too. Idk if both operating systems would be that screwy, though we are talking about windows here. I believe it is a texture problem.

@homerdog
Hmm, I didn't notice any problems with World in Conflict at max settings, though I didn't try to alt tab. It's likely your card with less vram than mine will see more of an increase from alt-tabbing than I will. As a side note, I loved the campaign in World in Conflict, but wasn't crazy about the skirmishes. Have you tried those as well? I found them not very exciting and very frustrating.
August 26, 2007 7:47:20 PM

murphy82nd said:
@homerdog
Hmm, I didn't notice any problems with World in Conflict at max settings, though I didn't try to alt tab. It's likely your card with less vram than mine will see more of an increase from alt-tabbing than I will. As a side note, I loved the campaign in World in Conflict, but wasn't crazy about the skirmishes. Have you tried those as well? I found them not very exciting and very frustrating.

I haven't been able to play all that much because of this, but I first noticed it in the tutorial. I didn't have FRAPS running but it looked to be about 60fps when I first started it. After a few minutes when I started moving around the map it suddenly became totally unplayable, I'd guess around 3fps. After a quick alt-tab it went back up to silky smooth for another couple of minutes until it happened again.

Unfortunately from what I've read the fix that's supposed to be released mid September is only for dx9, and a dx10 fix will come later. Whatever, I can't really tell the difference between the two with this game anyway.

Edit: As far as World in Conflict goes, I just figured out that switching to the megamap has the same effect as alt-tabbing. It's best to do this every 30 seconds or the FPS will start to drop.

After extensive testing I have come to these conclusions:
-It happens with and without dx10 rendering on.
-Lowering textures and disabling AA will allow you to play for longer periods of time without slowdown, but it will still happen.
-Nvidia sucks :) 
August 29, 2007 2:16:35 AM

I know I'm double posting, but I don't want to start a new thread for this. I just wanted to know if anyone else has noticed this in World in Conflict with an 8800gts 320MB. It's absolutely consistent on the demo for me. If I zoom around the map for a few seconds the frame rate drops and doesn't get better until I go to the megamap. It truly makes the game unplayable and I can't stand it.

I guess I'll try to step up to the 640MB if no driver update fixes this. I would rather not reward Nvidia for having F'd up drivers but what am I supposed to do, get a 2900?
August 29, 2007 4:15:48 AM

To be honest, 320mb is not a large amount of video ram these days. Firingsquad in their review of the beta recommends having 512mb of memory or more. In this case I am not sure it is entirely a driver problem. For this game you really need a lot of video memory. As a note, I don't notice any real drop in performance from scrolling around the map. If it was just a driver issue I would notice the same problem too, and I don't. Also, maybe you should lower your settings?
August 29, 2007 1:57:49 PM

I think you might be right in that 320MB is cutting it close, but Nvidia has already admitted that it is a driver problem and have stated that they are working on a fix that will be out at the latest by mid September. My question is not "is this a driver issue" because I already know that it is. I am wondering if anyone knows of a quick fix for this to use until Nvidia gets around to fixing the drivers. As I have said before, lowering the texture quality helps a bit, but it looks crappy and if I wanted to use lower settings I would have bought an x1950 pro.
August 29, 2007 4:15:15 PM

the quick fix is to alt-tab and not complain...making this hardware and software is difficult to say the least.
August 29, 2007 8:00:02 PM

bornking said:
the quick fix is to alt-tab and not complain...making this hardware and software is difficult to say the least.

Trust me if it was that simple I wouldn't be posting here, I'd be playing. With STALKER alt-tabbing was a good fix because the slowdowns only happened in certain areas and relatively infrequently. With World In Conflict it happens literally every five seconds. I was actually getting pretty good at giving out orders in my sweet five seconds of glory, but eventually as the battle got larger I couldn't keep switching to the megamap without losing too many units as a result.
August 30, 2007 1:57:35 AM

Thanks Murphy82nd for the investigation, that was an interesting read.
September 12, 2007 12:44:32 AM

From the release notes of the new 163.67 BETA drivers:

"Improved performance of the graphics memory manager on GeForce
8 series GPUs running DirectX 9 applications in single‐GPU
configurations."

I can confirm this fixes it for my 8800gts 320MB, at least for World in Conflict. Only in dx9 though, just like it says. No biggie, I can't tell the difference between dx9 and dx10 with this game anyway ;) 

One more thing... :bounce:  :bounce:  :bounce:  :bounce:  :bounce:  :bounce:  :bounce:  :bounce: 
September 4, 2008 8:17:47 PM

Digging up an old thread here, but after playing STALKER recently I have hit the same issue. Escept my system is on 64 bit OS with a 4870 ;) 
September 5, 2008 6:02:59 AM

I think the same thing happens to me (like what happened to the op) when I alt tab out of Crysis or Lost Planet, I get frame rate increase...:S
September 5, 2008 12:26:27 PM

Yep, STALKER is really bad about it. I never went back and tested that game when the supposed driver fix that I raved about above came out, but I haven't encountered this bug in any other games since 163.67.

SamODJ, you might want to email ATI about it and see what happens.
!